We took a 3 month old baby on a four day cruise several years ago. It was not a very good experience. The small size of the cabin was a problem and sleeping was a problem with everyone jammed in so close together. The small size of the bathroom was also a problem. It was also difficult to have the baby in the dining room. It was not a relaxing vacation for my wife.
We had a much better experience several years later when we took a 2 month old baby to Maui and stayed in a condo. The added space and multiple rooms made it a very relaxing vacation for my wife.
It won't be relaxing or liberating, but compared to being at home with the baby, it will be "fun."
The advantages: all of your gear travels with you, a mere elevator trip away from you at all times. You can see the tropics from an air conditioned ship. Food and drink are available at all times. You can walk with the baby in the stroller 24/7.
The disadvantages: if you go on a shore excursion with the baby you will regret it. It gets HOT on shore, and the baby may overheat or get sunburned. The cabin is small, but if you are okay with letting the baby cry her/himself to sleep you'll be fine (I have five, so I can do that No Prob). If you can't stand to hear the baby cry you are going to be on the march all the time, trying to get the baby to fall asleep in the stroller or whatever. There might not be a way to nuke the bottle at night- again, that may not be an issue for you.
NO MATTER WHAT, do NOT bring the baby into the dining room. If he or she cries you will feel awful. Cruises might not just be for the newlywed and nearly dead any more, but basically you will run into a lot of a) newlyweds, who have not had the pleasure of having a strung out infant and b) old-er people, who have done their time and want to have the same dinners they have every cruise (they get very ritualistic! no crying babies!)...
I have seen people with infants having a marginal time and having a bad time. The key to tipping it over to the bad side seems to be in laws who have visions of formal pictures (sometimes you have to wait for a long time for the photographer, then you have to pose repeatedly...), or who give non-helpful advice, or who try to push the parents into going onshore and doing things you can't easily push the eject button on if the baby goes crazy.
Bring a good stroller- LIGHTWEIGHT- not some monster Graco or something. Bring a sturdy umbrella stroller that you can hang bags on the back of without it tipping (Combi makes the BEST travel stroller).
I have yet to see a) diapers b) bottles of any kind c) baby wipes in a shipboard gift shop, and I have looked. Ditto for baby Motrin. Bring those.
Keep in mind that there is no place for the baby to crawl. None. Except your cabin floor. The children's area is for kids over two.
We took our son on two cruises before he was walking. His first was at age 11 months.
I wrote about our experiences in this article: Baby on Board. The most important sentence, IMO, is:
If your primary reason for taking a cruise is to spend "alone time" with your significant other, then bringing a young child along will simply not work. However, if you view cruising as a vacation for the entire family - and accept the responsibilities that come with it - parents and baby will be able to enjoy a cruise while being respectful of other passengers and crew.
Since the time of publication, one important thing has changed -- swim diapers are no longer allowed in any of the pools. I've seen many parents bring an inflatable pool for the baby, fill it with a little pool water, and keep it in the shade with them. You'll need to enlist a crew member's help to empty it, as it cannot be emptied into the pool.
Thank you everyone for your great comments and advice! Much appreciated. So far it looks like we have made some good choices. We are booked in a mini-suite on the Caribbean Princess sailing May 13th, so should have ample room. My mother-in-law is coming with us and has an adjoining suite. We chose Princess as they have bathtubs in the suites. We also like the concept of being able to dine when we want because we've already learned that the only schedule we follow is his I am disappointed to hear that they don't allow swim diapers. Thanks for the tip about the compact stroller, we will be flying first, so will pick up a cheap one at Walmart first when we get the instant formula. We use cloth diapers but will definitely buy disposables for the trip. Do they have laundry facilities on the ship?
Serenade of the Seas May 05 -Hawaii to Vancouver
Dawn Princess Sep 04 - Vancouver to LA
Navigator of the Seas Aug 03 - Western Caribbean
Yes they do. Let me just add this, at the risk of sounding obsessive on this topic (which I am): get a good stroller. Get one that you can hang bags off of, that has a visor, AND get the tallest one you can find so you don't break your back. Spending $60 will be far more worth it than throwing away $29.99!
Sounds like you have everything under control. Good luck! I have five sons and I will never forget the Vacation from Hell that I took in Paris with a 10 month old. A cruise ship would have been heaven in comparison!
We took our 6 mo. old on a 7 night cruise two years ago and we had a great time.
We booked a late seating so he would lay down in his stroller during dinner as it was close to his bedtime. We had a great time and he was young enough to not be at the crawling stage so he was content to ride around in the stroller a good deal of the time.
Of course, we had all the babygear in our room so he wasn't in the stroller all the time! I really think it depends on your baby (how content he is, etc) to determine whether or not he goes to the dining room. In my opinion, that is the best food so why would you want to miss it? Obviously, you need to be the judge.
Also, we brought along a cheap "bouncy chair" that we used quite a bit in the room too.
I agree to bring a cheap, small blow up bath tub to use as his "pool". I did the same and it was a lifesaver.
Also, we had ample family with so if he napped or we wanted to go out it was perfect to have someone else with to help out.
We had a unhappy child next to us on our last cruise also. So to say the least, we had a lot of unhappy people on our cruise. What more can I say, without getting in trouble. I say go alone and enjoy each other, the baby will thank you for it...