Several weeks before Christmas, El Hub said to me, "Let's go on a cruise."
The memory of my response has dulled with time, but I am pretty sure I said something like, "Hang on, I have mental whiplash from you suggesting a vacation, give me a minute to think about this."
And we did think about it. We were big cruisers in our pre-baby days. We even went on an amazing European cruise for our honeymoon, and our babymoon was a cruise as well. But now that we have a toddler, how did we want to approach this cruise? Did we want to bring him or leave him with my mom? How long of a cruise did we want to go on? Why do cruises charge full price for toddlers? (That last question is one we never got an answer to. So absurd since toddlers certainly don't eat as much as an adult. The kid doesn't even know what a buffet is yet, much less how to totally take advantage of one.)
Our biggest concern was the kiddo's sleeping. He cannot fall asleep with someone in the room. To him, that is a cue that it is party time. And El Hub and I do not envision a vacation being relaxing if all our kid wants to do is party all the time.
So we started wondering if we could convince any of our dear family to think it would be a good idea to go on a cruise with us. That way, we could get an adjoining room, let George fall asleep in our room, and hang out in the other room while obsessively listening to him chat away on the baby monitor (that last part might have just been me). And two of our family members stepped up to the plate; my mom and my niece Cassandra volunteered to be the brave souls to go with us.
We had no idea how it would go. We didn't know if George would sleep, we didn't know if he would get seasick, we didn't know if he would hate the boat and the food and the activities. But we wanted to get back in touch with our love of cruising. So with a wing and a prayer and a credit card, we booked our vacation.
And it was a blast.
Seriously, one of my favorite vacations ever. If you are thinking about taking your toddler on a cruise, then keep reading, because I have an awful lot to say about this.
Everything went better than we could have hoped. The room logistics we chose with an adjoining room worked wonderfully; one of the four of us would stay behind while George was napping or down for bedtime, and we would switch off who had the freedom to go explore. Our room was technically interior, but since it was the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas, we chose one that overlooked the "Royal Promenade." George loved people watching from our window, and we loved the lower price tag.
We chose a five day cruise but probably could have happily gone on a seven day; we intentionally picked a cruise with two at-sea days since we were not really focused on exploring the ports with George. This worked out even better when one of our two ports, Labadee, Haiti, was a private Royal Caribbean-controlled area with the beach, food, and even a splash pad in walking distance.
The ship itself was big, but we never once used our stroller on it. George was happy to walk nearly everywhere, and once he wanted to be carried, it was never far from our destination.
We packed light and just brought a duffle bag for George with diapers, one change per day of day clothes and dinner clothes, diapers, and his bedtime ritual stuff. RCCL has a partnership with Fisher Price, so during the day they have a room full of toys that parents can hang out at with their kiddos. They also have a toy-lending program, like a little library of Fisher Price toys. But we never needed to use it because there was so much for George to do and see, and we didn't spend much time in the room.
There was also a nursery for $8 an hour that we did not use until the third day, and I regret waiting that long. George LOVED it. Full of Fisher-Price toys, and the ladies there will feed them food to your specifications if you leave your kiddo there during a meal time. He always left happier than when he arrived.
Before the cruise, we had been wondering if we would be able to do the fancy sit-down dinners or if George would pitch a fit at the leisurely meals. We never tested this as breakfast and instead always went to the Windjammer buffet, but we were pleasantly shocked that George happily made it through dinner every night. That is not a short meal. But they sat us at secluded tables, and we let him play on the floor blocked into the corner until the food arrived.
And finally, employees on cruise ships LOVE KIDS. Holy moley. George was a rock star everywhere he went. I think sometimes it is that the employees miss their families, but then the rest of the time I think that the employees just like the change of pace that kids provide. But oh man, he was loved. And of course, George loved that, and it made him even happier to be on a cruise.
So ta da! We went on a cruise with a toddler and not only survived to tell the tale, but happily so. Now I just need to await the next time El Hub turns to me and says, "Let's go on a cruise." Maybe this time I won't have the mental whiplash.