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Before Your Journey
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Smart Cruise Tips

How to snag the cheap cruises, best discounts and upgrades,

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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 section at Family Cruises Online. Though you may initially think of Disney Cruise Line 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 as appealing.
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 as 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 Cruise Reviews Online  to see which ships do, and don’t, cater to children.
I’m traveling alone. Will the cruise line help me find a roommate?
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 Agent.

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 Destination pages.
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 ocean-facing balconies.
  •  Suites have windows and oftentimes balconies; they're generally the largest staterooms onboard and offer the most amenities.
    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 shop purchases.
    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 following:
  •  Taxes and fees assessed by the government and other agencies
  •  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
  •  Norwegian: 50s
  •  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 Cruise Reviews 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 stateroom?
    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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  • 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 contact address.
    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 highly recommended.
    If I book cruise line airfare, will I have a choice of flights?
    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 married name?
    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 certificate.

    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.

    Scroll down there's more...

    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 needn't tip.

    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 noted.

    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 by phone.
    • 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 destinations.
    • 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.

    Planning ahead
    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 documents?
    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 90-120 minutes prior to departure. Check with your cruise line about their policy.
    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 refund.
    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 departure date.

    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 child’s identification.
    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 cruise.

    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 the pier.
    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.

    back to
    Packing: Clothing
    • Most ships have exercise facilities and classes. If you plan on working out, don't forget gym clothes and shoes.
    • 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 lightweight jackets.
    • 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.

    Packing: Necessities

    • 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 Alaska).
    • 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.

    Packing: Luggage

    • It's wise to use hard-sided luggage. Garment bags with hanger hooks protruding from the  may snag and do damage.
    • Put a card with your name and address inside your luggage as well as on the outside.
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    Once Onboard
    • 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 room.
    • 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 voyage.
    • 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 have.
    • 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 Housekeeper.


    • 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 your discretion.

    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 tabs.

    • 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 stairways.
    • 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 you.
    I’ve heard various ship terms, like starboard and aft. What do they mean?
    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 cruise
  • Disembarkation: Final departure from the ship, on the last day of the cruise
  • Bridge: The area from which the captain and his crew navigate the ship
  • 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 designs
    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 deck.
    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.

    Ship safety
    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 Travel Agent
    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 toiletries.
    Can I call home from the ship?
    Yes. Most ships have telephones in all staterooms. If your stateroom 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 ship’s vault.
    Do I have to purchase the pictures taken by the ship's photographers?
    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 spending limit.
    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 merchandise.
    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 onboard. 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 savings.
    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 night.
    If I have late dinner seating, will I miss the evening entertainment?
    Shows are generally performed twice nightly, so no matter what time you eat dinner, you’ll still be able to catch all of the evening’s entertainment.
    I have special dietary restrictions. Can the ship accommodate my needs?
    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, including tip.
    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 weather?
    Yes. Each night, you’ll receive a list of planned activities for the next day, including special activities for sea days with inclement weather.
    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 stateroom with 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 boarding.
    Is the onboard entertainment free?
    With the exception of casino gaming, onboard entertainment is free.
    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 exchange centers.
    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 guide book.
    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
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    Shore Excursions
    • 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.
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    • 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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