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Frequently Asked Questions About Cruising

To help answer your questions, we offer information from the travel industry organization CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association).

Is cruising affordable and a good vacation value?
Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes all meals, your stateroom, on-board activities and entertainment, plus transportation from port to port. You'll know what your vacation will end up costing you before you go. (Typically, your only extra expenses will be drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as massage or hairstyling.) Compare the value of a cruise to the total cost of other vacations. You'll be amazed!

How long are cruises?
As long or short as you want. Cruise lines offer itineraries from three days to three months.

Where can I go?
Wherever you want! Cruises visit over 1,800 ports worldwide and practically every destination accessible by water. Just check with your agent to see all the exciting choices available to you.

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

Are there different types of cruises?
There are cruises designed to suit virtually every interest and personal preference.

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

There are cruise lines that feature soft adventure expeditions to such unusual and rustic frontiers as Antarctica, the Amazon rain forest or African Serengeti. Or discover historical legacies closer to home with enlightening itineraries to New England, French Canada and the Colonial America coast.

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

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

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

Are there any special educational programs on-board?
To complement the spirit of discovery that travel evokes, many cruise lines feature an extensive program of on-board enrichment seminars hosted by distinguished guest experts. In addition to lectures highlighting the history and sights of ports you will be visiting, there may also be special in-depth presentations ranging from Renaissance works of art and strategic financial planning to epicurean secrets of classic French cuisine.

What's an air/sea cruise?
A fly/cruise or an air/sea vacation package includes, along with your cruise ticket, either free or reduced-cost airfare to and from the ship's port of embarkation. These convenient money-saving options are available from most major North American cities and include ground transfers between the airport and ship as well as baggage handling.

Do I need a passport?
This depends on the type of cruise and your destination. You will need some proof of citizenship and identification. You'll receive complete information on required documents well in advance of your departure. Please see the NEW passport requirements.

Are there different classes of service?
Today's cruise ships are "one-class." Everyone can use all of the ship's facilities. The price of a cabin is based primarily on its size and location. Regardless of the category you book, you'll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities, and entertainment as everyone else on board.

Will I get bored? Feel confined?
Hardly! Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer. There's plenty of room. And it will probably take you two or three days just to discover everything that's on board. Plus, you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call.

Cruise ships are floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer. You can lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books, or watch the ever-changing seascape.

If you're more active, join in exercise or dance classes, and sports contests. Practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or take some fresh air on the jogging deck. Or you can swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym.

You can also see a feature film, attend an enrichment lecture by experts, play backgammon or bridge. And that's just when you're on board!

What can I do in port?
So much you'll have a hard time choosing! You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (referred to as shore excursions). Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids, or a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid. Follow the footsteps of history or the wake of a waterskiing boat. If there's still time, play golf or tennis. Learn how to windsurf. Sun and swim at some of the world's best beaches. Catch a record marlin. Sail, snorkel, or scuba dive. Take a cable car to the top of a mountain. Explore dark catacombs.

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

Do I have to participate in the activities?
On a cruise, you do what you want, when you want. You can do everything or do absolutely nothing. It's your vacation!

Do cruise lines welcome families with kids?
More and more cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Most cruise lines provide plenty of supervised activities for youngsters, especially during school holidays. If your children enjoy swimming, sports, games, movies, and the adventure of new places, they'll love a family cruise. You'll find that children adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you won't have to wonder what they're up to every minute. The youth counselors will help keep them busy and entertained. Ships even offer different types of age-appropriate activities, suitable for toddlers to teens. Best of all, children often travel at a reduced rate.

What's there to do at night?
When the stars come out, a cruise ship really turns on. There's dancing, live entertainment, nightclubs and lounges, feature films, and parties with all your new friends. Most ships also have casinos. What's more, there are many special events like the Captain's Cocktail Party, Passenger Talent Night, Broadway-style shows and Las Vegas-type revues.

Is there a charge for entertainment?
Never. On a cruise vacation, the entertainment is on the house. There's no cover, minimum, or charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live, films first-rate and all included in your cruise fare.

Will there be people like me?
There's no such thing as a typical cruise passenger! All kinds of people take cruises now... all ages... from all walks of life... singles, couples and families. Just ask your CLIA-affiliated travel agency for advice on the best ship for you, based on your tastes and lifestyle.

And, thanks to our Cruise Together program, you need never worry about getting on a ship by yourself.  You'll always have the fun and companionship of a group of friendly people.

What should I pack?
Pack like you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or ashore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. As on shore, attire is dictated by occasion. At the Captain's Gala, for example, you'll probably want to wear something more formal, such as a dark suit, or cocktail dress; perhaps even a dinner jacket or gown.

Will I need a tuxedo?
Many cruise lines now feature a more relaxed and casual approach to dress throughout the cruise -- while on others, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But don't buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Plus, many ships offer tuxedo rental services.

Can singles have fun on a cruise?
Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone, because it's so easy to meet other people. In fact, most ships have parties for singles -- early on, so you can get to know people right away. Many ships even offer gentlemen hosts who can be dance partners, dinner companions or a fourth at cards.

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

And, thanks to our Cruise Together program, you need never worry about getting on a ship by yourself.  You'll always have the fun and companionship of a group of friendly people.

Can I use my hair dryer or shaver?
Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms. But do check with your CLIA-affiliated travel agent or agency to be sure. Most ships even feature hair-dryers in your cabin.

What about meal times?
Again, there are choices and more choices. During the day, there are many different places to eat - in the formal dining room, on deck is a casual setting, in a pizzeria, at an espresso bar, to name a few. At night, most ships offer several venues. Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all guests at one time, called a "seating." Many ships offer you a choice of several eating times, and others encourage you to come to dinner whenever you like. More traditional ships have two seatings in their formal dining rooms, which differ only by time: typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late--then have your travel agent request your preference when you book your cruise. Frequently, you can chose to dine at night someplace other than the formal dining room, such as in an intimate restaurant that features, for example, Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Southwestern cuisine. More and more cruise lines also a opening up their informal lido areas to evening dining, where the dress and dishes always are casual, and sometimes, you can even eat out under the stars. And a large number of ships also offer romantic in-cabin dinners. The choice is yours!

Is cruise ship dining as good as I've been told?
Everything you've heard about cruise ship dining is true. At each meal, you'll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too), and each day the selection will be different. If you've ever wanted to experiment with a cuisine or try a dish, you can feel free to order more than one entrée or appetizer (or dessert!). But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because all your meals are included!

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

What about dining companions - can I sit with my spouse and friends only, or will I have tablemates?
Experienced cruisers say they prefer sitting at a table with several other diners; some lifelong friendships have been made this way. But the cruise lines are geared to accommodate each guest's wishes, and it is possible to request a table for two or four. In the unlikely event that you do wish to change tablemates, speak with the maitre d', who will make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions... discretely and politely.

Are there non-smoking areas?
Virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking sections in the public rooms. In fact, many dining rooms, and even some entire ships, are now totally smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, just tell your CLIA-affiliated travel agent. On board, you can advise the maitre d'.

Can we celebrate a special occasion?
Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of "Happy Whatever" to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, or canapes. You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise your CLIA-affiliated travel agent in advance.

Is cruising right for honeymooners?
Without a doubt. Cruising offers an atmosphere that's just right for romance... cozy dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars). Most lines provide special services -- from Sunday or Monday departures to champagne and breakfast in bed. Also, some ships offer special programs for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows.

Can we stay in touch with the outside world?
Quite easily. Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores. Many staterooms are equipped with televisions and have satellite or cellular telephones. You can also call someone on shore through the ship's radio officer while at sea. In addition, most ships have fax capabilities and a growing number are adding computer cafes with Internet access for e-mail communication.

What about tipping?
Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $3.00 per person per day for your cabin steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your busboy. (A few cruise lines include tipping in the price and will so inform you.) Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services at your discretion.

Are there medical services onboard?
Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a medical facility and health care professionals on staff to handle almost any emergency. If you have a medical condition that might put you at risk, discuss it with your doctor and inform the cruise lines at the time of booking. And, whenever you travel, check to see what your health insurance covers.

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

Do cruise lines accept group bookings?
Most lines welcome groups -- often at special rates, depending on how many people are involved. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes during certain times of the year. Just consult your travel agent for details.

Are there meeting rooms onboard?
Just about every full-size ship has public rooms or a conference center to offer as meeting space for private or corporate groups. If you'd like to make meeting or incentive travel arrangements, ask your CLIA-affiliated travel agent to contact the cruise line's group sales department to coordinate schedules and arrange for any special needs. Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment, communications, meeting coordinators, secretarial and printing services and more.

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

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

It sounds too good to be true! Is it?
The one complaint we hear time and again is that cruises end far too soon! Beyond that, it's hard to find any negatives. All you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation. Most importantly, every crew and staff member on board is dedicated to making your cruise the best vacation of your life (until you top it with your next cruise!)