Cruise planning – the key to a dream cruise vacation

Cruise Planning Guide

If you don’t have a good time – it’s your own darn fault! Cruise planning? Yes – it does take a little bit of homework on your part to design the perfect cruise vacation! You probably have friends who have overwhelmed you with stories of their amazing cruise vacation. You have looked at countless vacation pictures! And now you want to consider your own dream vacation – a cruise holiday! Whether it is south pacific cruises, Alaska cruises, Mediterranean or river cruises, you want to make this the best vacation ever – and that requires planning.

Considering Your First Trip On A Cruise Ship


If you are thinking about booking a cruise, or have already booked one, and are busy preparing for it, here are some key tips to making sure you think of everything, before you find yourself aboard a cruise ship bound for the Middle East.

Many people wait until a day or two before departure before thinking about a lot of these issues. In a hurry to get everything sorted for departure, they often forget important things like tickets, passports or medicines. Plan well in advance and don’t get caught out! Here are those top tips to ensure you book the right cruise and are well prepared for it when departure day arrives!

Understand what it is that appeals to you about cruise holidays. It will help you pick the right sort of cruise line and the right sort of route and routine. It might be that the food or the service is critical to you, or perhaps having a veranda to step out onto in the morning. Clarify what you really want and refine your enquiries based on those requirements.

Do as much research as you can about the logistics of your cruise, getting to the port, embarking and luggage tags. Lots of this research can be done easily from home with an internet connection.

Join online cruise sites, discussion boards and forums and talk to others about their experience of cruises. You could even find yourself talking to people who end up on the same cruise ship as you! It can be a great idea to get a feel for the questions you should be asking and the lines of enquiry you should be entertaining.

Research the ship. Spending a bit of time looking at the layout of the ship on a website will give you some information about the facilities on board, and will help you save time and effort working out where the gym, toilet and buffet are once you are aboard.

Explore the options available to you for shore excursions. Research the destinations of the excursions and the activities available. Make sure it is something that you really want to do, since paying for excursions which you either don’t enjoy, or don’t actually participate in, is a waste of time and money.

Pack light. This may be classic advice dished out for those taking a cruise, but you really don’t need very much on a ship, unless you really want to dress up and dine with the captain on the formal dinner nights.

Take a carry-on bag with essential items, as sometimes it can take an hour or two for the cases to arrive. Have a great time on your first cruise!

But where do you begin…

The following questions will not only help you clarify exactly what you want on your dream vacation – they will help you find the right itinerary, right ship and the right price! A $299 cruise vacation is NOT the right one for you if you don’t get exactly what you want or need! This is one of the reasons cruise planning is essential.

It is not how much you save but what you get for what you pay! Careful cruise planning provides you with the ultimate in wonderful vacations.

Getting clear on your cruise vacation requirements will allow you to avoid surprises and disappointments and enjoy the most memorable vacation you can have.

When would you like to travel?

Cruising has high seasons and low seasons. You can achieve significant savings by choosing spring or fall time periods but you do need to be clear on the trade offs you make.

As an example, there are considerable savings offered in the Caribbean for sailings between June and November – but this is also hurricane season – and itineraries may change on you without notice.

Travel at peak times such as Christmas, Easter, spring break and holiday weeks will increase the cost of your cruise. If you must travel at peak periods, book your vacation very early (6 months to a year out) to avoid disappointment and to secure early booking discounts.

Some cruise destinations have very short seasons such as Alaska or Europe. May to September is the season with early May and September being the value period. You can save quite a bit and avoid peak period crowds!

If you want to go to Europe, keep in mind that the summer is also the busiest period for this destination. The more flexibility you have with vacation time the better and the more likely you are to get cheap vacations.

How long would you like to travel?

Cruise vacations can be as little as 3 or 4 days samplers to 100+ day world voyages! The most common length for Caribbean, Alaska and Mexico cruises is 7 days. European cruises tend to be 10 days or longer. Panama Canal cruises and cruises to the South Pacific are usually 10 days or longer.

We recommend a minimum 7 day cruise to begin and if your flexible and can devote more time – you can experience more of your destination(s) and of the ship itself!

Longer cruises tend to attract an older clientle, simply because they have more time and/or resources available to them. Today’s cruises however attract all age groups and provide activities for all guests.

What are your favorite activities?

One of the best aspects of a cruise vacation is the wide variety of things to do. You can do everything or nothing!

On your ship it’s easy to find a quiet corner to contemplate the sea, read a book from the library, hold that intimate conversation or just count your blessings.

Whether you’re a newlywed or celebrating your 50th anniversary, you’ll feel the special magic of being on a cruise ship miles out to sea.

Whether you love musicals, hard rock, country or big band you’ll find ships playing your song! Dance clubs, sports facilities, live entertainment, movies, classes, casinos and supervised children’s activities are just a few examples of how cruise ships are catering to people of all walks of life.

Do you like a casual or formal atmosphere?

Most cruise lines have one or more “dress-up nights” where guests would wear formal or semi-formal attire. There is a general trend towards more relaxed dress. Some cruise lines have started to feature “resort casual” or “country club casual” dress every night.

The cruise line probably won’t care if you want to be more formal, but you might feel awkward if you showed up without a tie for a semi-formal dinner on a more traditional ship!

Look at the brochure and Web Site pictures and read the brochures/schedules carefully on ships that you are considering.

If all of the pictures of people dining show everyone in semi-formal wear, then you will want to take along either your black suit, tux or white dinner jacket.

Ladies will need either a silky suit, cocktail dress, or something “glittery.” If you want to leave that tie and other semi-formal wear at home, then look for cruise ships with more relaxed dress for dinner.

Large ship versus small ship?

Ships vary in size from small yacht like vessels carrying less than 200 guests to the newest mega-ships carrying as many as 3,000 guests!

Larger ships may offer you more in the way of activities and choices in dining. Smaller ships have access to ports of call that mega-ships do not call on because of their size.

Entertainment can vary from just a trio or quartet on a small vessel to full blown Broadway or Las Vegas style reviews on bigger ships.

Sports facilities can vary from your own water sports platform off the rear of small ships to rock climbing walls, basket ball courts and mini-golf courses on the “big” ships”.

How many people in your party?

Taking the whole family or just a romantic getaway for two?

Common cabins are most ships are based upon double occupancy – two people to a cabin.

Many ships can place up to three or four in a cabin utilizing upper and lower beds. Suites and family cabins can accommodate more people. Decide if you want to have three or four people in less than 200 square feet with one bathroom or you want separate cabins.

Single occupants of a cabin will pay a significant premium in the fare. Also children under the age of 21 generally cannot occupy a cabin by themselves. If you have a large group (generally over 15 guests) check to see if you can get group pricing or group amenities!

Are you travelling with kids?

Traveling with children can be a wonderful experience on a cruise. In fact today’s kids programs enchant children of all ages.

Not all cruise lines or ships have children’s’ programs, baby sitting, or activities so be sure to enquire what is available for your kids! Please see our family cruise information.

What type of stateroom would you prefer – Inside, Oceanview, Balcony or Suite?

The type of cruise cabin you choose for a particular cruise can and almost certainly will impact your budget.

Generally speaking Interior cabins are less than those with windows. Balcony cabins are romantic and allow you to enjoy your own private outdoor space.

Suites represent the ultimate in cruise luxury.

Position of your cabin on the ship is also important for your comfort and to your budget. We present an entire section choosing a cruise cabin here!

Do you require Pre or Post Land /Hotels and/or Air arrangements?

Traveling to and from your ship’s point of departure and termination can affect your budget.

Many ships depart from and return to “drive to ports” and you can reach them by private car, taxi or bus.

If you are flying long distances to meet your ship you may want to consider pre-cruise or post-cruise stays. Some cruise lines include an complimentary overnight stay and transfer (if you use their air) for guests coming from the west to eastern points of departure.

Most cruise lines can arrange your air for you as well as your hotels and transfers. You may also be able to find other deals on air alone and design your own package! In addition, the cruise line will usually transfer your luggage directly to your cabin.

For cruisers who over-pack (you know who you are!), this can be a big help. The other reason it is a good idea to let the cruise line take care of your flight is that SOMETIMES the ship will be held up for late arriving flights. If you are on a cruise line-booked flight, there will probably be other cruisers on your plane.

The more of you who are “in the same boat”, the more likely the ship’s departure will be delayed if your flight is late arriving.

If you do choose to use frequent-flyer miles for a flight or want to book independently, you might want to get to the departure city a day early to avoid the stress of worrying about flight problems, whether they be weather or mechanical. You don’t want to be left behind.

When do you like to eat?

This also varies with the cruise line or ship.

There are three possibilities for dinner:

  • Early seating (about 6:00PM)
  • Late seating (about 8:00-8:30PM)
  • Open seating (anytime within a given time frame like 6:30-9:30).

Most ships will give you a choice of either early or late seatings. There are advantages to both. Early seating might mean you have to get up earlier (although more ships are moving to open seating for breakfast and lunch).

You might have to rush for dinner if you are on a shore excursion that lasts until the late afternoon. Or if you can’t tear yourself away from the beach or pool.

The advantage to early seating is that you can then go to the shows after dinner and have more time for nightlife before bed. Late seating allows you to sleep in and have plenty of time to get ready for dinner.

However, if you don’t finish dinner until 9:30 or 10:00 pm, you might either miss the show or part of the night life.

Open seating is available on more and more cruise lines such as:

  • Norwegian Cruise Lines
  • Princess
  • Radisson Seven Seas
  • Silversea
  • Windstar
  • Seabourn

On a ship with assigned seating, you will also be asked what table size you prefer.

Most ships have tables for two, four, six, or eight (and sometimes ten). The numbers of “two-tables” are limited. If you “want to be alone” – be sure to tell your travel agent or cruise line in advance.

Many ships also have alternative dining options, which usually require reservations and have a fee attached. These restaurants usually have themed environments and menus such as Italian, Chinese, deluxe Supper Club and are well worth the extra charge.

Is cruising affordable and a good vacation value?

Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes meals, your stateroom (accommodation), on-board activities and entertainment, plus transportation from port to port. You’ll know what your vacation will end up costing you before you go. (Typically, your only extra expenses will be drinks, specialty restaurants, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as massage or hairstyling.)

How long are cruises?

As long or short as you want. Cruise lines offer 3 and 4 day cruises to cruise vacations of 100 days or more!

Where can I go on a cruise vacation?

Wherever you want! Cruises visit over 1,800 ports worldwide and practically every destination accessible by water.

Are all ships fairly similar?

Cruise ships range from intimate and yacht-like to vessels stretching longer than three football fields. You can sail with fewer than 100 fellow guests or with more than 2,600. Enjoy atmospheres ranging from casual to formal, contemporary to classic. You can even choose sail-assisted ships. Enjoy the endless activities offered on a contemporary resort-style cruise, or immerse yourself in the culture of a destination on a special interest cruise.

Are there different types of cruises?

There are cruises designed to suit virtually every interest and personal preference. The choices include:

  • boutique
  • luxury cruises with globetrotting itineraries
  • large, contemporary ships with a fantastic array of recreational facilities
  • classic vessels evoking the time-honored traditions of cruising
  • special-interest or exploration cruises specializing in unique destinations with an accent on cultural enrichment.

There are cruise lines that feature soft adventure expeditions to such unusual and rustic frontiers as Antarctica, the Amazon rain forest or African Serengeti.

Or discover historical legacies closer to home with enlightening itineraries to New England, French Canada and the Colonial America coast.

For experienced travelers, destination-focused cruises specialize in premium, culturally-rich ports of call with itineraries dedicated to illuminating such historic, world-class treasures as the antiquities of classical Greece, the Polynesian paradise of Hawaii or the fabled splendor of Norwegian fjords.

For many, the perfect vacation includes the non-stop fun and sun of a tropical resort-style cruise to the Caribbean, where you can sample a variety of island cultures and cuisines while working on a terrific sun tan.

Plus, many cruise lines create special “themes” on-board, with entertainment ranging from jazz festivals and classical music concerts to golf clinics and murder mysteries at sea!

Are there any special educational programs on-board?

To complement the spirit of discovery that travel evokes, many cruise lines feature an extensive program of on-board enrichment seminars hosted by distinguished guest experts.

In addition to lectures highlighting the history and sights of ports you will be visiting, there may also be special in-depth presentations ranging from Renaissance works of art and strategic financial planning to epicurean secrets of classic French cuisine.

What’s an air/sea cruise?

A fly/cruise or an air/sea vacation package includes, along with your cruise ticket, either free or reduced-cost airfare to and from the ship’s port of embarkation.

These convenient money-saving options are available from most major North American cities and include ground transfers between the airport and ship as well as baggage handling.

Do I need a passport?

This depends on the type of cruise and your destination. You will need some proof of citizenship and identification. You’ll receive complete information on required documents well in advance of your departure.

Are there different classes of service?

Today’s cruise ships are “one-class.” Everyone can use all of the ship’s facilities. The price of a cabin is based primarily on its size and location.

Regardless of the category you book, you’ll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities, and entertainment as everyone else on board.

Will I get bored? Feel confined?

Hardly! Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer. There’s plenty of room.

And it will probably take you two or three days just to discover everything that’s on board. Plus, you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call.

Cruise ships are floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer.

You can lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books, or watch the ever-changing seascape.

If you’re more active, join in exercise or dance classes, and sports contests.

Practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or take some fresh air on the jogging deck. Or you can swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym.

You can also see a feature film, attend an enrichment lecture by experts, play backgammon or bridge.

What can I do in port?

So much you’ll have a hard time choosing! You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (referred to as shore excursions).

Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids, or a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid. Follow the footsteps of history or the wake of a waterskiing boat.

If there’s still time, play golf or tennis. Learn how to windsurf. Sun and swim at some of the world’s best beaches. Catch a record marlin. Sail, snorkel, or scuba dive. Take a cable car to the top of a mountain. Explore dark catacombs.

In short, cruising is the perfect way to sample a number of new destinations and try all the things you’ve ever dreamed of doing, while never having to pack and unpack!

Do I have to participate in the activities?

On a cruise, you do what you want, when you want. You can do everything or do absolutely nothing. It’s your vacation!

Do cruise lines welcome families with kids?

More and more cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Most cruise lines provide plenty of supervised activities for kids, especially during school holidays.

If your children enjoy swimming, sports, games, movies, and the adventure of new places, they’ll love a family cruise. You’ll find that children adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you won’t have to wonder what they’re up to every minute.

The youth counselors will help keep them busy and entertained. Ships even offer different types of age-appropriate activities, suitable for toddlers to teens. Best of all, children often travel at a reduced rate.

What’s there to do at night?

When the stars come out, a cruise ship really turns on. There’s dancing, live entertainment, nightclubs and lounges, feature films, and parties with all your new friends.

Some cruise ships have movies outdoors under the stars!

Most ships also have casinos. What’s more, there are many special events like the Captain’s Cocktail Party, Passenger Talent Night, Broadway-style shopws and Las Vegas-type revues.

Is there a charge for entertainment?

Never. On a cruise vacation, the entertainment is on the house.

There’s no cover, minimum, or charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live, films first-rate and all included in your cruise fare.

Will there be people like me?

There’s no such thing as a typical cruise passenger! All kinds of people take cruises now… all ages… from all walks of life… singles, couples and families.

What should I pack?

Pack like you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you’re on the ship or ashore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. As on shore, attire is dictated by occasion.

At 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.

Will I need a formal wear?

Many cruise lines now feature a more relaxed and casual approach to dress throughout the cruise — while on others, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun.

But don’t buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Plus, many ships offer tuxedo rental services.

Can singles have fun on a cruise?

Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone, because it’s so easy to meet other people. In fact, most ships have parties for singles — early on, so you can get to know people right away.

Many ships even offer social hosts who can be dance partners, dinner companions or a fourth at cards.

Most ships also have single cabins as well as single rates for double staterooms. If you ask them, many cruise lines will even find you a roommate to share a cabin so you can obtain the per person/double occupancy rate, saving you even more on a great vacation.

Can I use my hair dryer or shaver?

Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms. But do check with your agent or agency to be sure. Most ships even feature hair-dryers in your cabin.

What about meal times?

Again, there are choices and more choices. During the day, there are many different places to eat – in the formal dining room, on deck, in a pizzeria, at an espresso bar, to name a few.

At night, most ships offer several venues. Some ships’ dining rooms can accommodate all guests at one time, called a “seating.” Many ships offer you a choice of several eating times, and others encourage you to come to dinner whenever you like.

More traditional ships have two seatings in their formal dining rooms, which differ only by time: typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late–then request your preference when you book your cruise.

Frequently, you can choose to dine at night someplace other than the formal dining room, such as in an intimate restaurant that features, for example, Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Southwestern cuisine.

More and more cruise lines are opening up their informal lido areas to evening dining, where the dress and dishes always are casual, and sometimes, you can even eat out under the stars.

And a large number of ships offer romantic in-cabin dinners. The choice is yours!

What about the quality of cruise ship dining?

Everything you’ve heard about cruise ship dining is true. At each meal, you’ll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too), and each day the selection will be different.

If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with a cuisine or try a dish, you can feel free to order more than one entrée or appetizer (or dessert!). But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn’t mean you’ll come home out of shape.

You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you’ll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because your meals are included!

Can I get a special diet?

Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, low cholesterol, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, this request must be made in advance, so be sure to advise your agent when you book your cruise.

Who do I eat or sit with?

Can I sit with my spouse and friends only, or will I have tablemates?

Experienced cruisers say they prefer sitting at a table with several other diners; some lifelong friendships have been made this way.

But the cruise lines are geared to accommodate each guest’s wishes, and it is possible to request a table for two or four.

In the unlikely event that you do wish to change tablemates, speak with the maitre d’, who will make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions… discretely and politely.

Are there non-smoking areas?

Virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking sections in the public rooms and on deck. In fact, many dining rooms, and even some entire ships, are now totally smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests.

Can we celebrate a special occasion?

Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of “Happy Whatever” to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, or canapes.

You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise your agent in advance.

Is cruising right for honeymooners?

A cruise vacation is one of the most romantic vacations possible.

Cruising offers an atmosphere that’s just right for romance… cozy dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars).

Most lines provide special services – from Sunday or Monday departures to champagne and breakfast in bed. For more details just check the Cruise Guide for Honeymooners.

Also, some ships offer special programs for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows.

Can we stay in touch with the outside world?

Quite easily. Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores.

Many staterooms are equipped with televisions and have satellite or cellular telephones. You can also call someone on shore through the ship’s radio officer while at sea.

In addition, most ships have fax capabilities and a growing number have computer cafes with Internet access for e-mail communication.

What about tipping?

Tipping is a matter of individual preference.

A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $3.00 per person per day for your cabin steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your busboy. (A few cruise lines include tipping in the price and will so inform you.)

Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services at your discretion.

Are there medical services onboard?

Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a medical facility and health care professionals on staff to handle almost any emergency.

If you have a medical condition that might put you at risk, discuss it with your doctor and inform the cruise lines at the time of booking. And, whenever you travel, check to see what your health insurance covers.

Are there laundry services aboard ship?

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and many provide dry-cleaning services. There is, however, an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services. Many ships also have self-service launderettes.

Do cruise lines accept group bookings?

Most lines welcome groups — often at special rates, depending on how many people are involved. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes during certain times of the year.

Are there meeting rooms onboard?

Just about every full-size ship has public rooms or a conference center to offer as meeting space for private or corporate groups.

If you’d like to make meeting or incentive travel arrangements, ask your agent to contact the cruise line’s group sales department to coordinate schedules and arrange for any special needs.

Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment, communications, meeting coordinators, secretarial and printing services and more.

Can I extend my cruise vacation?

Cruise lines feature special pre-or post-hotel packages that allow you to extend your vacation in either your port of embarkation or debarkation.

Is motion discomfort a problem?

Rarely. Popular cruise itineraries ply some of the calmest waters in the world. In addition, stabilizers on modern ships, availability of advance weather information, and development of effective preventative medications have, for the most part, eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort.

What’s Included in my cruise?

When you dream about the perfect vacation, what comes to mind? Breathtaking scenery? Exotic, far-away lands? Maybe a little rest and relaxation with a day at a therapeutic spa, or a cocktail on a balcony as you bask in the romantic glow of the setting sun.

Whatever your idea is, cruise lines take care of everything to make your dream vacation a reality.

No need to worry about making hotel reservations or searching for the right restaurant – our state-of-the-art cruise ships are filled with everything you need for an all-inclusive vacation.

Your cruise fare includes:

• Stateroom accommodations including bed, bathroom, shower and TV

• Personalized service of one Princess staff member for every three passengers

• Gourmet dining

• Las Vegas-style Casinos and Broadway-style shows

• Onboard activities (fresh water pools, deck parties)

• Edutainment / Kids programs

• Gym with exercise classes

• Library and card room

• Nightclub

• Unpack once, visit many destinations

Also available on the ship: (additional charges apply with some exceptions)

• Full service spa & massage therapy

• Beauty salon

• Boutiques & shopping

• Art auctions/galleries

• Shore excursions

• Fitness trainers

• Full Day babysitting service

• Bar drinks

If you haven’t been on a cruise before, you’re likely to have many questions. This cruise FAQ contains answers to some of the most common questions, and we’ll be adding new answers regularly. If you have any questions you’d like us to answer, contact us.

Cruise FAQ: General Questions

Why should I go on a cruise?

The main benefit of cruising is that rather than packing up and moving all your luggage to a new hotel every day or two, you stay in the same room and the ship moves to new locations with you. Additionally, most of the planning for the trip is taken care of for you. Once you’ve decided where to go and when, and made your booking, you just need to choose between the different shore excursions, entertainment and dining options.

How do I choose a cruise?

There are many cruises to choose from, in many different parts of the world. Once you have settled on a destination, there are two main considerations:

1. Cost of the cruise

2. Type of people on the cruise

Some cruises tend to attract older people, some younger people. Others will be aimed at family groups. This is usually fairly obvious from the promotional images and the details of the onboard facilities, but if not, ask around or use a travel agent.

What type of room should I choose?

Balcony and ocean view rooms are more expensive than inside rooms, that have no windows. If you can afford it, try and book a balcony or ocean view room. Alternatively, if you know you aren’t going to spend much time in your room and would prefer to spend the extra money on shore excursions, just go with an inside room. You probably know what’s right for you based on your previous holidays staying in hotels on land.

If you’re worried about seasickness, try and get a room lower down and in the middle, where the ship doesn’t move around as much. It won’t take much more time to get to the top decks, at there are lifts on board. Also, be careful to not have a room directly above the main dining room or a dance floor – these can be noisy at night.

What’s included in the price?

Cruise Critic have put together a brilliant list of what is included in your cruise (i.e. free) and what you need to pay extra for (fee). Check it out here.

Don’t also forget to check whether gratuities, port fees, shore excursions and more are included in your price, or are extra costs. Generally, more expensive cruises are likely to include these, whilst other cruises these will be added to your fare.

Will I get seasick?

Because cruise ships are so large, you are less likely to get sea sick than on a small vessel, such as a sailing ship. Except for if the sea is bumpy, it should feel (and look) like you are in a hotel on land. However, if you are worried about getting sea sick, try one of these two remedies:

1. Go out on deck or where you can see out of a window, and look at the horizon. This will reinforce with your brain the motion that you are experiencing.

2. Take sea sickness tablets. As they take awhile to start working, take them the morning before you depart and then as frequently as advised on the packet.

Cruise FAQ: Food and Drink

What is the food like?

Most of the meals on a cruise are buffet style: breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dinner generally of the highest quality. Many of the larger ships these days will have multiple options, plus snack and food court-type options included at no extra charge. If you can, try out the fine dining options. You’ll pay a small surcharge, but it will be far less than you would pay for an equivalent meal back on land.

Are all of my drinks included?

On most cruises, only non-bottled water, juice, punch, regular tea and coffee is included in the price. Alcohol and soft drink (soda) are not usually included, with even bottled water costing extra. The exception is on more expensive cruises, when all drinks with meals are usually included.

If you’re on a cruise and need to pay for alcoholic drinks and soft drinks, you have two options. Either pay by the glass, or if you’re a big drinker, see if your ship offers an unlimited card option (for either unlimited soda or unlimited alcoholic drinks).

Also check to see whether you can take any drinks on board. Usually you can take your own cans of soft drink (much cheaper than onboard) and sometimes bottles of wine, but not other types of alcohol.

Is there a limit to how much I can eat?

No!! All the worse for if you’re not wanting to put on weight… If you’re ordering and like the look of two different dishes, order both. Most cruise ships are completely fine with this, just try and not go overboard.

Is there room service?

Most ships will have room service, and it is usually free, except for late at night.

Will I sit with other people at dinner?

Many tables on cruise ships seat large numbers of people. It may be possible to book a table for two, but it is likely these tables are in short supply.

Cruise FAQ: Getting Ready

What should I pack?

The main consideration is the location of the cruise – obviously what you pack will be completely different between a cruise to Alaska versus one in the tropics! However, even in the tropics it will get chilly when the boat is steaming along, so make sure you bring a jacket. If the cruise is over 10 days, factor in doing laundry on board at least once.

Most cruises have at least one formal night, so bring a formal outfit to dress up in – this means a suit and tie for the guys. (Sometimes it is possible to rent on board.) On other evenings, the attire is generally smart-casual, although this can differ depending on the cruise line. People also tend to dress up more when heading to the bars and shows in the evening, just like on land. Check if your cruise line has a dress code.

Also take some wet weather gear. Shore trips will go ahead rain or shine, so unless you’re happy to give up your payment or get soaking wet, take along a raincoat and/or umbrella. Make sure you also have something for your camera.

Keep in mind that it might be awhile before your main bag is transported to your room, so pack anything you will need soonish (like swimmers for the pool or a change of clothes) in your carry-on bag.

A few other key items to include:

  • Chargers, and perhaps a power board if you have multiple things
  • Passport, unless you’re entirely within your own country, and any visas you require
  • A watch if you won’t be using your phone onboard
  • A good book for rainy days at sea
  • A highlighter, to highlight what you want to do each day in the timetable

What don’t I need to pack?

Skip packing towels, they are supplied on board, including for shore excursions.

What toiletries should I pack?

This depends on how luxurious your cruise ship is. Mainstream cruise ships are likely to provide you with shampoo and soap in your bathroom, but not anything else including conditioner. Luxury boats are similar to luxury ships: they’ll offer you a larger selection of supplied toiletries, and nicer ones too. Pack accordingly; if you forget something, you should be able to buy it on board. Make sure you always pack plenty of sunscreen, whether for days swimming in the pool or the long days of sunshine in Antarctica and Alaska! Also, check to see whether you should bring a hairdryer – most newer ships have them built in.

When should I book activities and appointments?

As soon as possible! If possible, book before you even board the ship, if that is available. Otherwise, book as soon as possible after you board. Some shore trips may book out, or that particular day that you want a manicure or massage.

Can I speak to other people taking my cruise in advance?

Yes, Cruise Critic has forums just for this purpose. Head to the roll call section, find your ship’s departure and then sign-up to talk to the other people in the roll call. Often passengers use this to organise shore excursions together with other people (sharing expenses), plus if you have any specific questions on your cruise, someone is sure to have an answer.

Cruise FAQ: Onboard the Ship

How do I keep tracking of what I’m spending?

If you charge a lot to your cruise account, you’re likely to lose track of how much you’ve spent so far. Every few days check your balance on one of the kiosks onboard the ship.

Can I organise my own shore excursions?

Yes, certainly! Many people organise their own excursions, whether contacting another tour company, organising with a large group of friends, or just taking a taxi into the city centre. Just make sure that you’re back to the ship in time, as cruise ships will leave without you.

Can I stay onboard the ship on shore days?

Yes, it’s entirely up to you. If you’re wanting to have some spa treatments, this is usually the best time to do so, with the best deals on offer on port days.

How long will the ship stay in port?

This will be listed on your itinerary. Sometimes the stay will be all day, after docking at 6:00am. Be ready to leave early if you are booked on an excursion. Other times it may only be for a few hours, whilst some cruises occasionally dock overnight.

Is there a charge for entertainment?

The one area where there are definitely no charges, is for the entertainment, whether that’s shows, movies, parties or anything else. Take in as many different options are you can fit it, and it’s all included in your original fare. Naturally, though, the casino does cost.

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