Travel Tips--Cruises --  Shipboard Vacation                                     Back to Travel

How long are cruises?                                     
The 3-day weekend, 4-day midweek, week long, 10 day are all popular, but you can also find cruises that are several months in length. You can find 2-day cruises and even some lasting only a few hours just to gamble in international waters. In other words, any combination of time from hours to months are offered to attract your vacation dollars.
Where do cruises go?
Just about anywhere in the world. The Caribbean, Pacific coast of California, Mexico and Alaska are popular among tourists from the United States. But, cruising is basically found where ever you find water.
Once you pick a region, arenít many of the cruises offered within that region the same?
No, youíll also be able to find a great variety of types of cruises in many areas of the globe. The Caribbean is sailed by many different Cruise Lines and ships. Each Cruise Line and ship has its own flavor. Youíll find budget all the way to super luxury available in the Caribbean. The cruise itineraries also offer differences in lengths and ports visited. Any two Caribbean cruises can provide very different vacation experiences.
Since the cabins are built for two or more people, can I go on a Cruise if Iím by myself?
  • Yes, Cruise Lines usually have a special rate available if you are cruising alone. However, this rate can be as high a 200% of those for a single person in a double occupancy cabin. In other words, you might be paying for two cruises even though you are by yourself. Youíll want to look for a Cruise Line that has a lower single rate.
  • You can also consider a "single share" program that some Cruise Lines offer. The Cruise Line will find a roommate for you, so you can cruise at the lower double occupancy rate. If they canít find you a partner you usually still get the cabin at the cheaper rate. With partner programs, you might find a lifelong friend. However, you are also taking the risk of being stuck in a room with someone whom youíre not comfortable.
Will the type of cruise I pick really make a difference in my vacation?
  • Yes, the Cruise Ship is your hotel, restaurant and entertainment for your whole vacation. It is a package deal that is different from a traditional vacation. Youíll want to spend some time and do some research to make sure you pick the right cruise for you. The perfect cruise for some might be a miserable one for others. Make sure you find the best match. Youíll want to find the best rate on the right cruise for you, not just the cheapest rate. Cruise Lines cater to certain groups and their whole ship is meant to entertain and please that crowd.
  • Some cater to certain age groups, singles or families.
  • Some are calm, elegant and feature haute cuisine.
  • Some have lots of loud, exciting activities to attract the active crowds.
  • Others have lots of family activities planned, so the ship will be filled with kids.
  • You will find some that have shore excursions just for you, while others look boring.
How can I find the best cruise for me?
  • Do some research, it will be worth it.
  • Check out the Cruise Lineís web pages and brochures for information. Look at the pictures and see what types of activities they have planned. Have they planned a cruise to make someone like you happy?
  • Make some decisions early. Are you looking for a quiet relaxed cruise, a romantic getaway or a party atmosphere? Once you have an idea of what you want out of your vacation, you can judge the different cruises on how well they meet your expectations.
  • Ask your friends, but remember that you are looking for the best cruise for you. Make sure you ask them what they were looking to get out of their vacation. Your friends may have loved the cruise because it was exactly what they wanted. Make sure you have similar expectations before you book the same cruise.
  • Ask lots of questions of your booking agent.
What factors should I consider to help me decide which cruise to pick?
  • The amount you have budgeted and the overall cost of the cruise.
  • Any special price breaks or deals.
  • The Cruise Lineís reputation for the quality of its cuisine and its menu.
  • The Cruise Lineís reputation for customer service.
  • The Cruise Lineís previous ship safety and cleanliness record.
  • The overall atmosphere the cruise conveys. Whether it is family fun, party time, quite elegant sophistication or romantic getaway.
  • The length of the Cruise.
  • The Shipís own facilities.
  • On ship activities planned.
  • Any theme attached to the cruise.
  • The ports you will be visiting.
  • The shore excursions that the Cruise Line offers.
How will I know how much to budget for my entire cruise vacation?
Youíll probably find this easier on a cruise than for other vacations because of the all inclusive cruise programs. The cabin, on board entertainment and food are generally always included. Extra items for which to budget for your vacation:
  • 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.
  • Alcoholic beverages, bottled water and occasionally soft drinks are not included.
  • Cost of reaching the ship, airline tickets not booked in package, shuttle service or in port parking fees if not included.
  • The costs of staying at port before or after the cruise, such as hotel, transportation and meals.
  • Expenses while in port such as taxis, entertainment/activities, optional off ship meals.
  • Some shore excursions.
  • Shopping purchases made both on and off the ship.
  • Travel insurance, to provide for cruise cancellation and medical coverage.
  • Certain on board extras such as: gambling, spas, massages, photos, ship to shore calls, etc.
  • You can check out the Cruise Lineís web pages or information packs to find out the costs for these extra items.
How can I get a good cruise rate?
  • Paying the brochure rate for a cruise is like paying the full sticker price for a car. You should be able to easily find a good discount off those rates, if you canít, keep looking around.
  • Book early, the booking rates become more expensive the closer to sailing. Booking early on a Cruise Line generally refers to 120 days prior to sail date.
  • Shop around, shopping the Internet can be the quickest and easiest way to compare many different cruise rates.
  • Be flexible about your travel plans. As with every other travel industry, cruising during the off season will also help you save money.
  • Apply any coupons or special discount programs for which you are eligible.
What types of special discount programs are available?
  • Discounts may be available for associations, corporations, seniors, children or even large groups or family reunions.
  • Memberships in loyalty clubs often include offers of discounts and upgrades.
  • Some credit cards will have special discounts available to their cardholders.
  • Package deals often include a discounted cruise price along with pre or post-cruise activities.
Do I have to book early to get a good deal?
If you book early you will have a better chance of getting exactly what you want and a discounted price. However, if the ships have low occupancy rates close to sailing, you can still find great deals. With all the new large ships that are being launched, last minute deals are still a possibility. But, these deals can be limited and many people donít have the flexibility to leave or at least book in an instant.
Do cruises ever go on sale?
Yes, 2 for 1 deals are popular sale incentives where two cruises are offered for the price of one. However, airfare is usually not included in the two for one rate. Cruise Lines have also offered discounted or free airfares; free post or pre-cruise hotel stays, free cabin upgrades, extra days free or free shore excursions.
Are there any deals to encourage me to go on my first cruise?
Some Cruise Lines will offer a first time cruiser discount to encourage you to give their Cruise Line a try. It probably wonít have to be your first cruise, just your first cruise with that Cruise Line.
Are there any discount programs available for frequent cruisers?
Yes, Cruise Lines are beginning to go the way of the airlines and offer special discounts or other incentives to those who have been on previous cruises with the Cruise Line. Most of these loyalty clubs publish magazines to update frequent cruisers on their Cruise Lineís programs and will often include discounts and other special offers.
What is a repositioning cruise?
Since peak seasons vary in different parts of the globe, Cruise Lines will sometimes move their ships around to keep a higher occupancy rate and to take advantage of those peak season rates. When a ship moves from an existing itinerary in the Caribbean to Alaska or Europe, the trip to the new itinerary is called a repositioning cruise.
How could going on a repositioning cruise save me money?
The Cruise Line wants to cover the cost of moving the ship by filling the ship with paying customers. These cruises are different than what the Cruise Line normally advertises and many are unaware that these cruises even exist. The Cruise Line will often offer deep discounts on these cruises to encourage bookings. Although youíll be seeing a different part of the world and probably spend less time in ports than on their normal cruises, youíll get the same ship and all the good food at a better rate.
How can I get the most for my money on a short cruise?
You might consider a during the week four-day cruise instead of a three-day weekend cruise. Since it is harder for people to get away during the week than on the weekend, there can be less demand for the four-day cruise, so you might get that extra day cheap.
Does it matter how I pay for my cruise?
It might, some credit card companies have special discounts available if you use their credit card with a particular Cruise Line. Some Cruise Lines will also offer a discount if you pay for the entire cruise in advance instead of just paying the standard deposit.
When people return from a cruise they often talk about the meals, whatís the deal?
The deal is food, food, and more food. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid afternoon snack or tea, dinner, midnight buffet and room service, youíve never had so many eating opportunities. They have to think up names for all the different meal times. Youíll have as many as 10 opportunities a day to eat.
Does the quality of food vary between the Cruise Lines?
Of course, some of the Cruise Lines focus on high cuisine. The more expensive Cruise Lines will generally have the more exotic foods to please all those pampered taste buds. So if you have those taste buds, youíll want to do a little research to find the best match for you. Sample menus are usually posted on the Cruise Lineís web pages to give you an idea of their offerings. Most Cruise Lines sailing from U.S. ports provide very good quality food, but donít expect to compare most ships to a five star restaurant. Remember, many ships may have to serve 2000 or more passengers, ten meals a day.
Can the Cruise Line handle my special dietary needs?
If you notify the Cruise Line up front, they can usually make some accommodations for your special needs. Often the menus will already have choices that are low calorie, low sodium or vegetarian. But, youíll still want to notify the Line up front to see if they can accommodate your requests.
With all the different meals, how will I know when to eat?
  • Cruise ships generally offer two main seating schedules.
  • The early seating generally starts with a breakfast around 7:00 a.m. with lunch at noon and dinner at six.
  • Late seating starts around 8:30 a.m. for breakfast with lunch at 1:15 p.m. and dinner at 8:15 p.m. These times arenít exactly the same for every ship, but these examples should be close.
  • Once you pick a mealtime youíll be expected to follow it for the three main meals of the day.
  • Some ships are more flexible about breakfast and lunch than dinner.
What if I canít make it to my scheduled mealtime?
You might let your waiter know so they donít wait for you. Youíll have lots of other meals that you can catch. You canít go hungry on a cruise ship. There are lots of other opportunities to find food. Early breakfast on deck, maybe an informal lunch on deck by the pool, tea, midnight buffet and most ships have room service, some for all 24 hours.
Which meal seating should I choose?
  • Itís up to you and those in your party.
  • Are you early risers or late sleepers?
  • When do you usually eat?
  • What type of cruise activity is your favorite? The early schedule will cut into your sunning on deck time. The late seating cuts into your nightlife.
  • If you like to linger over a long dinner, the later seating will feel less pressure to clear the table since there wonít be another seating immediately following your dinner.
What are my choices when picking my table preference?
Many ships have 2, 4, 6, 8 and larger person tables in their dining rooms. The Cruise Line will do its best to match you to your preference, but just like the cabins, those who book earliest will have a better chance at getting their request.
How do I know which size table is best for me to request?
  • If itís just the two of you, and you want privacy, go for the 2 top. You will have to move quickly, since there is a limited number of two person tables available.
  • The four tops can be risky for a couple. Youíll only have one other couple at the table, and you might get lucky or get stuck with some duds.
  • Many cruisers enjoy the chance to get to meet others and go for the larger tables.
  • A bigger table will also increase the chance that youíll be able to find others in the mix whom you will enjoy meeting.
How does the Cruise Line figure out the seating arrangements?
They look at what seating time you requested, your preference for smoking or nonsmoking, as well as your table size preference.
How will I know which seating I have been assigned?
  • They should have your request listed on the cruise information packet that youíll receive after booking.
  • Some Cruise Lines will confirm your seating before you arrive.
  • Youíll usually also find a meal assignment card in your cabin when you arrive. It should have your tableís number on it.
  • You might want to take the assignment card along to your first meal, so you know where you are going.
What if I donít like my meal seating assignment time?
Speak with the Maitre dí immediately. They probably wonít be able to do anything immediately since the time you want may already be full, but they can start to work on solving your problem.
What if I donít like my table companions?
Speak with the Maitre dí immediately. They probably wonít be able to do anything immediately since all the tables will already be full, but they can start to work on solving your problem.
at is there to do on a Cruise Ship while the ship is at sea?
  • Youíll have many different opportunities to eat and enjoy dinner conversation.
  • You might want to exercise some of those meals off. Most Cruise Ships have equipped gyms and some have exercise classes scheduled.
  • You can try a game of chance in the casino.
  • Go to the shipís theater and catch a movie.
  • Enjoy some live entertainment shows.
  • Become a dancing fool in the lounge.
  • Lie on the deck and catch some rays.
  • The ships will have a variety of other activities scheduled to keep you busy.
If there are all these things to keep me busy, then how will I know what is going on when and where?
  • The ship will have at least one centralized notice board with a schedule.
  • Most cruise ships also will have a schedule printed and placed in your cabin.
Do I have to participate in all the activities?
No, you donít have to participate in any. They just have them in case youíre interested. Itís your cruise to enjoy as you wish.
What is a theme cruise?
  • It is a cruise booked around a certain theme.
  • It could focus on a particular interest and have certain lectures on board.
  • It could be a celebrity cruise that will give you a chance to rub elbows with the famous.
  • It could have a theme around a type of entertainment such as Country or Big Band music.
  • If you can think of a theme that interests people, they probably have a cruise to match it.
Would I enjoy a theme cruise?
They can be great fun if you pick the right theme for you. Check to see if a Cruise Line offers a theme cruise that matches your interest. Youíll also want to see if the cruise you are going to book has a theme or possibly a large group joining your cruise. You might not want to spend your vacation being the odd man out because you donít like the theme or because youíre not part of the large group.
Since cruises can go to different ports, how will I know how to pick the one Iíll enjoy the most?
Check out the ports of call. Since these will also be a major part of your cruise, you want to know where youíll be going and what you can do there. Youíll want to ask about the types of the shore excursions available. What do you enjoy: shopping, nature, sports, historical sites or exotic culture? Youíll want to pick ports of call that have activities that interest you.
How can I find tourist information on the ports that my cruise will visit?
The Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory web site. This site provides a collection of addresses, phone numbers, and web links to many foreign governmentsí official tourism offices. It also contains a search feature that lists contact information and web links for official U.S. State Tourism Offices, regional, city, and convention and visitor bureau sites.
How much do the shore excursions cost?
Youíll want to know the cost of the available shore excursions. There are generally fees for ship sponsored shore excursions. They can cost range from only twenty dollars to several hundred. Youíll want to know the costs of shore excursions in advance so you can compare complete cruise packages. There can be a large range in costs for shore excursions. Shore excursions are also a safety issue, which you can read about in our Cruise Safety section.
How do I find out about the shore excursions?
Many are listed on the Cruise Lineís web page and some can be booked in advance before you reach the ship. There should also be information in your ticket packet for you to read. Once on board, most will have a lecture about the port of call with a description of the available shore excursions and have someone available to answer your questions about the packages.
What do I need to know about the shore excursions?
  • Youíll want to know the general game plan to see if you are interested.
  • Youíll also want to know how guided youíll be, is this just transportation or a tour?
  • Can you take the tour and still have some freedom to wander?
  • How much walking or physical activity will there be on the shore excursion?
  • What about food, will any be included or are you fending for yourselves?
  • Are admission and fees included when we get there, or will there be extra charges to participate once we arrive?
Do I have to take a shore excursion to make it to port?
No, you shouldnít. You should be able to walk or cab if you are docked at port or be able to take one of the shipís scheduled tenders to the dock. The ship might also have a free shuttle to take you into the most popular areas. You can wander on your own if you like. Your time at port is your own.
Can I stay on board the ship while it is in port?
Yes, and some do to enjoy all the shipís amenities while the crowds are off at the port.
What do I need to know about the ship before I book my cruise?
  • Youíll want to know the size of the ship; they can give it to you in tonnage such as 60,000 tons and/or number of passenger. You also want to know when the ship was launched and when it was last refurbished.
  • Youíll also want to know the square footage. Or at least the range of square footage of the cabin classes you are interested in. This will give you some information for comparison. You may find a particular ship has bigger cabins at a certain class than another ship.
  • If your cabin has a veranda, make sure the size of the veranda is not included in your cabin square footage, so that you are comparing cabin size to cabin size.
  • You might want to investigate the shipís sanitation record. See our Cruise Safety section for information on how to investigate a shipís sanitation record.
Arenít all the ships within a certain Cruise Line the same, you know sister ships?
  • Some Cruise Lines do have sister ships, which are ships that were built to very similar specifications.
  • The Cruise Lines will have other similarities in their ships.
  • They will tend to recruit their officers and crews from a certain area of the world.
  • The same Entertainment Company may provide much of their entertainment or shows.
  • Their activities will be designed for a certain type of cruiser.
  • The types of dťcor will often have a certain feel.
  • The menus can be similar or even identical.
  • However, Cruise Lines also will have some differences in their ships.
  • Most Cruise Lines have a variety of ships in different sizes that will offer different amenities.
  • The age and condition of ships within a certain line will also vary.
  • Even in an identical sister-ship you will have two different crews so itís best to do research on both the Cruise Line and your particular ship.
Why do I need to know the overall size of the ship? Isnít it the bigger the better?
  • Not necessarily, the bigger the better wonít be everyoneís idea of a perfect cruise. Knowing the size of the ship will help you decide which cruise will provide the better match for your personal tastes.
  • The Cruise Lines have been building some huge ships lately and the bigger ships have room for every imaginable activity.
  • The bigger ships can provide more options, but they will also have more people on board to pay for all that size.
  • Bigger doesnít automatically mean less crowded. In fact, some can seem more crowded.
  • The smaller ships can also have plenty of activity in a more intimate setting.
Why do I need to know when the ship was launched or refurbished?
This will help you to judge the overall condition of the ship. You may see pictures of the ship on the Cruise Lineís web site, but those pictures were probably taken when the ship was new or just redecorated. You want to have some idea of the age of those pictures. Inaugural cruises and sailing just after refurbishment can be exciting since everything is new and fresh, but you might be the one to discover that the new toilet in your cabin doesnít work.
Are there smoke free areas on the ship?
  • Yes, most have smoke free dining sections and many have smoke free dining rooms.
  • Many of the general entertainment areas are also divided into smoking and nonsmoking sections. Some ships only allow cigar and pipe smoking on the outside decks.
  • Some Cruise Lines are beginning to offer nonsmoking cruises and even prohibit you from bringing any tobacco products on board. But, itís a little too early to see if these will become main stream offerings.
  • If you do go on a nonsmoking cruise, donít break the rules. The rules of these cruises usually state that you can be put off the ship if you smoke or even possess tobacco products. You do not receive any reimbursement for your lost cruise and must make your own way home. You may even be subject to a fine for smoking on the ship. If you think they are kidding when they say nonsmoking only, know that people have already been put off the ship for breaking the rules.
Are the ships still divided by class?
No, almost every ship has common areas. Youíll eat the same food in the same dining rooms and sit together at the same shows.
If there arenít classes, then how come there is such a variety in rates?
Itís the cabins. Your cabinís size, bed arrangement, view and location will determine your rate. The small lower, inside cabins are the least expensive. As you move to the outside and/or move up decks, your rates will increase. The upper deck suites with the outside verandas are the most expensive.
If I can get the same food and entertainment as the people in the expensive cabins, then shouldnít everyone book the cheapest cabins? I wonít be in my cabin much anyway, right?
Not everyone will be happy in those cabins and a little extra cost could make for a much better vacation. You will spend some time in your cabin and it will be your home for the entire cruise, so space is an important consideration. Youíll have to decide if the price difference is worth it to you. The Cruise Lines price in gradients so you might spend a little more to get a porthole or a more convenient location to save some steps. If you always stay in the suite at the nicest hotels, donít expect the smallest cabin to make you happy.
How does knowing the age of a ship effect my cabin choice?
Most of the ships that have been built since 1985 have more standard size cabins, so it is a little easier to compare cabins. In the pre-1985 ships, you can find a great deal of difference in the cabin sizes. You canít always tell by just looking at a shipís layout so youíll want to know the square footage of the cabins.
What else besides size is important to your cabin choice?
The location and the view, porthole or veranda of your cabin will also make up price differences in your cruise. The layout of the cabin beds can also make a difference. You may have bunk beds, two side by side or one big bed.
Why is the location of the cabin important?
  • Youíll want to know what is near, next to, above or below your cabin.
  • You may like the convenience of being next to the stairs or elevators, but those areas will also be noisy.
  • Cleaning closets can also be noisy.
  • Being directly above or below common areas of the ship, such as the kitchen, dining room, work out area, walking/jogging track or bars can also keep you from sleeping.
  • The lower rear cabins will suffer most from engine noise and vibrations.
  • Cabins at the front and rear of the ship will suffer more motion than mid-ship cabins.
  • Cabins at the front of the ship will sometimes get a wakeup call when the anchor is lowered.
  • Lower mid-ship cabins provide the smoothest ride for those suffering from seasickness. If you book these cabins with a view, it might be of a sloshing ocean so you might consider an inside cabin if you fear seasickness.
What should I know before I pay for a view?
There are things to remember when upgrading into a room with a view. If you are paying for it, you want to know what kind of a view you are getting. Not all views are equal. You probably donít want to pay the extra just so you'll have a lovely view of the lifeboats. You also might not want to look out on the busiest walking and jogging deck and get a view of everyone walking by. Look at the ship's layout to evaluate your view and decide if itís worth it to you to pay the extra money.
What should I know before I pay for a veranda?
You might consider the use youíll get out of the veranda. Are you sailing in an area of the world with temperatures that would encourage use of the veranda? How big is the veranda? Could you sunbathe if you wanted to or is it covered? Is it private? This will depend on the ship's layout; many are not private with other verandas easily looking into them. The sliding glass doors will certainly make your cabin seem less confined, but you might be able to get an even bigger cabin for the same or an even lower price without the veranda. Again, it will be a personal choice whether the veranda is worth the extra money.
What is an Air/Sea cruise?
This means that your cruise has been booked with Airline tickets to get you to the shipís port and back home again.
How does an Air/Sea Cruise work?
  • The Cruise Line buys its tickets in bulk from the Airlines. They find out where you are coming from and book you passage from a nearby airport to one close to the shipís home port. Each Cruise Line has its own policy on how they deal with the sale of Airline tickets so youíll want to ask some important questions.
  • What is the cost of the tickets if I book them with my cruise?
  • If I need to cancel, are the refund policies different for the plane tickets than for the cruise?
  • Is there a service fee charged to have the Cruise Line issue my Airline tickets?
  • Do I have any choice in which Airline is used?
  • Can I get credit for my frequent flyer mileage membership?
  • Can I fly nonstop or have any control over the route that is taken, or do I just get what ever they find?
  • How do I get from the Airport to the shipís port?
  • Is there a shuttle service available from the airport where youíll be arriving? Is there a charge for this service or is it included? Is the service included if you donít book your flight through the Cruise Line?
  • How and when do I meet up with Cruise Line personnel?
  • How is my luggage handled, do I have to pick it up at the airport or is it automatically sent to the ship?
  • What accommodations, if any, are made if the Airline they use causes me to miss the ship?
Should I book my plane ticket with my cruise or buy them separately?
  • You should consider the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Can you get a better deal on your own?
  • The strongest consideration should be how confident you are in being able to make it to the ship on your own. If you are already flying in a few days early, know youíll be there on time and you can save over the Air/Sea on plane tickets and shuttle costs, then you might just consider going it alone. But, remember you are going it alone.
  • The Cruise Lines will be more likely to make accommodations and work with the Airline if their booking didnít get you to the ship on time. They will be better able to track your late flight and might even delay the ship if they know youíll only be slightly late. They might pay for you to stay in a hotel or pay for flights so you can catch up with the ship at the first 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, the Airlines are independent contractors. Most cruise conditions of carriage state that since the Airlines are independent contractors the Cruise Line makes no warranty and assumes no responsibility for any failure or delay in their contractorís services. This is another reason to purchase a strong trip insurance package.
  • If the route you picked to make it to the ship fails, you are on your own. Donít risk missing the whole cruise over a few frequent flyer miles. Sure you can probably get on if you can catch the ship, but will you be able to find a flight and transportation to the ship. Will it be worth it, considering how much youíll have to pay in last minute travel arrangements?
  • No matter how you get there, try to avoid this situation by booking a flight that leaves you plenty of time to get you to and from the port to the Airport.
What are the advantages of buying Air/Sea Cruise package?
  • They take care of the Airline reservation.
  • Since Cruise Lines buy in bulk and usually provide a discount package rate, the ticket price is generally low.
  • The transfer of luggage can be easier.
  • A free shuttle from the airport to the docks is often included.
  • The Cruise Line will have your flight information and will be able to track your flight in case of a delay. Others on the cruise might be on the same flight and they might just hold the ship.
  • The biggest advantage is that if anything goes wrong to delay you, the Cruise Line will generally become more involved to help you make it on board the ship.
What are the disadvantages of buying the Air/Sea Cruise package?
  • You might be able to find a better deal on your own.
  • You might not be able to get credit for your frequent flyer miles.
  • You might have to fly an Airline you donít like.
  • You might not be able to fly nonstop.
  • You might end up flying a longer route than youíd pick for yourself.
Where can I find information on airports so that it will be easier for me to see where I'll be meeting the Cruise Line's personnel?
Go To:  US Airport & Foreign Airport Links
This page contains web links to many major U.S. and foreign airports. Although, each airportís site is different many contain airport layouts and other information that could save you time and help make your visit a safe one. This links page also lists many airport codes that can be helpful when making Airline reservations so you and your luggage will be heading to the right airport.
What happens if a hurricane blows up around the time of my cruise?
  • Every Cruise Line has its own policy, but they all usually reserve the right to advance, cancel or postpone a scheduled departure. They also reserve the right to change the itinerary, ships or ports of call.
  • Cruising during the hurricane season does increase the chance that your vacation plans will be modified, but it doesnít necessarily increase any risk to your personal safety.
  • For safety reasons, they might need to change itineraries to be able to sail into safer waters.
  • Cruise ships have sophisticated weather-tracking systems, and they use them to stay in calm waters to avoid the storms.
  • If you plan a cruise during hurricane season, keep track of the weather in the area you are planning to sail. If it begins to turn nasty, keep in touch with the Cruise Line for updates in case they do need to change your cruiseís itinerary.
  • Cruise ships might also have to change ports of call to avoid local political upheavals that would risk the safety of their passengers.
  • Canceling is an option, but it would be the last resort of the Cruise Line.
  • Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance coverage to protect your vacation dollars.
What is Trip Insurance?
  • This is also often referred to trip cancellation insurance, but most policies do more than protect you if your vacation is cancelled.
  • Policies are sold that will refund your losses if you have to cancel your cruise beyond the time you could get a full refund from the Cruise Line.
  • They can also offer protection if a delay causes you to miss the ship.
  • They may extend coverage to protect your luggage or other personal belongings.
  • Many offer a very important extension of medical coverage to protect you if you become ill or are injured while on your vacation.
  • As with any insurance, each policy will vary in its cost, deductible, protections and exemptions. Youíll need to read the individual policy yourself to find the best coverage for you.
Should I buy the Trip Insurance?
  • It is certainly worth your strong consideration.
  • With most cruises, you book far in advance and although we donít like to think about it, many things can happen in a yearís time that would cause you to miss your cruise.
  • Most Airlines and Cruise Lines state very low liability limits. If they loose or damage your luggage, youíll probably not receive enough to cover your losses.
  • You should look closely at your own personal medical coverage. You may not have any coverage at all outside the United States.
  • If something would happen on your trip, you might not only be stuck without coverage, but also be in a place that cannot offer sufficient medical aid. The cost of a medical evacuation back to proper medical care is extremely high.
  • When you do consider the trip insurance, be sure to read the fine print. As with any insurance, there are exceptions and in many cases pre-existing conditions are not covered. You want to make sure the policy you buy is a good one for you
What will I need to know to book my cruise?
  • Youíll need a list of the names of the passengers that will be going on the cruise.
  • The credit card type, number and expiration date of the card to be billed.
  • You will need to have selected a ship and cruise date.
  • Any pre or post-cruise activities that you are booking through the Cruise Line.
  • Youíll need to have decided how you are getting to the port so you can book an air/sea package, check on shuttle services or parking policies.
  • Youíll need to have your cabin choice made.
  • Youíll need to have selected your meal seating and the names of any other passengers you wish to have join you at your table.
  • Youíll need to make any special requests, such as those for smoking/nonsmoking or special dietary needs.
  • This is also the time to book any shore excursions, if you are already sure you plan on going on a particular one.
  • Youíll need to have decided if you are purchasing trip cancellation insurance through the Cruise Line.
  • Any discount or coupon information you are planning on using.
  • Youíll want to verify when final payment on the cruise is due.
Do I need to go through the cruise packet they will send me?
  • Absolutely, it is filled with information that you need to know.
  • Forms will be included that you should fill out in advance, so you donít keep us all waiting in line.
  • It should also have a section on the travel documentation you'll need to go on the cruise.
  • There should be tags for your luggage inside the packet.
  • Instructions on how, when and where you will meet the ship.
  • Youíll want to get the shipís satellite communications telephone number so you can leave it in case of an emergency.
  • You should also check your booking to reconfirm all your plans.
Do I need to confirm my reservation?
Yes, it never hurts to confirm your reservation directly with the Cruise Line, especially if you depended on someone else to book your cruise for you. Be sure to verify all your booking information and make sure that the Cruise Line has the correct contact information in case they need to contact you before the cruise. Also, make sure that any special requests you have made are listed in your booking information.
What type of I.D. will I need to get on the ship?
Your ticket packet information will give you specific instructions, but most Cruise Lines will require at least a state issued picture I.D., even if your cruise will stay in U.S. territorial waters. If your ship is going to another country, youíll probably need to bring a passport or a birth certificate with a raised seal and a governmentally issued I.D. such as a driverís license.
Will I need a passport?
  • It depends on where you are going. Foreign travel often requires a passport. However, you may be able to enter some countries with just a notarized birth certificate with a raised seal and your driverís license. Although, some countries may not require much to enter, youíll still need proof of citizenship when you re-enter the United States.
  • Youíll need to find out if any of the foreign travel you are planning will require a passport or visa.
  • You should be able to find specific instructions on what type of paperwork youíll need in your cruise packet information.
  • The passenger is completely responsible for all travel documents.
  • If you donít have a passport, apply for one at least 3 months before travel.
  • If you already have a passport, make sure it will still be valid for your entire trip.
  • If your passport will be within six months of expiration while youíre traveling, you may want to get a new passport since some countries now require that your passport must be valid six months after your return to the U.S.
Where can I get a passport?
You can get one at a State Department Passport Agency, a clerk of any Federal or State Court of record, designated municipal or county official or a designated U.S. Post Office.
Where can I find online passport information?
The U.S. State Departmentís Passport Services web page. This site contains information on how to get a U.S. passport.
What will I need to get my passport?
  • You may need to appear in person. If you are a first time applicant, youíll need to appear in person at one of the official locations listed above. You will also need to appear in person if it has been more than 12 years since your last passport was issued or you were under 16 years of age when your last passport was issued. Applicants under 13 are not always required to appear in person since a parent or guardian may execute the application on the childís behalf.
  • You will need one of the following to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.
  1. A certified copy of your birth certificate with a U.S. State or county embossed seal. Hospital certificates are NOT accepted. OR
  2. Your naturalization/Citizenship certificate. OR
  3. Your previously issued and expired passport. If your name has changed from the one listed on your previous passport, you must submit the sealed legal document showing the name change. (Marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc.)
  • Two identical recently taken 2x2inch front view facial, from the bottom of your chin to top of head, photographs. No hats or dark glasses can be worn in the photographs. Have them taken at a passport shop since snapshots and machine photos are not acceptable. You may also want to get several extra copies of the photograph since they can also be used for international driver's permits and other documents. Traveling with extra photographs will also make it easier to replace your passport, if your is lost.
  • A Driverís license or Military I.D. issued over six months ago. State I.D. cards are only acceptable with several other forms of I.D. Temporary or altered documents are NOT accepted. Parentís I.D. will be used for that of a minor child.
  • A completed official passport application form.
  • Youíll also have to pay a passport fee that will be listed on your application form.
What is a visa?
A visa is an endorsement on your passport that will allow entry into the country youíll be visiting. It states that your passport has been inspected and that everything is valid. It will usually give permission for you to visit a country for a specific time period and purpose.
Will I need a visa?
Many countries youíll be visiting on a cruise do not require a visa. Youíll want to ask your travel consultant in advance and consult your cruise packet just to make sure youíll have the papers youíll need. Visas often take several weeks to process. All travel documents are the responsibility of the passenger.
How can I find out if I will need a passport or visa for my trip?
The U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairsí Foreign Entry Requirements web page. This site lists the entry requirements of foreign countries. It also includes the addresses and telephone numbers of foreign embassies and consulates in the United States. This web site is a good starting point, but since the information presented is subject to change, you should also check directly with the embassy or consulate of the country you a planning to visit.
Embassy Links
This page contains links to many foreign countriesí Embassies and Consulate Offices located in the United States. Each Embassyís web site is different, but they all contain contact information and other helpful information for anyone planning on visiting their country.
The U.S. State Departmentís Foreign Consular Offices web page. This site contains an updated listing of contact information for foreign countriesí consular offices in the United States.
What do I need to pack?
  • Everything you would need, if you were staying at a resort hotel in the same geographic area of your cruise.
  • Avoid over packing by reading the recommended dress section of the cruise literature that will be mailed to you after you book.
  • Check to see if they have a theme night or talent show where you might need some special outfits.
  • Even in the warm Caribbean, you might need a sweater on the decks at night. The air conditioning can also be icy.
  • Pack some comfortable rubber soled shoes to get around on the decks.
  • Bring a pocket calculator to help you figure your ports of call exchange rates.
  • Bring a white T-shirt if you plan on going snorkeling or you may have a burned back when you are done.
  • You might also pack some drinking straws to use while at port. This will help you to avoid touching your lips to a canís top. The top might be covered with contaminants that will make you sick.
Arenít cruise ships really formal?
No, cruising isnít just for the stuffed shirt crowd anymore. Casual attire is appropriate for almost all of your cruise.
Will I need any formal clothes?
Yes, cruises still have dinners where more formal clothes are appropriate. The last night of a cruise is usually a formal night, and a seven-day cruise will usually have two formal nights. These are the meals that used to require tuxedos or cocktail dresses. They are now optional but, if you have them dust them off and bring them along. Many Cruise Lines will rent tuxedos, so you can check into this option before you go. Fewer passengers are taking this option and a dark suit and dresses are perfectly appropriate and will probably be the most common passenger attire for the formal nights. On the other nights a sport coat and tie or pants suit are appropriate. Some Cruise Lines are recommending even more casual attire such as sport shirt and pants on all but the formal night. Read your cruise packet or check out the Lineís web page for your particular ship's recommendation.
What should I pack in my carry-on bags?
  • Items of value that should never go in your checked luggage such as cash, jewelry, medication, travel documents and a list of everything in your checked baggage.
  • Since luggage is often not delivered to your cabin until after your first dinner, be prepared and pack a change of clothes.
  • You might also consider one-day items, in other words all the items you would need to make it through a 24-hour day, just in case your luggage goes missing.
  • Keep lots of crisp one-dollar bills wherever you keep your money. This will come in handy when dealing with all the skycaps and porters.
What do I do if I canít find my luggage?
If you are still at the airport, notify the Airline immediately. Hopefully, youíll have a list of everything in your checked baggage in your carry-on, so you can make them a copy for the claim. If the Cruise Line transferred your luggage and you never saw it at the airport, youíll need to work with the Cruise Line first.
How can people contact me while Iím on the ship?
The information packet you receive should list the shipís satellite communications telephone number. Youíll want to leave this number with someone at home so they can get in touch with you in case of an emergency. Youíll need to leave them the Cruise Lineís name, the shipís name and itinerary. You should probably reinforce the emergency part since the calls are expensive and the shipís personnel will have to track you down. If you want to keep in close contact with home, you should schedule calls home. If the calls to home can be made while in port on a calling card, youíll probably get a better connection at considerable savings.
How can I keep in touch with the outside world while on the ship?
Most cruise ships have newspapers waiting for them once they reach port. They also have radiophones and satellite communications available. Satellite communications are clearer, but are more expensive to use. You should also check into getting an email account with an Internet Service Provider that you can access anywhere in the world. Youíll want an email account that you can pull up from an Internet account by using its domain address on the World Wide Web. That way you can avoid the problem of having to call a particular phone number to connect you to your email account. You could then forward your more restrictive email accounts to a full access email account. Cyber cafes are starting to pop up all over the world and finding one of these can get you access to your email.
How can I get access to the Internet when I travel?
This site contains a searchable database with contact information and web links for over 4000 cybercafes, public Internet access points and kiosks in 135 countries. They also offer some premium information services for a fee.
This site contains a searchable database with contact information and maps for Kinkoís in the United States and several foreign countries.
s it help to arrive to the ship early on my sail date?
Yes, find out from the Cruise Line how early you can board the ship and try to arrive early. Youíll be able to avoid the crowds; you can use the extra time on board to confirm your seating assignment and be the first to make it to the sign up sheets. It could also help your budget when you take advantage of the free lunch that many ships serve while the passengers are boarding.
Should I carry on my own bags or let the porters do it?
You may not get to see them if you fly in and they load them right on board, but if you have your own bags and are physically able, consider carrying them on yourself. If you booked a room deep in the ship and brought lots of bags this might be a task, but youíll have a head start on everyone else.
  • You can be all unpacked and enjoying the ship while others are still waiting for their bags.
  • It can take several hours for your bags to make it to your cabin and sometimes you get stuck wearing your dirty traveling clothes to dinner. Wouldnít a shower and fresh clothes make you feel better?
  • There will also be less chance for your bags to disappear and some Cruise Lines state a liability maximum limit of $100.00 for your luggage.
What should I do when I first get on board?
  • Youíll probably find your cabin steward who can show you how everything works. Make them your friend, they can be very helpful.
  • If you have your luggage, itís nice to unpack so youíll get it over with and have some room in your cabin.
  • You should check to see if your meal seating confirmations are in your cabin, if unacceptable, you need to go see the Maitre dí.
  • Check to see when the lifeboat drills are scheduled.
  • If you plan on using the spa, salon or babysitting service, find them and sign up before all the good times are gone.
  • Check on the shore excursions if you know you are definitely going. See if you can sign up now, so youíll be sure to get on before they sell out.
Any chance for an upgrade at the last minute?
Yes, if your ship has better cabins that went unsold you might be able to work your way into a free upgrade or at least one for a discounted rate. If the ship is sailing and the better cabins are empty, then anything the Cruise Line gets helps cut their losses. Check with the Purserís office to see if there are any available. Some Cruise Lines will only accept cash or travelerís checks for this upgrade, so you might need to plan ahead and bring some.
How do I deal with the shipís multinational crew?
Cruise Lines recruit from all over the world, and getting to know your multinational crew may be one of the best parts of your cruise. The crew you deal with should all speak English, but they may not all be native speakers of the language. If they donít seem to be following your request, try to speak slower and more clearly. Donít embarrass yourself, by speaking louder or developing a fake accent that you think they will understand. You can also try some other alternative words that they might know to get your point across. Remember, English is a language that has lifts in England and elevators in the U.S., and depending on your location in the United States, you may need to order pop instead of soda to get a cola.
How do I pay for things on board the ship?
  • Most Cruise Lines have developed a billing system for your convenience. They will take an imprint of your credit card and set up a tab for the cruise. You will then receive a total bill at the end of your cruise. You might want to keep all those little receipts you sign to verify the tab at the end.
  • You can usually use a credit card, travelerís check or U.S. dollars aboard the ship if it sails out of a U.S. port.
  • Personal checks are not always accepted or they may have limits, so youíll want to check the Cruise Lineís policy on this if you plan on using this option.
Why does it matter if the ship sails out of a U.S. port?
Whenever a passenger ship sails out of a U.S. port, even under a foreign flag, it must pass U.S. Coast Guard inspection standards, which are some of the highest in the world. This is even true of a ship that spends most of its time in Europe, but spends a season sailing the Caribbean out of a U.S. port. For it to be here, it must meet U.S. requirements. Youíll want to be more cautious if your ship doesnít sail from a U.S. port. If it does not, you will want to check into that Cruise Lineís reputation for safety and that particular shipís safety precautions before you book your cruise.
How can I find out about my shipís sanitation record?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís, Sanitation Inspection of International Cruise Ships web page. This site contains links to the CDCís published inspection scores of international cruise ships. Any ship that carries 13 or more passengers and sails from a U.S. port at anytime during the year is subject to two, yearly unannounced sanitation inspections. The ships can also be re-inspected at anytime if necessary. The inspections are made as part of the Vessel Sanitation Program of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A maximum score of 100 points is possible, with a score of 86 or higher judged as acceptable. If you do investigate the shipís scores, remember that anyone can have a particularly good or bad day. To get the best overall picture of a shipís sanitation record, you should evaluate several of the shipís scores over a long period of time.  

The inspectors evaluate the ship in the following areas.
  • Water supplies, distribution and storage.
  • Food storage, preparation and service.
  • Potential for contamination of food and water.
  • Practice and personal hygiene of employees.
  • General cleanliness and physical condition.
  • Training program in environmental and public health concerns.
How can I increase my safety while aboard the ship?
  • Check to make sure there are enough life jackets in your cabin for everyone, if you need more ask your cabin steward to provide them.
  • Attend and pay attention to the shipís lifeboat drill. Learn the best route from your cabin to the lifeboats and fire exits.
  • Always use the handrails, decks can be slick and it takes a while to get your sea legs.
  • Sure, you want to party a little, but wait until you get used to the shipís motion before you start enjoying those adult beverages. The sea can have the same effect on your equilibrium as alcohol and you donít want to get hit by a double whammy.
  • If you smoke, donít throw your cigarette butts off the shipís deck, they can blow right back onto a lower veranda or open window and start a fire.
How can I improve my safety in the cabin?
  • Always lock your cabin door.
  • Use the shipís safety deposits boxes or cabin safe for your valuables.
  • Never leave cash in your room.
  • If you have bunk beds in your cabin, be sure to use the ladder they provide.
  • Make sure you always know how to contact your cabin steward.
  • Don't give out your cabin number to strangers.
Donít a lot of people get seasick on cruises?
  • Not so much anymore, cruises tend to be in calm waters and the ships have gotten so large that their shear size helps lessen the motion.
  • Modern weather tracking devices help keep the ship sailing in calm waters by avoiding any storms.
  • The improving technologies of large modern ships provide for better stabilizers that counter act the motion of the ocean.
  • Modern preventative medications are also readily available. All these factors work together to lessen your chance of seasickness.
How can I avoid getting seasick?
  • You can book your cruise in calm waters aboard a larger modern ship with stabilizers.
  • Book a mid-ship, lower level inside cabin, those have the most stable ride.
  • Book a cabin with beds that are parallel to the length of the ship; the rocking is usually easier for your body to handle than a rolling motion.
  • Speak with your doctor before you leave for recommendations of preventative medications you could use.
  • Some people find an accupressure bracelet around the wrists to be helpful.
  • Once on board, spend some time on deck and focus on a fixed point of the horizon. This helps your body to adjust to the motion.
  • Avoid alcohol, it will only increase the symptoms of motion sickness.
What if I get sick while on my cruise?
  • You should check, but your ship will probably have an infirmary with a doctor and nurse on staff and available 24 hours.
  • If you have any pre-existing conditions that might need medical attention while on board, notify the Cruise Line in advance of booking to see if the type of assistance youíll need is available.
  • Since cruise ships arenít hospitals and canít handle all emergencies, you should also check into trip insurance that will help cover the costs of reaching proper medical care if needed. Be sure to read the fine print of the policy to see what is covered. There are exceptions and in many cases pre-existing conditions are not covered.
How can I protect myself from travelerís diarrhea while at port?
  • When you are off ship, donít forget that drinking the port countryís water can be dangerous.
  • Stick with bottled or boiled water and carbonated soft drinks.
  • Remember that the ice in your drink turns into water so order them with out ice.
  • Wipe off the tops of cans before you drink from them, or better yet bring some straws to use for drinking.
  • Avoid raw foods, as they can also be a good way to get sick.
  • Only brush your teeth with bottled water and keep your mouth shut when youíre in the shower, even an accidental spray can get you sick.
How can I protect my health when I travel?
  • If you have any food allergies, learn the names of those foods in the languages used in the countries youíll be visiting. This way youíll be better equipped to stay on the look out for them.
  • Find out what types of diseases are common to the area youíll be visiting and take actions to prevent your exposure to those diseases.
  • Find out what types of vaccinations you will need to enter the country, there may also be medications youíll need to take before, during and even after your trip. Get your vaccinations done early in case you have a reaction and need some recovery time.
  • You should consider a dental appointment if you havenít had a check up in a while.
  • Be careful what you eat and drink.
  • Carry complete health information with you on your trip.
  • Consider joining Medic Alert or IAMAT, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.
What health information should I carry with me?
Complete and take with you a personal medical history. Your doctor should be able to help you complete the history. It should include:
  • Your Insurance Companyís name and address.
  • Trip Insurance contact information.
  • Contact person in case of emergency.
  • Your blood type.
  • A copy of your eyeglass prescription.
  • A list of current medications with their generic names, brand names can vary in foreign countries.
  • A list of allergies, including any known food or drug allergies.
  • A list of immunizations with their dates.
  • A basic description of your past and present medical condition, including past hospitalizations and any current problems.
Where can I find information that will help keep me healthy while Iím traveling?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Information web page. This site contains updated information and articles on diseases. It also includes guidelines for travel to areas that have suffered a recent natural disaster. The most valuable section of the site is the destination section. This area of the site contains detailed specific information on diseases common to particular regions of the world, along with the recommended precautions and vaccines advised to avoid those diseases.
Where can I find information that could help me to receive proper medical care while Iím traveling?
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers homepage. This is a nonprofit organization that helps travelers to avoid illness while traveling abroad. It also helps guide travelers in 125 countries to competent medical care with doctors trained in Western countries that speak either French or English in addition to their native tongues. There is no charge for membership in this organization, but donations are appreciated to help continue IAMATís work.
The Medic Alert homepage. This is a nonprofit organization that provides bracelets that identify diseases or allergies from which you suffer. The bracelet also contains a phone number that can be called so medical personnel can have access to your medical records 24-hours a day. There is a registration and yearly membership fee to receive this service
What should I know about shore excursions and safety?
  • Your time at port can be your own or you can join a Cruise Line sponsored shore excursion. Wandering a port on your own can be a great way to get away from the crowd and immerse yourself in a new culture, but it will also present challenges.
  • Since everyone for miles just noticed the big white ship full of wealthy tourists coming in, your chances of blending in unnoticed are probably small. Even if you are traveling on a tight budget, the fact that you got off this ship labels you as wealthy, and compared to what youíll find in most parts of the world, you are. This could place you in a dangerous situation, so youíll need to be careful. The more you know about the specific port and country the better.
  • Doing a little research can greatly increase your safety. The less experienced traveler should consider the Cruise Lineís shore excursions. Although possibly more confining than wandering on your own, you might actually find more freedom to enjoy shore activities since youíll know youíre safe. There are generally fees for ship sponsored shore excursions, so youíll want to know those in advance so you can compare complete cruise packages.
How can I protect my safety while at port?
  • Do the research so youíll know the particular risks you face.
  • If you havenít left your valuables at home, leave them in the shipís safe.
  • Donít draw attention to yourself, avoid wearing flashy jewelry and donít display large amounts of cash.
Where can I find information on issues that will effect my safety while Iím traveling?
The U.S. State Departmentís Travel Warning and Consular Information web page. This site contains detailed information on foreign countriesí entry requirements, safety, crime, medical facilities, traffic and aviation safety, customs, criminal penalties, and special issue information. It also includes contact information and web links to foreign Embassies and Consulate offices.

How can I avoid being the victim of a pickpocket?

  • Donít travel in narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.

  • When possible, avoid having crowds of people surrounding you.

  • Carry a dummy wallet and put your money in your front pocket.

  • Place a rubber band around your wallet, it will make it much more difficult to remove from your pocket without your knowledge.

  • Carry your purse under your arm.

  • Carry your money under your clothes.

  • Know the pickpocket's tricks

What are some of the pickpocketís tricks?

  • There are lots of situations that pickpockets use to create opportunities to relieve you of all that heavy cash. Be especially aware of your money when you find yourself in the following situations.

  • Getting bumped by someone else.

  • Having something spilled on you or someone pointing out a spot on your clothing.

  • Someone approaching you and asking for help or directions.

  • Someone causing a disturbance that draws everyoneís attention.

  • Being surrounded by a crowd, especially if you are surrounded by groups of children.

How can I avoid getting into trouble with the locals?

  • Know the laws and obey them.

  • Learn the customs and respect them.

  • Dress conservatively.

  • Remember that those of us in the United States are some of the most hurried people in the world. Not everyone in the world values the demands of a fast paced life. In fact, many think we are fools to spend our lives rushing around. You should try to respect the culture of others and follow their pace. You may find it frustrating to slow down, but youíll probably find it even more frustrating when your attempts to hurry everyone else is met by an even slower pace.

  • Be careful when taking photographs. Many countries have restrictions against taking pictures of military or police operations or facilities. Taking photographs of public demonstrations can also be risky. If you have doubts, ask permission first.

  • Be courteous and respectful when taking photographs and/or observing cultural and religious events. Put yourself in their place. How would you like some improperly dressed tourist showing up and taking pictures at a family funeral just because they find the ceremony interesting? Again, if you have any doubts, ask permission first.

What happens if I get into trouble with the law while at port?
  • Donít, you wonít have the same protections that you do in the United States. Youíll be under that countryís legal system, which may not have bail or the right to a speedy trial among other protections available in the United States.
  • If you are arrested, ask that the U.S. Embassy or Consulate be notified and ask to speak with their representative.
  • U.S. officials can help you to locate an attorney, secure supplies you might need and notify those back home of your trouble.
  • The U.S. Embassy or Consulate can only make requests on your behalf since they donít have any authority to intervene in another countyís internal criminal matters.
Who can I contact if I get in trouble abroad?
The U.S. State Department International Information Programís U.S. Embassies web page. This site contains links to U.S. Embassies and Consulates in foreign countries throughout the world. Each site is different, but they all contain information that would be helpful to a U.S. citizen planning on visiting the particular foreign country.
How can the U.S. Government help me if I get into trouble abroad?
The U.S State Departmentís Services and Information for American Citizens Abroad web page. This site contains links to specific information on services that the U.S. State Department can provide to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. It contains sections on emergency services, legal assistance and other aid available, in case of crisis, arrest, death or marriage aboard.
What should I know about shopping abroad?
  • In many countries of the world, negotiation on the price of an item is appropriate and often expected.
  • Satisfaction guaranteed is much more widely practiced in the United States. Make sure you are familiar with their return and exchange policies.
  • Many countries do not enforce copyright laws, the logo you see may have nothing to do with the company it represents to you. Check to see if the item is a fake.
  • Some items for sale may need a special license for export. This is especially true for antiques, works of art or other items of cultural significance.
  • Taxes can make up an even larger percentage of the purchase price than you will find in the United States.
  • Duty free may only mean the items are free from duty where they are sold. U.S. Customs have their own guidelines for taxation when you return.
Shopping in port, what does Caveat Emptor mean?
It means the buyer beware. Remember merchants know that putting up a duty free sign often means bargain to many. There are some great buys to be had, but make sure your purchases are good values. Stick with brand names you know and make sure those brand names are spelled right on the product. In other words, make sure itís not a fake. Also, duty free may just mean it is duty free where you are buying it. U.S. Customs have their own guidelines for taxation when you return.
Where can I get quick access to cash while Iím traveling?
Visaís ATM locator web page. This site provides a searchable database that locates ATMís belonging to the Visa, Visa Electron and Plus ATM network worldwide.
MasterCardís ATM locator web page. This site provides a searchable database that locates ATMís belonging to the MasterCard and Cirrus ATM network worldwide.
Where can I get help in understanding all the U.S. Customs Service regulations?
The U.S. Treasury Department Customs Serviceís Traveler Information, Know Before You Go web page. This site contains information on U.S. Customís declarations, duty free exemptions, prohibited and restricted articles and the procedures for shipping items back to the U.S.
The U.S. Customs Service Traveler Information web page. This site contains links to the services the U.S. Customs Service provides to travelers; some of these web sites are also individually linked to this web page for your convenience.
Where can I find information about the restrictions for bringing food, plants, animal products or pets into the U.S.?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Serviceís Travelersí Tips web page. This site contains the procedures and restrictions for bringing food, plant and animal products into the United States. It also contains a general list of approved products and links to other relevant government web pages.
The U.S. Customs Service Traveler Information Pets/Animals web page. This site contains the procedures and restrictions for bringing pets and other animals into the United States. It also contains links to other relevant government web pages.
What should I do if I have a problem with the facilities or service aboard the ship?
  • If your problem is in the dining room, speak with the Maitre dí. If your problem is specific to your cabin, speak with your cabin steward. If you have problems with any area of the ship, speak to the shipís purser.
  • Whomever you speak to, explain the problem and ask for it to be fixed.
  • If you can think of a satisfactory solution to the problem, suggest it to whoever is working with you.
  • Allow for a reasonable response time considering the nature of the problem.
  • Remain calm and keep it businesslike. Donít make it a personal attack against the person who is trying to help you. The person is human and your professionalism will bring you better results than unleashing your anger.
  • Donít play the "big shot" game unless you really are one. "Do you know who I am and how often I cruise with you" might be greeted by yes, once over the last five years. Computers are doing a wonderful job keeping track of customers and they may have you information right on their screen. If you try to fake them out by acting like a big shot, they might just think you are trying to get something for nothing and doubt your whole story. You are their customer and that is enough to demand good service.
  • If you donít feel the person whom you are dealing with is helpful, ask to see a supervisor.
  • Calmly explain your situation to the supervisor and allow them to fix the problem.
  • If you have gone up the shipís chain of command and are still unhappy, contact the Cruise Lineís customer service department.
What information should I have if I need to contact the Cruise Lineís customer service department?
  • Write soon after the incident, while the information is fresh and you are still within any time limitations.
  • Include as much specific information as possible when describing the problem.
  • The date, location and time of the incident.
  • Your name, reservation or confirmation number.
  • Your sailing date, shipís name, and cabin number. You should include your meal seating and table number if appropriate to the issue.
  • Keep the originals, but include copies of any relevant paperwork.
  • Name, title, employee number or physical description of those you dealt with if you have them.
  • A description of the actions taken by those involved.
  • If you doubt you were treated according to proper company policies or feel those policies donít provide for proper customer service; question the customer service department about your treatment.
  • Include the effect this problem will have on your past and future impressions of the Cruise Line. But, donít baselessly threaten "in any case, Iíll never use you again", they might just write you off and leave you unsatisfied.
  • If you can think of a satisfactory solution to your problem, suggest it to the customer service department to give them a chance to win back your business.
  • Include your name, address and a telephone number where they can reach you with their response.
How much should I tip?
Let the controversy begin. Tipping has become a hot topic among cruisers. Some Cruise Lines have pulled away from tipping, but they seem to have done so just enough to confuse the issue. Tipping is a traditional part of cruising and just like the restaurants you frequent at home, it is an important part of the income of those that will help you on your cruise. The people that will be assisting you are in the service industry, and it is the passenger tips that will make up the largest percentage of their income. Each Cruise Line will provide their own guide to tipping, in fact some even provide all the envelopes for you to pass them out in. These are just some general guidelines to help you know who and how much to tip.
  • Airport skycaps generally are rewarded $1.00 for each bag if they carry them.
  • Porters at the loading area of the Cruise ship also look forward to $1.00 for each bag
  • Cabin Stewards and Waiters $3.00/3.50 each per passenger, per day
  • Servers or Busboys $1.50/2.50 per passenger, per day
  • Maitre dí $2.00 to 10.00 per passenger for the entire cruise depending on how helpful they have been.
  • Many bar and lounge tips are included on your bill at a standard 15% which you can generally adjust for poor or excellent service. Check your individual bills to see if a tip has already been included.
How do I get my luggage off the ship?
Youíll have the choice of either leaving your bags outside the cabin door or carrying your bags off the ship. This, of course, depends on the amount of luggage, valuable items within the luggage (Need we say again, donít leave valuables in your luggage!) and departure time of post-cruise travel arrangements. If you do have to leave your luggage in the hall overnight, make sure you leave out everything you need to get ready and travel with in the morning. Otherwise, your bags will be gone and youíll be wondering if theyíll allow you to travel in pajamas.