Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I save money if I book directly with the cruise line (instead of through a travel agent)?
- How safe and secure is cruising?
- Will I get seasick?
- Is there anything for kids to do on the ship?
- How much does it cost?
- What types of activities are available?
- What about tipping?
- Will I need a passport?
- Can I bring liquor on board?
- Is there television on the ship?
- What is the smoking policy on cruise ships?
- Can I call home from the ship?
- Can I get my e-mail while onboard the ship?
- Are medical services available?
- Will I get bored?
- What do I need to pack?
- What is included in the price of the cruise?
- What about sightseeing when in port?
- If I have to cancel my trip can I get a refund?
Will I save money by booking directly with the cruise line?
This is a common misconception held by many consumers. The reality is that only in rare cases would you save money by booking directly with a cruise line, and in most cases you are likely to end up spending more! It is true that travel agents are paid a commission by the cruise line when you book through them. Traditional logic would suggest that if the cruise line does not have to pay a commission, then they can pass those savings along to you, the consumer. This is simply not the case. The money saved by the cruise line by not paying a commission simply drops to the cruise line's bottom line, not yours! In fact, a professional travel agent can often get you a BETTER price than the cruise line offers. Plus, the travel agent can make you aware of special promotions that might exist on another similar cruise line sailing to the same destination, something a cruise line salesperson will never do.
How safe and secure is a cruise?
Ever since 9/11 cruise lines have beefed up on board security immensely. One most cruises, every passenger is required to have a valid passport. Every piece of baggage is scanned by an X-Ray for dangerous items. As passengers and crew members board, all carry-on items are also scanned, just like at an airport. Whenever passengers or crew disembark the ship (at any port), they are required to show proper identification when re-boarding and, on most ships, packages are scanned. Cruise ships have their own on board security staff on every sailing as well. The instances of crime aboard cruise ships is miniscule compared to that of hotels and resorts. In fact, it is likely that being on a cruise ship is safer than staying home! On most cruise ships sailing today, every stateroom is equipped with a safe for your valuables.
Will I get seasick?
Most passengers never experience sea sickness on today's larger cruise ships. Modern cruise ships have stabilizers that help to minimize the rocking motion. In the unlikely even that seas do get rough and motion increases, there are several preventative medications available on board.
Is there anything for kids to do on the ship?
Many cruise lines provide programs for children of all ages. Some offer pre-teen and teen activities. The larger ships include a video arcade, teen disco and other areas of the ship designated as "kids only". On the other hand, there are some cruise lines that are geared more toward adult passengers, therefore, you should consult with your cruise professional before booking a cruise for your family.
Cruises are a great way for families to travel and see a variety of countries and ports.
How much does it cost?
Cruise vacations can range in cost from as little as $40 per person/per day to as much as $500 per person/per day. Prices will vary based on:
the cruise destination
the cruise line
the type of cabin you choose (suites are more expensive than a regular stateroom and ocean view staterooms are more expensive than inside staterooms with no window)
the services provided for the cruise fare
time of year you choose to cruise
In any case, a cruise vacation is a great value because whatever you pay, it includes all of your meals, accommodations, taxes, entertainment, and in some cases your airfare.
To see what is included in your cruise fare, click here.
What types of activities are included?
There are literally dozens of activities going on all over the ship every day. You can participate in as many as you like, or none at all. Most activities are included in your cruise fare, however, a few may require a small additional charge (i.e. wine tasting). Here are just a few of the activities you will find on a typical cruise:
Napkin folding lessons
Ice carving demonstrations
Casino gaming lessons
Of course, one the best activities can be "doing nothing at all." Relaxation is what attracts many people to cruise travel. Every ship has one or more pools that you can enjoy with a good book, most have a library and several lounges where you can sit and relax by yourself or with friends.
What about tipping?
Tipping policies can vary from one cruise line to another. In any case, tipping is always up to you. Some cruise lines now automatically add $8 to $10 per day/per person to your onboard account to cover all gratuities. Of course, you can request that these charges be adjusted, or removed altogether.
Generally speaking, $10.00 to $12.00 per day/per person should take care of your waiter, assistant waiter, cabin steward(ess). Gratuities for bar service are typically automatically added to your bar tab (15%). Other gratuities are at your discretion.
Some cruise lines have adopted a 'no tipping required' policy.
Will I need a passport?
All U.S. and Canadian citizens must travel with proof of citizenship in one of the following forms:
A valid passport that is valid at least 6 months after the sailing date of your cruise, or
A government-issued birth certificate with raised seal (not a photocopy) plus a government-issued photo identification (i.e.driver's license), or
A certified naturalization certificate with a government-issued photo identification (i.e.driver's license).
Non-U.S. citizens who are residing in the United States are required to travel with their Alien Registration Card (Green Card) and valid passports. All others must have valid passports and necessary visas at embarkation. You can always consult with your travel agent for more information.
Note: Due to heightened security after 9/11, cruise travel outside the United States, Canada and the Caribbean will require a U.S. or Canadian passport. To be safe, your passport should not be within 6 months of expiration from the date of embarkation.
Can I bring liquor on board?
In most cases, no. Most cruise lines do not allow passengers to board the ship with liquor. If you do bring liquor with you, it will be held for you by the cruise line onboard the ship until you disembark the ship. The same is true for liquor you purchase in port. When you board the ship, the ship will hold the liquor for you and deliver it to your stateroom the night before you disembark. There are exceptions to this rule, however. Some cruise lines will allow you to have liquor in your stateroom if you purchase the liquor at the ship's liquor store. You should check with your travel agent if you need further information about this.
Is there television on the ship?
Virtually every cruise ship today will have a television in your stateroom. The ship's satellite system will usually offer a few stations like CNN, CNN International, ESPN and perhaps a movie channel. There will usually be several channels of ship programming ,as well, such as port information, information about the ship, replay of activities on board, etc. Some ships even offer the ability to order shore excursions from your television and check your on board account balance.
What is the smoking policy?
Every cruise line will have different policies regarding smoking. However, below are some general rules that apply to most cruise lines:
No smoking in dining rooms or restaurants.
No smoking in the main theatre.
Smoking in lounges on port or starboard side only (depending on ship).
Smoking is permitted in staterooms*.
On the outside deck areas (i.e. pool area), smoking is permitted on either the port or starboard side of the ship.
Smoking is not permitted in the Internet cafe (if one is available).
Smoking is not permitted on tender boats.
Can I call home from the ship?
Most ships now offer you the ability to make ship-to-shore phone calls from within your stateroom. Newer ships also have Internet and email capabilities which are much more affordable than phone calls. A typical ship-to-shore phone call can cost from $7.95 per minute to $15.00 per minute.
Can I receive and send e-mail while onboard the ship?
All ships now have Internet Cafe complete with computers connected to the Internet. Fees will vary for hourly computer time where you can get your e-mail using Microsoft Hot Mail or Yahoo Mail. Check with your cruise line for availability of these services.
If you have taken your own laptop onboard, you can make a ship-to-shore call to dial into your Internet provider, rates will vary per cruise line.
There are also Internet Cafes in most ports and they are much more affordable.
Are medical services available?
Virtually every cruise ship has a licensed doctor on board to handle emergencies. If you suffer from a medical condition, check with your travel agent before booking to make sure the ship on which you are cruising can handle your needs. There are additional charges by the doctor for visits, and/or medications administered on board the ship.
Will I get bored?
It is not likely that you will get bored on a cruise. However, if you have concerns about having enough to do, or enough activity options available, you should consider one of the larger ships (40,000 tons or above). Larger ships will typically have more available activities due to the larger number of passengers aboard.
Most ships have dozens of planned and spontaneous activities taking place from sunrise to way past midnight. There are pool activities, sports, bingo, casino, wine tasting, dance lessons, dancing, karaoke, live entertainment, movies, television, fitness centers, shore excursions, talent contests, masquerade parties, Captain's party, country western night, just to name a few!
What do I need to pack?
Traditionally, cruise travel has been very casual during the day and casual to formal in the evenings. During the day, you can wander the ship in your shorts, t-shirts and even your swimsuit (ladies should wear a cover-up inside the ship). In the evenings (after 5), the dress code usually falls into one of the following three categories:
Resort Casual - Slacks and collared shirts for gentlemen and casual dresses or pant suits for ladies. Jackets and ties are optional.
Informal - Jacket for gentlemen (tie is optional), dresses or dressy slacks for ladies.
Formal - Tuxedo for gentlemen (usually a jacket and tie will also suffice) and formal wear for ladies.
The dress codes vary from one cruise line to another, and can also be influenced by destination. A Mediterranean cruise may be more 'formal' than a Caribbean cruise, for example. Even on ships that do have formal nights, there are usually optional dining venues where you can dress casual and still feel comfortable.
There is a popular trend away from rigid formal dress on cruise ships. Cruise ships today are generally more casual than they were just 5 years ago.
Here are some other items to make sure you pack for your cruise:
A pair of comfortable rubber-soled shoes to wear while on deck
Swimwear and coverup
A camera and plenty of film
A video camera (if you have one)
30 SPF Sun block (or higher). The sun on the ocean is extremely bright and can cause severe sunburn. Even on an Alaska cruise, sun reflecting off of snow or a glacier can cause sunburn.
Names and addresses of friends so you can send postcards from various ports.
Any necessary medications, vitamins, supplements, etc.
What is included in the price of the cruise?
On most cruises, all of the following are included in your total cruise fare:
All shipboard entertainment
All taxes and port fees
All meals* are included
Most, if not all, onboard activities
In some cases, the following are also included in your total fare:
Ground transportation to and from ship/airport
There are some items for which you will pay extra:
*Some ships may offer optional dining venues which charge a per person cover charge. These are purely optional and are at your discretion. You are never 'required' to purchase a meal in an alternate dining venue.
What about sightseeing when in port?
Your ship will arrive in port early in the morning at which time you are free to go ashore. In most cases, you will be back on board the ship by 5:00pm to 7:00pm. This gives you more than enough time to enjoy one of the cruise line's shore excursions, or, go off on your own to do some shopping, sightseeing, swimming, scuba diving, etc.
We highly recommend the cruise ship sponsored tours and excursions. In some ports, when you debark from the ship, local sightseeing companies (in some cases a local with a van) will be waiting to tempt you with their own tour. Take our word for it, while these tours may be safe and in some cases quite good, it is always a safe bet to stick with your cruise ship's recommendation.
If I have to cancel my cruise, can I get a refund?
Every cruise line has a different policy regarding cancellations and refunds. Generally, if you cancel 90 days or more from the sailing date, your cruise fare is refundable. However, you should check with your travel agent for details.
We highly recommend the purchase of trip insurance when you book your cruise. You can purchase this insurance from your travel agent and it will protect you from loss of the money you've paid for the cruise in the event of a medical emergency. For example, assume that you or a member of your immediate family are hospitalized the week before your cruise. A travel insurance policy could refund the entire portion of your airfare and cruise fare! Insurance policies vary from one carrier to another. This is another reason to use a qualified travel agent who can recommend the proper policy to protect your vacation investment.