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Cruise Travel Frequently Asked Questions

 

Getting to the Cruise

A. Attire is dictated by occasion. In general, cruise vacations are casual by day whether you are on the ship or ashore.Evening attire varies, with some evenings being casual and some being formal. For the captain's gala, for example,you'll probably want to wear something more formal such as a dark suit or cocktail dress, perhaps even a dinner jacket or gown. For a beach party theme night, you will fit right in with your Hawaiian shirt or sundress.

Don't forget your usual toiletries, as they are quite expensive to replace on the ship. If you are going to a sunny destination, pack sunscreen and a hat. Lastly, remember any prescriptions you are taking, and keep them with you in your carry-on bag while traveling.

Will I need formal wear?
A. On some cruises, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun; however, you don't need to buy a tuxedo just for the trip. For one thing, many ships offer tuxedo rental services. But even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are perfectly acceptable for the dressiest occasions. With today's more relaxed lifestyles, many cruise lines also offer resort casual attire, where jackets and ties are not required at all.

What travel documents do I need?
A. What travel documents you need depends on the type of cruise and destination; and requirements are subject to change at any time. In general, under many circumstances, the following documentation is acceptable for U.S. and Canadian citizens:

    A valid passport, or
    A birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate (either must be accompanied by official photo identification such as a valid driver's license).

Non-U.S. citizens who have previously been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence must carry their passport and alien Registration Receipt Card, Form I-151. All other non-U.S. and non-Canadian citizens must have valid passports and any necessary visas. Minors under 18 who are traveling with one parent are required to have a notarized consent letter from the other parent for admittance into Mexico and Canada.

What currency should I bring, and how much of it?
A. You can bring whatever currency you want (including U.S. dollars) because you’ll be able to exchange money at the purser’s desk or at port as necessary. If you bring travelers checks or a credit card, you can also get whatever currency you want onboard the ship or in port.

Bring only the minimum amount of cash or traveler's checks that you feel is necessary. For convenience throughout the cruise, most cruise lines have a "cashless" onboard credit program that allows guests to charge their purchases directly to their personal account. Registration for this program will take place during the embarkation process or onboard at the purser's office. You must present the completed application form (included with your cruise documents) along with your preferred credit card.

How do I get to the departing port from my city?
A. If you have purchased an air/sea package, a cruise-company representative will meet you at the airport of the port city, and then will shuttle you directly to the ship in a bus or minivan. Some cruise lines arrange to transport your luggage between airport and ship, so you don't have to hassle with baggage claim at the start of your cruise or with baggage check in at the end. If you decide not to buy the air/sea package, but still plan to fly, ask your travel agent if you can use the ship's transfer bus anyway, although you may be required to purchase a round-trip transfer voucher.

Getting to the Cruise -- Frequently Asked Questions

If you are arriving by car, you will find parking (charged at a daily or weekly rate) conveniently located near the cruise terminal. Cruise lines ask that you board the ship no later than half an hour before the scheduled sailing time.

What if I arrive at the departing port a day or so before my cruise?
A. If you purchased a pre-cruise package from the cruise line, you will have accommodations and transportation to the ship. If not, you will need to find a hotel on your own.

How do I get to the ship?
A. If you purchased a transfer package from the cruise line, you will be advised on the time to meet your ride to the terminal. If you did not purchase a transfer package from the cruise line, you are responsible for getting to the
terminal by whatever means necessary.

What time do I board the ship?
A. Your cruise documents will advise you what time you should arrive at the terminal and when the embarkation process begins.

Miss the Boat? What if I miss the ship?
A. If you booked an air/sea package through the cruise line, you have more protection than if you book your airfare separately. Cruise lines are more likely to make accommodations for you and work with the airline if it was their booking that did not get you to the ship on time. Also, they will be better able to track your late flight, and might even delay the ship if they know you will only be a little late. If they can’t hold the ship, they might pay for you to stay in a hotel, or pay for flights so you can catch up with the ship at the next port. Depending on the circumstances, they might even rebate some of your cruise or give you a discount toward your next cruise with them.

However, remember that airlines are independent contractors. Most cruise conditions of carriage state that sinceairlines are independent contractors, the cruise line makes no warranty, and assumes no responsibility, for any failures or delays in their contractor’s (the airline) services. Therefore, purchasing a trip insurance package is a strong recommendation.

If you booked the flight separately or used frequent flier miles to pay for your airfare, the best thing to do is to arrive a day or more before the sailing date. Otherwise, if you miss the ship, it will be very expensive for you to catch the ship at the next port.

Onboard the Cruise -- Frequently Asked Questions

Are cruises safe onboard?
A. Yes, cruises are very safe onboard. Each ship has a staff of security personnel that is always on duty.

Where should I keep my valuables?
A. You can store your valuables in safes that are often provided in each stateroom. If not, there is a ship's safe located at the purser’s desk.

Will I become seasick on my cruise?
A. All modern ships are equipped with stabilizers to minimize side-to-side rolling. In most cases, you will feel no motion at all. However, if you are prone to motion sickness, it is recommended that you bring medication along with you. Otherwise, medication is available through the doctor onboard.

What if I get sick or need medical attention?
A. Most cruise ships have a fully equipped medical facility and staff (with doctors and nurses) onboard that can handle almost any emergency.

Can I get off the Ship?
A. If you are unhappy while onboard and want to leave the ship, you can get off at the next port-of-call. Arrangements to get home and refunds vary by cruise line.

What about passengers with special needs?
A. Cruise lines welcome passengers with special needs and will work hard to assist them throughout their cruise. Most modern cruise ships have a number of cabins that are specially designed to accommodate passengers in need of wheelchairs or TTY communications. Service animals are permitted onboard if prior arrangements have been made. Professional medical services are also available on all cruise ships. At least one qualified physician and two registered nurses are normally in attendance on every cruise.

Although the cruise line will do all it can to accommodate passengers with special needs, there are some limitations. Passengers requiring oxygen must meet certain requirements before boarding the ship. Passengers who are entering their third trimester of pregnancy by the beginning of their cruise will not be accepted. In ports-of-call that require tenders to go ashore, wheelchair access may be limited, or may be unavailable if sea conditions are unfavorable. Furthermore, it is highly recommended that passengers with special needs travel with a companion who can provide required assistance.

All passengers must insure that they are medically and physically fit for travel, and that such travel will not endanger themselves or others. It is essential that the cruise line know well in advance if you have any special medical, physical, or other requirements. To receive appropriate assistance, you must inform your travel agent or the cruise line of any special requirements (or other relevant information) in writing at the time of booking. If special needs arise after booking, they must be reported prior to the embarkation date.

Are there children’s programs? Is babysitting available?
A. Kids adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you will not have to wonder what they are up to every minute. Most mainstream and premium cruise lines offer special children's rooms and programs run by trained youth counselors.

Children’s programs cater to kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens, and provide plenty of supervised activities. Depending upon the cruise line, babysitting is often available for an additional fee.

Are there religious services onboard?
A. The types of services held onboard depend on the clergy the cruise line invites onboard. Some ships provide nondenominational religious services on Sundays and religious holidays, and some offer daily Catholic masses and Friday-evening Jewish services. Although some ships have chapels, services are sometimes held in the ship’s library, theater, or private lounges.

Can I bring my pet?
A. No, only service animals are allowed by special arrangement.

Is smoking allowed?
A. Virtually all ships have smoking and nonsmoking sections in the lounges and dining rooms. (Carnival’s Paradise is the world's only nonsmoking vessel.) If you wish to be seated in a nonsmoking area, just tell your cruise consultant.


In open seating situations, you can advise your waiter and/or the restaurant manager. However, keep in mind that many dining rooms are now smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests.

What is the legal drinking age?
A. The legal drinking age onboard is 21, and is strictly enforced.

What "extras" can I expect to pay for?
A. You can expect to pay for taxes, surcharges, and fees, including airport fees, handling fees, departure taxes, and port charges. You should verify which fees and port taxes are included in your cruise rate.

The cost of reaching the ship, airline tickets not booked in your cruise package, shuttle services, or in-port parking fees are not included. You can also expect to pay for the costs—including hotel, transportation, and meal costs—of staying at port before or after the cruise.

While onboard, alcoholic beverages, bottled water, and soft drinks are not included. You are responsible for tips and all onboard extras such as gambling, spa treatment, massages, photos, Internet access, ship-to-shore calls, etc.

Expenses while in port, including taxis, entertainment, and optional off-ship meals, are not included. You can also expect to pay for some shore excursions and all shopping purchases made both on and off the ship. Travel insurance
is extra as well.

How much do I tip?
A. Because tipping is a personal matter, most cruise lines do not include gratuities in the cruise fare, with the exception of a small number of luxury lines. While tipping guidelines may vary slightly between cruise lines, the following is a standard suggestion:

• Dining room waiter: $3.50 per person per day
• Cabin steward: $3.50 per person per day
• Assistant waiter: $2 per person per day
• You may also wish to reward your head waiter or maitre d' if they have performed some special service for you.

For your convenience, a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all bar bills when you are served. All other gratuities are paid at the end of your cruise, in cash. Some ships will also allow you to charge gratuities to your onboard account.

What can I purchase while onboard?
A. Most ships have gift, jewelry, and clothing boutiques onboard. In addition, there is a photography studio where you can purchase photos by the ship's photographers, or have your film developed.

What services can I expect onboard?
A. For a fee, you can indulge in the ship's spa services, which provides facials, massages, manicures, hairstyling, etc. Photography and laundry services are also available for a fee.

Are there laundry services onboard?
A. Yes, almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities onboard, and a great many provide dry-cleaning services. There is an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services, but most ships also have self-service launderettes.

What is the electrical current onboard?
A. Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms, but check with your travel agent or the cruise line.

Can others contact me, and can I contact others, while onboard?
A. Every ship has a phone number that can be used to contact you while the ship is at sea. This information will be included in your cruise documents. If you need to call home, ship-to-shore calling is available, but is very expensive at $12 per minute. Thankfully, some of the newer ships have e-mail capabilities so you can remain in touch with friends and family back home. If you are on a long cruise, some cruise lines offer addresses so friends and family can send letters or parcels.

Is there e-mail and Internet service onboard?
A. Yes, newer ships have Internet and e-mail capabilities that you can use for a fee.

Are visitors permitted onboard?
A. For security reasons, most cruise lines have a "no visitor" policy. The only exceptions to this policy are wedding guests attending an onboard ceremony that has been arranged well in advance.

What will my cabin be like?
A. Cabin size depends on the category. First time cruisers are often taken aback by the compact design of cabins, which should not be compared to hotel rooms. They are designed for efficiency and to encourage you to use the much larger public facilities onboard the ship. If you requested an outside or ocean view cabin, you will have a porthole or picture window, depending on your ship’s design. Some outside cabins will also have a small veranda. Most cabins have twin beds that can be converted into a queen-size bed.

Your cabin steward is there to make your stay comfortable, whether to change the bed configuration to suit your desires, or to bring you extra towels, pillows, or blankets. Many of the newer ships have safes in the rooms, and TVs that show current movies, give casino instructions, and provide general cruise information.

Is it worth the extra money for an ocean view cabin?
A. This is a matter that depends on your budget and how much time you plan to spend in the cabin. If you can afford the extra money to move up to an ocean view cabin, (sometimes it's as little as $150 on a seven-night cruise), you will probably feel you got your money's worth.

Can I switch cabins if I don't like the one I get?
A. If you do not like your cabin, notify the purser desk as soon as possible. If the ship is full, you probably will not be able to move. However, depending upon the circumstances, the purser will work with you on your problem.

When can I upgrade my cabin?
A. When you book your cruise, and do not get the cabin category you prefer, you can be placed on a waiting list for a different cabin. Once a higher category cabin opens up, you will be charged the difference. You can also check during the embarkation process to see if a higher-class category is available. If it is, you will pay the upgrade difference.

How much food is there?
A. Cruises are notorious for the variety and large amounts of food. With breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, tea, dinner, midnight buffet, and room service, there are many eating opportunities.

What are different meal seatings?
A. Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all passengers during one seating. But most ships have two seatings that differ only by timeslot. To choose a seating, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late, then have your travel agent or cruise line request your preference when you book your cruise. In addition, some ships offer alternative dining options like themed restaurants or particular cuisines such as Italian, Mexican, and Chinese.

Are special diets available?
A. Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, special diet requests must be made in advance, so be sure to advise your travel agent of your requirements when you book your cruise.

Can I order room service?
A. Most cruise lines offer 24-hour room service at no extra charge.

What kind of activities can I participate in while onboard?
A. It is amazing how much you can do on a cruise. Cruise ships are like floating resorts with all the amenities they have to offer. You can be by yourself and lie back in a lounge chair, soak up the sun, read a good book, or watch the changing view. You can also join in exercise classes, dance classes, sports contests, and other organized deck activities. Perhaps you would like to practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or shoot some baskets? You can also go for a swim, stretch out in the sauna, or work out in the gym. One ship even has an ice rink! Other activities include watching a feature movie, attending a lecture by a renowned expert, and playing backgammon or bridge.

What is there to do at night?
A. Cruise ships can be quite lively at night. There's dancing, live entertainment in nightclubs, discos, feature films, and parties. Most ships even have casinos. There are also many special events like the captain's cocktail party, passenger talent night, Las Vegas style shows, magic acts, and the late night buffet.

Do I have to participate in the activities?
A. On a cruise, you do what you want to. You can do everything, or lie back and do absolutely nothing. It's your vacation.

How do I find out about shore excursions?
A. Prior to the cruise, most cruise lines will include the available shore excursion information in your itinerary. Sometimes, information is available on the cruise line's website. No matter what, you will always be able to get information about the tours through the ship's shore excursion desk, which is staffed with personnel that can answer all your questions.

Can I celebrate a special occasion onboard?
A. Yes, just inform your travel agent prior to the cruise, and they can make the necessary arrangements with the cruise line for you.