Ten common questions about cruising

1.       Are cruises all-inclusive?

No, most are not. Although your cruise fare covers your accommodation, meals in main dining venues, activities (including kids’ clubs) and evening entertainment, there’s a bunch of stuff that isn’t included.

Other restaurants, soft and alcoholic drinks, specialty coffee bars, shore excursions, spa treatments and tips are generally not included (although becoming more popular to be included), although some cruise lines do include alcohol now.

It is definitely worth checking the small print on this one, so you can accurately budget for the whole trip.

 

2.        Where is the best place to stay on a ship?

Many people are not bothered at all about where they stay on a cruise ship so long as they have a sea view, but if you get sea sick or you are a light sleeper, it is worth being a bit more choosy when you book.

For example, cabins located on the lower decks in the middle of the ship tend to minimize the feel of movement in the ship – so if you are prone to seasickness, this is a huge consideration.

Also, you need to think about noise. In our blog a few months ago, it was recommended booking a cabin away from the nightly entertainment locations as it can disturb you late at night. You can sometimes hear the staff working 24/7 on the service deck, so it is worth checking this out too.

And just so you know, a Balcony Cabin gives you outdoor privacy without having to leave your cabin. This is particularly good if you want to view the passing scenery in a place like Alaska.

Oceanview Cabins are just that – a view of the ocean without the privacy of your own balcony –although you do get lots of natural light.

Inside Cabins are the least expensive cabins on the ship –for obvious reasons.

Generally you pay more for a good location, so if you want a cabin close to the swimming pools or the main restaurants, you can expect to pay more.

 

3.        Paying for single occupancy

Why should I pay more for single occupancy when the ship’s not full?

This is a good question but cruise ships very rarely sail with empty cabins. They prefer to have full-occupancy for cost-efficiency reasons, so will give special deals on fares until the ship is full.

However, sometimes a cruise line will slash the single supplement for a short period of time, so it’s worth checking whether these deals are around when you book.

 

4.        Will I get sick or sea-sick?

You do hear about outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships but cruise lines nowadays are totally geared up to prevent these infectious stomach bugs.

Hand sanitisers placed in all the ship’s public places are ‘de rigueur’ on most large liners, while some cruise lines have a ‘quarantine’ period where new passengers joining the ship midway on the cruise have to initially dine in the formal dining rooms rather than the buffet section, to minimize the spread of viruses via hand and food contact.

As for sea sickness there are certain parts of the boat where the feel of movement in the cabins is minimized (see above) but if the ship hits really bad weather there is not much you can do except stay in your cabin and ride it out with the rest of the guests and crew.

A cruise line will literally go out of its way to avoid bad weather but sometimes it is unavoidable if the ship has to be in a certain place at a certain time.

If you are prone to sea sickness, make sure you take sea sick medications, and/or acupressure wrist bands.

 

5.        Is cruising safe?

The last few years have seen quite a few high profile incidents with cruise liners, including the notorious capsizing of Costa Concordia.

But given the millions of people who cruise every year, there are relatively few incidents to speak of.

Cruise ships have to follow a huge number of rules and regulations to protect passengers’ safety onboard.

They also operate under international Safety of Life at Sea, (SOLAS), rules governing everything from fire safety to navigation and maritime security. Within the first 24 hours of sailing, everyone on the ship is required to be part of a safety drill which includes locating and putting on life jackets, and finding your life boat.

Security-wise, it’s worth just being sensible and treating the ship a bit like a large city. Keep valuables in the safe, don’t open the cabin door without finding out who’s there, and give children strict rules about when they can and cannot roam the ship without adult supervision.

 

6.        Can I stay in touch with the outside world?

It would be unusual nowadays for a ship not to have WiFi in cabins, or at least an internet café somewhere around the ship.

Like a hotel, (and also just as expensive!), you can make calls from the telephone in your cabin, or even your mobile phone, which will be subject to roaming charges. Be warned!

 

7.        What is a shipboard credit?

When you are onboard a ship, you will have an onboard account which you’ll settle at the end of the trip. A monetary credit can be loaded into your account and you can sometimes get credit as part of your booking – sometimes it’s part of a special deal. You can use these credits to pay for shore excursions, souvenirs and drinks but sometimes there can be restrictions placed on usage – so make sure you are clear about these before you board and try to use them.

 

8.        Can I bring my own drinks onboard?

This is one of those questions that everyone asks.

Most cruise lines do not allow any drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, to be brought onboard.

However there are exceptions to this.

Celebrity Cruises allow you to take 2 bottles of wine per passenger onboard the ship on the day of embarkation for consumption in your cabin or at dinner. Princess Cruises allow you to take one bottle of wine per person on in each port for private consumption.

Among others, Disney Cruise Lines, Azamara, Oceania and Cunard all let passengers bring limited beer and wine onboard for in-cabin consumption.  But be warned that they all charge corkage between US$10-25 in their restaurants and reserve the right to restrict your alcohol if they see fit.

 

9.        What is the dress code for dinner?

There are usually three dress codes on ships. Casual, informal and formal. Most of the larger cruise lines, like Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean have a mixture of these dress codes in the evening dining sessions.

Many of the five or six star lines have an ‘elegant casual’ or ‘country club’ casual dress code on their ships.

Here are the definitions below:

Formal – Dark suit or tuxedo for men, evening gown or cocktail dress for women.

Informal – Jacket with or without tie for men, dress or smart pants for women.

Casual – Pants such as chinos for men, with a sportshirt, (no jeans) or for women pants and top, or sundress.

 

10.     Why should I tip?

Information about tipping was covered in our Tips about Tipping blog in October last year.

However, whether you agree with tipping or not, the staff onboard a cruise ship rely on tips for a decent wage. The main reason why cruise lines apply automatic service charges on shipboard accounts is because of the difference in tipping cultures around the world. As more and more people from non-tipping cultures such as New Zealand and Japan take cruise holidays, this has a huge effect on tips received by cruise staff.

But you do have the option to give more in tips for particularly good service, and you don’t have to give the full service charge rate at the end of the cruise.

 

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