Cruise Frequent Asked Questions

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Are cruises safe onboard?In general, cruises are quite safe onboard. Each ship has a staff of security personnel that is always on duty. However, guests should treat a cruise ship like any public place, and be on their guard against theft or personal harm. Leave valuables at home or store them in a stateroom safe or at the purser's office. Passengers should always be aware of their surroundings and in control of their faculties. If you plan on drinking a lot, it's wise to designate one person to remain sober to ensure the safety of inebriated friends. Where should I keep my valuables?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. In general, it's best to leave most valuables at home. Will I become seasick on my cruise?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?Most cruise ships have a fully equipped medical facility and staff (with doctors and nurses) onboard that can handle almost any emergency. In the event that you may need to seek treatment on land or receive a medical evacuation from the ship, it's always recommended to carry medical insurance as part of your travel insurance policy. Can I get off the ship if I don't like the cruise?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?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?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?The types of services held onboard depend on the clergy the cruise line invites on each cruise. 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 can be held in the ship's library, theater, or private lounges. Can I bring my pet?On almost cruise lines, only service animals are allowed onboard by special arrangement. The one exception is the Queen Mary 2's kennel program on transatlantic crossings. The ship has 12 kennels to accommodate traveling dogs and cats. Is smoking allowed?Virtually all ships have smoking and nonsmoking sections in lounges and public areas, but most onboard restaurants are now smoke-free. Guests can generally smoke in outdoor areas and on balconies, but some cruise lines restrict smoking in staterooms. What is the legal drinking age?The legal drinking age onboard is either 18 or 21, depending on the cruise line and the port of embarkation. What  "extras" can I expect to pay for?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, except on a few luxury lines. You are responsible for tips and all onboard extras such as gambling, spa treatments, boutique purchases, photos, Internet access, and ship-to-shore calls. Expenses while in port, including taxis, entertainment, and optional off-ship meals, are not included. You can also expect to pay for most shore excursions and all onshore shopping purchases. Travel insurance is extra as well. How much do I tip?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?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?For a fee, you can indulge in the ship's spa services, which provides facials, massages, manicures, hairstyling, and other treatments. Photography and laundry services are also available for a fee. Are there laundry services onboard?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?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?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 as it's charged at satellite rates. Most ships now offer cell phone service, but your provider will charge you international roaming rates. Email is available onboard through the ship's Internet cafe or your own Internet-enabled computer. Not surprisingly, shipboard connectivity prices tend to be high. Are visitors permitted onboard?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?Cabin size depends on the category you booked. First-time cruisers are often taken aback by the compact design of cabins, which should not be compared to hotel rooms. They are built for efficiency and to encourage you to use the much larger public facilities onboard the ship. If you requested an outside cabin, you will have a porthole or picture window, depending on your ship's design. Some outside cabins will also have a small verandah. Most cabins have twin beds that can be converted into a queen-size bed, and some have pullout couches or bunk beds that pull down from the walls. 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 and provide general cruise information. Is it worth the extra money for an oceanview cabin?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 oceanview cabin, you will probably feel you got your money's worth. The lowest category of outside cabins are not necessarily bigger than inside cabins, but they do provide natural light, which some cruisers prefer. Can I switch cabins if I don't like the one I get?If you do not like your cabin, notify the purser's 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?If 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 difference to upgrade. How much food is there?Cruises are notorious for the variety and large amounts of food. With breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon snacks, tea, dinner, midnight buffet, and room service, there are many eating opportunities. What are different meal seatings?Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all passengers during one seating, but most ships have two seatings that differ only by time slot. 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. Certain cruise lines offer open seating (guests can dine anytime during set hours), and Norwegian Cruise Line lets guests eat when they choose at any of a number of smaller restaurants. In addition, some ships offer alternative dining options, such as themed restaurants or particular cuisines such as Italian, Asian, and French. Are special diets available?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?Most cruise lines offer 24-hour room service at no extra charge. What kind of activities can I participate in while onboard?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? Other activities include watching a feature movie, attending a lecture by a renowned expert, and playing backgammon or bridge. You can also go for a swim, stretch out in the sauna, or work out in the gym. Some newer ships have ice skating rinks, rock-climbing walls, onboard surfing, bowling alleys, miniature golf, and outdoor movies. What is there to do at night?Cruise ships can be quite lively at night. There's dancing and live entertainment in the lounges and discos, feature films, and parties. Most ships also have casinos. There are also many special events like the captain's cocktail party, Las Vegas and Broadway-style shows, magic acts, and the late night buffet. Do I have to participate in the activities?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?Prior to the cruise, most cruise lines will include the available shore excursion information in your cruise documents. 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 who can answer all your questions. Can I celebrate a special occasion onboard?Yes, just inform your travel agent or cruise line prior to sailing, and they can make the necessary arrangements for you....

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