Most lines have a minimum age limit for babies, said Linda Coffman, guidebook author and creator of CruiseDiva.com, adding that nurseries are not often featured afloat and private babysitting may only available when a crewmember is willing to sit for a few hours.
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That is how our family did it five years ago when our grandson Julian was 10 months old and we took a Celebrity Cruises ship to Bermuda. Parents and grandparents took turns caring for the baby so everyone could enjoy the ship and the ports. The line provided formula and other baby items and lent us a crate full of toys for Julian to play with and we took care of the rest. If you are planning to use the ship's child care facilities, do research on baby-friendly cruise lines prior to sailing, and make sure you verify the minimum age limits before you book a cruise as these are subject to change. To help you plan, here is a listing from the CruiseCompete.com travel site with information on a variety of cruise lines as well as details from our own research.
AMA WATERWAYS: These cruises are primarily designed for the adult traveler. Children are allowed, however, there are no child-specific programs or child minding facilities. Minimum age to sail on AMA Waterways is 2 years. Visit www.amawaterways.com.
AZAMARA: This line attracts mostly couples and mature guests; so while the cruise line does welcome guests of all ages, no formal children's programs or facilities are featured onboard their ships. Minimum age requirement to sail on Azamara is 6 months old, with the exception of Transatlantic and Transpacific cruises/cruise tours, as well as other select cruises/cruise tours, where the infant must be at least 12 months old. Visit www.azamaracruises.com.
CARNIVAL CRUIS E LINES: This line's youth program, Camp Carnival, is designed for 2-11 year olds; Circle C for 12-14; and Club O2 for 15-17; but children younger than 2 can play with the toys during designated family play times (parents must be present). There are babysitting services during limited hours for children younger than two at Camp Carnival. Minimum age for sailing is 6 months, with the exceptions of Transatlantic, Hawaii and South American cruises, for which children must be at least 12 months. Visit www.carnival.com.
CELEBRITY CRUISES: This line offers private, in-cabin babysitters. A child must be 12 months old to qualify for this service and no more than two children are allowed per babysitter. Parents should expect to make requests for services at least 24 hours in advance. Minimum sailing age on Celebrity Cruises is 6 months, with the exception of Transatlantic, Transpacific, and select South American cruises, where the child must be at least 12 months old. Associated cruise tours are also subject to the 12-month minimum age requirement. Visit www.celebritycruises.com.
COSTA: There are no organized activities for children under the age of three, but during the low season/off-peak times families can access the children's areas. The line also provides a group baby-sitting servic e in their "Miniclub" so that parents may take part in cruise entertainment. Costa also provides, on request, cribs, high chairs, baby bath, bottle warmers and liquidized food. Minimum age to sail on Costa is 6 months. Visit www.costacruises.com.
CRYSTAL CRUISES: This luxury line does not have a formal program for children under the age of three, but babysitting services are available. Arrangements can be made through the concierge; parents should expect to provide 24 hours' notice and pay a nominal charge for babysitting services. The minimum age to sail on Crystal Cruises is 6 months.
CUNARD LINE: There is a well-equipped nursery –staffed by British nannies on our sailing on the Queen Mary 2 – in addition to a children center, featuring toys, games and activities. Children must be one year old to participate without parents; children under one are welcome with parental supervision. There is complimentary group child-sitting available in the evenings. Minimum sailing age on Cunard is 6 months on Alaska, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Trans-canal and Australia/New Zealand voyages. All other voyages, including Transatlantic and Transpacific itineraries, require an age of 12 months. Visit www.cunard.com.
DISNEY CRUISE LINE: Well-known for being a family-friendly line, this line is also among the best for infant programs. Flounder's Reef Nursery accepts children from 12 weeks to 36 months; the counselor ratio is 1:4 for infants and 1:6 for toddlers. Amenities include baby swings, walkers, books, toys, games, a television and DVD area. There is also a soft play area and separate nursery with cribs. Parents should expect to carry a pager (attendants do not change diapers) and there are nominal per hour charges. The minimum age to sail on Disney is 12 weeks old. Visit www.disneycruise.com.
HOLLAND AMERICA: Holland America does not provide children's programs or babysitting for children under three, but a limited number of high chairs, booster seats and cribs are available to passengers at no charge. Parents should reserve these items in advance, at the time of booking. The minimum age to sail on Holland America is 12 months. Visit www.hollandamerica.com.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: This line offers youth programs and group babysitting for children beginning at age 2, including a 'FreeStyle Play" period where all age groups play together. Group babysitting outside of the complimentary Kid's Crew program is available for a nominal fee. NCL does not have programs in pl ace for children under age two, and no private babysitting is available. Minimum age to sail on NCL is 6 months. Visit www.ncl.com.
OCEANIA CRUISES: These voyages are designed for adults and do not provide care, entertainment, or supervision for children. Oceania's minimum sailing age is 6 months. Visit www.oceaniacruises.com.
P&O CRUISES: A children's program, The Reef, is available starting at age two. Splasher's, for 2 – 4 year olds is a day program filled with activities for young children. In the evening, parents can take advantage of the cruise line's supervised night nursery. Parents should be aware that this service is operated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and infants must be settled and sleeping before they leave. Minimum age to sail on P&O Cruises is 12 months. Visit www.pocruises.com.
PRINCESS CRUISES: Princess offers children's programs in youth centers for ages 3-12 as well as teen centers for teenagers. The program is complimentary until 10 p.m. Late-night group sitting is available for a nominal fee. Minimum age for sailing on Princess ships is 6 months (12 months on some of the line's exotic itineraries). Visit www.princess.com.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN: All Royal Caribbean ships have incorporated a Royal Babies program for infants ages 6 to 18 months. These playgroups are 45-minute sessions (parents must accompany the child) that include activities like baby gymnastics, musical inspiration and play with Fisher-Price toys. On the line's new ship, Oasis of the Seas, there is also a nursery, with child watch options day and night with nominal charges. Children are divided into two age groups within the nursery: Babies (6-17 months) up to and including 1 day less than 18 months, and Tots (18-36 months). The minimum age to sail is 6 months on most itineraries, but is 12 months on all Transatlantic, Transpacific and Hawaii cruises. Some South American and other cruises are also 12 months. Check age requirements for your specific cruise. Visit www.royalcaribbean.com.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES: This luxury line does not provide formal activities for young children on their sailings, but the line does provide in-suite babysitting services for a fee. The minimum age to sail on Regent Seven Seas Cruises is 6 months. Visit www.rssc.com.
SEABOURN: The Yachts of Seabourn, tailored for the adult cruiser, have no onboard facilities for kids, nor a supervised children's program. Minimum sailing age is 1 year for trans-Atlantic cruises, and World cruises. Minimum age is 6 months for all other sailings. Visit www.seabourn.com,
SEADREAM YACHT CLUB: There are no activities/amenities specifically for children. The minimum age to sail on a SeaDream cruise is 12 months. Visit www.seadreamyachtclub.com.
SILVERSEA: A luxury cruise line, Silversea does not feature programs designed for children and the line does not provide care, entertainment, or supervision for children. The line's new Silver Spirit, debuting in December, is expected to offer a program of children's activities in the summer. Minimum sailing age on Silversea is six months. Visit www.silversea.com.
WINDSTAR: This line attracts mostly couples. Children, especially infants and toddlers, are not encouraged and the line does not provide care, supervision, or entertainment of children. Minimum age to cruise on Windstar is 2 years. Visit www.windstarcruises.com.