Good day, Money Saving Parents! This is the next article in a series about taking a cruise vacation and some of the ways you can get the most cruising bang for your buck. Today’s topic covers some of the common questions and answers about cruising. Be sure to check previous dates for other cruising articles.
Taking a family cruise is an adventure but like with any new type of travel excursion, there are bound to be pressing questions in need of quick answers. Experienced cruisers will gradually figure things out, but the first time passenger often has a laundry list of important concerns in need of a reassuring response. Here is a list of some of the common questions regarding a cruise vacation followed by a brief answer to each:
What does the cost of a cruise include?
The base price paid for a cruise ticket includes all meals, entertainment, and on- ship activities. It does not include alcoholic beverages or soft drinks (with rare exceptions), hair styling, souvenirs, shore excursions, spa treatments, laundry, etc.
How long can I cruise? Are there limits?
Cruises can be most any length. Some are as short as two days while others last a month or longer. The typical cruise most families opt to take is in the four to seven day range.
Is cruising offered anyplace?
As the rules of business go, if there is a market for something, it will be filled and cruising is no different. There are cruises to destinations all over the world, and not just in the oceans and major seas- there are even riverboat cruises, Great Lakes cruises, and more.
Will I need a passport?
Depending on where you cruise, a birth certificate may be all you need. The reason is because the stops at each port do not involve an overnight stay, and that means you can often get away with just a birth certificate (with a raised seal- copies are not good enough). If you fly to another country and cruise from there, chances are likely that you will need a passport but if you cruise from a U.S. port, a birth certificate will suffice. And regardless, adults should ALWAYS have a photo ID handy. Check with your cruise company several months before you arrive at the port to make absolute sure you have what you need.
In case of cancellation, will I get a refund?
If you are forced to cancel your cruise, you will lose your money unless you have purchased cancellation insurance. The insurance isn’t too costly, but it can add significantly to the cost of a family cruise and the pros and cons need to be weighed before purchase.
If I purchase an air/flight package, what is included?
If you purchase a package, it will include not just the cruise and airline ticket, but also the ground transportation to get you to the ship. Where travellers need to be careful is when they book a cruise and flight separately. If you do this, you will be responsible for everything yourself, and that includes the transportation from the airport to the ship and back.
What is Freestyle Cruising? Do all ships offer it?
Freestyle cruising relates to dining and entertainment options. Most cruises offer two times to eat, with an early or late dining option in one of the main restaurants at the same table each evening, and a couple times for watching certain performances. With freestyle cruising, you can dine whenever you choose, wherever you choose, as long as the restaurant is open and available at that time. The same is true with the entertainment. The freestyle option is preferred by those who want the maximum flexibility in their eating/entertainment schedule, but it is only offered by a couple of cruise ships, namely Norwegian and some Princess cruises.
Can I opt for room service without paying extra?
If you like the idea of having your food brought to you, in your cabin, for more private dining, you can choose room service. The menu is usually limited, but most every cruise ship offers 24 hour room service and there is no extra charge.
Should I tip cruise ship personnel?
Tipping is usually left to the discrimination of the passenger. Unless the ship has a no tipping policy, guests are encouraged to tip their dining room wait staff, room steward and others as appropriate. Most ships will place a tipping envelope in your room, on the last day, for your convenience.
Do I need to bring along a tuxedo or other formal wear?
If you decide to take part in one of the formal events, you may need formal attire. But you don’t need to bring your own- the ship offers these items for rent. You can save some money if you do bring your own, but the hassle involved with packing the tuxedo or gown may not be worth it.
Is it necessary to exit the ship when it docks at a port?
No, it is not necessary to exit and some passengers take advantage of the time at the dock to utilize some of the entertainment and other services aboard the ship since so many passengers have left. Stay on the ship if you like, but always keep in mind the world of adventure that may await you at each port of call. Even if you don’t partake in a shore excursion, it is often a good idea to walk off the ship anyway just to experience the new surroundings, people, and culture.
What if I get sick on board?
If a serious illness befalls you, never fear- all ships have a full medical staff ready to assist. And if you get seasick, there are various drugs available for purchase.
Is there a best place on the ship, to avoid seasickness?
If the motions of a ship are likely to bother you and you are concerned it will affect your vacation, you may want to seek out an area of the ship that is subject to the least amount of movement. That would be, of course, the area of the ship closest to the center of gravity. This generally means a room on the inside, close to the center, near the bottom. The farther toward the edge or the higher your room, the more likely you are to feel the movement. But one must keep in mind that, no matter where you choose to locate your cabin, you are certain to feel some movement. The motion on a large, modern ship isn’t too bad, but you will feel it regardless.
Is there a best time to book?
In most instances, the best time to book a cruise is as far in advance as possible. This is usually when the best rates are available. As the time draws nearer, the price is likely to increase. The price may drop when the date of departure is less than a week away, but anyone who waits this long to book is taking a big chance because there may not be any rooms available.
Is smoking permitted?
Most cruise ships have designated areas for smokers and non- smokers in both the lounges and dining areas. However, since there has been a move toward a smoke- free environment, it is becoming less and less common to find smoking areas in the dining rooms.
Taking a family cruise is a great vacation idea and more and more families are discovering the many benefits of cruising each year. From the all- inclusive nature of cruises to the ability to visit many destinations on a single vacation, cruising is an option with many positive aspects and one that all families should at least consider.
Cruises offer great enjoyment, but first time cruisers are often very perplexed and want answers to dozens of questions. We felt the same way when we took our first cruise. Anytime you partake in a new activity, there is a certain level of innocence, but also a level of apprehension. You have no idea what to expect and want as much reassurance as possible. You want answers to many questions and want to make sure you made the right decision for yourself and your family.
If you are thinking about a family cruise this year, the above answers have, hopefully, helped to put your mind at ease. A cruise vacation is a great way to spend time with the family, but makes sure you know the pros and cons before you book. Do the necessary research, consult with your selected cruise line, and find what you need to know. Then make your next vacation the most memorable one ever as you traverse the open seas with your spouse and kids.
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey