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Do Cruises Charge for Toddlers?

by Sara Mahuron

Relaxing on vacation -- toddler in tow -- might just be possible on a cruise. Depending on the age of your toddler, many cruise ships offer a variety of entertainment, babysitting and programming services that are designed to keep even the most rambunctious of toddlers happily entertained and out of your hair. You know more than anyone the effort and attention your toddler deserves. While he may not cruise free, your toddler’s fare is most likely a good deal.

Toddler Fare

If the cruise charges for kids -- which most of them do -- expect to pay a fare for your toddler to come aboard your cruise. Unlike airlines who may allow a toddler under 2 years old to fly for free on your lap, don't assume this is the case with a cruise ship. While some cruise lines have allowed children under 2 years of age to cruise for mere port charges and taxes, this is rarely the case. Always check with the specific cruise line in advance if this is an issue and compare policies to see which one offers your family the best deal.

Kids Cruise Free

While it may not be targeted specifically at toddlers, some cruises do offer "kids cruise free" promotions that include toddlers. In 2013, MSC Cruises boasted that kids 11 and younger always sail free on their cruises; kids 12-17 receive a reduced fare. Norwegian Cruise Lines advertised that two children aged 17 or younger could cruise free when sharing a cabin with their parents on select fall cruises in 2013. These promotions can act as an affordable incentive to take your whole family on a cruise.

Cruise Discounts

Ask about the discounts your cruise line offers. They might not offer free cruises for kids, but they might offer significant discounts for the third passenger or more in your group. In 2013, Norwegian Cruise Lines offered much lower rates for the third to eighth guest, making the family experience more affordable. The best part about this kind of discount is that it is not limited to a certain age group and your older children may benefit too.

Bang for Your Buck

Expect to get a lot for what you pay. Cruises are generally all-inclusive, so you can expect your toddler's food and lodging to be covered. You might be surprised that many cruises include much more, including entertainment and day programs designed with toddlers in mind. Complimentary programming is available as young as 2 years old on Carnival Cruise Lines. On most cruises, your toddler needs to be 3 years old to participate. Most cruise lines also offer babysitting or nurseries, allowing you to relax no matter how fussy your toddler is feeling.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

Photo Credits

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