I don’t know who came up with the bright idea to take two kids under the age of three on a cruise, but it wasn’t me. I was initially pessimistic about the idea, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get on board. Ashley’s parents were joining us, so we knew they would be a big help with our kids.
Before long it was time for our vacation. At the time of our trip Charlotte was eleven months old and Noah was only three months shy of his third birthday. Noah was only eight months old on our last cruise and we had a lot of family with us on that trip that helped entertain him. We fully expected things to be a lot crazier this time around, but were excited to go on a family vacation nonetheless.
Our flight from Buffalo to Fort Lauderdale took around two and a half hours. Charlotte was pretty good for the whole flight. Ashley nursed her and she slept quite a bit. Noah was good for the first two hours of the flight and then he was about as far from good as he could possibly be. We’re not sure what did it, but Noah just started crying and screaming uncontrollably. He took his shirt off and wanted to be held, but we had to wear our seatbelts then, which made things worse. A flight attendant hovered until Ashley was able to force a seatbelt around him. Noah didn’t calm down until we were outside the airport, waiting for our shuttle.
We rode a shuttle bus for a half hour to the Port of Miami to catch the cruise ship. Noah fell asleep against his grandma on the drive, so maybe he was just overtired on the plane. It didn’t take long to board the ship once we arrived.
The Norwegian Escape was the cruise line’s newest ship. Between the crew and guests it held somewhere around 6,000 passengers. We had a room with a balcony. The room was nice, but any room on a cruise ship (unless you pay a small fortune) is tiny. Ours was about 200 square feet.
Charlotte had a good travel day until she got her hand stuck in the elevator door. The elevator was full, which was usually the case when we had the double stroller with us. Ashley’s mom was holding Charlotte, who suddenly moved her hand when the doors were closing. Ashley’s mom yelled out that that the doors closed on Charlotte’s hand. Ashley screamed and we both tried to fight our way to the doors but we were on the opposite end of the elevator. Thankfully the doors automatically reopened and the crisis was averted. Charlotte was unharmed and unfazed, but we had a quick scare. Needless to say, we kept the kids back from the doors from then on.
We decided to try our luck at one of the nice dining rooms the first night. Some people, maybe most, would toss their kids in the ship’s daycare facility and live it up. We didn’t feel ready for that. We are lucky enough to have family provide our childcare, so we had never used a daycare and we didn’t want to start on a cruise ship with people we never met.
Our dinner went surprisingly well. Noah and Charlotte were both taken for a couple of walks throughout the long meal, but they behaved well for the most part. Things were looking up.
Then the night came. We went right to our room to get the kids ready for bed after dinner. Both children cried for a while. Charlotte eventually nursed to sleep and Noah fell asleep watching a Handy Manny DVD on the portable DVD player we brought. So, again things started looking up, but then a band started playing loudly in the bar directly below us. It was very loud. I called Guest Services and found out the band usually plays until 11:00 p.m. Between the kids and us trying to sleep, we knew that wouldn’t work out well. Thankfully the ship offered us a room far down the hallway to move to.
The new room was nice and quiet. We moved the Pack n’ Play for Charlotte, some toiletries, and a few other things and planned to finish our move the next morning. We each carried a sleeping child down the hall.
Charlotte kept waking up in the Pack n’ Play so she ended up joining the rest of us in the bed. Ashley and I were on the two outside edges of the bed and the kids stretched out in the middle. I lay in bed wondering if the trip was a huge mistake, but thankfully it got better.
Our seven-day cruise took us into the Caribbean Sea. We didn’t arrive at St. Thomas until our fourth day on the ship, which gave us a couple of days to get acclimated to the ship and find ways to entertain our children.
We soon learned that Noah enjoyed playing miniature golf up on the 17th deck of the ship. There was a nice 9-hole golf course there. Noah would place the ball about three inches from the hole and then push it in with a golf club (sometimes it took a few tries). He also liked to visit the arcade or game room as he called it. He sat on our laps and sort of played a couple of racing games (he would continually move the steering wheel and crash the car). Ashley and I enjoyed a little Skee ball there, too.
There were some other games in O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill. There were two short bowling lanes with smaller balls and pins. Noah loved bowling. Despite using the bumpers he usually missed most of the pins.
We also spent quite a bit of time on the pool deck. There was a large kids aqua park there, but both our kids were a bit young for most of that. No diapers or swim diapers were allowed. We snuck Noah in there several times anyway with a swim shirt covering his diaper. He stayed away from the water cannons, big buckets and slides, but liked to play with the water table.
There were a few times when I got Charlotte to sleep near the pool. I quietly sang to her while bouncing and swaying her in my arms. As long as she was tired I usually managed to get her to sleep within a few minutes. The key was that I couldn’t let her see Ashley or else she would want to nurse and be with her instead of falling asleep on me. After Charlotte fell asleep I returned to my lounge chair and read a book with one hand while she slept on me. It might not seem like much, but those times were among my highlights of the trip. I liked having my sweet baby girl sleep on my chest and being able to relax for a little while.
A couple of days early in the week we managed to all take an afternoon nap together in our room. That was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I moved to the couch after the first night so that we had a little more room.
Ashley’s parents watched the kids one evening for us, so we were able to have a nice dinner out together. That was one of the few times we got to relax for longer than a half hour and we greatly appreciated it.
Aside from that, I think we only ate in a nice dining room one other night. We planned on it a couple of other times, but one or both of our kids got tired, cranky, or worse right when we were about to sit down to eat.
We had a couple other rough nights when the kids cried a lot and had trouble falling asleep, but the nights got easier as the week progressed. Charlotte typically nursed to sleep and Noah normally watched a DVD until he passed out on the bed. There were even a couple nights when they were both asleep before 8:00 p.m.
Despite being just eleven months old Charlotte was a better eater on the cruise than her older brother (just like at home). Charlotte ate nearly everything we put in front on her. She still got most of her nourishment from her mother’s milk, but we gave her small pieces of almost everything we ate, too. We didn’t give her much meat, but she ate fruit, rolls, bread, ice cream, pasta, yogurt and more.
Meanwhile, Noah ate bacon and watermelon for breakfast most days and then went downhill from there. He ate little more than ice cream cones after breakfast. He also drank a lot of chocolate milk and lemonade. He is such a terrible eater. We were actually optimistic that he might eat more than normal on the cruise since we could give him a lot of different options, but instead he ate even less.
We took the kids off the ship in St. Thomas and Nassau. We took a short bus (truck with benches in the back) to Magens Bay in St. Thomas, which is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (according to National Geographic). It was a very nice white sand beach. Noah loved playing in the sand and Charlotte enjoyed it, too. They were both covered in sand.
A couple days later we were in the Bahamas. We took a ferry from Nassau to Paradise Island. Then we went for a long walk to Cabbage Beach. The beach was very crowded with tourists. It wasn’t as impressive as Magen’s Bay, but it was still pretty nice. The kids again had a lot of fun on the beach together. Noah used buckets of water and shovels in the soft sand. Charlotte ate sand and stumbled around.
The following day we started our long journey home. Once we got off the ship we took a shuttle van back to the Fort Lauderdale airport. Everything went alright up until then.
Right after we passed through security Noah had a meltdown. He would only let me hold him and insisted we walk all around the airport. He wouldn’t stop crying and screaming. Finally, Ashley got him to calm down when she took him to the window and they looked at construction vehicles.
Both Noah and Charlotte napped on the plane for a half hour, but then Charlotte woke up. She was cranky and loud, which woke Noah up, too. He had another long tantrum, which resulted in me carrying him up and down the aisle and sitting in the bathroom with him. He also peed himself, but the only way he let me change him was while he stood on top of the toilet. Eventually Ashley managed to calm him down again.
The plane had a rather rough landing, but we didn’t care. We were just happy to be on the ground at that point. My parents picked us up at the airport. We were thrilled to finally arrive home after a long day of travel. Our house felt humungous after staying in that tiny stateroom for a week. The four of us being cramped in that small, uncomfortable room was surely the worst part of our adventure at sea. All in all it was an enjoyable vacation with the kids, just not very relaxing. We decided that as much as we love cruising, we might wait a few years before doing it again.