All About Cruising
Here is a page on which you can find out more about cruising in one spot. Some of the information is consolidated from other pages while other information is new and unique to this page.
Avalon Waterways - Specialist
Azamara Club Cruises - Five Star Agent
Bermuda Board of Tourism - Bermuda Specialist
Carnival - Bachelors of Fun
Cayman Islands - Dive & Nature Master Specialist
Cayman Islands - Master Specialist Family Travel
Celebrity - Five Star Agent
Costa - Training Academy Graduate
Cunard - Commodore
InnerSea Discoveries - Adventurist
Norwegian Cruise Line - Freestyle Certified
Oceania Cruise Specilist
Princess - Commodore
Regent Seven Seas Univerity Graduate
Saint Lucia Specialist Graduate
SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate TM
All about cruising:
Cruising is a great way to vacation because you get to see several destinations wile only having to unpack once. If you take a back to back cruise on the same ship even when you have to change cabins you don't have to fully repack since the crew will assist you in the move between different cabins. However if you can get and stay in only one cabin the entire cruise that is the ultimate vacation without having to unpack.
Cruising is a great way for entire families to be together while each participating in various activities geared to their personal desires. Not everyone wants to play shuffleboard nor does everyone want to soak in the sun all day. Thus with a cruise everyone can choose to participate in the activities they like best. Young kids can participate in supervised activities which frees up mom and dad to do adult things together during the day or until late at night.
Cruising can take you to destinations on all continents around the world and thru all seas. Some of the more exotic and remote destinations are not necessarily served by the big cruise ships with all the bells and whistles but they are served. If you have a sense of adventure about where you go and the vessel on which you sail there are even cargo ships that take passengers along to far less frequently visited ports around the world. You also get a chance to visit with more crew and often spend time on the bridge. You may even find that they have a pool and/or spa to enjoy while on the ship.
Cruises come in all shapes and sizes from small 12 passenger luxury yachts that get into the back waters of the Inside passage in Alaska to the largest Oasis and Allure where you will find more passengers than any other ship and where the crew compliment outnumbers passenger counts on all but the next few largest ships. The small luxury ship is one where everyone will know each other by the end of the cruise and the crew will cater to all of your needs. On the Allure for instance you will typically never see even half the crew while on your cruise.
There are so many cruise lines from which to choose it is generally easy for a single, couple, or family to find a cruise to their liking. Of course that is always easier when you are working with an agency like ours. We will help you pick the most appropriate cruise and ship based on your needs. That will allow your family to have the most enjoyable vacation experience.
There are many things that are important to know before you cruise for the first time. The information below may not apply to every cruise, but gives you a good flavor of what you need to know overall. Variables that can change the information are departure port and where the ship goes.
Most cruises that originate at a US departure port come back to the same port, thus on these ports the current laws allow travel (on these closed loop sailings) with only an official birth certificate. It is highly recommended though that all cruisers use a US or their home country passport. Passport questions tend to be the biggest questions of all.
While on the ship you will have a card key for your cabin. This same card is also your charge card for on the ship purchases. Cash is not used on the ship except perhaps to tip for good services.
Speaking of tips, for most cruise lines they are not included in the base fare. You may choose to pay them ahead, or if you are choosing my time dining on some lines be required to pay them ahead. Other lines automatically charge a set tip amount to your cabin charge account each day. With some lines if you charge the tips to your account you can not increase or decrease the amounts, while other lines do allow adjustments for perceived poor service, or to reward good service.
Most of the crew with whom you interact the most, dining staff, cabin attendants, and bar tenders (concierge if you are in suites) make most of their income off tips. These crew members typically work hard to make you happy. They appreciate both tips and positive feedback. In fact positive feedback on customer surveys and letters to the cruise line can be the difference in who gets promoted.
All facilities are not open all of the time. This is one item I've seen some guests get really upset when they find out that the ice rink is only open for their use during limited hours, or the zip line is open only a few hours while in port and a few couple hour blocks during sea days. Even the pools are shut down at times.
Although it is possible on virtually every ship to get food 24 hours a day, things have changed and there are fewer buffets at midnight that are showcases of culinary artistry and more focus is put on having food for consumption. With food costs up all lines have to make difficult choices about carrying on traditional buffet displays vs. making sure there is as little food waste as possible.
Dining is a big part of cruising. For some guests the meals are part of the reason to cruise, while for other cruisers it is purely a means to get the hunger under control. Most ships have several different options for dining. There are typically casual dining venues as well as the main dining room. Many ships also have upscale specialty dining as well. Virtually all ships offer in cabin "room service" dining. Typically when ordering room service a tip is provided directly to the server who brings the food. Depending on the ship room service may be off the same menu as is served to everyone in the main dining room or it could be from a more limited room service menu. If you have special dietary restrictions be sure to let us know ahead so we can work with the ship to ensure your dietary requirements are met. If you have special dining requests while aboard be sure to ask your server or the head waiter and they will typically do what hey can to accommodate your requests.
The pools are a great place to relax. Typically bar servers will serve you drinks to your lounge chair. Typically a 15% service charge is added already but you can if you wish add more tips for the server. Some ships even serve food out by the pool so you may have the opportunity to stay by the pool all day if you like. Some ships have pools restricted to adults and separate kids pools and family pools. Most ships have a deck patrol who will move your things if you don't visit your lounge chair often enough (when they don't know you are in the pool). Depending on the line your towels for poolside use are in your cabin while on other ships you check them out near the pool. Either way be sure you put back the same number of towels you use as most lines charge for missing pool towels.
Checking in for the cruise. Typically the check process is spread over a 3-5+ hour window of time, and it does take most of that time to get everyone checked in and aboard the ship. Be sure that when you head to the pier you have your boarding pass and passports in hand. You will hand your checked luggage over to the pier crew upon arrival at the pier and then go thru security to get into the pier facilities where you will check in and be provided with your key/charge card. From there you will have a picture taken for the security system so every time you get off or on the ship they can check your key against the picture to make sure it is really you. Your vacation then begins as you board the ship and enjoy.
At the end of the cruise everyone is assigned a group either by color code or number of combination thereof. The process of clearing passengers from the ship will flow orderly based on moving one group at a time off the ship. The process is in place to ensure there is a constant flow of folks off the ship and that the ship is cleared of passengers timely so they can clean the entire ship top to bottom before allowing the next round of passengers aboard the ship.
One thing important to remember when you book your cruise is to also purchase your travel insurance. Purchasing it within 2 weeks of the deposit for the cruise will for most policies afford you both maximum coverage and protection for any pre-existing condition. There are various policies from which to choose but among the best is the Travel Guard family of policies offering different levels of coverage depending on your needs.
Once you have cruised it is important to be certain to sign up for the cruise line past passenger program. Many offer special on-board benefits and at times special past passenger discounts. The on-board benefit vary widely by cruise line with some offering their most frequent cruisers quite a bit of internet and ship to shore phone time at no charge.