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Are some ships better than others for children?
While most cruise lines offer supervised activities for
children—such as swimming, sports, movies, and games—some
ships don't, and some ships have better programs than
others. In addition, some programs have minimum age
requirements (generally age 2 or 3). To find the best
children’s programs, we suggest you read the programs
Online. Though you may initially think of
when shopping for a family-friendly cruise (and it
certainly is family friendly), many other ships offer
children's programs (and adult activities) that may be just
Can I book an adults-only cruise?
If you want to take a cruise without the kids (yours, or
anybody else’s), you have a few options. Certain ships such
Crystal Harmony, don't cater to children; while others,
including all three Windstar ships, actually discourage
parents from bringing their children along. Though this
doesn’t guarantee a child-free cruise, it does greatly
reduce the number of children onboard. You may want to read
the sections of the
Online to see which ships do, and don’t, cater to
I’m traveling alone. Will the cruise line help me find a
If you’re traveling alone and would like to find a roommate,
please call your travel agent. Many cruise lines will help
solo travelers find roommates of the same gender.
Are there nonsmoking cruises?
Currently, none at this time. Although no cruise ships
are nonsmoking, all ships do have designated nonsmoking
areas, including most staterooms, restaurants (including
main dining rooms), and public areas.
Are there singles cruises?
Some smaller and larger cruise lines do have special themed
cruises, including singles cruises. Check with your Travel
There are so many itinerary choices. How do I pick one?
Consider your interests before deciding on a destination. Do
you like warm-weather destinations? Consider the Caribbean,
the Bahamas, Hawaii, or the South Pacific. Are you
interested in history? Think about Europe or the
Mediterranean. Also consider how many days the ship spends
at sea vs. in port. If you like a lot of activity and
variety, consider an itinerary with more days in port; if
you like spending time on the open ocean, consider an
itinerary with more “at sea” days.
For help researching the different areas you can cruise,
refer to our
What are the different stateroom categories?
All staterooms are classified as one of four categories:
Inside, oceanview, oceanview with balcony, or suite:
Inside staterooms are generally the smallest staterooms
onboard and have no views.
Oceanview staterooms have windows or portholes.
Oceanview staterooms with balconies have windows and
Suites have windows and oftentimes balconies; they're
generally the largest staterooms onboard and offer the most
What is included in the cruise price?
Generally, the cruise price includes drinks like coffee, tea,
and water; standard meals; room service; the use of gymnasium
equipment; and most shipboard entertainment.
What is not included in the cruise price?
Generally, the cruise price does not include specialty drinks
like sodas, specialty coffees, and alcoholic beverages; meals in
alternative restaurants; spa and salon services; exercise
classes like yoga and Pilates; casino gaming; organized shore
excursions; photographs; medical services; gratuities; and gift
What are port charges?
Port charges are small fees a cruise ship must pay to use a port
of call. Port charges are also known as NCF or
non-commissionable fares to the trade. They include the
Taxes and fees assessed by the government and other
Costs of entering or leaving ports
Costs incurred while in port, including waste removal
What's the general age range for cruisers?
Different cruise lines appeal to different age groups. Average
passenger age ranges are as follows:
Carnival: 30 percent under age 35; 40 percent ages 35–55;
and 30 percent over age 55
Celebrity: Ages 30–55
Crystal: Age 60+
Disney Cruise Line: 20s and up
Holland America: 40s to 60s
Princess: Age 50+
Windstar: Ages 35–55
Royal Caribbean: 30s to 50s
Can unaccompanied minors cruise?
Unaccompanied minors cannot cruise. In fact, on Carnival,
Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean,
and Windstar cruises, each stateroom must have at least one
adult age 25 or older as a guest. On Disney Cruise Line and
Princess cruises, each stateroom must have at least one adult
age 21 or older. Exceptions are generally made for married
couples under age 25 (or 21).
What's the minimum cruising age?
Most cruise lines ask that children be at least six months old
to sail. Check with your cruise line before you book if you have
very young children.
What's the onboard drinking age?
Most cruise ships maintain a minimum drinking age of 21 while in
international waters or at foreign ports. However, some ships
have a minimum drinking age of 18.
Which cruise line is right for me?
Different cruise lines and ships appeal to different people.
Those wanting an upscale, casual environment with few passengers
often turn to Windstar, whereas those looking for a
“traditional” cruise experience often enjoy Holland America
sailings. We suggest you visit the
Online to research the different cruise lines and decide
which is right for you.
Why does it cost so much to book a single-passenger
Each cruise line bases its stateroom rates on double occupancy.
When you travel alone, you will pay an extra “single supplement”
fee to make up for lost revenue.
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Dozen's Of Cruise Specials On
fluctuates from day to day so the cruise line's
marketing staff reviews each sailing. They determine
which sailings should be put on sale, reduced in
price. Some are last minute specials, others include
advance booking savings and some are excess
inventory being offered at substantial savings.
Can I book a cruise for another person?
Yes. When booking the cruise, simply enter the passengers’ names
where indicated. Please keep in mind that correspondence,
including cruise packets and airline tickets, are sent to only
one address. If you do not want to be responsible for forwarding
these important tickets and documents on to the passengers,
please be sure to list another passenger's address as the
Can I let another person use my account to book a cruise?
You may let somebody else use your account; however, we
encourage everyone to create his or her own profile as it stores
personal information about the owner.
How far in advance can I book a cruise?
You can book a cruise up to 18 months in advance.
Can I book my cruise with more than one credit card?
In most cases you may put your deposit on one credit card
and later payments on another; however, you can split the
depoved, it ma on your own. Before committing to cruise line provided airfare,
check prices on your own.
What ayour cruise ship due to
flight delays from mechanical problems, the cruise line will
make an effort to help you get to the next port of call to join
the cruise.( you will pay for the extra cost to do that )
However, this may not be the case for delays caused by weather.
The purchase of travel insurance to cover trip delay is
If I book cruise line airfare, will I have a choice of
Passengers booking cruise line airfare do not get to choose
their flights. If you would like to book cruise line airfare,
but you have particular needs (such as preferred airlines or
flight times), contact your Travel Agent. Your Travel Agent will
then be able to send specific flight requests to the cruise
line. Please keep in mind that making flight requests often
increases the flight’s cost.
How will I know when my final payment is due?
All payment due dates should be listed in your confirmation
e-mail, which you should receive within 24 hours of making your
reservation. Some Travel Agents have different procedures.
How do I make my final payment?
Contact your Travel Agent to make your final payment.
I’m going on a cruise for my honeymoon. Can I travel under my
You must travel under the name listed on your proof of
citizenship (passport, or government-issued photo ID and birth
certificate). Also, be sure to bring a copy of your marriage
If your proof of citizenship is a birth certificate and
government-issued photo ID, and your photo ID reflects your new
name, you must bring a copy of your marriage certificate, as the
name on your photo ID will not match the name listed on your
birth certificate. Passports are required for most
destinations now, so check with your cruise line for the latest
identification requirements for your particular cruise.
I now have a different name than the one on my birth
certificate. Will this create a problem?
If the name listed on your birth certificate does not match the
name listed on your government-issued photo ID, you must bring
any legal documentation, such as a marriage certificate, that
explains why the names do not match. The only way you can bypass
this step is by using a passport that matches the name under
which you booked your cruise. Passports are required for
most destinations now, so check with your cruise line for the
latest identification requirements for your particular cruise.
I have to cancel my cruise. Will I get a refund?
Whether you receive a refund depends on two things: When you
cancel the cruise, and if you purchased the travel protection
plan. Cancellation timelines vary by cruise line and actual
sailing. To best protect yourself, we highly suggest that you
purchase a travel protection plan (the cost of the
travel protection plan is nonrefundable).
Should I purchase the travel protection plan?
Whether or not to purchase the travel protection plan is an
individual decision. However, we highly recommend that you
purchase the plan to protect your vacation investment. If you
need to cancel your trip for a covered reason (including injury,
sickness, or death for you, a travel companion, or an immediate
family member), you’ll be protected against losing your entire
investment. The travel protection plan also protects you against
any emergencies while you are on your cruise.
An increasing number of cruise companies are adopting
so-called automatic gratuity programs. The companies say
such programs spare passengers the confusion of figuring out
who gets what and the hassle of juggling money. Cynics may
suspect the real purpose is to shanghai your wallet, but in
fact, the amounts charged are close to what travel agents
recommend customers tip anyway.
The confusion about cruise tipping is understandable. There
are headwaiters, waiters, assistant waiters, cabin stewards
and others who may expect gratuities -- or not. Some cruise
lines, especially luxury ones, discourage tips. As recently
as 2½ years ago, Seabourn Cruise Line staff members could be
fired for accepting tips, says spokesman Bruce Good. Now
they may accept them but can be fired for soliciting them.
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Alas, not all cruise lines that encourage tipping
recommend the same amounts, and the job titles of the crew
may vary too. But most suggestions are in these ranges, per
passenger per day: Cabin steward/stewardess/attendant, $3 to
$4; waiter/server, $3 to $4; assistant waiter/busboy, $1.50
to $2.50; headwaiter/head server, 50 cents to $1.
Bartenders are a special case. Many lines automatically
include 15 percent for service in the bar bill, meaning you
Passengers traditionally leave tips in envelopes on the last
night of the cruise, which can lead to quite a backup at the
purser's desk. With automatic gratuity programs, you avoid
that, obviously. But an important point about such programs
is that you usually can opt out of them or increase or
decrease the amounts by notifying the purser once you're on
board. You don't have to do it their way.
Your best sources for tipping guidelines on your
particular cruise are travel agents and the line you book.
Here's a roundup of some lines' general practices. (All
amounts are stated per passenger per day, unless otherwise
Carnival: The line has an automatic gratuity program (which it calls
a "reverse gratuity program") on 10 of its 16 ships, with a daily charge
of $9.75. The company hopes to expand the program fleet wide within a
year, says spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz. In alternate dining rooms
(outside the main one), the reservation fee includes a tip. Bar bills
include a 15 percent gratuity. Crystal: The line suggests $4 each for
stewardess and waiter in the main dining room; $2.50 assistant waiter,
$4 for butler (penthouse only); an additional $6 per meal for alternate
restaurants. Passengers can tip in advance when they book the cruise.
Bar bills include 15 percent gratuity.
Disney: The line gives suggestions by length of cruise; on average per
day, about $3.60 for steward, $3.70 server, $2.70 assistant server, 90
cents head server. You can tip in advance, as do about half the guests,
a spokeswoman says. Bar bills include 15 percent gratuity.
Holland America: Advertises a "tipping not required" policy and declines
to suggest amounts. "You're free to tip if you feel it's warranted,"
spokesman Erik Elvejord says. "To be honest, most people do tip." Bar
bills do not include gratuity.
Norwegian: Automatic gratuity program charges $10 per day for ages 13
and older, $5 for children 3 to 12, no charge younger than 3. Bar bills
include 15 percent gratuity.
Princess: Automatic gratuity program fleetwide charges $10 per day; the
final two ships added to the program in July were the Royal Princess and
the Regal Princess. Bar bills include 15 percent gratuity.
Radisson Seven Seas: No tipping is expected.
Royal Caribbean: It suggests $3.50 each for waiter and steward, $2
assistant waiter, 75 cents headwaiter. Passengers can tip automatically
by asking at guest relations (purser) when they board. Bar bills include
15 percent gratuity.
Seabourn: "Tipping is neither required nor expected," the line's
Internet site says. "Our staff doesn't expect it . . . and we pay them
well," spokesman Good says. But he adds: "If the guest wants to give a
tip, who are we to say no?"
Silversea: "No gratuities are required or expected" on this luxury line,
where fares can average $800 per day and up, says spokesman Brad Ball.
Passengers can tip if they want, "but we don't encourage it," even for
spa treatments, he adds.
Windstar: The line advertises a "tipping not required" policy on its
Internet site. "Gratuities are not encouraged at all," sales coordinator
Jordan Marona says. "But if people want to tip, that's their
prerogative." Costa: On Caribbean cruises, the suggestion is $3 each for
steward and waiter, $1.50 assistant waiter, $1 headwaiter. On European
cruises, the amounts are $1.50 steward, $2.50 waiter, $2.50 "assistant
waiter team," 50 cents for maitre d' and "headwaiter team." Bar bills
include 15 percent gratuity
Cunard: An automatic gratuity program, begun in 2000, charges $7 on
Caronia and $11 to $13 on the Queen Elizabeth 2, depending on cabin
category. Bar bills include a 15 percent gratuity.
Before Your Journey
- Identification requirements vary with
every trip. Be sure to know exactly what type of I.D. you will be
required to present before you go.
- Notify the cruise ship of any special
dietary restrictions or requests at least 60 days prior to departure.
- Leave copies of your passport, airline
tickets, traveler's cheques and credit cards with a family member or a
friend back on the mainland.
- Some countries require certain
immunizations to enter. Discuss you travel plans with a doctor. It may
be necessary to bring proof of immunizations with you.
- If you are prone to motion sickness,
consult your doctor prior to departure. Motion sickness medications
(such as Dramamine and patches) often do well to curb nausea.
- Setting up a web-based e-mail account
before you depart (such as Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL) makes it easy to
e-mail friends and family while you're abroad.
- Always call to confirm your flight 24
hours prior to departure.
- If you have any ongoing medical
conditions, ask your doctor to write up a brief medical history for
you to travel with.
- When you receive your cruise documents
in the mail, take the time to go over them in detail and verify that
all the information is correct.
- Double-check your flight information
and airline documents for accuracy.
- Remember, if you book "cruise only",
you are responsible for arriving at the port in time for check-in,
security and departure.
- If you plan to bring a hair dryer or
an electric razor, inquire with your cruise line as to what the cabin
voltage will be. You may need an adaptor.
- Leave the ship's contact information
with a friend or family member back home. This information can usually
be found on the cruise line's web site or by contacting them directly
- If you book an air/sea package and you
miss the ship because of late or cancelled flight, rest assured. The
cruise line will take care of getting you to the next port.
- Check-in and security procedures can
be involved. Be sure to arrive at the embarkation area at least two
hours prior to sailing. If you board early, there are plenty of
activities that begin before the ship leaves port.
- Most lines send an onboard credit card
application form with the tickets. To save time, complete the form
beforehand and bring it with you when you check-in.
- Some lines help you save time by
allowing you to complete your immigration and embarkation forms
online. Check with your cruise line.
- You'll be given a receipt when you
hand over your passport upon boarding. If not, ask for one.
- Don't purchase duty-free alcohol to
drink onboard. It is confiscated until the last day of the cruise.
- Reading up on your ports of call (in
guidebooks and on the Internet) can greatly enrich your journey. In
addition, most ships have a library with information on your
- Want to learn to scuba dive? Consider
doing the class work at a local dive center before you leave and save
the open water portion for your trip. This will minimize your time
sitting at a desk while on vacation.
What are the benefits of taking a cruise vacation?
There are many benefits to cruising. Some of our favorites
include all-inclusive meals, unlimited entertainment options,
and traveling from one destination to the next from the comfort
of your ship (plus, only having to unpack once). Rather than
spending your travel time in a car or on a train, you can be
watching Broadway-style shows, eating fine cuisine, swimming in
the pool, and sleeping in your private stateroom.
Can I add a passenger to my stateroom at a later date?
You may be able to add another passenger, depending on the
stateroom’s passenger capacity and the point at which you decide to add
the passenger; however, there is no guarantee that the person can be
added, or that the price would stay the same. If you would like to add
another passenger, please call your Travel Agent.
Can I change a passenger in my stateroom?
Many cruise lines will not let you change a passenger’s name
after you complete your reservation. If they do allow changes, a
large fee will likely be tacked on to the change.
Should I upgrade to an oceanview or balcony stateroom?
Different passengers have different stateroom preferences. Some
passengers book an inside stateroom in order to save money,
especially if they're active types who spend little time in
their staterooms. However, if you plan to spend a lot of time in
your stateroom, we suggest booking one with an ocean view. If the
idea of having breakfast on your private balcony every morning
appeals to you, you may want to splurge a bit and upgrade to a
balcony stateroom. Many new ships now have a large quantity of
balcony staterooms, making them more affordable than ever before.
I made a last-minute reservation. How will I get my travel
If you made a last-minute reservation, you’ll likely have to
make arrangements to pick up your travel documents. Generally,
you’ll pick them up right at the pier on the day of embarkation.
If you booked cruise line airfare and the cruise line uses paper
tickets, your tickets will likely be sent to you via overnight
delivery or an e-ticket will be sent to you via e-mail.
How early should I arrive at the pier?
Ship boarding usually begins four to five hours before the ship
is scheduled to depart, and all passengers must be onboard
minutes prior to departure. Check with your cruise line about
Where can I find the details about the ship?
Most of the details you'll want to know can be found at
Cruise Reviews Online.
What to bring
Do I need a passport?
If you’re a U.S. citizen, just about every destination now requires that you have a
passport, while a few simply require a government-issued photo
ID and an original or certified copy of a birth certificate with raised seal. You
should check proof of citizenship requirements for the countries you'll
be visiting by contacting the cruise line. Do keep in mind that all non-U.S. citizens boarding a
ship in the U.S. will need a valid passport. Failure to have the
proper documentation will lead to denied boarding and you will not get a
Do I need a travel visa? or Green card?
Most countries don’t require that U.S. citizens carry travel
visas; however, you will need one if you are traveling to St.
Petersburg, Russia; or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (along with a handful of
other ports of call). Be sure to check your travel documents carefully
to see whether you’ll need a travel visa. Also, keep in mind that non-U.S. citizens living
in the U.S. may need a travel visa or a green card to gain
reentry into the U.S.
What travel documents and identification do I need?
For most cruises, you simply need a passport, though some cruise
itineraries only require a birth certificate with raised seal
and government-issued photo ID. A few cruises also require
travel visas, and non-U.S. citizens boarding a ship in the U.S.
will need a valid passport. Check your travel documents carefully to
ensure that you are traveling with the proper documents. Be sure to check all countries you'll be visiting. For
example, if you're taking a Mexico cruise that stops in Jamaica,
be sure to check Jamaica's requirements, not just Mexico's.
What documents might I need when traveling with children?
Some countries have special requirements for children under 18
who are not traveling with both birth parents. Documentation
requirements vary depending on the country you are visiting.
Country-specific information is available by reviewing the
Consular Information Sheets on the U.S. Department of State
Web site. It is also available from the consulate of the country
to which you are traveling. Please note that the requirements
can change at any time, so be sure to confirm them close to your
The following information is provided as a general guideline
only. Exact documentation requirements will depend on your
specific situation and the country to which you are traveling.
Check with your cruise line first.
These documents may be requested by the cruise line upon
boarding, and without them you could be denied boarding. They
may also be requested by immigration officers at ports of call,
so be sure to bring the documentation with you when visiting
each port. According to many accounts, the cruise lines and,
depending on the port, the immigration officials, are
inconsistent in the enforcement of these requirements, so you
may never be asked to produce these documents. Bring them anyway
to guarantee you are allowed to board and avoid any delays in
your ports of call.
Generally, a notarized “permission to travel” letter from the
absent parent(s) must be provided. We strongly recommend
bringing such a letter even if it is not an official
requirement. The letter should be signed by the non-traveling
parent(s) and should state that he/she gives the child
permission to travel. It should also include: the name of the
child and the names of all people traveling with the child;
information about the trip including the dates of travel,
country (or countries) being visited, and the name of the cruise
line and ship; address and phone number of the non-traveling
parent(s); permission to approve treatment should the child
become Ill or require hospital or emergency health care and the document
must have a notary’s signature and seal.
In some circumstances, legal documents will be required to
clarify custody rights and/or the parental relationship. It’s
especially important that documentation be supplied by travelers
with different last names, same-sex couples, adoptive, or
divorced parents. Travelers falling under any of these
categories should provide custody and other supporting
documents. Widowed parents should provide a death certificate.
In all cases, you must bring your own identification and the
I currently don't have a passport or birth certificate. How
can I get them?
If you are a U.S. citizen and you have a birth certificate with
raised seal and simply need a passport, you can purchase one through
your local post office, or online. You should expect to receive your passport within
six -eight weeks (two weeks if you put a rush on your order).
If you are a U.S. citizen and you need a copy of your birth
certificate, contact the city hall located in your town of birth.
If you need a passport and you are not a U.S. citizen, please
check with the appropriate government agencies within your
country of citizenship.
Do I need cash onboard the ship?
We suggest that you bring some cash. Some cruise lines require
that you use cash for tipping and casino gambling. It's also
handy to have in port. Most cruise ships do have ATMs onboard;
however, the ATM service fee may be quite high.
Is there a weight limit for how much luggage I bring?
Not on the cruise ship. When in doubt, contact the cruise line.
Airlines do have weight limits.
What is a medical release form, and how do I know if I have
to submit one?
To ensure proper treatment in case of an emergency, cruise lines
require that all guests with special medical needs submit this
information to them prior to travel. Passengers who carry
syringes for medical use must also carry a letter from their
physicians indicating such.
What types of clothing should I pack?
Keep both your destination’s climate and the cruise ship’s dress
code in mind when deciding what clothes to pack. If you’re
traveling to Alaska, be sure to bring protective rain coverings
for Alaska’s and Canada’s rainy days. If you’re traveling to the
Caribbean, be sure to bring plenty of cool clothing and
sunscreen for warm days. In addition, if your ship has formal
nights, men should bring a dark suit or tuxedo, and women should
bring a pantsuit or cocktail dress. If you don’t own these
items, no worries: Most ships have casual dining venues to cater
to those who aren’t interested in dressing up, and some ships
also have formal wear rental shops.
Getting to the ship
I’m booking airfare on my own. When should I schedule my
flights to arrive and depart?
You should schedule your flight to arrive a minimum of four
hours before your ship is scheduled to set sail, which should
give you enough time to make it to the pier and check in to your
We suggest you schedule your return flight to depart a minimum
of six hours after you're scheduled to arrive in port. That
should give you enough time to disembark the ship, clear
customs, and make it to airport check-in. The more time you give
yourself, the better.
How do I get from the airport to the ship?
If you booked cruise line airfare, ( and paid for transfers ) you will be met at baggage
claim by a cruise line representative who will provide
transportation from the airport to the pier.
If you booked your own airfare, you will be required to get
yourself from the airport to the pier. When you receive your
cruise packet, your ticket will provide the name of the pier
from which your cruise departs. If you are not familiar with the
area from which you are departing, we suggest that you use a map
to get the best directions to the port. Most taxi drivers will
also be familiar enough with the area to easily transport you to
Can I park at the pier?
Most ports do have parking right at the pier. However, like
airport parking, it can be a bit pricy.
What happens if my flight is delayed?
If your flight is delayed and you booked the cruise line’s
airfare, the cruise line will be made aware of the delay (but
you should still call the cruise line to inform a representative
of the delay). If you miss the ship, oftentimes the cruise line
will assist in helping you get to the ship’s next port of call.
If your flight is delayed and you did not book cruise line
airfare, please call the cruise line immediately and let them
know of the delay.
- Most ships have exercise facilities
and classes. If you plan on working out, don't forget gym clothes and
- Some cruises travel through multiple
climates. Make sure to pack accordingly.
- Life aboard a cruise ship is generally
laid-back and casual. Pack for comfort.
- Footwear should include
walking/running shoes and, if you're headed someplace warm, sandals.
- Even when cruising warm weather
destinations, consider packing a sweater/sweatshirt, water repellant
jacket and hat.
- Though most dining areas on larger
ships have a dress code, not all do. Options outside of the main
dining room, such as a pizzeria or buffet, will generally allow
t-shirts, jeans and shorts.
- When the dress code for a dining area
is described as "casual", plan to dress in "golf" attire. T-shirts,
jeans and shorts are not allowed.
- When the dress code for a dining area
is described as "informal", plan to dress "business casual". Women
generally wear dresses or pantsuits, while men usually wear
- When the dress code for a dining area
is described as "formal", women should be prepared to wear cocktail
dresses or gowns, while men should consider wearing business suits or
tuxedos (though not required).
- Most ships that have formal events
offer tuxedo rental onboard, eliminating the hassle of packing one.
- Almost every ship has laundry service
(including dry cleaning), but the tab can add up. Consider bringing a
small amount of detergent for washing clothes in your own cabin.
- Most ships have powerful air
conditioning. A sweater or sweatshirt may come in handy.
- It's easy to forget sunscreen and
sunglasses with all the excitement of an upcoming cruise. Be sure to
pack them if you're traveling to a sunny destination (including
- Bring a camera. Don't forget extra
film, memory cards, batteries, charger, etc.
- Never pack your passport, visa,
license, medications, cruise documents or airline tickets in checked
luggage. Keep such items with you.
- If you take prescription medication,
be sure to pack enough for the entire voyage. Ships tend to only stock
general medications and ports may what you need.
- Pack a written list of your
medications, including the name of the drug, dosage and times taken,
in case they are lost.
- Items to pack in your carry-on bag
include: perishables, liquor, cash, credit/debit cards, jewelry,
business documents, travel and health insurance information, laptops,
computer disks, cell phones, cameras, binoculars, film, videotapes,
CD's and cassette tapes.
- Bring credit cards and travelers
cheques instead of large amounts of cash.
- It's wise to use hard-sided luggage.
Garment bags with hanger hooks protruding from the may snag and do
- Put a card with your name and address
inside your luggage as well as on the outside.
- Thousands of pieces of luggage come
onboard at roughly the same time. Don't panic if your luggage isn't in
your cabin when you arrive. It may take a few hours to get to your
- Two-way walkie-talkies are a great way
for family members to keep in touch while onboard the ship. If you
don't have your own, many ships rent them for the duration of the
- Many ships sell an "unlimited soft
drink" cup for kids. If you're traveling with young ones, this can be
a wise investment and save you some significant cash.
- The staff onboard your ship are an
invaluable source of information. Most have visited your ports dozens
of times. Ask your cabin stewards, waiters, etc. any questions you may
- Plan to spend an average of $10 USD to
$15 USD a day for tips.
- Plan on giving gratuities to waiters,
headwaiters, shore guides, spa and salon experts, cabin stewards and
other staff who display exceptional service.
Cruise lines vary in how gratuities are handled. A few cruise lines
include tipping in the total cruise price or have a “no tipping” policy,
and will inform you. Others will automatically charge your tip daily to
your onboard account (you can usually arrange to have the amount
adjusted), while other cruise lines have you tip in cash at the end of
the cruise via envelopes provided by your cabin steward. Here are some
general guidelines as to who usually gets a tip, and how much:
- In addition to the amounts listed below a 15% gratuity will be
added to any bar purchases. A good rule of thumb is that you will tip
about $10 per person in your cabin per day of your cruise. For
example, if you are on a three-day cruise and have two people in your
cabin you would pay $20 per day, or $60 total in tips.
- Here is a general breakdown: Wait Staff / Restaurant: about $5.50
per day (Head waiter $3.00, Bus Boy $2.50). Cabin Staff (Cabin
Steward): about $3.00 per day. Other: about $1.00 for the following -
Alternative Dining Charge, Restaurant Manager, Maitre d', Chief
- Plan for about $2.50 to $3.00 per person per day for your room
steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your
busboy. Other ship personnel can be tipped for special services at
Some recommendations include $1.50 per person in your party to your
assistant waiter, and a total of $2.50 per person for your headwaiter on
three- and four-night cruises. For seven-night and longer cruises,
headwaiter gratuities are at your discretion. Double-check that bill. Many lines add
a 15% gratuity automatically to bar, beverage, wine and deck service
- It's never wise to leave valuables out
in the open in your cabin. Lock them in your luggage or see if the
ship has a safe.
- Many cruise lines offer in-cabin
babysitting. Take advantage of this service.
- Learn the exit route from your cabin
to the open decks, in case of emergency.
- Sign up for spa services, sporting
events, salon appointments and other activities as early as possible.
- In the unlikely event that you book an
air/sea package and your luggage does not arrive, the airline is
responsible for delivering it to the next port. Give the airline an
itinerary and a list of port agents.
- If you have any issues with your
cabin, report them immediately.
- Though not all ships offer tables for
only two dining, yours may. If it's your preference, ask if your
request can be accommodated when being seated.
- At first, you may wish to carry the
deck plan with you. Take a walk and familiarize yourself with the
layout of the ship, and learn how to reach your cabin from the main
- Items that are not included in your
cruise fare may include: alcoholic beverages, soft drinks not consumed
at dinner, laundry, phone calls and casino gaming.
- Got your eye on that something special
in the onboard mall? Resist the urge to buy until the last day of the
cruise. Many items inevitably go "on sale".
Are there different class services, like on flights?
Most ships have just one class of service; however, passengers staying in
suites will sometimes receive extra services and amenities. ( Cunard is
the exception. They have 3 classes of service )
Can I bring guests onboard?
Due to security reasons, passengers may not bring visitors onboard.
Do I need a doctor's note to bring medication onboard?
As long as your medication is still in its original bottle, you are not
required to bring a doctor’s note. However, you do need a doctor’s note
if you will be carrying syringes. Also, please let the cruise line know
ahead of time if you have special medical needs.
If you need to take your medication regularly, we suggest that you carry
it with you rather than leave it in your checked luggage, just in case
there is a delay in delivering your luggage to your stateroom. In addition,
though commonly used medications (like aspirin) may be purchased from
the ship's doctor, you may not be able to get additional supplies of
prescription drugs. Therefore, be sure to bring an adequate supply with
I’ve heard various ship terms, like starboard and aft. What do they
You may come across certain cruise ship terms that you’re not familiar
with. Here are a few common terms and their definitions:
Port: When facing forward, the left side of the ship
Starboard: When facing forward, the right side of the ship
Fore: The front of the ship
Aft: The back of the ship
Embarkation: Initial boarding of the ship, on the first day of the
Disembarkation: Final departure from the ship, on the last day of
Bridge: The area from which the captain and his crew navigate the
Muster drill: Mandatory lifeboat/safety drill; takes place the first
day of the cruise, just before the ship sets sail
Tender: Small boats that transport passengers from the ship to shore
and back; generally used in small ports of call
Sister ships: Ships from the same cruise line that have similar body
Is it possible that my stateroom will be located below water?
No, all passenger’s staterooms are located above sea level.
Is smoking allowed?
Smoking is allowed in designated areas of all ships. Generally,
however, smoking is not allowed in most of the staterooms, in the main
dining rooms, and in certain public areas.
What should I expect during embarkation and disembarkation?
On embarkation days, you’ll generally be allowed to board the ship four
to five hours before departure. You’ll start by “checking in” at the
pier, where your proof of citizenship (passport, or government-issued
photo ID and birth certificate with raised seal) will be checked. At
this time, you’ll also set up your onboard account. Upon boarding,
you’ll be able to have a snack, explore the ship, or simply spend time
in your stateroom.
On the final night of the cruise, you’ll have the option of placing your
luggage outside of your stateroom door. If you don't set your luggage out,
you'll be required to take it off the ship yourself. If you do leave
your luggage out, be sure to keep any necessities in a carry-on bag, as
your luggage will not be accessible until after you depart the ship. If
you want breakfast, you’ll generally need to get up extra early, so keep
this in mind. Passengers depart in groups, and your group information,
along with any necessary customs forms, will be left in your stateroom the
night before you disembark. You’ll be required to pass through customs
as you depart the ship.
What voltage are the electrical outlets?
Most staterooms are equipped with U.S. standard 110-volt outlets. Some
staterooms are also equipped with European standard 220-volt outlets.
When will I receive my stateroom assignment?
You will receive your stateroom assignment with your travel documents, which
should arrive within two weeks of your sailing date. If for some reason
your stateroom is still not assigned, you will receive a stateroom assignment
when you check in at the pier.
Where does the crew sleep?
The crew generally sleeps in staterooms located below the lowest passenger
Will the ship have quiet areas for reading and relaxing?
Most ships have libraries, Internet cafés, and card rooms which can be
used as quiet areas. In addition, most ships also have lounges and
deck space with quiet pockets.
Will there be a TV in my stateroom?
All ships have TVs in all staterooms.
What are my customs allowances?
Each U.S. citizen is generally allowed to bring $800 worth of duty-free
merchandise into the U.S. without being taxed, with an additional $1,000
being taxed at a reduced flat rate. Canadian citizens are generally
allowed to bring $750 worth of duty-free merchandise into Canada without
being taxed. Each U.S. and Canadian citizen may only return with a
maximum of 40 ounces of wine or liquor and 200 cigarettes.
Non-U.S. and -Canadian citizens should check with their country's
customs agencies for restrictions on duty-free merchandise.
Are there enough lifeboats for everybody onboard?
Yes, there are enough lifeboats onboard to comfortably hold every
passenger and crew member.
Are there lifeboat drills?
Lifeboat drills (also known as assembly drills or muster drills) are
held at the beginning of each cruise, just before the ship sets sail.
Attendance is mandatory in order to comply with Coast Guard and
international safety regulations. Passengers must come prepared with
their own life preservers, which will be found in passenger staterooms (all
staterooms have one life preserver for each passenger).
I've heard about shipboard flu outbreaks. How can I check if my ship
has had one?
Though flu outbreaks are rare, ships may occasionally have a few
passengers who experience stomach discomfort. If you’re concerned about
any past illnesses on your ship, contact the cruise line directly.
What happens if I get sick?
All ships have doctors onboard who can assist sick passengers. In the
event of a medical emergency, sick or injured passengers can also be
airlifted from the ship, or the ship can make an emergency detour into a
nearby port of call.
One mild form of sickness some passengers experience is seasickness;
however, seasickness is very rare on larger cruise ships since they’re
equipped with stabilizers which minimize the feeling of movement. Again,
if you feel sick, you can visit the ship’s doctor, or pick up some
over-the-counter seasickness medication from the sundries shop.
What happens if there’s a hurricane or typhoon?
If inclement weather is ahead, the ship can change course to
avoid the storm.
Are ships wheelchair accessible?
Most ships are wheelchair accessible.
Do ships offer babysitting services?
Most ships do offer babysitting services, either in a group
setting, or with a sitter coming directly to your stateroom. To
find out whether your ship offers babysitting services, check with your
Do I need money onboard?
We suggest that you bring some cash. Some cruise lines require
that you use cash for tipping and casino gambling. It's also
handy to have in port. Most cruise ships do have ATMs onboard;
however, ATM service fees may be quite high.
Are there ATMs onboard?
many ships have ATMs onboard; however, many charge a very high
usage fee. If you need cash for tips or casino gambling, we
suggest that you use an ATM at a port of call, or cash a
traveler’s check at the purser’s desk.
Can I purchase toiletries onboard?
Yes, ships have sundries shops where you can purchase
Can I call home from the ship?
Yes. Most ships have telephones in all staterooms. If your
does not have a telephone (which is very rare), the ship’s radio
operator can connect you to a mainland number. Please keep in
mind that making a ship-to-shore telephone call can be quite
expensive, and it may be worth the wait to use a pay phone at
the next port stop.
Is it easy to keep up with the news while onboard?
Most ships have TVs in all staterooms and in some public areas, and
daily newspapers can generally be found around the ship as well.
Most ships also have Internet cafés, where passengers can go
online for around 50¢ to $1 per minute.
Can I check my e-mail from the ship?
Most ships have Internet cafés, and some even provide Internet
access from staterooms. To find out if your ship has an Internet
café or online stateroom access, check with your Travel Agent.
Can I exchange money onboard?
Some ships do offer money exchange; however, many passengers
wait to exchange money at a shoreside exchange bureau. In
addition, U.S. currency is accepted at many foreign ports of
call, particularly in the Caribbean.
Do staterooms have personal safes?
Most staterooms have personal safes. If your stateroom doesn’t
have its own safe, you have the option of storing valuables in the
Do I have to purchase the pictures taken by the ship's
No, the ship's photographers capture memories of your cruise,
but purchasing them are optional. In addition, if you'd rather
not have your photo taken, politely decline and move on. If you
would like to purchase a keepsake photo, they're generally
displayed in the ship’s photo gallery. Check the ship's deck
plan to see where the gallery is located.
Do ships have exercise equipment?
Most ships have full-service gyms onboard, as well as outdoor
fitness equipment, ranging from simple running tracks and volleyball
courts to rock-climbing walls and tennis courts.
Do ships have elevators?
Yes, most ships do have a large number of elevators.
How do I pay for onboard purchases?
Prior to boarding, passengers will set up charge accounts with
their credit cards. All onboard purchases you make, from
cocktails to gift shop items, will be charged to this account.
Passengers who don’t hold credit cards can also deposit cash
into their accounts to cover onboard expenses.
Can I use a debit card for my onboard charge accounts?
Some cruise lines allow you to use a debit card; however, the ship may apply a daily
I’m sharing a stateroom with a friend. Can we each have our own
onboard charge account?
Yes, each passenger can set up his or her own charge account,
regardless of whether he or she is sharing a stateroom. (
different rules, different cruise lines, so check with your Travel Agent
How do I prepare for customs?
Customs agents will want to see the required proof of citizenship (depending
on the sailing, a valid passport, or a government-issued photo
ID and birth certificate with raised seal), a travel visa (if
visas are required at any ports of call), and a customs
declaration form (which will be delivered to your stateroom on
the last night of the cruise).
What are my customs allowances?
Each U.S. citizen is generally allowed to bring $800 worth of
duty-free merchandise into the U.S. without being taxed, with an
additional $1,000 being taxed at a reduced flat rate. Canadian
citizens are generally allowed to bring $750 worth of duty-free
merchandise into Canada without being taxed. Each U.S. and
Canadian citizen may only return with a maximum of 40 ounces of
wine or liquor and 200 cigarettes.
Non-U.S. and -Canadian citizens should check with their
country's customs agencies for restrictions on duty-free
How do I purchase shore excursions?
You can book shore excursions at the cruise lines web site.
However, you can also book them from the ship’s shore excursion desk
Many vendors also gather near the ports you'll be visiting. If
you plan to book a day trip (and not a ship-sponsored shore
excursion), we recommend you ask the ship for vendor
recommendations, or check a reliable guide book.
Is there shopping onboard?
Duty-free shops are located on all ships. On port days, shops
generally open 30 minutes to an hour after the ship leaves port,
and stay open until a set time. On sea days, shops are generally
open all day.
Are there casinos onboard?
Most ships do have onboard casinos which are open while the ship
is sailing in international waters (generally 30 minutes to an
hour after leaving a port of call). There are exceptions: cruise
ships which sail around Hawaii; and the Disney ships.
Are alcoholic beverages included in the price?
You will be charged extra for alcoholic beverages. However, many
ships now have drink cards, where you can purchase a set number
of drinks ahead of time, generally resulting in significant cost
Are meals included in the price?
Basic meals are included in the price of your cruise. These
include all meals in the main dining room (breakfast, lunch, and
dinner). Many ships also have a “lido” restaurant serving buffet
meals, a grill serving lunchtime grilled fare, and all-day room
service; these meals are also included in your cruise price. The
only meals that may not be included in your cruise price are at
“specialty restaurants,” which usually charge a small fee for
dining (generally $10–20).
Are there multiple entrée choices at dinner each night?
Yes. Generally, you’ll be able to choose among three or four
entrée choices, with at least one vegetarian selection.
Do I have to eat dinner at the same time, and with the same
passengers, every night?
This really depends on your ship. Most ships offer two dinner
seatings for the main dining room, and your dining time and
table size will be confirmed upon embarkation. However, some
cruise lines now offer "open seating" dining, where passengers can
dine when, and with whom, they choose. Even if your ship has
pre-assigned dining times, you can generally choose to eat at a
casual buffet-style restaurant at no additional charge.
Can I change my dining time or tablemates?
If you are sailing on a ship with pre-assigned dining times and
tablemates and would like to change either, talk to the
restaurant’s maître d’, who will do everything in his or her
power to ensure that you have a pleasant dining experience each
If I have late dinner seating, will I miss the evening
Shows are generally performed twice nightly, so no matter what
time you eat dinner, you’ll still be able to catch all of the
I have special dietary restrictions. Can the ship accommodate
Low-sodium meals, kosher meals, and other
specialty meal plans are offered by ships; however, you should arrange
for special meals in advance. Contact your Travel Agent.
Is food available 24 hours a day?
On most ships, food is available 24 hours a day, either in an
all-night diner, or via free room service. Those ships that
don’t offer 24-hour dining generally serve food until the wee
hours, and start serving again early in the morning (generally
as early as 5 AM). In addition, many staterooms now have mini
refrigerators where you can keep snacks.
Is room service available?
Yes, room service is available on most ships, and is often
served 24 hours a day.
What are alternative restaurants?
Alternative restaurants, or “specialty” restaurants, are in
addition to main dining rooms and “lido” buffet restaurants.
Many ships now house alternative restaurants, with cuisines
ranging from Italian to sushi. Many alternative restaurants
charge a small fee for dining, usually $10–20 per person,
What are formal nights, and do all cruises have them?
Formal nights are evenings which the ships suggest you dress up for
dinner, with men wearing dark suits or tuxedos and women wearing
cocktail dresses or pantsuits. Special meals are generally served on
formal nights. Many ships do have formal nights, but generally only one
or two for a seven-night cruise. If you don’t want to dress up on formal
nights, you can generally dine at a buffet restaurant at no extra
charge. many ships these days do not have formal nights and offer a more
casual dining experience. Ask your Travel Agent about your ship.
Are there planned activities at night?
All ships have planned activities; though, generally speaking,
the larger the ship, the more planned activities you’ll find.
Evening activities often include casino gambling, Broadway- and
Vegas-style revues, cabaret shows, nightclub performances, disco
dancing, movies, and passenger talent shows.
Does the cruise ship have planned activities during inclement
Yes. Each night, you’ll receive a list of planned activities for
the next day, including special activities for sea days with
Can I get a tour of the ship?
Many ships do offer tours on the first day of the cruise.
However, due to security reasons, tours are generally restricted
to public areas of the ship.
How do I find out about onboard activities?
Each night, you will receive a news update in your
the next day’s activities.
Am I required to take part in the ship’s activities?
No. The only activity you are required to take part in is the
lifeboat drill on embarkation day.
I'd like to celebrate a special occasion. Will the ship help?
All ships help passengers celebrate honeymoons, anniversaries,
and birthdays. If you’ll be celebrating a special occasion while
onboard, contact your Travel Agent so that he or she
can let the ship’s staff know which occasion you’ll be
celebrating. If you forget to call a Cruise Specialist before
you leave for your trip, simply tell the maître d’ shortly after
Is the onboard entertainment free?
With the exception of casino gaming, onboard entertainment is
What are days at sea like?
The ship’s staff fills each day with a host of shipboard
activities. However, you are not required to take part in any
activities, and can choose to spend the day as you wish.
What do I do on the last night of the cruise?
On the final night of the cruise, you’ll be required to place
your luggage outside your stateroom door. Your stateroom steward will
also drop off a customs form, which you’ll turn in to a customs
officer upon disembarkation.
What services are offered at the spa?
Most spas offer a typical range of beauty treatments, including
massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and hair
styling. Some spas also offer more unique treatments, like hot
stone therapy and couples massages.
I’m worried about getting bored on sea days or short port
days. Is this likely?
It’s not likely that you’ll get
bored. Most ships offer more than enough activities to keep passengers
very busy, even on sea days. Some ships offer everything from typical activities
like ping-pong, shuffleboard, sunbathing, and bridge tournaments
to more unique diversions like rock climbing, ice-skating,
computer classes, and movies at dedicated movie theaters.
Will the itinerary change?
All cruise itineraries are subject to change. Weather conditions
and other circumstances may require a change in itinerary, such
as a change in arrival or departure time. In extreme
circumstances, the ship will be required to skip a port
entirely, in which case the cruise line will try to schedule a
visit at an alternative port of call.
Are passengers expected to tip?
Most ships recommend that you tip around $10-$12 per person, per
day. Some have, a "tipping not required" policy: The cruise line
simply suggests that you tip individual staff members if you feel you've
received good service. Some ships automatically charge tips to shipboard
accounts (which can then be adjusted by the individual), while others
ask you to pay cash directly to the staff member. Tipping guidelines
will be included in your travel documents, which you will receive two to
four weeks before departure.
Does the ship have a dress code?
Different ships have different dress codes. Most ships suggest
"resort casual" attire throughout the day, which includes shorts, pants,
blouses, and shirts; and skirts and slacks for evening attire (except on
formal nights, when women wear evening gowns or pantsuits and men wear
dark suits or tuxedos). Generally, swimwear is not permitted in any
dining rooms, including casual buffet-style restaurants. Some ships
suggest casual attire at all times, including Windstar ships and
Norwegian's "freestyle" ships.
Do I have to get off the ship at each port of call?
No, you are never required to get off the ship. Some passengers
prefer to spend the day onboard the ship, particularly when
stopping at a port they’ve previously visited. Many ships have
scheduled shipboard activities, even on port days.
How do I get from the ship to the pier?
Depending on the size of your ship and the port of call, you'll
either dock right at the pier, or be shuttled into port via
tender (free of charge).
Can I charge items to my shipboard account when I'm in port?
Shipboard accounts are for shipboard charges only. While in
port, you can generally use a major credit card or traveler’s
check for most purchases. Most ports also have ATMs and money
Are there planned activities at ports of call?
At each port of call, you have the option of booking a cruise
line's shore excursions, or exploring on your own. All shore
excursions can be booked at the ship's shore excursion desk.
Of course, guests aren't required to get off the ship at all,
and may prefer to spend a quiet day onboard.
How do I find out what to do at ports of call?
The best way to research port-of-call activities is by reading
the port reviews, or by checking the ship’s shore excursion
offerings. We also suggest that you do a bit of independent
research, either by searching the Internet or buying a respected
Is there full meal service on port days?
Yes, all ships have full meal service on both port and sea days.
Are meals paid for while I'm ashore in port?
No, you must pay for your own meals while ashore in port. One exception
is when your ship is visiting the cruise line's private island
(generally on Caribbean itineraries), during which time a beach
buffet is generally served free-of-charge.
- Shore excursions can book up fast. If
you haven't booked them before you depart, think about doing so as
soon as possible after boarding.
- Remember to budget for shore excursion
expenses. Excursion prices can vary greatly depending on your port of
call, cruise line and activity.
- If you are elderly or physically
challenged, check with the cruise line to make sure all the ports can
accommodate your needs.
- If you're concerned about the drinking
water and food onshore, ask your cruise director or physician for
recommendations. In certain ports, some items (particularly water) may
be off limits.
- You're never obligated to take an
organized shore excursion. To explore a city more in depth or see
something not included on an organized excursion, consider exploring
on your own.
- If you explore on your own, you may
not be covered by your ship's insurance. It's wise to check the
details of your ship's policy beforehand.
- If you explore on your own, keep an
eye on your watch. If you miss a launch, you'll have to meet the ship
at the next port, at your expense.
- During a shore excursion, always carry
identification, the name of your ship and its docked location. Bring a
photocopy of your passport with you as well.
- Leave valuables, excess cash and
unneeded credit cards aboard while on shore excursions.
- At the end of the cruise, you will
receive a bill for signed items. If extra charges appear, ask to see
all the charge slips and get a copy of a modified bill.
- If your cruise is less than
satisfactory, inform a cruise line representative as soon as possible.
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