April/May 2019 cruise from London (Southampton) to Zeebrugge/Brussels, Belgium (port canceled), Copenhagen and Skagen, Denmark and Oslo, Norway
Overall: Recommended with Reservations
- Sapphire Princess crew is friendly and responsive.
- Princess offers supervised activites in its youth rooms for kids 3+.
- Kids 0-3 can use the self-supervised "Family Room" to play.
- Baby food can be requested by email.
- Washers and Dryers are available for use.
- Fellow passengers may not be happy to be cruising with your children.
- The ship's WiFi is very slow and expensive.
- Princess does not offer babysitters for private hire.
- Kids who are not potty trained can't use the ship's pools.
- Some areas are off-limits to kids.
- There may not be many other children on board.
- Order (free!) room service for breakfast. The coffee is hot, and bananas are always available.
- Pack extra diapers, wipes, pull-ups. You can't buy them on the ship.
- Changing tables were hard/impossible to find.
- Consider a compact/travel stroller.
- Visit the buffet with antsy kids.
- Princess can re-arrange beds at check in.
- Cribs are available.
- Follow embarkment/disembarkment directions carefully. Luggage needs to be tagged and set outside your cabin door the night before you leave the ship.
- Be kind to your cabin steward. He/she can help with most questions.
- Tip with any currency.
Cruising on the Sapphire Princess with children is enjoyable, doable and at times, cramped. If your children are young and like to run and make noise, expect to eat the majority of your meals at the buffet, to spend a lot of time walking around the ship, and playing in the youth rooms.
The experience is more pleasant if you have extra people in your party willing to help with the kids, especially with young children.
Princess welcomes children over six months. If you are pregnant you can not cruise if you are entering your 24th week by the last cruise day. Prepare to bring a recent letter from your doctor to confirm your dates and that you are fit to travel if you are pregnant.
There are several adults-only areas of the ship, like the casino, spa, club, and Lotus Pool. You’ll need to have extra hands for the kids if you want to enjoy these parts -- Princess does not offer on-ship babysitters for private hire.
The ship's WiFi was slow and expensive. I pre-paid for 240 min which cost just under $100. Each minute counted, and the system required you log in and log out after each use.
All ship purchases are charged in USD.
Are kid’s well-received on a Princess cruise?
The Princess crew was very welcoming to my two children, ages one and three. They greeted us with smiles and most every team member we saw on the ship offered a friendly “hello.”
The other passengers on the ship were generally ok with the children in the shared areas of the ship, but were not excited to be seated next to us in the formal dining rooms.
Kids were the exception on this Princess cruise: the number of children onboard this cruise three and above was about 50. I’m not sure if this was an outlier.
When we first boarded the ship, we were jet lagged, fighting a bad cold, and tired. The kids were screaming and in need of space to run and be loud.
Enter the Family Room for ages 0-3, a self-supervised play room with cushioned climbing equipment, drawing materials, a large table with kid-sized chairs, a few toys like plastic dinosaurs and blocks, a child-sized bathroom, and room to roam freely. Hallelujah.
The Family Room was open during the other youth room hours, generally 8 am - 10 pm. The youth rooms closed for dinner from 5 - 6 pm.
There are three on-board youth rooms supervised by Princess staff: The Tree House for ages 3-7, The Lodge for ages 8-12 and The Beach House for ages 13-17. My three-year-old enjoyed a few hours in the Tree House, with activities like coloring, themed days (pirates, super heroes, etc.), group games, Wii, and a cushioned play center.
To allow your child to use these supervised areas, you’ll have to enroll her and sign a release, either during online registration or when you get on the ship. You’ll be able to add names of those who have permission to sign her in/out, just don’t forget to add yourself! Staff check your identity by ship card and photo or by government issued ID. Doors to the two younger aged rooms were consistently locked, opened only by staff.
I didn’t get to see into the Lodge (ages 4-7) as I didn’t have a child enrolled and the door was closed. The teen center had a club-like atmosphere with video games, areas to hang out, televisions and dedicated staff.
The carers we encountered were kind, enthusiastic and trustworthy. I was initially hesitant to leave my child, but felt comfortable after meeting the staff.
Kids are also welcome at "Movies Under the Stars" where one movie is shown on the large overhead screen in the main outdoor pool area. Princess provided blankets since the area was open to the elements and the weather was usually quite chilly.
We stayed in a balcony room designated for up to four passengers.
Princess initially set us up with two separate twin beds. We were also offered a crib upon arrival, but chose to forego it and have our cabin steward change to one queen bed for myself and the two children.
There were two more twin beds available that drop down from the ceiling but passengers must be 9+ to use them, said our cabin steward.
Our modified queen bed was cozy for three, but manageable. As the one squished in the middle, I'm happy to report the crack between the mattresses was surprisingly comfortable to sleep on.
The beds were sturdy and did not move despite wavy seas and waving baby-octopus arms.
The bathroom toilet and sink were independently accessible to my three-year-old. The trash cans were independently accessible to my one-year-old and quickly placed out of reach.
All kids will need to use the shower, as the cruise does not provide baby baths. If your little one is quite young, I recommend either showering together or bringing a collapsible or inflatable baby bath.
When cruising with kids, the buffet and kids’ areas are your safe zones. Everyone needs to eat, and the buffet has the most choice for picky, little diners, and the most space for noise and moving around.
On Sapphire Princess, this is Horizon Court, level 14. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We found the fruit (cut and whole), pasta at lunch and dinner, mashed potatoes and cereals to be the favorite foods in the buffet for the kids.
For the grown ups, the Indian-style curries were some of the most consistently well-seasoned and flavorful foods on the ship in the free dining areas.
We use these OXO bibs (shown above) and love them. They can be wiped clean or machine washed.
Alfredo’s Pizzeria, the on-board pizza restaurant was also a neutral zone for the children. It was located in the central ship area, with lots of noise and activity. The pizza chef was extremely welcoming to the children, and entertained our littlest with dough stretching, topping and the peek-a-boo tricks of the peel in the pizza oven.
The specialty dining areas of the ship, Sabatini’s (Italian food), Sterling Steakhouse (American food) and Vines (wine and tapas) offered some more options, including plated pastas, antipasti, steak, scallops, shrimp and sea bass.
The vegetarian and vegan options in the specialty dining areas were limited, however Princess did say it could accommodate most dietary requests. For example, Alfredo’s Pizzeria, offered gluten-free pizza dough.
The ship also offers complimentary room service. If you are traveling in a group like we did, this is particularly handy for breakfast when little ones awake early and need to eat NOW. Less waiting, happier kids. Also, bananas were not always offered on the buffet and were always available for breakfast in the room. See more here.
The cruise line offers Gerber brand Stage 1 and 2 baby food, rice cereal and “baby juice” for those cruising with very young children. Be sure to contact the cruise line early as you must fill out a form and have it approved to collect these items on board. I requested baby food about two weeks in advance of our sail date and was approved a couple days before the cruise. The form says to do this “35/65 days prior to the sailing date.”
Wash your hands. The crew will remind you often, including before meal times. Sinks are available at the entrances of the buffet, and hand sanitizer is available throughout the ship. We washed often and did not get sick on the cruise.
We were happy to have bypassed the inconsistently reviewed Fleetwinds Scientology cruise. No one wants the measles. But, just in case sanitize or wash your hands often.
Princess does not provide diapers, wipes, pull-ups, or any other baby-specific hygiene products. When I went to the gift shop to investigate they also had none available for purchase. So, don’t get caught without diapers or pull-ups! Bring more than you think you’ll need!
I didn't see any changing tables on board. We usually took the baby back to our room or used a mat on the floor for diaper changes.
Kids who are not potty trained are not allowed in the cruise pools, even in swim diapers.
At port, you should be able to find diapers in most grocery stores. We visited a pharmacy, and found only one pack of pull-ups and some swim diapers. Pack plenty from home or you might have trouble finding the size you need. Plus, you’ll have more space and weight available in your suitcase for the ride home.
Poop stinks. When we asked our cabin steward how to dispose of dirty diapers, he handed us two giant red biohazard bags for the tiny bathroom trash cans. Skip this step and bring a roll of doggy poop bags, wrapping as you go to prevent odors in the really tiny rooms. Our trash was emptied from our stateroom twice a day, so the individual wrapping was sufficient. This is the type of bag we used.
Sapphire Princess has clothes washers and dryers available for passenger use. One load, including detergent cost under $8. I was happy to do two loads before leaving the ship and could re-stock clean clothes for the end of the trip and plane ride home.
I definitely recommend bringing a stroller for kids who don’t want to walk all the time.
We have a Joolz Geo 2 stacked double stroller. It is one of the smaller folding doubles that maximizes comfort, and we use it on a daily basis for commuting, errands, etc. It fits down the cabin hallways of the boat ONLY if there aren’t service carts in the way.
There are normally service carts in the way! This means you’ll have to get help moving the service carts to squeeze through or take out your child/ren, fold up the stroller and wiggle through precariously.
Our stroller also fit through the stateroom doorway, but only when folded.
You might want to bring a travel-sized stroller for each child. Or, if you have the space, bring a double for the airport and a travel-sized stroller for your younger child/children on board.
We’ve flown to and from Australia, Canada and the US with our double stroller without issue. We were able to take it to the gate, place in a gate check bag, and reclaim it at the plane to use throughout the airports.
Flying to London from Boston, however, we had to collect the stroller at baggage! That meant we had to hold both children and carry on bags in the long passport control line in London and schlep them by hand throughout the airport. Bring a travel-sized stroller or baby carrier in case the airline will not gate-check your stroller.
Here is an example of a well-rated travel stroller, the Babyzen YOYO+. This stroller folds up very small and can be stored in the overhead compartment. I haven't had the chance to fly with this stroller, but have heard great feedback from other parents.
We found Hop on/Hop Off (red) busses to be the easiest mode of transportation when getting off the boat in Copenhagen and Oslo. The buses picked up and dropped off right where the ship was docked. We did not have to wait long to buy tickets or catch the bus when needed. We also used them, along with the Underground in London for our post-cruise overnight.
The Hop On/Hop Off buses in Copenhagen and Oslo were welcoming to children and strollers. Strollers might be tough to squeeze onto the buses during busy times.
Note well that some of the cruise-sponsored hop on/hop off excursions did not allow children.
We purchased tickets for the red buses right off the boat and did not need an advanced ticket. Children under 15 were free; adults cost between $35 - $40 depending on the port.
Be sure to visit the shore excursions desk if you plan on purchasing an excursion sold by the cruise line. Some require quite a bit of walking or don’t allow children at all. Others are designed for mixed ages and movement abilities. Prices for these trips can range under $50 to over $1000.
*It is important to note that ports are not guaranteed. We missed our port in Belgium because of bad weather. This meant we were stuck at sea another day, and that we didn't get to eat the kid (and adult!) favorite waffles and frites.
Remember that every person you encounter on the ship is at work. They often spend 8 or 9 months on the ship at a time with long days (14 hours+, depending on the position), seven days a week with very occasional days off. Tip with this in mind.
You could leave a few dollars for the buffet staff, each day for your cabin steward, or someone bringing a drink. They appreciate it and might serve you more enthusiastically.
At the end of the cruise, it is good form to tip your cabin steward and caretakers in the youth rooms who might have helped your child. You can tip in any currency.
Recommended with Reservations
Cruising on Sapphire Princess with kids can be fun, even relaxing, but you’ll do best letting them enjoy the kid’s areas during open hours. Do allow children to explore the ship with you as much as you can, but keep them out of the hair of other passengers. You should have extra help, if possible, specifically with any child under three, as there is no other childcare option if you’d like to enjoy an adults-only area of the ship.
No one wants to walk on eggshells during a vacation. Unfortunately, it felt in some areas of the ship children were not welcomed by other passengers, like in the formal dining areas.
The Sapphire Princess was not designed specifically with children in mind. While Princess seems to aim to accommodate children, it does not go out of its way in terms of designing meals, ship plans, or excursions to amaze and delight children and their parents. It seems they are more placating both parties.
Princess could make several changes to make the experience better for families. First of all, they could offer children’s toiletries in the gift shop. A parent caught without diapers or wipes is not a happy one.
Second, they could offer more excursions with portions appealing to children. In the literature, it should be abundantly clear if children are allowed on the tour and whether it is designed with little ones in mind. Parents do not have time to dig for this information.
Third, it could offer more child-inclusive activities onboard, aside from the kid's areas. My three-year-old participated in a ring toss game, for example, only to find the prize was a bottle of champagne. She complained thereafter that she "wants the champagne!" I can't wait for her preschool teacher to hear this story of our vacation.
Last, Princess could hire or appoint someone on the ship or at each port as a “family concierge.” This person could assist with questions on the journey and make families feel more welcome on board.
*Not affiliated with or sponsored by Princess cruises. All opinions are my own.
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All information was current at the time of publishing, but could change. Be sure to confirm with the cruise line before you travel.*