If you’re sailing for the first time with a small child or baby, then you might not realize how much time you’ll spend watching them during your cruise.
While mass market cruise lines cater to families with special kids areas, there are age restrictions. On Carnival, for example, if your child is under two, then they aren’t allowed to be dropped off in the kids areas of the ships. On Royal Caribbean, the free kids areas are for passengers three years and older.
In other words, in most cases you will need to watch your young one the majority of the trip. With older kids, you could drop them off to be supervised while you go and enjoy the rest of the ship.
That said, Royal Caribbean does have a special program for kids under three. The Royal Babies and Tots nursery is designed to give parents a much-need break, allowing them to enjoy their vacation. However, unlike the kids areas for those older than three, there is a charge associated.
We recently took advantage of the Royal Babies and Tots program aboard a cruise on Liberty of the Seas. Here’s everything you need to know about it, and a couple of other programs on the ship for small children…
The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery
The Royal Babies and Tots nursery is the highlight of things for your child under three years old to do on the cruise. It allows mom and dad a chance to take a break from watching kids while they enjoy the pool, hit the casino, go into port, or simply have a quiet meal in the dining room.
Aboard Liberty of the Seas, the nursery is located at the back of the ship near the kids clubs on deck 12. This is almost as high and as far back as you can get on the ship.
During our trip, the nursery was open from 9:00 a.m – Noon and 3:00 p.m to Midnight on sea days and from 9:00 a.m to Midnight on days in port. (Yes, you can drop your kids off at the nursery while you head off the ship.)
Royal Babies and Tots Cost
The day care nursery is surprisingly affordable. Rates are $6 per hour, per child for care between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. From 6:00 p.m. until closing, the rate increases to a still reasonable $8 per hour, per child. Charges are simply put on your onboard account.
Registering and Dropping Off
Before you drop your child off, you’ll need to register and reserve your drop-off time. Registration includes filling out some consent forms and details about your child — including who may pick them up. Once registered, you can request hours. There are some limits on the total booked hours at the start of the cruise, but after the first formal night (when demand is higher), then all hours are on a first-come, first served basis.
You can also just be a walk-in, but there is no guarantee that space will be available if you go this route.
When you drop off your child, you’ll be given a portable phone to carry with you. Should anything come up, the staff will give you a call. These phones work on the ship, but do NOT work off the ship. If you are headed into shore, you can give your cell number in case of emergency.
What Do I Need to Bring?
As you already know, little ones have a lot of baggage wherever they go. It’s the same at the nursery. When you drop off, you’ll need to bring anything they need. This includes diapers and wipes, food, snacks, cups, bottles, formula, milk, and any comfort items. In other words, you should bring anything they might need. Royal Caribbean simply provides the supervision, a nursery space, and toys.
The Nursery Area
Aboard Liberty of the Seas, the Royal Babies and Tots nursery isn’t too extravagant but is plenty for small kids. The nursery consists of mats with lots of toys, a couple of tables, and a couple of rocking chairs.
Here’s what it looks like:
Open Play Area
In addition to the supervised (and paid) nursery, Royal Caribbean also offered an open play area for kids and their parents. This was a spot where parents can bring their kids to play with toys. It’s completely free.
The play area aboard Liberty of the Seas was located in Fuel — the teen nightclub that isn’t normally used during the day. It was open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day.
There area itself was large and open, with several play mats put down. The cruise line provided a number of toys for kids and also changed them out each day so that kids won’t get bored. In addition, there were crayons, coloring pages, and books for kids to enjoy.
The open play area is a great place to sit back and relax while your kid burns off some energy. You don’t have to worry about them getting in the way of other passengers and they can run and jump all they want.
Baby Splash Zone
In addition to the nursery and open play area, Liberty of the Seas also had one more dedicated spot for babies and small kids — the Baby Splash Zone.
One of the most popular spots for kids on the ship is Splashaway Bay. This waterpark on the ship is a kid’s paradise. With waterslides and all sorts of water features that are sure to get kids wet, it’s always busy.
But if your child isn’t potty trained and still in swim diapers, then they aren’t allowed in most of the waterpark area. Thankfully, there is a small section of Splashaway Bay that’s dedicated to kids who aren’t yet potty trained. Called the Baby Splash Zone, it’s great for small kids. There are several features that spray water, a small climbing area and slide, and lots of water everywhere.
One tip — before you get your child excited about going to the Baby Splash Zone, make sure it is open. In our experience, sections of the park close at irregular times, whether for cleaning or mechanical issues. You don’t want to get a little one’s hopes up, only to tell them that the waterpark isn’t open.
Final Thoughts and Tips
With the Royal Babies and Tots nursery, free play area, and Baby Splash Zone, Royal Caribbean has done quite a lot to entertain smaller kids. Note that not every ship has every feature mentioned above. The newer the ship, the more likely it is to have these features.
For more on bringing your child on a cruise, don’t miss our other articles including 41 Must-Have Tips for Cruising With Babies, Toddlers, or Kids and The Complete Guide to Cruising with a Baby (From Someone Who’s Done It)