Depending on your child's sleep habits this could be easy or this could be challenging! All cruise lines will provide a crib (Carnival) or Pack n Play (Royal Caribbean). Carnival will not set it up until you ask for it and it won't be delivered until the steward makes up your room on the first evening. This proved to be a challenge for us because our son needed an afternoon nap. He didn't get his afternoon nap on this most recent cruise because the crib came after dinner. Not a fun afternoon! On Royal Caribbean it was already set up for us in the cabin when we walked in! On the first cruise we brought thin blankets to cover the pack n play that we brought with us, it didn't work. My son pulled them down and played peek a boo! The second cruise (my mom, son, and myself) we tried something new. Magnetic hooks and a dark colored shower curtain. It worked great! So well, that we did the same on the third cruise. Click on the photos below to enlarge them.
This is an easy one, although it seems tricky. Most cruise lines offer showers-only unless you're sailing in a suite. However, there are regular staterooms on Carnival and Disney that offer something called a split-bath. Essentially there are two bathrooms. One is a traditional cruise ship bathroom, the other has a tub/shower combo and an additional sink. If you score one of these cabins, you're in luck and you have a very knowledgeable travel agent ;). We had one on our most recent cruise on the Breeze. I LOVED it! I brought scrubbing bubbles and cleaned the tub down prior to using it. My son loved splashing around in the full-blown tub!
Now you may not have the opportunity to score a tub. That's perfectly okay! I recommend bringing an inflatable bathtub. We have a nice big Sesame Street one and a Summer Infant collapsible that does not need inflating. Bringing one of these can also serve as a "pool" out on deck for your little one since non-potty trained kids are not allowed in pools or splash zones.
There are only a handful of ships that allow diapered children in the splash zones (Disney and Royal Caribbean). No diapers are allowed in cruise pools. So if you have a child who will sit still (not mine) you can use that portable bathtub as a poolside pool. We were able to do so when my son was 10-months because we wasn't yet walking. It was a wonderful replacement activity.
We had a vastly different experience on the two lines when it came to dining with a little one. Royal Caribbean wait staff was practically stumbling over each other to ensure dinner went smoothly with our son. They had fruit ready at the table each night for him to nibble on. This was a fabulous gesture because it occupied his time and we were able to enjoy our dinner. On Carnival we had to order the fruit upon arrival, so the first few minutes were a challenge to get him to sit there. If you're child will play with small toys, bring those to dinner. I would also recommend doing My Time dining or requesting, in advance, to sit at a table on your own as to not get held up by other people.
Strollers onboard. I HIGHLY recommend getting an umbrella style strollers. I've seen it three times now with people struggling to use their full-sized strollers on cruise ships. It's just not going to happen! We used a First Years Ignite on the very first cruise. It was a good inexpensive, lightweight umbrella stroller that fit perfectly in a stateroom. A couple months later we upgraded to the Chicco Liteway because we travel often and I wanted one that reclines for my son. Here's how they fit in tight spaces:
Each line varies with their kids club offerings. I urge you to check out my past entry on my business page all about the programs offered by each line HERE. For the sake of making this shorter I will compare Carnival and Royal Caribbean due to my experience with them.
Carnival. Camp Carnival (complimentary) begins at 2 years old. Which is a lower age than most cruise lines offer. However, they offer minimal engagement for kids under two. We participated in the Open Play for the under 2 crowd on both the Glory and Breeze. They offer "babysitting" for a few hours on port days and during Night Owls (after 10pm) at a rate of $6.25 per hour plus tip. Carnival offers a phone to check out if your child is in the kids club, at no cost.