Cruise Advice

Cruising when pregnant

I know this post won’t apply to all of my readers, but I did feel it was something worth sharing as I found very little content about cruising when pregnant online. Back in June I cruised on Britannia when I was 14-16 weeks pregnant. I’ve also been on several UK ship visits during my pregnancy, so far. Our cruise and the ship visits were a bit of an eye-opener for me, as I now have to be very careful about things I’ve not had to worry about on a ship before. So I thought I would share with you my feedback and some advice I’ve picked up over the past few months.

Reasons to cruise when pregnant

  • Depending on your departure port, there’s no need to get on a plane, which is ideal
  • You aren’t tied to the same luggage restrictions as an airline, so you can pack fairly freely
  • There is medical care on board, although this does come at a price
  • You can do as little or as much as you like, both on board and ashore
  • Cruise lines cater well for people with dietary requirements and with such a wide range of food on offer, you won’t be short of choice when pregnant
  • You get the perks of a resort (i.e. pools, bars, restaurants etc.) but you can return to your cabin whenever you like if you get tired
  • You can embark on fully escorted excursions and if you have an issue when you are ashore, there will be a guide on hand to help you should you need them
  • It’s just a great way to relax and unwind without the stress of long-haul travel
Britannia
Britannia

Notify the cruise line of your pregnancy

P&O Cruises specify that you should inform them of your pregnancy in writing. They do not let guests travel after 24 weeks and they urge anyone sailing within their first 12 weeks to seek medical advice prior to departure. When we booked the cruise I wasn’t pregnant, so we had to let the company know. My midwife wrote a letter which I emailed to them, although I’m not really sure whether this got passed on to the ship. Our Cruise Personaliser didn’t ask for any additional information, so we didn’t need to mention anything until we were on board (and this was only for dietary issues).

Make sure you notify your travel insurance company of your pregnancy and always travel with your maternity notes. There is medical care on board, but it does come with a fee.

Packing

As I was still fairly early on in my pregnancy, I’d reached that ‘who ate all the pies look.’ So I had a bit of a tummy, but not one that was big enough for people to really know I was pregnant. This made shopping for swimsuits a nightmare, so I opted for my pre-pregnancy bikinis, which fitted fine. I only had one full-length evening dress which fitted me, which was stretchy and very comfortable. I was reluctant to buy another long formal dress, as I had looser fitting cocktail dresses for other formal nights. It’s advisable not to wear anything too restrictive or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and don’t be afraid to wear something more than once. I was more than comfortable in my high heels, but I did alternate with flat shoes too.

Dressed for formal night
Dressed for formal night

My wardrobe was a mixture of maternity and pre-pregnancy clothes, as most of my shorts and trousers no longer fitted me. Don’t go crazy spending a fortune on holiday clothes, and remember that many cruise ships have launderettes, which means you can do washing. I was very conscious that my bump could grow in two weeks, but largely it remained the same size.

Avoiding the ship’s water

Before I boarded, I contacted a cruise ship doctor friend to ask him some advice about cruising when pregnant. He told me to avoid the ship’s water where possible. I know that the onboard water has been filtered and is relatively safe, but to avoid any risks I stuck to bottles. This was my personal choice and I’m not suggesting drinking ship’s water will make you ill. I was just following the advice of a doctor. He did tell me that the ship’s water was fine for brushing teeth with.

Food and drink

When I’m at home, I am forever turning to Google to look up things I can and can’t eat. You can’t really do that on a ship, so you just have to go with your instinct. Most pregnant women will know that you should be careful of food that has been sitting out for a while, such as a buffet. I’ll be honest, I ate pizza for lunch A LOT, which was made in the pizzeria. I’ve no idea how long it had been sitting there, but it was cooked and it tasted good. I think pizza is one of my pregnancy cravings at the moment! We only really ate in the buffet in the evening, on occasion, but I didn’t find any issue with the food. I was more reluctant touching salad, cold meats and seafood at lunchtime, which had been out for a while.

Viking Star buffet
Viking Star buffet

When I went on Viking Star I found the buffet food to be much fresher than on other ships, and everything was replenished very quickly.

The Epicurean menu
The Epicurean menu

All of the speciality restaurants took into account the fact that I was pregnant and I was catered for accordingly. My menu choice was a bit more limited as I have to avoid certain foods like shellfish, pink meat and soft cheese. I’ve also chosen to not eat mayonnaise, which happens to be in a lot of things!

I was never short of options on the main restaurant menu as there is so much choice. One thing I will say is that not all waiters understood my dietary requirements when I specified I couldn’t eat meat pink and so forth. Also, don’t expect crew on board to know about your pregnancy, you have to remind them (quite often).

Sampling alcohol free gin cocktails
Sampling alcohol free gin cocktails

It’s been pretty easy not drinking alcohol, but Britannia was my first holiday for many years without any. I was very impressed with P&O Cruises’ soft drinks selection, although waiters weren’t always forthcoming handing them out in restaurants. The ship served a wide range of mocktails, luxury fizzy drinks and standard brands like Coca Cola and 7Up. I don’t like drinking too many soft drinks, so a lemonade will last me a long time, however I did become partial to a Bananaberry mocktail in the evenings. There aren’t many soft drinks you can’t have, just keep in mind that you may have to switch to decaffeinated coffee if you are pregnant. This is much easier with speciality cafés such as Costa Coffee on board.

Britannia is great because she has sinks to wash your hands in at the buffet area, which I prefer to hand gel. But I made sure I used hand gel or washed my hands when eating ashore.

Ports

When going ashore I made sure that I wore light, comfortable clothing in all the ports. We did a Western Mediterranean cruise so all of the stops were accessible and Westernised. I was a bit worried about our Rome excursion as I was conscious there may not be many toilet stops and the journey was Civitavecchia was quite long. I did inform our guide that I was pregnant when boarding the bus and she ensured there were plenty of loo stops throughout the day, which was great. I thought I would struggle in the heat more but I was fine, as long as I drank plenty of water and took snacks with me (I take a cereal bar everywhere). If you go ashore make sure you wear a hat, suncream, sunglasses and comfortable shoes. I know this applies to most people, but you really will be grateful for them in hot weather. Also make sure you check whether you need any vaccinations for any of the ports.

The Vatican
The Vatican

There are some destinations which aren’t safe for pregnant women, such as Zika virus zones. If you are concerned about these ports, then speak to your cruise line or midwife to find out more information.

If you decide to eat ashore, make sure you are a bit cautious about what you eat and drink. I found myself asking the following questions: Can I drink the tap water? Is the cheese pasteurised? Has the salad been washed? If you are unsure, opt for a safe alternative such as bottled water or something cooked to ensure any bacteria has been killed.

Sunbathing

I tried to avoid the sun as much as possible by sitting on a sunbed in the shade or staying on our balcony. I also chose to wear a rash vest, which was perfect for the pool. I was probably most grateful for my hat, which I think helped prevent headaches and overheating.

I chose to relax in the shade
I chose to relax in the shade

Some suncreams aren’t safe for pregnant women, so I made sure I researched these before our cruise. Ambre Solaire was fine, but Boots Soltan was on the no-go list because of one of its ingredients. Also, be careful if you use insect repellents because some of these aren’t safe for pregnant women either.

Activities

I went for a day visit on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas but I couldn’t participate in any of the fun activities such as the FlowRider. This didn’t hinder my experience of the ship, I just found other things to do. Swimming is a great activity if you are pregnant but remember to avoid the hot tubs (along with saunas and steam rooms). I normally go to the gym on a ship but I chose not to on Britannia, partly because this was a proper holiday but it was also due to the fact that I was tired.

These were out of bounds for me on Indy
These were out of bounds for me on Indy

It’s okay to nap

One of the things people keep telling me is that I should nap if I get tired. I’m not very good at doing this! However it is easy on a cruise. Fitting in an afternoon nap meant I wasn’t too tired by the time the evening came around, something I’m struggling with at the moment. You’ll find guests nap on cruise ships all the time, so it’s not uncommon.

There's nothing wrong with an afternoon nap!
There’s nothing wrong with an afternoon nap!

So those are a few tips that I hope will help others planning to book a cruise during their pregnancy. If you have any questions about cruising when pregnant, then please do contact me directly. You can read more of my cruise advice here. Further information on travelling during pregnancy can be found on the NHS website.

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