General Cruise Questions
General Cruise Questions and Answers...
Are cruise vacations affordable and a good value for my vacation dollar?
Yes, contrary to what many people believe, a cruise is one of the best vacation values for your money. Just think of all the extra costs you have on a land based holiday: food, entertainment, fitness and sports facilities, child care, social activities, the list goes on and on and so does the expense. The upfront price may come as a shock but remember this is all included in your initial cruise fare along with your accommodations. What’s more… a cruise ship is a destination in itself, which moves from one amazing destination to another – how fabulous is that? From cost-conscious to luxurious there is a cruise vacation to fit your budget. Note: There are extra expenses. For more info, visit Creating your cruise budget or what the little extras can cost.
When is the best time to take a cruise?
In a word…anytime! The Caribbean islands, Hawaii and French Polynesia (Tahiti) are blessed with a warm, tropical climate year round, so it's almost always a good time to visit these destinations. Some of the more exotic destinations are seasonal. You can cruise to Alaska between May and September, Europe between April and November, Bermuda between April and October and the Panama Canal between September and April. As you can see, spring, summer, fall or winter, it’s a perfect time to cruise.
How long are most cruises?
How long do you want to leave it all behind? The time most cruises last is highly variable. A seven-day voyage is the most popular cruise length, but there are many different lengths (starting with a single day) available to help plan the cruise that best fits with your schedule. For those who really want to live the sea life, you can spend up to a third of a year on a cruise and travel around the world.
Aren’t all cruise ships and cruises alike?
Nothing could be further from the truth. There are countless variations from big ships over 1,000 feet in length capable of carrying over 6,000 passengers to small ships less than 200 feet with fewer than 100 passengers onboard. The ambience can range from casual to formal and/or classically simple to ultra deluxe. The facilities, food and service can vary greatly. You can choose between explorer-oriented ships, traditional propeller-driven craft, family ships, sail-assisted vessels, “swinging single” ships, theme cruises or even a paddle-wheel river boat. The list goes on and on!
Where can I go?
Remember, the world is 2/3 water. Cruises visit destinations all over the world accessible by water. The choice is yours… Alaska, Europe, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Australia, the Orient, Tahiti, the Greek Isles, Bermuda, the Bahamas, South America, India, the Panama Canal and more, with over 250 ocean going ships visiting nearly 2000 destinations cruising is a year round holiday option. Although the cruises you are probably most familiar with are on the ocean, you can also cruise on a lake, river or other waterway.
I’ve never been on a cruise. How do I decide which cruise line is best for me?
This is a common question. The answer is… it depends. Shopping for a cruise is not unlike buying a new car. The best cruise line for you may not be the best choice for someone else. There are many factors to consider… interests, priorities, vacation style, budget, etc. Cruises are big ticket items, so you’ll want to do some homework to focus in on which one is right for you. Some of the things you need to consider include:
- Ship quality (age, size, accommodations, etc)
- Fellow passengers (interests, ages, etc)
Fortunately, this information is readily accessible. Begin your research on the Web with one of the cruise lines websites and order a cruise brochure for a trip you’re interested in. Visit your local library or bookstore to source cruising guidebooks (Frommer’s, Fodor’s, etc.)
. Subscribe to a consumer magazine (Cruise Travel)
. Ask your friends for recommendations or speak with a good travel agent.
Are you safe on a cruise ship?
In today’s uncertain world, you can never be completely safe anywhere. Going on a cruise does not put you in greater peril than does any other vacation. Ships must follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations that assure passengers’ and crew members’ safety while onboard. SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulates such details as how watertight a ship is, fire prevention, life-saving devices, radio communications, navigation techniques and the transport of cargo and dangerous goods. Rigorous quarterly inspections of ships operating from U.S. ports are conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure they comply. The International Maritime Organization and the United States established international security regulations that require all ships, port facilities and governments to have formal security plans, screening measures, access control, waterside security and communications between ships and ports. Crews are trained in fire-fighting and emergency procedures.
Your biggest onboard health concern is the norovirus. This illness is associated with cruise travel and cruise ships may be getting a bum rap. Health officials are required to track and report illnesses on ships (and are not at hotels and resorts). Therefore, outbreaks are found more quickly. If you held shore side hotels to the same standards of cleanliness, do you think they would they pass? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 23 million Americans contract the norovirus each year — a rate of one in 12. Of the eight million people who cruise every year, 2,200 cases of norovirus are reported, making your chances of getting ill one in 3,600 (less than one percent).
In addition, the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) security committee works closely with the Department of Transportation, Customs and Border Protection, Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The ICCL asserts cruising is one of the safest vacations available.
When is the most affordable time to take a cruise?
One of the most affordable times to cruise is autumn. Sailings which occur between Labor Day and Thanksgiving and between Thanksgiving and Christmas generally offer the least expensive fares. After Labor Day, demand drops considerably, the kids are back in school, people begin saving vacation time for holiday travel and family income is being saved for holiday purchases. You can save a bundle, and enjoy a less crowded ship. Look for rock-bottom rates, free cabin upgrades and/or discounted airfares. Senior citizen rates, regional promotions, past passenger promotions and last minute deals are also more likely to be offered during this period.
Are there different classes of service?
The old days of cabin-class ships are gone. With the exception of one cruise line today’s cruise ships are one class. Everyone onboard can use all of the ship’s facilities. Regardless of the cabin category you book you’ll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities and entertainment. On some ships, if you book a suite, concierge class or spa cabin for example, you may receive the services of a butler and/or have special lounges located on your deck.
Stuck on a ship all week?! Won’t I get bored?
Hardly… your worry won’t be finding things to do, just the time to do them all. And, it’ll probably take you two or three days just to discover what’s onboard. There’s something to do, see, explore and/or experience in nearly every corner. To get your heart pumping you can practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, shoot some hoops or visit the ship’s fitness center and join an exercise or dance class. If it’s relaxing you are after pull up a lounge chair, grab a good book, lie back, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun and get a tan. Perhaps you’d prefer to go for a swim, stretch out in the sauna, go shopping or get pampered in the spa. For intellectual stimulation attend a lecture by renowned experts, play backgammon or bridge or watch a movie. You can learn a craft or participate in a contest or other organized deck activity. All this is just when you’re onboard - you get the added adventure of exploring new and exciting ports along the way.
Will there be people my age onboard?
One of the biggest myths, “cruising is for old people” is simply not true. There is no such thing as a typical cruise passenger. Just the name Disney Cruise Line should provide you with a reality check. Cruise lines are increasingly targeting people of all ages… from all walks of life… featuring expansive kids-camp facilities built on the premise cruises can be fun for the whole family, active onboard pursuits like rock-climbing, surfing and downright edgy entertainment for younger clientele and a wide selection of shorter-than-usual voyages for busy professionals with limited vacation time. Passengers will vary from ship to ship and cruise to cruise. Whatever you’re looking for in a vacation based on your tastes and lifestyle, you’ll likely find a cruise line that offers it.
Are families with children welcome?
Many ships have fantastic facilities for families. Most cruise lines have developed specialized programs for different age groups right up to 17 years of age supervised by energetic, highly trained staff. Programs are offered daily and include a variety of activities from games and sports to more educational (but fun!) pursuits. Families can spend time doing what they want - whether together or separately, and not worry about what the kids are up to every minute. Babysitting is available on some ships and best of all; children generally travel at a substantially reduced rate.
How old do I have to be to set sail on a cruise?
Age requirements vary by cruise line. The majority of cruise lines have a minimum requirement of 21 years of age for guests traveling unaccompanied by a parent, relative or guardian. For young people 21 and under, a passenger 25 years of age or older must be booked into the same stateroom. This age limit will be waived for minors sailing with a guardian in an adjacent cabin or underage married couples (proof of marriage may be required).
Cruise lines have strict minimum age policies that apply to infants as well as guests under 21 years of age. These age limitations vary greatly by both cruise line and type of itinerary.
Age restrictions can be divided into five categories: passenger minimum age, cabin occupancy age limit, age limits for participation in the children’s activity program and age limits for drinking and gambling. As each cruise line is different, it is always best to check the policy of the cruise line you are considering. These requirements can generally be found on the cruise lines’ websites.
What's the Drinking Age on a Cruise Ship?
You must be at least 21 years old to legally consume beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages on a cruise ship.
What if I’m a solo traveler, would a cruise be suitable?
Absolutely. Cruise ships offer a safer environment than most land based vacations. Many ships have single cabins as well as single rates available. A few lines offer a “find a partner” program. Single cruisers of the same sex who are interested in sharing a cabin can connect through this service. Most ships have solo get-togethers, and offer plenty of programs that don’t require partners (bridge play, culinary workshops, wine tastings) where you can meet others with similar interests or hobbies. Creating new friendships and the camaraderie of community will come easy.
It is easy to meet people on the ship?
There is no other vacation that affords you as great an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life. The atmosphere onboard is cordial and relaxed. The camaraderie at dinner, over cocktails, around the pool, on deck along the promenade rail or on excursions offers the ideal climate to make new friends. Conversation comes easy when you are all “in the same boat.” The people you meet at sea are the friendships that last a lifetime. Don’t be surprised if next year you are making arrangements to meet them onboard again.
Is there a charge for entertainment?
Typically, no. The shows in the theatre and lounges are on the house. No cover charge required. No minimum. The shows are live and offer limitless variety. Current hit films are featured too. However, some activities such as bowling, bingo, video arcades, golf simulators, etc. may require an additional fee.
Am I obligated to participate in the activities?
You are free to spend your time as you like. You can do everything or do nothing at all. It’s your choice - enjoy your vacation.
Is there anything to do at night?
When the sun goes down, the night is yours to have fun. There is something to suit every palate. Move to the rhythm of a disco beat or spend the evening dancing under the stars, watch an award-winning movie or catch a live theatre production. Enjoy some belly laughs at a stand-up comedy show or sing along in the Karaoke lounge. On many ships you can try your luck in the casino. There are themed parties and plenty of special events like the Captains Cocktail Party. There are so many things to do, it can be hard to pick. The night can go on as long as you want. Even until the spectacle of a sunrise at sea.
Will I get seasick?
Most cruise lines operate in some of the calmest waters in the world. Modern ships are equipped with stabilizers, large underwater “fins” on each side of the hull, which eliminate much of the motion responsible for seasickness. Ships are also outfitted with accurate weather forecasting equipment allowing them to avoid bad weather patches. Unless your cruise includes the open sea you may not even feel the ship’s movement. If you are prone to motion sickness any queasiness can usually be relieved by over-the-counter medications like Dramamine or Bonine or the Transderm Patch, available by prescription. Alternative remedies include ginger and acupressure wristbands. The development of effective preventative medications, ship building advancements and accurate weather information have just about eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort.
What’s there to do in port?
Exploring the ports of call on your cruise can be one of the most rewarding parts of the vacation. There are numerous options available to experience the different cultures, flavors and atmosphere of the exotic destinations you took your cruise for. You can go off on your own or sign up for a guided excursion. You can dog-sled across a glacier, bicycle down the side of a volcano or learn how to windsurf, snorkel or scuba dive. Climb a waterfall or hunt for shopping bargains. Float over river rapids or ride a horse across the beach. Listen to steel drum bands and eat native foods. Sun and swim at some of the world’s best beaches. See the birthplace of civilization or view ancient ruins via helicopter. Follow in the footsteps of history or play golf. Enjoy whale-watching or flightseeing. Explore local gardens, museums and zoos. And this barely scratches the surface.
What if I don’t want to take a tour?
On a cruise you are on your own to do whatever you want to do. If you don’t want to go on an organized tour, you can always venture off on your own or do nothing at all. On days in port, most people go ashore. This leaves areas like the pool deck and spa quiet with no crowds – perfect for soaking in the sun or being pampered by a masseuse.
You can choose to go ashore for a few hours, take a leisurely stroll, sample the local cuisine or shop for souvenirs, and then return to the ship for the balance of the day. You are free to come and go as you please.
If you enjoy your independence, many destinations offer their own tours. Just be sure to build in extra time to ensure you won’t be late when the ship is set to sail.
Organized tours can provide great insight into a destination in a short period of time. The tours are well-organized and usually well worth the money you pay for them. With knowledgeable local guides who take a lot of pride in their town as hosts you can learn many interesting things.
What about honeymoons?
Cruising is perfect for honeymoons. What could be more romantic then a stroll on deck with a whole galaxy of stars above you in a perfectly clear sky. Cozy dinners for two, dancing the night away, long lazy days being pampered in the spa, experiencing exhilarating water-sports and activities during fun-filled days visiting exotic ports and so much more. A honeymoon cruise will ensure you take home memories to last a lifetime. Honeymoon packages are available on most ships offering special services from welcome champagne to breakfast in bed. Many cruise lines offer romance packages including Weddings at Sea, Destination Weddings in Port, Vow Renewals and Anniversary Celebrations. Cruising offers an atmosphere that’s just right for romance.
What about Hurricane season?
According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season officially starts June 1st and ends November 30th. Typically, the greatest concentration of hurricane and tropical storm activity is between late August and mid-October. Should you avoid this timeframe? Not really. Some of the best rates are available during this period and the chances of your cruise vacation being ruined by a storm are extremely low.
A cruise ship is one of the best places you can be during a hurricane, and certainly safer than a land-based resort or theme park. (In fact, your chances of being hit by a hurricane in the Caribbean are a lot lower than if you were visiting Miami.) Modern cruise ships, with speeds of 20-22 knots can outrun a 14 knot hurricane. Outfitted with state of the art weather and communication equipment today’s ships can simply move out of the way to safer waters.
What can you expect? The ship will go where the Captain and crew feel is safest. Your very life depends on them and they take that responsibility seriously. Course alterations are made as necessary to avoid storms. If a hurricane has a rendezvous with one of your Caribbean port stops, you might alter course to a different (and possibly more interesting) port. Cruise ships reserve the right to miss ports of call or find alternative ports of call at their discretion and for the protection of the passengers.
A cruise may be the best vacation yet. Is it?
It's a fact that cruising has a higher percentage of satisfied customers than any other vacation experience. While on a cruise you can visit multiple destinations while not changing rooms and having to constantly pack and unpack your luggage. You don’t have the hassle of coordinating travel details to get from one port to the next. Dining and entertainment are included so unexpected surprises are eliminated at restaurants and nightclubs. With thousands of itineraries and hundreds of ports across all seven continents you have a wealth of options to choose from. And there are endless activities for every taste onboard and ashore. Your vacation begins the moment you step onboard and the ship’s crew works day and night to ensure you have the best cruise experience possible. Your biggest decision is how to rest…
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