Holiday Cruising with a toddler

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Jan 16th, 2017, 09:10 PM
  #1
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Holiday Cruising with a toddler

It sounded like a great idea at the time. In the middle of the winter, away from the cold weather, cruising the Mexican Riviera with the family, New Years Eve on a cruise ship, what could be better? It sure sounded like a great idea at the time.

After making full payment for the cruises and at the point of no return, reality and panic set in. After all, we are not sure how our GD will behave. She had taken road trips before but not a plane ride. She was never away from home on such an extended time frame, There will be airport down time, flight time, plenty of waiting in line time, irregular meal time, diaper change (with or without proper places to make the change), irregular sleep time, noisy environment, lots of attractions and distractions. And then there are the behavioral concerns, what if she has a hissy-fit in the MDR? What if she cried the whole way on the plane ride? What if she cried for the entire cruise 24/7 non stop? What if she got sick? What about that Zika virus? What if ... What if ... What if ... what have we done?!

Throughout the entire planning process, we have tried to cover off all the potentials. First off, a direct flight to LA, that explains the Mexican Riviera cruise. Secondly, a "holiday cruise" knowing full well that we will paying a premium price for the timing, but the benefits of knowing that there will be lots of families, and youngster at the cruise, Thirdly, arriving in LA a few days ahead and acclimatize, also a chance to shop during boxing week as well as picking up things that we forgot to pack.

With all that in mind, the journey began,

The airport security was much easier than I thought. DS, DIL and GD got on the "short line" and went through security rather quick where as DW and I went and park the car and went in the regular line. The airport was busy but the line up not as long as we thought, within half and hour, we were through and we met up and have breakfast in the waiting room.

The plane ride was uneventful. There were plenty of infants, toddlers on the plane and GD was surprising docile for the plane ride. DIL planned it well, feed her before boarding and once settled in, gave her the bottle during take off. The pressure change didn't affect her all that much although we heard crying all over the place. DIL also packed a lot of small toys and her favorite stuff animal and her blanket, and I am quite sure all those things helped.

The three days in LA went by quickly. taking her along on the bus rides, time by the hotel pool, beaches, malls were no issues at all with the GD. She ate what we ate, had milk in the bottle just in case, Sleeping was troublesome at times but manageable. We were feeling a sense of relief.
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Jan 16th, 2017, 09:55 PM
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We have pre-booked a shuttle with a front facing car seat. The shuttle arrived, picked us up and we were at the dock by 11:15 am, which is quite early.

With priority boarding, we walked in, past security and then ushered into the VIP waiting room. By 11:30 am, our group was called and we proceed to board. We were on board and in our cabin within 5 minutes.

After we settled in what I thought was our cabin, a small problem occurred and it is probably all my fault. When we book the cabins, we were in close proximity to each other. When we check in, I didn't look at what cabin was assigned to us. I just assume (a bad word) that we will be in the cabin that we booked.

The cabin door was wide open as it is still being cleaned. We dropped off our back packs, and put our belongings in the safe, locked it and was about to leave when I notice that the cabin number on the map given to us was not the cabin that we had originally booked. We quickly unlock the safe, empty the content, grab our stuff and headed down to the purser's desk.

I show them the key cards, gave him our names and asked what cabins we were supposed to be in and the purser assured us that we have been "upgraded" to a different cabin and what is written on the mini map is indeed the right cabin number.

We have had cabin upgrades before, including last minutes one where we got the email the day of embarking. This time, we did not receive any email. They didn't tell us that we have an upgrade during check-in so it is all a surprise. So we went to our newly assigned cabin and settled in. It is a great mid-ship upper floor balcony cabin. We have no reasons to complaint, with the exception that we are now a few floors away from where we were suppose to be, and away from GD's cabin and made it a much longer distance to commute (as in much longer distance to carry her).

We met up with DS, DIL and GD in the buffet and gave them the "news" that instead of an obstructed ocean view cabin, we now have a cabin with a large balcony, and of course, they are more than welcome to visit and make full use of the balcony.

Since we were located in different part of the ship, our muster station is different from their's. Our safety drill was uneventful. From what my DIL told me, GD did not like the drill at all (too crowded) and they were having a tough time finding her a life jacket that fits her, but eventually they did located one.

We have a wonderful cabin steward and we told him that we have our GD on board in another cabin and told him that she might come and visit so we may have soiled diapers etc and ask what to do with them. He said no problem at all and proceed to give us some red plastic bags that were clearly marked "bio hazard" with the skull and cross bones. He said just put the soiled diapers in there and he'll look after it. Pretty simple.

We had bought boxes of small scented plastic bags so the intent was to put each soiled diaper into a small scented bags, sealed it so it will cover/mask the smell and we will figure out what to do with it later. With the red bio hazard bag, we just put our small bags in the red bio hazard bag. We put it under the sink and out of the way, and every time the room got freshened, the red bag would disappear and a new one in its place.

Our DS DIL had a slightly different encounter with their cabin steward. They were told to simply put their soiled diapers in the laundry room garbage can, which is located next door to their cabin. I was surprised by that and had thought it was a joke. I told them about the red bio hazard bag we got and they ask their cabin steward about it. They got the bag a day later and the bag was not removed daily.

The cabin was really small and although a crib was provided, it was really not practical and barely fit inside the cabin. Once it was deployed, there were hardly any room left to move about so they decided to let GD sleep in the bed and DS would sleep on one of the fold down bunks. All in all, it was cramped but workable. They moved the bed so that one side of the bed would be at the wall so GD could not fall on the side, and they put pillows as a barricade on the other side. That would have to do and by and large, it worked.
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Jan 16th, 2017, 10:17 PM
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Have you ever bought a car and then noticed "your" car is at everywhere you looked? by your office, by the mall, by the house, all over the place. This is how we felt with GD. We thought it would be an oddity to have a toddler in tow on a cruise ship. To our surprise, we saw toddlers and infants everywhere, baby strollers, babies crawling all over the place. Honestly we were surprised.

The youngest we have encountered was 2 months old, and we have come across at least 1/2 dozen infants/toddlers younger than our GD. Beyond that, I counted about 30 around 3-5, and about the same for the next age group up and lots of teenagers. This is not the most kids I have seen on a cruise, but this is the most toddlers that we have noticed on a cruise. In the past, we might have seen an odd toddler here and there, but there are plenty on this cruise.

I was surprised at the number of activities they have for the young ones. Probably we were not looking for them in the past so we have not notice but now that we are looking for them, we were surprised at the number of events.

I was given the impression that until the toddler is potty trained, they were not allowed in the pool, even with the swim diapers. We read it in the literature somewhere and it said it will be strictly enforced. So it was surprising to see that no one was enforcing the rule at all. We saw toddlers on both main pools and the kids pool. It sort of reinforced our position that we do not use any pool on the ship, ever. We have cruised all these years and we have yet use any of the pool facilities, for sanitation/health reasons. Just for the record, I was told by DS and DIL that our GD used the pool and played with the other toddlers in the pool as well, in violation of the rule.

The youth center do not accept any kids under the age of 3, and the hours is only for a couple hours at a time anyway. I think it is from 9-11, 2-4 and that's about it. However, they have activities around the ship for this group at the pool deck and the piazza: simple things such as a ring toss (and they give away real prizes) magician, sing along among other things.
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Jan 17th, 2017, 02:04 PM
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Sounds like you have a smart DIL. Too bad she ended up with a lazy cabin attendant. I would have brought this to his attention and asked him to remove daily. After all he's in the room probable twice per day.

I am really surprised by them not enforcing the rule about no toddlers in the pool especially in terms of sanitation reasons.

Following. .
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Jan 17th, 2017, 02:34 PM
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Have you ever wonder if you can use the shower stall in your cabin to wash your feet or any lower part of your body without turning on the shower and got yourself sprayed and all wet? We have been on many ships and we never asked the question.

With a toddler, showering is not really a good option, especially in the small shower stall. Using the hand sink doesn't work well either as it would be too small; so, what to do?

Ask and you shall receive ... as it turns out, there is a check value located about a few below the shower control. It's always been there and I've seen water coming out of it when I turned off the shower. That is a pressure value to force the water to the shower head, remove it, and it will function like a faucet when you turn on the water control. No water will come out from the shower head unless you put the value back in and tighten it. It can be easily removed by hand and tightened by hand, no tools required.

To bath GD, we just remove the pressure value, turn on the water and let her sat on the shower stall floor, that's it. And all those years of cruising, never knew that we could have removed it and wash the sand off my feet without turning on the shower head and get really messy.

On many occasions, we have asked for high chairs in both the buffet and the MDR. We really like how the Princess ships do it. They deliver the high chair to your table, it may take time depending on the location and how many high chairs are already in use. But when it arrives, the table tray is always totally saran wrapped and it took them a bit of effort to totally removed the plastic.

What it represented was that the table tray was sanitized after every single use and saran wrapped, keeping it free of dust and contamination. It was so clean that DIL just put food on the table tray and let GD go crazy with her food. Spaghetti and meat sauce? No problem. Mashed potato all over the tray? No issues. Mushed up fresh fruit, spilled sauces, juices, vegetables. No body cares. When it is all said and done, the staff just took the table tray and put it through the machine and then got it wrapped up after it is cleaned and sanitized. My DIL is a clean freak when it comes to GD and when she allowed her to eat off the table tray, I was surprised. Obviously, she had a very good comfort level with what the ship staff was doing.

The service staff is absolutely fantastic with the requests, always with a smile and they always joked (and it is getting a bit old) "anything for the princess on the Princess". Warm mil? No problem. Cleaning food off the floor? No problem. help carrying food? No problem. In comparison to some land locked restaurants service staff's attitude towards toddlers, there is no comparison.
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Jan 17th, 2017, 02:43 PM
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Shore excursion is a totally different animal and picking a shore excursion that the little one can participate turns out to be a bigger challenge.

On the first stop, DIL and DS just took the little one to the beaches near by, walk around town and the dock area and that was it. GD totally loced the sand and the ocean so it was great.

DS and DIL wanted to go zip line so we ended up didn't go ashore and baby sat. There was enough to do around the ship and we just let her lose. The ship is quite empty so there was minimal risk of running into people. We notice a lot of the toddlers were on the same boat (pun intended) and din't go ashore. They have all kinds of mini activities so the half day went by real quick.

We took the hop on hop off bus on one of the stops and it worked out okay but finding a change table was a challenge. DW and DIL struggled through it in a Mexican restaurant washroom and somehow got it done. Don't ask me how they did it, don't ask me what they did to the soiled diaper, I really don't want to know and even if I know, I won't repeat it.

On one other excursion, DS and DIL took GD to the turtle farm. We didn't go with them and have our own quiet time. From what I could gather, it went well.
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Jan 17th, 2017, 02:47 PM
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I wish there is a way that I can go back and correct all the typo ...

Oh well, you can always guess what I meant to say ...
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Jan 17th, 2017, 07:46 PM
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Eschew, It is fun hearing about your experiences cruising with a little one.
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Jan 18th, 2017, 01:59 AM
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Still following. Hopefully the new regime here will be able to add an "edit" button for the users.
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Jan 18th, 2017, 10:07 AM
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We were worry that the little one would not sit still long enough for a relaxing meal in the MDR. SO our DS, DIL and GD missed the MDR on teh first couple of nights.

Being a "holiday cruise", they do special things such as a New Years Day brunch at the MDR. We took the opportunity and took GD to the brunch and see how it works with the table cloth and all.

Not too surprisingly, they have high chairs, and table tray that was wrapped the same way. The high chair size seems to smaller as the MDR aisle ways are much narrower than the buffet.

We asked to get some food for the GD first before we order and the staff gladly complied. While GD was happily making a a mess on her table tray, and napkins and table cloth around her, we ordered our food and other than the occasional distraction from GD, it was just like any other time having lunch in the MDR.

We decided to try dinner with GD in the MDR. Not surprisingly, they try to keep all the "kids" in one section. All the tables around us have toddlers, which may not be a bad thing. They have children's menu, nothing elaborate but works well enough.

We particularly like the fruit salad appetizer as it is all fresh fruits cut to smaller bite size. It's healthy and tasty.

As to the entree, the spaghetti and meat ball, grill cheese sandwich, chicken strips all works well enough for our GD.

Not sure how the kids can tell the difference, we made the mistake of cutting her a small piece of prime rib. Once she had that tiny single piece of prime rib, she put her meat ball down and wanted more prime rib. Go figure!

Again, the staff were the heroes and they made everyone felt welcome and made it easy. GD managed to be well behaved and sit through our 2 hour dinners.

One final note on cruising with a toddler. Would we do it again? Probably. It all depends on the child though, some better adapted to travel and new environment than others. In our case, our GD traveled well.

On piece of advise to anyone thinking about cruising with a toddler. Have more people in your group. The more the merrier. There was a table of 8 adults and 1 toddler sitting by us at the MDR. He was very active and made a fair amount of noise. They took turn take him outside for a walk.

If it is only a young couple travelling with the toddler, there will be no down time as the toddler requires so much care and attention. In the group situation, everyone pitched in taking a turn, and everyone was able to have a good time by and large.

Packing for the toddler is also easier with a a group. DIL had calculated how much diapers GD will need, how much wipes and other disposables and we spread the "inventory" between all of us. I had a pack of diapers and DW had a pack of wipes along with some clothing, stuff animals and toys.

A photo session also proved to be challenge as she seems to have a mind of her own. We did managed to get in a photo session on the formal night and did managed to get one good picture out of the lot.

Not sure if I covered off everything with cruising with a toddler, it is definitely different and more challenging than a land vacation.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
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Jan 18th, 2017, 01:09 PM
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Good t hear that all went well and especially good to hear how the Princess staff was so accommodating to your needs. Thats the touch I have come to expect from them.

BTW we are booked on the Ovation out of Sydney in December. Its scenic cruising of some of the NZ sounds and a few stops as well. Our niece is in Brisbane too so we plan to see her as we will be in country 5-6 days before embarkation. And I do remember about getting the Aussie visa. Once you get it how long is to good for?
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Jan 19th, 2017, 09:34 AM
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Larry. It's good for 3 months. Apply direct through the Aussie embassy and cut the middle man. Much cheaper and probably faster.

The scenic cruising on the NZ sounds is awesome. I taped my iPad to the front window of the ship and set it to capture time lapse video.

I don't recall if I ever post a TR on our Aussie/NZ trip, if you have questions, just drop me a line. We were on the Celebrity Solstice for that cruise, and we had the Aqua class.

Ovation is a big ship. Didn't know it is doing the Aussie/NZ loop.
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Jan 20th, 2017, 09:37 AM
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12/07 Sydney - Australia
(Depart 06:30 PM)
12/08 Cruising
12/09 Cruising
12/10 Milford Sound - New Zealand
(08:00 AM - 09:00 AM)
12/10 Doubtful Sound
(01:00 PM - 02:00 PM)
12/10 Dusky Sound
(04:00 PM - 05:00 PM)
12/11 Dunedin - New Zealand
(08:00 AM - 06:00 PM)
12/12 Wellington - New Zealand
(01:00 PM - 07:00 PM)
12/13 Napier - New Zealand
(08:30 AM - 05:30 PM)
12/14 Picton - New Zealand
(08:00 AM - 03:00 PM)
12/15 Cruising
12/16 Cruising
12/17 Sydney - Australia
(Arrive 06:30 AM)

This is the itinerary we have.
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Jan 23rd, 2017, 10:31 AM
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Larry, that's a lot of sea days. Our cruise started in Sydney and ended in Auckland. We started with overnight in Sydney, Melbourne, cruising the south islands sounds, Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington, Tauranga and disembark at Auckland.

Our hotel stay in Sydney is very expensive, not sure if it is because there are conventions or other stuff going on.

The cruise terminal is right at the harbor. Walking distance to the famed bridge and opera house. Not sure if Ovation is going to be docked there or elsewhere (because of size?).

We just walked off and do Sydney and Melbourne on our own. It is a relatively easy port to do on your own. If you want to take in an event or tour of the Opera house, you should book ahead of time.

Most would want to take the train at Dunedin. We sort of walk around a bit, check out the botanic garden, the chocolate factory and take in some city sights.

Akaroa is very close to Christchurch. We took a tour to the Southern Alps which is quite a distance away rather than going into Christchurch. We booked a "Lord of the Ring (LOTR) tour" which took us to the various filming locations for the Lord of the ring trilogy at the Southern Alps. Our tour guide just happens to be the retired sound engineer Hammond Peek who had won multiple Oscars. Hanging out with him and hearing all the Peter Jackson stories really added to the tour.

At Wellington, we continue with the LOTR theme and visited more filming locations, Weta Workshop and take in some city sights. This time, our guide was an actor who played one of the Dwarf kings. He is stocky, but far from short. He mentioned that the minimum height requirement was 5'6" to play the hobbit.

I guess Napier is your only north island stop. Our cruise didn't stop there and our stop was further north at Tauranga and we went inland (following the LOTR theme) and stopped in Hobbiton. At the time, the last installment of the Hobbit was not released yet but we were at the filming locations where the last film was made. So it was cool to get pictures taken at the set before the movie is out.

As you can see, half of our shore excursion were LOTR themed. If you are a LOTR fan, there are plenty of unique places to visit. NZ is also famous for their wild life and natural scenery. And if you like wine, see if you can get on a wine tour.

Good luck!
We also spent time pre-cruise in Sydney visiting friends and post-cruise in Auckland as well.
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Jan 23rd, 2017, 10:33 AM
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BTW, we are booked for August/Sept this year to a 16 days Japan cruise. You were there not that long ago. Any tips or suggestions?
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Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:19 PM
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We plan some time in Sydney before the cruise and yes hotels there are costly. Got the HI old Sydney with daily breakfast for about $280.00 per night which is bad I think. It's about a mile to the port too.

We also have a few days planned in Brisbane too to see our niece and hotels there are way less.

All the "Sound" traversing is in one day but yes there are a lot of sea days. However we have approx. $500.00 OBC, three bottles of wine and two boxes of chocolate covered strawberries coming as perks. Besides by the time we hit port stops the jet lag which seems to really nail us should be finished.

Not LOTR fans but did you notice tour guides at the ports as you disembarked?

What are your ports in Japan? I found the Japanese to be very polite and welcoming and the country itself very clean.

Will you be in Tokyo for a time before you go? If you are and like baseball like I do I recommend taking in a Japanese pro game and if possible see one st Jinju stadium vs. the Tokyo Dome. They are huge fans and it's a fun atmosphere.

If you stop In Hakodate I can recommend a great guide who is with the local Goodwill Assn. Her and hubby are wonderful and basically donated their time. Cost us like $30.00 USD. I still keep up with her and sent some Cubs championship T's. She is a huge baseball fan too.
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Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:22 PM
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Oops! Meant to say as to Sydney hotel prices that is was "not" bad.
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Jan 23rd, 2017, 06:17 PM
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For Sydney hotel, if it is not too late to change, try the Russell Hotel or the Mercantile Hotel. I think they are cheaper than the HI.

We will be in Tokyo 4 days prior and have already planned day trip to Kyoto and Mt Fuji. DW is not a big sports fan so baseball is out. We are tentatively booked at the Keio Plaza Hotel, which is located at Shinjuku district.

I have been looking at private tours for all the ports and didn't find much of anything. The Princess excursion offering is really weak and pricey. They didn't even have anything offered at the Russian port and you know how it works with the Russian visa. If you don;t book though the ship's excursion or a "qualified" tour company, getting a visa is almost out of the questions.

This can be booked as 16 days or 2 separate 8 days cruise. When we try to book, it said it was sold out so we ended up booking it as a back to back (2 separate cruise). It cost a bit more but we got the same cabin for both cruises.

Since we got perks from Princess loyalty program, the extra perks (when counted as 2 cruises) is worth more than what we pay extra so it all works out to our benefits.

The ports are:
Day 1 ... Tokyo
Day 2 ... Cruising
Day 3 ... Miyazaki
Day 4 ... Pusan (Kyongju)
Day 5 ... Sakaiminato
Day 6 ... Tsuruga
Day 7 ... Aormori
Day 8 ... Cruising
Day 9 ... Tokyo
Day 10 .. Cruising
Day 11 .. Kushiro
Day 12 .. Cruising
Day 13 .. Sakhalin
Day 14 .. Otaru
Day 15 .. Hakodate
Day 16 .. Cruising
Day 17 .. Tokyo

If you have leads or guides that we can use, please share.

BTW, I check the roll call. Only 3 signed up so far ...

Did you find a lot of locals on board as fellow passengers? That would be a great culturally experience if that is the case.
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Jan 24th, 2017, 02:31 AM
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We did Kushiro and Otaru on our own. Pretty easy really. No worries.

As for Hakodate try this:


http://hakodategoodwill.com/indexeng.html


We had a great experience with this group and our guide was Atsuko so do ask for her. If you get her mention my name. I am sure she will remember as I sent her Cubs 2016 WS souvenirs. There is a restaurant in the hills with a great view of the lake which she arranged for lunch. I'll bet you would like it.

The goodwill assn. is by far the best you will get both for a tour experience and for price. They can tailor your tour to what your likes are.

What ship will you be on? Diamond?
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