We just returned from two weeks cruising the Caribbean with Babe--Babe being our grandchild.
We had doubts earlier about taking an infant on a cruise, an 8-week-old child who became the youngest passenger in the 10-year history of the Cunard Countess. It was helpful that the baby's mother and father went along also.
The four of us decided that a new baby was no reason to abandon a great vacation, especially when a nurse and doctor were on duty down the passageway.
Having a baby with us provided perks as well as problems. Surprisingly, most passengers--along with the crew--seemed pleased to have Nicola aboard. Amid all the coo's and ah's, we heard only one dissent, this from an elderly British woman who simply felt that "babies so tiny ought to be at home."
Note of Introduction
Nicola proved a wonderful icebreaker, enabling us to meet people both aboard and ashore. It took her mother 15 minutes to leave the dining room one afternoon while passengers stopped to admire the baby.
The baby struck up an early love affair with the ship's waiters. One tagged her the ship's mascot.
One rule set early by our daughter-in-law Kris and son Ross--and followed scrupulously--was to let the baby set the pace.
The other infants aboard--there were some between 1 and 2 1/2--all dined during the early sitting. Paul Grech, a 30-year-old attorney from San Bernardino with a 28-month-old daughter, found, as we did, that the children generally are in a good mood when in a social setting such as mealtime. Paul and his wife, Gail, believe that if a child is younger than 4 but older than the nursing stage, early breakfasts and dinners are "a must."
In Nicola's case her parents took her almost everywhere--to steel band and folkloric concerts, movies, beaches, marketplaces and fishing villages.
In addition to taking grandparents on the cruise, Kris and Ross felt it advisable also to take a parasol, two pacifiers, two giant cartons of disposable diapers and a portable shaded seat for the deck and beach, which also doubled as Nicola's seat at meals. A light blanket was useful for the air-conditioned ship, especially as it was a drastic temperature change when returning from hot and humid shore excursions.
The airline let us keep the collapsible, cardboard bassinet it furnished en route to Puerto Rico, where it came in handy during two nights at a hotel before we boarded the ship. The Cunard Countess, for an additional $10 a day, provided an excellent collapsible crib.
The Countess could even provide formulas and baby food if notified in advance. Also, nannies can be found among the ship's room stewardesses on a voluntary basis for nominal hourly fees if parents wish to attend live shows, movies or any of the numerous classes offered in everything from napkin-folding to aerobics.
Wiser and Cheaper
We found it best to skip the shore excursions set on arranged schedules by the ship. It proved far wiser (and cheaper, because there were five of us) to be in control by renting our own cab at each island we visited, stopping for a swim wherever and whenever desired.
Like infants, older kids have at least as good a time as their parents on cruises, maintains Countess co-cruise director Beverly Martinez. \o7 O\f7 ne grandma--with a party of 14 including sons, a daughter, spouses and grandchildren from 3 to 10--told us her grandkids knew every member of the crew.
On an earlier cruise, Martinez said, a 21-month-old girl still in diapers performed a break dance routine that included a backward slide and a snake belly-roll during a passenger talent show.
While Nicola was the youngest ever to cruise on the Countess, a baby was born on the original Queen Elizabeth as it neared Ireland after sailing from New York some years ago, according to Martinez. And of course the baby was named Elizabeth after the ship.
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The Cunard Countess took us to 10 ports, including Caracas, Grenada, Barbados, Martinique, St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Antigua. Cruise fares range from $1,498 to $3,044, depending on cabin and time of year.