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Frequently Asked Questions

Home > Special Features > Tips for First-Time Cruisers > Frequently Asked Questions

As a first-time cruiser you're sure to have a ton of questions. Well, here are a bunch of the most asked questions about cruising, along with the answers:

Booking & Pricing Questions

What's charges make up the total cost for a cruise?
The cruise fare, port charges, government taxes and fuel supplement make up the total standard cost of a cruise. There are a lot of additional charges, depending on what other options you're interested in. Click here to view our "How Cruise Pricing Works" page for specific details.

What's included in my cruise fare?

By paying the total standard cruise cost you're going to get lots of food (usually including the ship's main restaurants, buffet and 24-hour room service), drinks and entertainment. However, premium drinks (such as soda, premium coffee drinks and alcoholic beverages) are usually not included. Also, there are often optional specialty restaurants, spa treatments, shore excursions, gambling, gratuities and various other items that are not included in this cost.

Are kids ever free on a cruise?
Yes, but no. Here's the explanation: some cruise lines run "Kids are Free" promotions, such as Costa Cruises, where a child that's 17 or younger doesn't have to pay the cruise fare (but still has to pay the port charges, government taxes and fuel supplement), only valid when there are two full-fare paying passengers already in their cabin. Other cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise Line, do not charge the cruise fare to children that are under 2 years of age (but they still have to pay the rest of the standard charges), only valid when there are at least two full-fare paying passengers in the same room as them.

Should I use a travel agent to book my cruise?
There's nothing wrong with booking directly with the cruise line, but by booking with a reputable travel agency you're sure to pay less or receive a special gift (such as an onboard credit). Plus, it's nice to build a relationship with a professional that can know your travel preferences and handle multiple trips for you over time.

Why should I book a cruise early?
There's a number of advantages. Among them are that you're going to risk the ship selling out if you don't. Also, if you book early you may be able to get an early booking fare, plus if the price goes down after you book you should be able to get the new (lower) price honored as long as you haven't paid in full yet and as long as the new price isn't for new bookings only. If the price goes up or the ship sells out after you've booked you'll be thanking your lucky stars that you already booked.

Will I get a really good deal if I wait until the last minute to book?
Maybe, but the chances are not great and you're taking a lot of risks. The problem with doing this is that nowadays cruises sell out most of the time, so getting a last minute deal has become difficult. Plus, if you need multiple rooms and want them near each other, the chances of getting that arranged a few weeks before the ships leaves is minute. Same goes for people that want suites, as suites tend to sell out fast and getting one last minute is tough. Keep in mind that "last minute" in the cruise industry is considered within three months of the ship's departure.

What are the positive and negative aspects of booking airfare through the cruise line?
The negatives are that the cruise line has total control over your air schedule (unless you purchase an air deviation, which is when you pay a premium to pick your exact flight schedule). Without purchasing an air deviation the cruise line can give you any airline, flights and flight times they want. You can end up with non-stop air, or multiple stops, all depending on what the cruise line decides on. A positive is that by booking cruise line air you may be able to pay a lower rate than by booking the air independently.

Should I purchase traveler's insurance? If yes, how do I do so?
It's a highly recommended purchase to make, as it's quite risky to travel without insurance. Most people don't realize that many standard health insurance policies do not offer coverage while their policy holder is in international waters or in another country. In addition to that, around your final payment date you go into the penalty period with the cruise line, where they keep a percentage of your money if you cancel. Traveler's insurance will protect your investment if you cancel for a covered reason. Traveler's insurance is available through the cruise line or through third-party insurance companies.

Pre-Cruise Questions

How long before the ship's departure time should I plan to arrive?
It's recommended to arrive at least 4 hours prior to the ship's departure time. If you arrive within 2 hours of departure you may be denied boarding.

What is pre-registration and why do I have to do it?
It's a form that each passenger is required to complete, for security and immigration purposes. Usually it can be completed on the website of the cruise line you're booked with. If you don't do it within a certain time period before the cruise (typically anywhere from 3 to 14 days prior to the cruise's departure date) you may be denied boarding by the cruise line.

Onboard Questions

Will my ship have internet access?
Usually. Just about every ship on every major cruise line has at least an internet cafe. Some ships even have Wi-Fi (wireless internet) throughout the ship.

Is internet access free on a cruise?
Not usually. Most cruise lines charge for such access. However, certain cruise lines (like Princess Cruises) offer a certain amount of free internet usage to select past passengers (based on the number of cruises you've taken).

What time will dinner be at?
It depends on the cruise line. Those with assigned dining times usually have one sitting around 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm, and a second sitting around 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm. If you are on an open-seating format the dinner hours are typically from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

Will I dine with the same people on each night of my cruise?
That depends on your dining format. If you have assigned seating you will have the same table and waiter on each night of the cruise, and will dine with the same people each night (unless you or they decide to eat in a different venue). If you have an open-seating setup you'll most likely have a different waiter each night of the cruise, and will be able to eat with different people each night (or just with your own party, should you so desire).

Are casinos on all cruise ships?
No, but they are on most. Cruise ships that sail in Hawaiian and Alaskan waters will not have an open casino, due to US laws. If you're on an Alaska or Hawaii cruise and your ship is able to sail in international waters for an extended period of time, they may open the casino for a while.

Do cruise ships rock a lot?
Not usually. With today's technology most cruise passengers barely feel the ship move, if at all. However, if the ship does hit rough seas you will feel some motion. If this is a concern of yours be sure to bring medicine to help treat motion sickness.

Will I have to get dressed up formally for dinner while on a cruise?
Typically you will have at least one or two formal nights on a typical seven-day cruise. Formal dress codes usually mean that men should be wearing a sport jacket with pants, a suit or even a tuxedo. Formal for women is usually a dress or slacks with a blouse. Some cruise lines (like Cunard Line) actually require at least a semi-formal dress on each night of the cruise (i.e. men wearing sport jackets). Other cruise lines (like NCL) are quite casual and merely ask that you do not wear shorts or a tank top in their restaurant during dinner.

How do I pay for things while I'm onboard the ship?

You'll be given a cruise card (that looks like a credit card) with your name on it. Whenever you want to purchase something (such as drinks, jewelry or spa treatments) the cruise line employee will ask you for your card. They'll scan it and your onboard account will be charged. At the end of the cruise the cruise line will charge the credit card you gave them while checking in. If you'd prefer to pay in cash you can do so. You can even pay small amounts on each day of the cruise, to avoid having a big bill at the end of the cruise.

How will I know what activities and events are going on each day of the cruise?
Typically your room steward will deliver a daily event newsletter to you, giving you a full breakdown of the next day's events and relevant information about a port if you're visiting one during that next day. If you lose the newsletter you can usually go to the main reception area to get another.

Post-Cruise Questions

How long after the ship arrives (on the last day of the cruise) will I be able to disembark?
It really varies, as it's based on how quickly customs clears the ship. Typically people can start getting of the ship about 2 hours after the ship arrives in port. But keep in mind that the cruise line doesn't allow everyone to get off the ship at once; they usually have a system by which they call passengers off the ship in groups.

What do I do if I have a cruise line provided post-cruise transfer and/or hotel stay?
The cruise line will provide you with a voucher for your transfer to the hotel or airport, depending on your travel arrangements. The voucher is usually a part of your cruise documents that you receive prior to your trip. If you booked a post-cruise hotel stay or airfare make sure that you verified whether or not the cruise line throws in a complimentary ground transfer, as some do not.

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