First time cruiser with little kids


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#1
5 Posts
Joined Feb 2018
I posted on the Disney board before I noticed this board and maybe this is the more appropriate place for cruising advice.

Here is my post:

Hi everybody I've recently joined the community and I'm trying to find as much helpful information as possible. I have sort of been freaking out a little bit about a cruise in a few months to the point of wanting to call the whole thing off, but I know that it will really upset my family and so I'm trying to be a good sport. If anyone has some good advice maybe on what I can expect or tips for traveling with small kids I'd appreciate it immensely.

So my inlaws planned a trip that they've wanted to do for like a lifetime. They are celebrating my father-in-laws retirement and taking the family (paying for a lot, but not all) on a Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona in July.

So I'm 29 and a single dad now. At the time of sailing in July my 4 children will be 6, 4, 3, and 13 months. I've never taken a trip alone with all 4, none of us have been on a cruise and this is my first attempt at even flying with them. On the cruise itself it is my inlaws, their 2 other daughters and their respective spouses and they each have 2 kids between ages 15-10. I know they all have been planning excursions and are all excited for this big trip and I'm worried that me with all for little ones is just going to be really hard and I don't want to be detracting from the others vacation with help with my ones.

So has anyone sailed as a single parent and have any tips on how I can best survive a cruise ship with them all? Any tips on activities or really any travel advice in general. I'm sorry that this maybe is all over the place. I just don't know if it's realistic for me to attempt this. I'm just trying to go along with it to help my inlaws out because they wanted the family together.


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#2
Central Ohio
3,000 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
First of all, I think that it is wonderful that your in-laws are planning such a great vacation for everyone!

Relax. I'm not a single parent, but I do know that there are a great many of them who travel with their children often. This will be a great experience for them!

My best advice is to send you to the family cruising forum. There is a ton of great advice regarding cruising with kids of all ages. I think you will get great information there. https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=49
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#3
CA
2,119 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Are you on Disney?

What particular concerns do you have? Something is bugging you enough to consider cancelling the cruise.

Your kids are close in age so that makes things easier. You're also going with family (although I'm a bit confused about the single dad part going with in laws; are you divorced/widowed?) so they can help with the kids. They're family and family generally helps each other. You won't need them as much as you think. There will be LOTS to distract your kids.

Disney Kids club will call you if there's a problem. Very secure. Way better than any land kids club I've ever seen, other than Disney's own in Hawaii. All but the 13 month old can go in there if you need a break (or if they just want to). You can pay for babysitting for the baby, but there's a limit on hours. You just keep your cabin phone with you (it's a wireless phone that works throughout the ship for FREE; suck it NCL).

The waiters will entertain the kids. Little things like ketchup drawings, funny hats and stuff made of napkins, etc. That makes meal times go a lot easier.

Feel free to separate from your group if they're doing something super active. Once docked at a port, if you don't feel like going out that long, stay on the ship and enjoy the pools and water areas. It'll be way emptier, plus, there will still be life guards (who are ON it) to help you keep track of them all. If in doubt, stay on board. There's LOTS of staff to keep track and they can't really get that lost on a ship. It's way easier wrangling a bunch of kids on a cruise ship than anywhere else, outside of maybe a plane. But a cruise ship (especially Disney) always has available food (like pizza and ice cream) and entertainment to keep them from getting bored and too out of hand.
#4
271 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
First of all, good luck! I imagine the most challenging part will be the flights. Will you have help? If not, get some!

Disney is wonderful. We took our 1 year old on a cruise and had a blast. A few tips for your youngest one:

There is a nursery on board the ship! It’s a small word nursery. For babies 6 months to 3 years old. You can book in advance through your reservation online. You can only book a limited amount of hours but usually once on board you can book more. It costs $9 per hour but it is well worth it. Our daughter had a blast and we felt safe leaving her there. The nursery will text or call you on your wave phone(each room comes with 2) if there is a problem.

Call Disney cruises and ask them to put a crib (pack and play) and a diaper pail in your room.

The pools are only for kids who are potty trained but there is a cute splash zone with water fixtures for babies so bring swim diapers along.

There is self service laundry on board so don’t feel the need to overpack.

Finally have a blast. Disney is amazing for kids-
There will be a zillion on the ship and Disney knows how to handle them.


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#5
188 Posts
Joined Oct 2017
You are not crazy to be nervous. So lets start with getting there. Will you have another adult on the flight with you? If not, you need to call the airline and make sure you can even fly with that many young kids without another adult. Someone is going to have to be in their own row I would think and I do not think an airline will allow this.

Have you considered bringing a nanny or another adult to help? Are you traveling the entire way with at least one adult family member? I actually think you will be fine once you get on the ship. Its getting there and on the ship that sounds challenging. Figure that part out first. Then move on to picking excursions your kids might enjoy.

All that said, a mediteranean cruise as a single dad with 4 kids that age does not sound even remotely fun to me. I wouldn't go. Just make sure you make a decision before they lose tons of money on it.
#6
CA
2,119 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Originally posted by Nevada Jen
You are not crazy to be nervous. So lets start with getting there. Will you have another adult on the flight with you? If not, you need to call the airline and make sure you can even fly with that many young kids without another adult. Someone is going to have to be in their own row I would think and I do not think an airline will allow this.
They allow it. The whole point of the new Basic Economy (or the ultra low cost airlines like Spirit, Frontier, Ryanair, etc) is to split families up and scare them enough about being sat away from their kids that they'll pony up for seat assignments.

For OP, I'd recommend booking it so that the 3 older kids get an aisle to themselves. I'm assuming the 13 month is going to be a lap baby. You just sit on the aisle seat across from them. They're basically contained in their own aisle.

Just bring bribes. Some for the kids (new small toys, new (to them) activities, etc), some for the flight attendants (a box of chocolates or candy works great), and possibly some for the fellow passengers around you (ear plugs and candy in a small baggy has been done in the past). If you make an effort, most people are decent and will work with you when they see you making an effort.
#7
5 Posts
Joined Feb 2018
Originally posted by codex57
Are you on Disney?

What particular concerns do you have? Something is bugging you enough to consider cancelling the cruise.

Your kids are close in age so that makes things easier. You're also going with family (although I'm a bit confused about the single dad part going with in laws; are you divorced/widowed?) so they can help with the kids. They're family and family generally helps each other. You won't need them as much as you think. There will be LOTS to distract your kids.

.


First, appreciate all the suggestions from everyone.

Sorry for the confusion I guess was typing stream of consciousness. I'm widowed and that's why still taking trip with inlaws as a single dad.

What concerns me is I've never been on a ship before and I guess I was starting to think how can I handle all 4 of them on my own. Is there a lot of resources for kids and such... which the answer seems to be yes from people responding.


As for the flight over to Barcelona I have the kids alone to get to NY and then my mil and fil are on the same flight from NY to Barcelona so I will have other adult help for the long haul.

I hope the family will help, they say they will but I know it is their vacation so I guess I'm worried they will be off doing things that my little ones can't yet do. I guess maybe I need to bite the bullet and talk to them about how realistically I will need a commitment of help throughout the trip for me to manage it because I just haven't tried a vacation with all the girls on my own and I don't imagine it would be an easy task with them all jet lagged.




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#8
Nebraska
311 Posts
Joined Jul 2013
Have you used a baby carrier for the 13 month old? If not try one out, it will make your life so much easier especially for the airport!!! Great for excursions and boarding the ship. I did it with my 15 month old he got a bit heavy at times so we had a stroller to. When I flew by myself with him at 6 months the carrier was a life saver for dealing with bags, lines, and boarding.

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#9
5,014 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
As a Grandmother, I think the Grandparents want to spend this time with their grandchildren. I think that is going to be the highlight of this trip for them. If not, they wouldn't choose Disney and they wouldn't be paying for what I think is a total of EIGHT children. The first leg of the flight will be challenging but it will be the short leg. The kids will probably get more sleep on the plane than the adults. You'll be jet lagged and probably as tired and cranky as the kids when you arrive. Get some rest when you get checked in in Barcelona. I'm sure you must be taking a stroller (maybe multiple ?). That will be a tremendous help. Utilize the kids club. Don't turn down an offer of help from the Grandparents. After MANY cruises with my Grandson, I can tell you that I was offering to babysit and thrilled each time. Take small treats and toys (Dollar Store) and when they start getting cranky and bored, spring a new one on them. On the ship, the waiters and the crew will be fabulous and entertain them at dinner. We started cruising with my Grandson when he was four and he LOVED it. Do you have cabins that are connecting with the Grandparents or any of the others? That would probably help. You might want to ask about that. Your children will be with their cousins and I'm sure those older cousins will be helping too. If you think an excursion is getting to be too much, in most Med ports, it's easy and inexpensive to grab a taxi and head back to the ship, let the kids grab a nap or head to the pool. Usually after a day of touring or out in the pool, the kids are worn out and ready for bed without any prompting.
#10
188 Posts
Joined Oct 2017
I suspect if you ask, someone from your family will fly to you and Fly with you to new york. That's going to be your hardest part of the whole thing. Really, once you are with your family and on the boat, that part will be easy. But talk with your inlaws about your concerns. If you are truly worried that you and the kids will be a burden on them, tell them and let them respond honestly. If the trip was planned when your wife was still alive, they may not want to uninvite you but may realize that it's not a set up for a good time. On the other hand, if your concern is that this is going to be very physically and mentally hard for you, they may have already thought of solutions. If I were in your shoes, with my full time job, in all honesty, I wouldn't be willing to give up my limited vacation time for the stress of this trip. Any chance your side of the family could keep the three littles and just you and the 6 year old go on the trip? That sounds much more like a vacation to me!
#11
5,014 Posts
Joined Jan 2007
???? Leave three???? I'm sure the Grandparents want to spend time with all of the girls and that's part of the reason for the trip. It's not like they live around the corner and these kids are their connection to their daughter.
#12
5 Posts
Joined Feb 2018
@horsegal yes I do have a carrier for her and immensely helps me day to day here wrangling them all.

@ griffy116 I appreciate your perspective as a grandparent, what you've said makes a lot of sense

@nevada Jen yeah it isn't an ideal vacation for me, but I'm trying to be mindful of others feelings and things

The cruise was planned, but not booked until after my wife's passing. Shortly after, one of her sisters really promoted the whole philosophy of we all only live once and her parents had always wanted to do this trip so they booked it all. Honestly, when I was approached about the whole thing originally, I wasn't thinking. I wasn't probably in the best frame of mind to think things through and surviving just the next hour was more important than the trip almost a year away. Also I feel I was guilted by all parties a bit as well.

Then recently I get some emails about excursions and plans by one of her sisters and instantly I was overwhelmed. Found myself here at work looking up cruise stuff for what to expect and if I'm legitimately insane for making this trip.

When I initially wrote the post I may have been in a bad moment of panic, but reading various responses and some other things I'm feeling a little better and think a lot of my problems probably can be solved with some communication.

Based on all of your wonderful comments and suggestions I'm going to talk to my in laws about the reality of all this and logistics of me taking all my girls alone on this huge vacation, on top of it being the first time I've attempted anything big alone that will have its own emotional part to it. See how much they intended to help and/or are willing to.

I also think that if after that conversation they really want us to all be there then I think I can probably convince my mom to come with me. I'll see if maybe we can arrange a close room and then at least I could have someone I, and the kids, are super comfortable with to help out.

Sorry if this whole post was a little odd or maybe inappropriate for the forum, I'm just a new cruiser who went into panic today with all the unknown about what cruising entails with 4 little ones coming along.


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#13
271 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
I am so sorry for your loss. That’s just really awful. I think you are getting good advice here and at the end of the day, this is your decision and your vacation. I think the most important thing is you advocate for yourself and have an open and honest convo with MIL and FIL. Bringing along your mom, if she’s helpful and you have a good relationship, might be a good idea. Again, once you board, Disney has excellent kids programs all day so you really can get away from the kiddos if you want.


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#14
CA
2,119 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Originally posted by ajm1189
I also think that if after that conversation they really want us to all be there then I think I can probably convince my mom to come with me. I'll see if maybe we can arrange a close room and then at least I could have someone I, and the kids, are super comfortable with to help out.

Sorry if this whole post was a little odd or maybe inappropriate for the forum, I'm just a new cruiser who went into panic today with all the unknown about what cruising entails with 4 little ones coming along.
Sorry for your loss.

I think asking your mom to come with you is a great idea. That said, if it turns out she can't, I don't think it's the end of the world.

Do you feel comfortable listing out the excursions and stuff? This post is completely appropriate. You're new to cruising and this is the First Time Cruisers thread. Posting in the Disney section is fine too. The more details you provide, the more we can help. And people here are absolutely happy to help. I'm not new to cruising, yet I'm still on here because I still learn new things or get advice on my trip. From my experience, getting help from people who've done it before makes the actual trip super smooth. Even when the trip has bumps, I'm typically aware of similar situations happening to people before and dealing with the problem is a lot less stressful having read about it before and having more of an idea of what to do.

Ask any and all questions you have. We're more than happy to help. Let's get you relaxed about this trip so you can enjoy yourself.
#15
Fredericksburg, va. USA
88,338 Posts
Joined May 2001
All but the 13 mo. old will make GOOD use of the kid's club on the ship...no worries...kids LOVE it!

Now...how long have you been alone with your kids? Pretty sure you're doing a good job, and you will have family to help. TELL them your concerns, if you haven't! It's hard with 4 against 1, but doable....especially if the rest of the family is willing to 'pitch in" on occasion! And, if you feel this isn't right for you....don't go. You have control over your life and your family.
#16
188 Posts
Joined Oct 2017
If you can get your mom to go then you can stop worrying. If not, you will make it. If she can't go, at least she can help you through airport security and wait with you at the gate until you board or maybe she would fly to mew york with you. That will make a huge difference. Ask any questions you want.
#17
6,281 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by Nevada Jen
If you can get your mom to go then you can stop worrying. If not, you will make it. If she can't go, at least she can help you through airport security and wait with you at the gate until you board or maybe she would fly to mew york with you. That will make a huge difference. Ask any questions you want.
I don’t think that’s allowed. I was able to go within my daughter through security until sh3 turned 18, I think, and it wasn’t guaranteed.

OP, so sorry for your loss, I’m not a single parent but have 5 very close in age (teens now), and totally understand feeling outnumbered without my spouse (DH used to drop us off and pick us up at the airport, and park in long term parking, so I used to get them through security alone, and baggage claim alone). It’s doable, and actually a little comical.
#18
Florida
483 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
I'm so sorry for your loss.

I cruised with my oldest two as a single parent, they were 7 and 4 at the time. I now have 3 kids and have done LOTS of traveling with them solo (cruises, resorts, flights, road trips).

First and foremost, you already manage your children by yourself. So now you're parenting your 4 kids on a ship, full of a crew that is just standing by, ready and waiting to help. They will DOTE on your kids. I haven't been on Disney, but on Royal Caribbean my server actually cut my meat while I was taking care of my 4 year old so that I would have an easier time with my own meal. I also have experience at Disney World with little ones and always found Disney staff to be superb at 'helping' with the littles. One time we were in one of their more expensive restaurants and my oldest, then 15 months at time time, started getting antsy. Rather than give us 'the look' our server cheerily plopped a plate of goldfish in front of him, successfully distracting him.

You got this dad, you can do it. Will it be the same vacation you would have had without kids or not as a widower? No. But you will still be surrounded by people that are there to help. Like you, I don't like to rely on family traveling with me too much - I wind up feeling guilty because it's their trip too. When it's grandparents with us, they remind me that they're really just there to be with us.

For flying - get to the airport early and take your time. Don't worry about the people behind you or be apologetic for trying to manage the crapload of stuff that traveling with 4 kids overseas entails. For the airline, you bought 5 tickets - making you one of their bigger spenders. If for some reason your seats are not together, a gate agent will help you because NO ONE on that flight wants you separated from them.

I have had very very good luck with flight attendants. If your airline offers pre-boarding for families take it. Introduce yourself to the flight attendants when you board and make nice. Mention you're traveling solo as a widower. I bet they will bend over backwards to help you. Again, you are five of their clients.

Relax and don't worry too much through the flight. You will never again see these people. And you know what? They are adults. They can deal with a temporary inconvenience.

On the ship your kids will be totally wowed by everything Disney has to offer.

I have found that when my kids were smaller (and my current one still is) that I cannot go at the same pace as families with older kids. I carve out quiet time in the cabin (or hotel room or whatever) daily and just provide them all time to decompress and get over any over stimulation. Don't be afraid to cut something short if you think your kids are getting overloaded, just like at home!

You got this. You parent the alone all the time and it's just the same thing, only in a new setting. A new setting that was designed to cater towards families and small children. It's probably the best possible option for vacationing alone with 4 kids. Have fun and relax!
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#19
In the Valley, CA
23,062 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Don't worry about having to do excursions. On most of our cruises, we didn't book anything, and often kept our plans flexible. When we took our 23 month old girl on her first cruise, it was just a 3-day cruise with one port, and we got off the ship with her, went to a little marketplace that's right by the gangway, did a little shopping and returned to the ship.

You don't even need to get off the ship until the disembarkation day, of course.

So if that's what stressing you out (what to do in port), you can decide to stay on board. Or you can google each port and "family activities" and see what comes up. Some tourism sites might have family friendly ideas. Maybe let your family members know about your thoughts. They may have some ideas, but hopefully if you're not always up to going out in port, they will respect that.
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#20
Coastal GA USA
23,566 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
I would not stress about excursions. This whole trip is your excursion. Your girls are all too young to really appreciate Europe - for more than 15 minutes... Get a copy of Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports and read about the sights/attractions. Visit the Ports of Call boards here. there is a very good board here for Family Cruising, under Special Interest Cruising. Folks there can help you get a grip on the possibilities. It may be that in a port or two, you can just get off the ship, flag down a taxi and ask them to take you to a public park where your girls can run off steam. EM

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