the Cruising FAQs
goes on their first cruise at least once and deciding to take the plunge can be
daunting. With an array of
decisions to make, and to insure your experience is as satisfying as
possible, we’ve anticipated some of your concerns.
To embark with confidence, learn more about cruising…
want the most bang for my vacation buck.
Aren’t cruises expensive? “Brochure”
shock is similar to the “sticker” shock experienced by new car
buyers—don’t let cruise brochure prices intimidate you.
As a rule, never pay the “retail” fare for a cruise.
Cruise lines offer a number of discounts, for instance for
early booking, repeat passengers, and groups traveling together.
In addition, your travel agent may be able to offer special
fares on certain sailings. Brochure
rates are directly related to seasonal demand and discounts are
calculated from them, but it’s unlikely that you’ll get a low
rate in a peak period such as Christmas or New Year’s.
you can afford a vacation, you can afford a cruise.
With everything that’s included in your cruise fare,
you’ll find a cruise is often less expensive on per day basis than
a land-based resort vacation.
the big deal with all the different cruise lines, aren’t all ships
not! The quality and ambience
varies greatly from cruise line to cruise line and ship to ship.
Cruise through some of the Cruise
Line Profiles to compare them.
size... which is better—large or small ships?
size of the vessel is actually a very important consideration in
determining the overall cruise experience. Take an in-depth look at
why Size Matters.
is included in the fare? Your
cruise fare includes accommodations, meals, basic beverages, most activities,
entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Sometimes
“free” airfare and transfers to and from the ship are also
included or can be purchased as part of an Air/Sea package.
isn’t included? You’ll
be responsible for anything of a personal nature that you buy—soft
drinks, alcoholic beverages, casino gambling, Bingo, photographs,
shore excursions, spa treatments, and medical services.
It goes without saying that ship-to-shore telephone calls and
onboard Internet services aren’t included in your fare.
I feel cooped up on a ship at sea?With
the vastness of the sea and an uncluttered horizon all around you,
it’s hard to imagine feeling closed in.
Cruise ship cabins are on the small side and if you suffer
from claustrophobia, be sure to book an outside stateroom, or—even
better—one with a balcony.
type of identification do I need?
are uniformly accepted worldwide and are the best type of
identification. A passport is
considered valid if it does not expire within six months of your
cruise termination date. At
present, the minimum required of US citizens for cruises that leave
from and return to the same US port is either a passport; an original or certified copy
of a birth certificate and a photo ID; or naturalization papers and
a photo ID.
photo IDs are: state driver’s license; state, federal, or local
government-issued picture ID cards; US company employee ID cards; or
ID cards issued by private identification card services.
Voter’s registration cards are not adequate on their own
but can be used to support your citizenship. Social Security cards
are not acceptable for identification purposes.
citizens who reside in the United States should have a valid Alien
Registration (green) card. All
others must have a valid passport and any required visas.
to have proper documentation will result in refusal of the cruise
line to allow you to board—and no refund! Find out how to apply
for a passport.
I need a fancy new wardrobe for a cruise?
Do I have to “dress” for dinner?
and yes. You probably have
everything you need in your closet. Most
cruise ship’s suggestions for dressing up are determined by the
evening’s dress code—Casual, Informal, and Formal are the norm.
If that’s not your style, look for a ship that adheres to
informality. Cruise Diva has
you covered with suggestions and tips on Cruise
Wear—Cracking the Cruise Lines’ Dress Codes.
insurance a waste of money?
peace of mind, absolutely NOT. Cruise
Diva shares everything you need to know about Cruising
do I book a cruise? While
it is possible to make reservations directly with some cruise lines,
it is usually not to your advantage.
Dealing with a cruise specialty travel agent, particularly
one who is a Cruise
Lines International Association (CLIA) member, can usually
result in significant savings and overall satisfaction.
CLIA cruise counselors undergo a
demanding training program, including touring or sailing on a
specific number of ships. They make it their business to know all
they can to serve their clients' needs.
factor to consider is that many cruise travel agents belong to
consortiums. The consortiums
book blocks of cabins on a number of ships, thus enabling them to
pass along "group" savings to individuals.
Just because a travel agency is small doesn't mean they can't
get you the bargains offered by bigger "name brand"
found a jewel of an agent, then what? Sit down and talk. Get to know
one another. And above all else, be honest about your expectations
and budget. Seldom can a travel agent guess what your interests are
and how much you can afford to spend. Don't be shy—if you have
champagne taste and a beer budget, SAY SO.
I celebrate a special occasion?
sure your travel agent knows if you’ll be celebrating a birthday,
anniversary, or other special occasion and your waiter will have a
cake for you at dinner. Once
on board, double
check your request with the maître d’ at least a day before the
honeymooners or romantics, some cruise lines offer special packages
for a fee. Including such
things as premium champagne, breakfast in bed, logo bathrobes, and
portraits in commemorative frames. The packages are a nice luxury—find
out more in Romance
my electrical appliances work?
modern ships catering to American passengers are equipped with
American and European-style outlets for either 110v or 220v
appliances. If your ship
belongs to a cruise line that caters to a European or International
clientele, you may need a plug adapter or a transformer for
appliances that are not dual-voltage.
there a laundry onboard? Many
modern ships are equipped with self-service laundry rooms, but they
are not available on all ships. Most
ships have laundry and dry-cleaning services and offer one-day
service. Why not let them do
it for you? After all,
you’re on vacation.
I stay in touch with the office?
making (or receiving) a telephone call from your cruise ship cabin
is as simple as calling across town.
Charges for ship-to-shore telephone calls and faxes are
billed to your account at applicable rates.
Internet Cafes with access to the World Wide Web and email
are common on today’s cruise ships. Your cell phone may even work
while at sea, depending on whether the ship has that service. Check
with your cell phone provider before leaving home to find out how to
enable International Roaming.
Will I get seasick? This
really depends on your own personal propensity for motion sickness.
Modern cruise ships are stabilized and the most popular
cruise areas tend to be in calmer waters, especially true of the
stabilizers only control the roll (side to side motion) of the ship
and if a storm is brewing or waters are rough, you could still
experience pitch—the motion of the ocean from bow to stern (front
to back). A variety of remedies are available to cure or even
prevent mal de mer. Explore
your options in Seasickness~Rockin’
if I get sick—is medical treatment available?
vary from ship to ship, but qualified physicians and nurses are at
hand to provide medical care at customary fees. See Cruise
Care for more info on “sick bay”—the ship's infirmary.
do I pay for extras onboard?
is “cashless”—you will be issued a “charge” card at check in and your
purchases will be added to your onboard account.
Before the end of the cruise you will be required to settle
up with the Purser, either in cash, travelers checks, or with the
major credit card you registered upon embarkation.
It’s quite possible to spend a week on a cruise ship and
spend very little on extras—or a lot.
is tipping handled? This
varies widely between cruise lines—all the way from suggested
gratuity guidelines, to tips included, to no tipping required, to no tipping allowed.
We wish we could say it’s handled discretely, but some
cruise lines make a big deal out of it.
Most cruise lines now either automatically charge gratuities
to your on board account on a daily basis or provide small envelopes conveniently
labeled “cabin steward ” and “waiter” etc. to put the money
in at the end of the cruise. Consider the level of service you received and feel free to
adjust these amounts accordingly. For
even more information on tipping, see the article, Cruise
will my fellow passengers be?
just like you with a thirst for adventure and exploration or the
desire to simply get away from it all.
Everyone’s cruising—couples, families, singles, old and
is there to do? Anything
or nothing at all—it all depends on your taste.
While some passengers enjoy the organized activities and
games, Bingo, trivia), evening entertainment, or the casino
action, others are happy to find a secluded spot to enjoy a good
book. A cruise offers a great
opportunity to spend time alone with your special someone as well.
not much of a “joiner”—do I have to participate? No,
but you may be surprised by the number of things to do that might
catch your fancy. “Theme”
cruises are often planned that center around a special interest or
musical style. Would you like
to have lunch seated with your favorite sports hero or recording
tours necessary in port? In
Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Caribbean islands where English is widely
spoken, you can often forego the cruise ships’ shore excursions
and either rent a vehicle or hire a taxi to tour independently.
Sharing transportation with other like-minded passengers can
result in significant savings.
on your comfort level, in far-flung foreign ports there are
advantages to organized tours that outweigh any money you might save
touring on your own. If you
are the adventurous type who finds satisfaction in conquering public
transportation, by all means go it alone.
On the other hand, an organized ship’s tour usually
maximizes your time ashore, provides the convenience of a guide who
speaks English, and offers the security that the ship won’t leave
without you if your bus is late returning to the pier.
When the site you want to tour is more than a couple hours
from your port city it’s probably wise (and no more expensive) to
sign up for the excursion. See Cruise Diva's Ports
of Call pages for information on what to see, shopping, and
course not everyone disembarks in port—there are often a few
passengers who opt for the tranquility of a nearly deserted ship.
do I decide between early and late dinner seatings?
about your lifestyle and what time you serve meals at home before
deciding which seating is preferable.
Most families with small children select the early seating,
as do many seniors.
can vary from ship to ship, and even day to day on the same cruise.
Some ships serve “open seating” breakfasts and lunches
when in port. On sailings
with a high percentage of European or South American passengers,
dinner times are often scheduled as late as 9:00pm to adhere to
dining alternatives to the dining room schedules are often
available. The ship’s daily newsletter will list serving times for
all dining venues and room service is generally served on a 24-hour
small or luxury ships have “open seating” for all meals,
allowing passengers to dine when, where, and with whom they please.
You'll even find that convenience offered on mainstream fleets; for
example, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Holland America
an in-depth look into how your choice of seating can make or break
your cruise, see the Early
vs. Late Seating Dining article.
have special dietary concerns. Can
they be accommodated? Most
cruise ship dining room menus have alternative selections for
passengers requiring heart healthy, fat-free, low-salt, vegetarian, and other
special meals. Spa selections
featuring light fare have become common.
If you have an unusual dining request, tell your travel agent
and ask that the cruise line be contacted to determine if it can be
fulfilled. Once on board,
double-check with the maitre d’hotel to insure your satisfaction.
I don’t like my table companions, what should I do?
you just don’t hit it off with your assigned dining partners, or
you meet other people you’d like to spend more time with.
Go to the maître d’ as soon as possible to make your
request for a change. Be
patient—he will do his best to accommodate all requests but often
changes aren’t made on the spot.