Wondering if cruising is right for you? Our cruise guides answer some of the most asked questions of first-time cruisers - and experienced ones too! If you don't see what you're looking for, please be sure and call us toll-free:
Categories: Click on the topic(s) below to read about valuable "First Time Cruisers" information!
|Tipping & Gratuities||Getting to the Pier||What to Wear|
|What to Pack||Dining Options||Exercise Programs|
|Going Home||Shore Excursions||Activities Onboard|
|Internet Access||Wheelchair Access||Who's Who Onboard|
One of the best things about cruising is the convenience of being able to sign for all your expenses, excluding stamps and tips to your stateroom and dining room staff. Casino chips, slot tokens and bingo cards can also be obtained on a casino room charge. You can settle your shipboard account on the day of disembarkation after reviewing the itemized statement that's delivered to your stateroom.
Most lines accept U.S., Canadian and British currency and travelers checks. Visa, MasterCard, Discover/Novus, the JCB Card, Diners Club/Carte Blanche and American Express/Optima. Personal checks drawn on U.S., Canadian or British banks are generally accepted with the proper approval and identification with a limit of $250 (U.S.) on a personal check. Casino room charges for obtaining chips and tokens in the casino are usually limited to $1500 per day, to the total limit of $5000 per cruise, unless prior arrangements are made. There is usually a hefty processing fee applied to all casino room charges. These advances are billed to your shipboard accounts.
As do the finest hotels, the cruise lines offers a quick and easy express check-out service. Just bring your credit card (any of those listed above) or personal check and identification to the Purser's Desk, if not taken at embarkation check-in or pre-registered before the cruise (exotic cruises only), as early as possible during your cruise.
Effective January 2002, some cruise lines have implemented an automatic gratuity program. A charge of $10 per person per day for Dining and Stateroom Personnel will be automatically added to the passenger's shipboard account. We are confident that passengers will find the services onboard exemplary and should a passenger wish to reward a staff member for service "above and beyond", they may do so by adding to the automatic gratuity. Similarly, if a passenger feels that the service levels fall short of his/her expectation, then they may subtract from the automatic gratuity amount simply by visiting the Purser's Desk onboard and requesting the change. It is important to remember that passengers will be able to increase, decrease or remove the automatic gratuities at their discretion. Gratuities for other shipboard staff such as Casino dealers and Spa Personnel is at the passenger's discretion. Please note that a 15% gratuity is automatically added to all bar tabs.
The adventure begins the moment you step aboard your ship. Leave all your cares and worries ashore! Your Stateroom Steward will welcome you and acquaint you with your ship. Relax in one of the ship's lounges and be sure to be out on deck for our "Bon Voyage" festivities. Your first evening at sea is sure to be filled with lots of things to do and exciting memories.
Parking At The Pier
Passengers who are driving should arrive at the pier two or three hours prior to sailing. For your own convenience, please do not arrive earlier as boarding will not have commenced.
For sailings from Port Everglades, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles harbor, you may obtain information and parking rates by calling these numbers:
|Port Everglades at Terminal||954-462-7287|
|Los Angeles Harbor||310-547-4357|
When you arrive at the cruise terminal, please have your cruise ticket packet (and passport, if required) ready for check-in. Do not pack your ID in your luggage and then check it with a porter!
Upon boarding, staff members will be on hand to direct you to your stateroom. Your luggage will be delivered as soon as possible. Upon embarkation, the ship's lounges will be open for cocktails and other beverages so you can relax and get ready to sail away. Please be aboard the ship no later than one hour before the scheduled sailing time. For security reasons, visitors are not permitted aboard on embarkation day or at ports of call.
Ship's Security In Port
In order to prevent unauthorized persons from boarding the ship, you are requested to carry your "Cruise Card" and a photo ID with you at all times. You will receive your Cruise Card at check-in or in your stateroom at embarkation, depending upon the ship. You'll be required to present this whenever you exit the ship, and some lines are now taking a digital photo and attaching it to your "Cruise Card"
You should dress for cruising the same way you would dress for any smart
land-based resort. Casual sportswear including shorts, light-weight pants
and jogging suits, is the order of the day both at sea and ashore in our
hotter climates. Just remember to bring a light sweater or jacket for
cool evenings. For shore excursions, bring a sweater, a light jacket,
and an all-weather coat, depending on your destination. Due to unpredictable
weather, don't forget
a hat or visor, and a collapsible umbrella.
You'll also want low-heeled, rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck as well as comfortable walking shoes or sandals to wear while exploring.
When you're in port, evening dress is casual, slacks, sweaters, blouses, open-neck shirts, etc. are typically worn. shorts, cut-off T-shirts, "torn" jeans and bare feet are not permitted in the dining room. For smart casual evenings, passengers dress as they would for a fine restaurant at home, with ladies in skirts/dresses/ pantsuits and gentlemen wearing shirts with collars and/or a sports jacket. On formal nights, typical black tie formal wear is appropriate. Items include evening gowns and cocktail dresses for ladies and tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits for men. Tuxedo rentals can be arranged prior to the cruise on certain itineraries. See the chart below for general dress code schedule.
|Length Of Cruise||# Of Formal Evenings||# Of Smart Casual Evenings|
|2 - 6 days||1||1 - 5|
|7 - 14 days||2||5 - 12|
|15 - 21 days||3||12 - 18|
|22 - 29 days||4||18 - 25|
|30 Upwards||5 minimum||25 +|
Cruise Ticket, Passports And Travel Documents
Please be sure to bring your Cruise Ticket and Passage contract with you to embark on the ship. You should read the Passage contract carefully as its terms and conditions apply to you and your cruise.
All itineraries require you to carry proper travel documents. U.S. and Canadian citizens need proof of citizenship when taking a cruise to any destination. A passport is required for Europe, South America, the Orient, India, Africa and the South Pacific. Various countries require visas for entry. Please check with your travel agent for details.
Note that residents of countries other than the U.S. and Canada require a passport for all sailings, and may require additional documentation. Check with your travel agent or the Consulate for each port you will visit for any specific documents you need to obtain prior to your cruise.
Although a passport is not specifically required for U.S. and Canadian residents in the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Panama Canal and Canada/New England, it is highly recommended that you always carry your passport for U.S. and Canadian residents in these destinations, an original or certified birth certificate along with a photo ID is acceptable. A driver's license alone is not sufficient. United States Resident Aliens must bring their Alien Registration Card.
Note that residents of countries other than the U.S. and Canada require a passport for all sailings and may require additional documentation. Check with your travel agent or the Consulate for each port you will visit for any specific documents you need to obtain prior to your cruise.
All travel documents required for disembarkation at various ports of call are your responsibility and should be carried with you. Passengers will not be able to board the vessel without proper documentation.
Important: Visa requirements vary by destination and do change from time to time. Be sure to check with your travel agent to verify current regulations.
While all of the cruise lines cling to the traditional approach to dining, there is a new wave sweeping the industry. Referred to as personal choice or freestyle cruising, it's become a popular alternative to shipboard dining. Now passengers can dine where, when and with whom they want in a variety of dining rooms. This new Personal Choice Dining option is for those who want to enjoy a romantic dinner for two in the evening one night and join a group of new found friends for dinner the next.
Breakfast Your Way
Whether you opt for continental breakfast delivered to your stateroom, or choose to try the buffet in the café or enjoy à la carte in the dining room, you'll get your day off to a delightful start. Breakfast buffets includes fresh fruits, hot and cold cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, muffins, toast, juices and coffee. The dining room serves everything from lox and bagels to pancakes and Eggs Benedict.
Join Us For Lunch
Five-course luncheons in the dining room with different pastas every day and a variety of delightful entrees are irresistible. If you can't tear yourself away from the pool, the luscious buffets in the café is just as appealing. You'll find fresh fruits and salads, pasta, a variety of hot entrees, grilled hamburgers, a freshly baked pizza, and desserts and beverages.
Some cruises offer a wonderful afternoon tradition. This is one time you won't mind going through British customs-the time-honored custom of afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, pastries, scones and white-glove service. It's the perfect interlude between sunning and swimming out on deck and a star-studded evening at sea. Enjoy your choice of a wide selection of premium teas-from Earl Grey to your favorite herbal infusion. And of course there's coffee if you prefer. The choice is up to you.
Dinner Is A Gala Affair
In addition to the alternative dining options, there are always two seatings for dinner. You may even be treated to a select theme nights featuring famous cuisines from around the world, including French and Italian. Relax while you dine on such delights as lobster and caviar, filet mignon and flavored soufflés. Some ships feature steak houses offering a variety of options.
Most ships now offer full-service pizzerias on all ships offering fresh and made-to-order gourmet pies. You won't find a more delicious or authentic pizza this side of Italy. Enjoy!
Due to the high popularity and limited seating, we recommend making reservations at your earliest convenience. Generally, a small per person service charge applies for the most formal and gourmet dining.
24 Hour Dining
After a fabulous evening of shows, casino action and dancing, order a sumptuous snack from room service - need a better way to wind up the day?
To enhance your dining experience, most lines have established a smoke-free dining policy.
Survival Of The Fittest
It's easy to stay fit while you cruise. Depending on your ship, take your pick of stretch and tone, walk-a-mile, aquacise, workouts in the gym and aerobics classes. Sports enthusiasts can also compete for medals and prizes. Join ping-pong and shuffleboard tournaments or get in the swing with golf putting and chipping. Many ships also offer sports courts, including paddle tennis, volleyball and basketball.
Taking A Dive
Learn to snorkel and/or scuba dive with professional, fully certified PADI instructors. Some lines offer a complete dive program on seven-day cruises to the Caribbean. Under the guidance of the professional staff, you can get your feet wet with snorkeling and scuba demonstrations, snorkeling classes and tours and scuba tours for non-certified and certified divers. You can even get a full scuba certification during your cruise.
An Afternoon Drive
If golf is your sport, some lines can take you to the best places around the world to tee off. On the Hawaii and Tahiti cruises, for instance, there are beautiful golf courses in every breathtaking Hawaiian port. The blue waters of the Caribbean are complemented by as many as nine different tropical greens. If you choose not to leave your floating resort, newer ships have a virtual driving range and a golf pro onboard to help you refine your swing.
The Last Night
If you wish to extend gratuities to those who have served you, this is the customary night for doing so. Gratuity envelopes are available at the Purser's Desk, as passengers usually wish to hand tips directly to their serving staff. For dining room staff, tipping normally occurs at the end of dinner on the final evening. Stateroom staff are usually working near your stateroom during the late afternoon and early evening should you wish to say farewell and thank them personally. Your stateroom steward will give you colored tags for each piece of luggage. Please put your name, home address and other information requested on each tag. Also, remove any old airline flight tags or embarkation tags. It is advised to carry fragile, valuable items and medication with you. Before you retire for the night, your locked bags should be packed and placed outside your stateroom door to facilitate customs clearance and disembarkation. Make a final check of your cabin and stateroom safe for any personal items.
Due to U.S. and local customs restrictions, passengers may not leave the ship until all luggage is off-loaded. With this in mind, we suggest that you relax in one of the many public lounges to wait for customs clearance and disembarkation by pre-designated groups. Customs and immigration inspectors will review with you the customs declarations form upon which you have listed all the dutiable articles bought in foreign ports or in the ship's boutique. U.S. residents returning to the U.S. are allowed a duty-free exemption of $400 per person, which includes the cost of one liter of alcoholic beverages (if purchased onboard or ashore) for each passenger 21 years of age or older. Canadian citizens, when out of the country for more than eight days, may bring back up to $300 (Canadian) duty-free. It is recommended that passengers keep their sales receipts handy for declaring their purchases. Food items should not be landed in U.S. ports. On cruises calling at ports of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or American Samoa, U.S. residents are allowed an additional exemption of $400 when returning to the U.S., including four liters of alcoholic beverages provided you have the proof of purchase from the designated ports. For further customs information, we recommend that you attend the Cruise Director's disembarkation talk given during the last days of the cruise.
Disembarkation And Transfer Information
On the majority of our cruises, you will be asked upon leaving the ship to identify and clear your luggage through customs. Your luggage will be arranged dockside by color-coded tags which are distributed on board. If your friends or relatives are meeting you at the pier, please be advised that disembarkation usually takes approximately 2 hours after the scheduled arrival of the ship in order to clear immigration and customs.
Exploring ports of call is one of the highlights of a cruise, and one of the best ways to do this is on an organized shore excursion. Contact us to book your excursions in advance, or book early once onboard.
There is also a Tour Office and Shore Excursion Manager on board each ship, ready to assist you in making purchases or to answer tour-related questions.
The Purser's Desk in the ship's lobby is the place to cash travelers checks, buy stamps, mail letters, ask questions, settle your shipboard account and check Lost and Found.
It's a real comfort to know that a medical staff is traveling right along with you. Ship doctors and nurses keep daily office hours and are always available for emergencies. Charges for medical services will be billed to the passenger's shipboard account.
Nothing is more romantic than a wedding at sea. Some lines offer a complete wedding and honeymoon package - contact us for more details.
Most lines provide Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant services on the following religious holidays: Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah and Christmas.
Laundry And Dry Cleaning
Take a vacation from the washing and ironing and let our professional laundry service do all the work for you. Just put everything in the capable hands of your stateroom steward who will have everything returned within 48 hours, or even the same day with our express service. Most ships offer dry-cleaning services and self-service launderettes. Ironing boards are generally not available in cabins for fire safety reasons.
Since U.S. stamps are acceptable for use only within the U.S., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Purser's Desk has stamps for most ports you'll be visiting. When you want to send a "wish you were here" postcard from your favorite port of call, you can drop the card in the mailbox located at the Purser's Desk.
Getting away from it all doesn't mean being out of touch. Most staterooms feature a TV set featuring our multi-channel satellite, first-run films and replays of the events while you are onboard.
Las Vegas and Broadway-Style Entertainment
In addition to the sumptuous dining, the nightly shows feature professionally choreographed and costumed performances, with top-notch singers and dancers. Some lines feature the added bonus of a passenger talent night!
The casino offers the most popular table games, including blackjack, roulette, Caribbean stud poker and craps. Slot and video poker machines, as well as regular Snowball Jackpot Bingo sessions are held throughout the cruise. Complimentary gaming lessons for slots and table games are held each cruise, along with exciting tournaments. Please check the daily bulletin for special promotions and opening hours. Persons under the age of 21 are not permitted to gamble or remain in the casino.
Kick off the evening with cocktails in one of the ship's cozy lounges or bars. This is the perfect time to meet shipboard friends and swap stories about the afternoon's adventures. Dance Date Don't forget to bring along your dancing shoes, and visit the dance venues and live bands to get you into the swing of things. You'll want to start early and finish late. Every cruise features a great selection of first-run feature films for your viewing pleasure. You can catch up on all the movies you've missed in the theatres at home.
Romance at Sea
There's nothing more romantic than an evening at sea. You'll have every opportunity to steal away to your own special part of the ship to enjoy some quality time with that special someone. For those of you who need a little nudge by Cupid, be sure and look for singles get-togethers.
Choose your favorite song, pick up the microphone and sing your heart out on Karaoke Nights listed in the daily bulletin. The karaoke singing machine provides the lyrics and a fully orchestrated musical track to back you up.
Today's cruise ships have it all. From complete health spa services to fabulous fine art auctions, your vacation can be a floating cultural retreat, shopping bonanza, or simply a way to pamper and reward yourself.
Newer ships have built-in Internet access in staterooms for laptop carrying passengers. Most ships now offer some sort of Internet access, generally near the library. Rates vary widely, with some lines offering a weekly rate for frequent users. Since access is via satellite, service is still not very reliable and can be very slow, increasing per-minute fees.
On Board Duty-free treasures from around the world await you in duty-free boutiques -exquisite fine jewelry, exotic cruise wear, designer fragrances, porcelain collectibles -toothpaste, too, in case you forgot. There's also a fiine selection of duty-free liquor available for sale during your cruise, available for your trip home and for passenger pickup on the last day the boutiques are open. For those passengers who wish to purchase liquor on board for consumption in their stateroom during the course of the cruise, a selection is listed in the stateroom information portfolio. Please ask your stateroom steward for details and they will be pleased to assist.
For group travel, a number of onboard services is available to suit any organization. Meeting rooms and audio/visual equipment are available for conferences. Group cocktail parties and activities can be arranged to follow work sessions. Speak to your travel agent for details.
Throughout your cruise, photographers will capture special moments and make these photographs available for purchase in the shipboard gallery. For a truly special souvenir, have a professional photograph taken on formal night. Also available for purchase are frames, albums, camera accessories, batteries, film and disposable cameras. Quality film processing is available during the cruise using state-of-the-art equipment.
Art Auction Program
On most ships, you will have the opportunity to view and purchase pieces of fine art from internationally known artists via onboard auctions. Art experts are available throughout the cruise to answer your questions about the onboard art collection.
Relaxing with a good book is a favorite pastime. Most ships have an extensive library, including contemporary titles in a wide range of categories and books related to specific cruise itineraries. You'll find books on art, history, sports, travel, health and wellness, natural history and reference materials. Or choose from our selection of fiction and biographies. Some have collections of up to 2,000 books as well as multimedia computers and music.
If you've always wanted to treat yourself to a spa vacation, here's your chance. Ships facilities are some of the finest in the world and offer health and beauty centers fully equipped to pamper you from head to toe. Spas offer aromatherapy, body wraps, massage, sauna, facials and manicures for both men and women. We recommend that you set an appointment as early in the cruise as possible, because these services are very popular.
A full range of hair care and beauty salon services is available through the shipboard beauty salon. Staffed by professional stylists and therapists, the salon is open daily. It is strongly recommended that you make your appointments on embarkation day so that you may get the most convenient appointment time.
Call for personal room service, ice, fruit or a wake-up call any time of the day or night. To have breakfast delivered to your stateroom, just fill out the breakfast card included in your stateroom portfolio (one is also placed on your pillow) and hang it out at night on your stateroom door. To take advantage of our stateroom menu, including sandwiches, salads and beverages, just call the number listed in your telephone directory.
A private safe is usually provided for your convenience in each stateroom.
Staterooms on most ships are equipped with a 110-volt, 60-cycle alternating current (A.C.) with standard U.S. plug fittings for your convenience. Please ask your stateroom steward to check your appliances for suitability before use if you have any doubts.
State Room Amenities
The little extras you find in the best hotels - fresh fruit (by request), evening bed turndown, chocolates on the pillow, complimentary shampoo, conditioner and body lotion - are available in every stateroom. For your comfort and convenience, terry cloth bathrobes are available upon request from your stateroom steward.
Many cruise lines are becoming increasingly aware of the special needs of wheelchair travelers. When choosing a cruise, be sure and ask if the ship has doorways wide enough for most chairs, rooms designed with wheelchair movement in mind, and bathrooms featuring roll-in showers and hand-held detachable shower heads.
Additionally, many lines offer special wheelchair transportation gangway mechanisms, ramps, and elevators with Braille call buttons as well as audible arrival sounds, as well as a supply of ADA "all in one kits" including telephone amplifiers, visual smoke detectors, door knocker sensors, text telephones and other aids for guests with hearing impairment.
They're sharp-looking and social-minded, energetic and easygoing. They're everywhere at once and always with a welcoming attitude and friendly smile. Who are these experienced professionals whose responsibilities range from navigating the ship to creating the day's activity plan? They're the onboard staff, and their primary concerns are ensuring your safety and providing you with the best vacation you've ever had. To help you get acquainted, the following is an introduction to who's who on board:
The Captain is in command of your ship and is your official host for the cruise. He is assisted by the ship's officers and staff, who are organized into departments. You can recognize an officer's department by the color of epaulet worn on his or her shoulders.
The Deck Department, headed by the Staff Captain, is responsible for all the duties performed by the officers manning the bridge. These seasoned professionals are distinguished by their black and gold epaulets. Safety and security fall under the jurisdiction of the Deck Department as does the maintenance of the ship's appearance. Members of the Deck Department paint the ship and keep the decks and swimming pools clean. In short, the Staff Captain and his crew are the people in charge of keeping your vessel shipshape throughout your cruise.
The Chief Technical Officer heads the Engine Department and is assisted by the Staff Engineer Officer and Staff Electro-Technical Officer. Departmental responsibilities include the ship's propulsion system, climate control and power generation. The Staff Electro-Technical Officer deals with electrical distribution and the ship's satellite and radio communications. Engineering Officers and Electro-Technical Officers wear burgundy and gold epaulets.
You'll recognize members of the Hotel Department by the white and gold epaulets on their uniforms. The Passenger Services Director is in charge, along with his Staff Purser and First Purser. The Purser's staff handles all of the hotel responsibilities for the entire ship -from stateroom, public room and dining room services to providing all food and supplies for both passengers and crew. Also in this department are a number of officers who don't wear epaulets, such as the Maitre d' Hotel who maintains the excellent standards of service in all dining areas, and the Executive Chef who supervises all food production on board.