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Frequently Asked Questions About Cruises Tips Cruise Guide Faqs

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G E N E R A L    Q U E S T I O N S

About the cruise ships

Ship details topics
Are there different class services, like on flights?
Can I bring guests onboard?
Do I need a doctor's note to bring medication onboard?
I’ve heard various ship terms, like starboard and aft. What do they mean?
Is it possible that my cabin will be located below water?
Is smoking allowed?
What should I expect during embarkation and disembarkation?
What voltage are the electrical outlets?
When will I receive my cabin assignment?
Where does the crew sleep?
Will the ship have quiet areas for reading and relaxing?
Will there be a TV in my cabin?
What are my customs allowances?
Ship safety topics
Are there enough lifeboats for everybody onboard?
Are there lifeboat drills?
I've heard about shipboard flu outbreaks. How can I check if my ship has had one?
What happens if I get sick?
What happens if there’s a hurricane or typhoon?

Ship details
Are there different class services, like on flights?
All ships have just one class of service; however, passengers staying in suites will sometimes receive extra services and amenities.

Can I bring guests onboard?
Due to security reasons, passengers may not bring visitors onboard. 

Do I need a doctor's note to bring medication onboard?
As long as your medication is still in its original bottle, you are not required to bring a doctor’s note. However, you do need a doctor’s note if you will be carrying syringes. Also, please let the cruise line know ahead of time if you have special medical needs.

If you need to take your medication regularly, we suggest that you carry it with you rather than leave it in your checked luggage, just in case there is a delay in delivering your luggage to your cabin. In addition, though commonly used medications (like aspirin) may be purchased from the ship's doctor, you may not be able to get additional supplies of prescription drugs. Therefore, be sure to bring an adequate supply with you. 

I’ve heard various ship terms, like starboard and aft. What do they mean?
You may come across certain cruise ship terms that you’re not familiar with. Here are a few common terms and their definitions:
  • Port: When facing forward, the left side of the ship
  • Starboard: When facing forward, the right side of the ship
  • Fore: The front of the ship
  • Aft: The back of the ship
  • Embarkation: Initial boarding of the ship, on the first day of the cruise
  • Disembarkation: Final departure from the ship, on the last day of the cruise
  • Bridge: The area from which the captain and his crew navigate the ship
  • Muster drill: Mandatory lifeboat/safety drill; takes place the first day of the cruise, just before the ship sets sail
  • Tender: Small boats that transport passengers from the ship to shore and back; generally used in small ports of call
  • Sister ships: Ships from the same cruise line that have similar body designs

    Is it possible that my cabin will be located below water?
    No, all passenger’s cabins are located above sea level. 

    Is smoking allowed?
    Smoking is allowed in designated areas of all ships. Generally, however, smoking is not allowed in most of the cabins, in the main dining rooms, and in certain public areas.

    What should I expect during embarkation and disembarkation?
    On embarkation days, you’ll generally be allowed to board the ship four to five hours before departure. You’ll start by “checking in” at the pier, where your proof of citizenship (passport, or government-issued photo ID and birth certificate with raised seal) will be checked. At this time, you’ll also set up your onboard account. Upon boarding, you’ll be able to have a snack, explore the ship, or simply spend time in your cabin.

    On the final night of the cruise, you’ll have the option of placing your luggage outside of your cabin door. If you don't set your luggage out, you'll be required to take it off the ship yourself. If you do leave your luggage out, be sure to keep any necessities in a carry-on bag, as your luggage will not be accessible until after you depart the ship. If you want breakfast, you’ll generally need to get up extra early, so keep this in mind. Passengers depart in groups, and your group information, along with any necessary customs forms, will be left in your cabin the night before you disembark. You’ll be required to pass through customs as you depart the ship.

    What voltage are the electrical outlets?
    Most cabins are equipped with U.S. standard 110-volt outlets. Some cabins are also equipped with European standard 220-volt outlets. 

    When will I receive my cabin assignment?
    You will receive your cabin assignment with your travel documents, which should arrive within two weeks of your sailing date. If for some reason your cabin is still not assigned, you will receive a cabin assignment when you check in at the pier.

    Where does the crew sleep?
    The crew generally sleeps in cabins located below the lowest passenger deck.

    Will the ship have quiet areas for reading and relaxing?
    Most ships have libraries, Internet cafés, and card rooms which can be used as quiet areas. In addition, most ships also have lounges and top deck space with quiet pockets.

    Will there be a TV in my cabin?
    All ships sold on our site have TVs in all cabins. 

    What are my customs allowances?
    Each U.S. citizen is generally allowed to bring $800 worth of duty-free merchandise into the U.S. without being taxed, with an additional $1,000 being taxed at a reduced flat rate. Canadian citizens are generally allowed to bring $750 worth of duty-free merchandise into Canada without being taxed. Each U.S. and Canadian citizen may only return with a maximum of 40 ounces of wine or liquor and 200 cigarettes.
    Non-U.S. and -Canadian citizens should check with their country's customs agencies for restrictions on duty-free merchandise. 
    Ship safety
    Are there enough lifeboats for everybody onboard?
    Yes, there are enough lifeboats onboard to comfortably hold every passenger and crew member.

    Are there lifeboat drills?
    Lifeboat drills (also known as assembly drills or muster drills) are held at the beginning of each cruise, just before the ship sets sail. Attendance is mandatory in order to comply with Coast Guard and international safety regulations. Passengers must come prepared with their own life preservers, which will be found in passenger cabins (all cabins have one life preserver for each passenger).

    I've heard about shipboard flu outbreaks. How can I check if my ship has had one?
    Though flu outbreaks are rare, ships may occasionally have a few passengers who experience stomach discomfort. If you’re concerned about any past illnesses on your ship, contact the cruise line directly.

    What happens if I get sick?
    All ships have doctors onboard who can assist sick passengers. In the event of a medical emergency, sick or injured passengers can also be airlifted from the ship, or the ship can make an emergency detour into a nearby port of call.

    One mild form of sickness some passengers experience is seasickness; however, seasickness is very rare on larger cruise ships since they’re equipped with stabilizers which minimize the feeling of movement. Again, if you feel sick, you can visit the ship’s doctor, or pick up some over-the-counter seasickness medication from the sundries shop.

    What happens if there’s a hurricane or typhoon?
    If inclement weather is ahead, the ship can easily change course to avoid the storm.
    Personal cruise topics
    I want to take a "nontraditional" cruise. What do you suggest?
    I want to take a "traditional" cruise. What do you suggest?
    Are some ships better than others for children?
    Can I book an adults-only cruise?
    I’m traveling alone. Will the cruise line help me find a roommate?
    Are there nonsmoking cruises?
    Are there singles cruises?
    There are so many itinerary choices. How do I pick one?
    What are the different cabin categories?
    What is included in the cruise price?
    What is not included in the cruise price?
    What are port charges?
    What's the general age range for cruisers?
    Can unaccompanied minors cruise?
    What's the minimum cruising age?
    What's the onboard drinking age?
    Which cruise line is right for me?
    Why does it cost so much to book a single-passenger cabin?

    I want to take a "nontraditional" cruise. What do you suggest?
    A “nontraditional” cruise may be one with open dinner seating (eat when you want, where you want, and with whom you want) and casual attire at all times. Cruise lines that offer relaxed dining options include Norwegian (with its signature “freestyle dining”), Windstar, and some Princess ships. Another nontraditional cruise line is Disney Cruise Line®, which largely caters to families. 

    I want to take a "traditional" cruise. What do you suggest?
    A “traditional” cruise may be one with pre-assigned dining times and table mates, and with formal nights (men wear suits or tuxedos and women wear pantsuits or cocktail dresses). Cruise lines still offering a large selection of “traditional” cruises include Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean.

    Are some ships better than others for children?
    While most cruise lines offer supervised activities for children—such as swimming, sports, movies, and games—some ships don't, and some ships have better programs than others. In addition, some programs have minimum age requirements (generally age 2 or 3). Though you may initially think of Disney Cruise Line®when shopping for a family-friendly cruise (and it certainly is family friendly), many other ships offer children's programs (and adult activities) that may be just as appealing.

    Can I book an adults-only cruise?
    If you want to take a cruise without the kids (yours, or anybody else’s), you have a few options. Certain ships such as Crystal Harmony, don't cater to children; while others, including all three Windstar ships, actually discourage parents from bringing their children along. Though this doesn’t guarantee a child-free cruise, it does greatly reduce the number of children onboard.

    I’m traveling alone. Will the cruise line help me find a roommate?
    If you’re traveling alone and would like to find a roommate, please call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978. Many cruise lines will help solo travelers find roommates of the same gender.
    Are there nonsmoking cruises?
    Although there are no nonsmoking cruise ships, all ships do have designated nonsmoking areas, including most cabins, restaurants (including main dining rooms), and public areas.

    Are there singles cruises?
    Some smaller cruise lines do have special themed cruises, including singles cruises. However, we do not sell any singles cruises at this time. 

    There are so many itinerary choices. How do I pick one?
    Consider your interests before deciding on a destination. Do you like warm-weather destinations? Consider the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Hawaii, or the South Pacific. Are you interested in history? Think about Europe or the Mediterranean. Also consider how many days the ship spends at sea vs. in port. If you like a lot of activity and variety, consider an itinerary with more days in port; if you like spending time on the open ocean, consider an itinerary with more “at sea” days. 

    What are the different cabin categories?
    All cabins are classified as one of four categories: Inside, oceanview, oceanview with balcony, or suite:
  •  Inside cabins are generally the smallest cabins onboard and have no views.
  •  Oceanview cabins have windows or portholes.
  •  Oceanview cabins with balconies have windows and ocean-facing balconies.
  •  Suites have windows and oftentimes balconies; they're generally the largest cabins onboard and offer the most amenities.

    What is included in the cruise price?
    Generally, the cruise price includes drinks like coffee, tea, and water; standard meals; room service; the use of gymnasium equipment; and most shipboard entertainment.

    What is not included in the cruise price?
    Generally, the cruise price does not include specialty drinks like sodas, specialty coffees, and alcoholic beverages; meals in alternative restaurants; spa and salon services; exercise classes like yoga and Pilates; casino gaming; organized shore excursions; photographs; medical services; gratuities; and gift shop purchases.

    What are port charges?
    Port charges are small fees a cruise ship must pay to use a port of call. They include the following: Taxes and fees assessed by the government and other agencies Costs of entering or leaving ports Costs incurred while in port, including waste removal

    What's the general age range for cruisers?
    Different cruise lines appeal to different age groups. Average passenger age ranges are as follows:
    Carnival: 30 percent under age 35; 40 percent ages 35–55; and 30 percent over age 55
    Celebrity: Ages 30–55
    Crystal: Age 60+
    Disney Cruise Line®: 20s and up
    Holland America: 40s to 60s
    Norwegian: 50s
    Princess: Age 50+
    Windstar: Ages 35–55
    Royal Caribbean: 30s to 50s

    <Can unaccompanied minors cruise?
    Unaccompanied minors cannot cruise. In fact, on Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Windstar cruises, each cabin must have at least one adult age 25 or older as a guest. On Disney Cruise Line® and Princess cruises, each cabin must have at least one adult age 21 or older. Exceptions are generally made for married couples under age 25 (or 21).

    What's the minimum cruising age?
    Most cruise lines ask that children be at least six months old to sail.

    What's the onboard drinking age?
    Most cruise ships maintain a minimum drinking age of 21 while in international waters or at foreign ports. However, some ships have a minimum drinking age of 18.

    Which cruise line is right for me?
    Different cruise lines and ships appeal to different people. Those wanting an upscale, casual environment with few passengers often turn to Windstar, whereas those looking for a “traditional” cruise experience often enjoy Holland America sailings.

    Why does it cost so much to book a single-passenger cabin?
    Each cruise line bases its cabin rates on double occupancy. When you travel alone, you will pay an extra “single supplement” fee to make up for lost revenue.
    Booking your cruise topics

    Can I book a cruise for another person?
    Can I let another person use my account to book a cruise?
    Can I book a cruise if I'm not a U.S. citizen?
    Can I book multiple cabins at once?
    How far in advance can I book a cruise?
    Can I book my cruise with more than one credit card?
    Can I book my cruise with a debit card?
    Can I change the spelling of a passenger's name after I book the cruise?
    Can I extend my trip with a hotel stay?
    Can I make a deposit?
    My credit card payment wasn't accepted. Why?
    Do I have to book cruise line airfare?
    What are the benefits of booking cruise line airfare?
    If I book cruise line airfare, will I have a choice of flights?
    How will I know when my final payment is due?
    How do I make my final payment?
    I’m going on a cruise for my honeymoon. Can I travel under my married name?
    I now have a different name than the one on my birth certificate. Will this create a problem?
    I have to cancel my cruise. Will I get a refund?
    Is there such a thing as a "frequent cruiser club?"
    Is it safe to use my credit card online?
    My reservation is pending. How will I know when payment has been accepted?
    Should I purchase the travel protection plan?
    My reservation was confirmed. What happens next?
    My credit card statement shows one charge from the cruise line and one charge from your company. Why?

    Can I book a cruise for another person?
    Yes. When booking the cruise, simply enter the passengers’ names where indicated. Please keep in mind that correspondence, including cruise packets and airline tickets, are sent to only one address. If you do not want to be responsible for forwarding these important tickets and documents on to the passengers, please be sure to list another passenger's address as the contact address.

    Can I let another person use my account to book a cruise?
    You may let somebody else use your account; however, we encourage everyone to create his or her own profile as it stores personal information about the owner. 

    Can I book a cruise if I'm not a U.S. citizen?
    Currently, prices listed on Expedia are valid for U.S. residents only. Customers must have a valid U.S. mailing address and must use a U.S. credit card to book on Expedia.com

    Can I book multiple cabins at once?
    Currently, you cannot book more than one cabin at a time. If you require two or more cabins, you must complete one reservation, then begin the process again to book the next cabin. Or, you may call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978 and have him or her book multiple cabins for you.

    How far in advance can I book a cruise?
    You can book a cruise up to 18 months in advance.

    Can I book my cruise with more than one credit card?
    If you need to book your cruise with more than one credit card, please call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978. If you book online, you may put your deposit on one credit card and later payments on another; however, you cannot split the deposit or each payment onto different credit cards.

    Can I book my cruise with a debit card?
    Yes, you may use a debit card; however, some debit cards cannot be verified. In this case, you will be required to use a credit card for booking.

    Can I change the spelling of a passenger's name after I book the cruise?
    Many cruise lines will not let you change a passenger’s name, or even that name’s spelling, after you complete your reservation. If they do allow changes, a large fee will likely be tacked onto the change. Therefore, please be absolutely certain that all passengers’ names are spelled exactly as they appear on their proof of citizenship (passports, or government-issued photo IDs and birth certificates). 

    Can I extend my trip with a hotel stay?
    If you are purchasing cruise line airfare and would like to extend your trip to book your cruise the cruise specialist can assist you in booking flights with early arrival or late departure, but you’ll likely have to book your own hotel (you may do so by searching for hotels on our site).

    Please call a cruise specialist before entering your credit card information. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee to change your flight dates. 

    Can I make a deposit?
    Generally, if your cruise departs more than 60 days in the future, you can make a partial deposit. If you choose to make a deposit, your confirmation e-mail will list payment due dates. Please keep in mind that if you miss a payment, the cruise line can cancel your reservation and will not necessarily refund you for any payments you’ve already made. In addition, we will charge you a cancellation penalty of $50 per cabin (trip insurance is also nonrefundable).

    My credit card wasn't accepted. Why?
    There are various reasons why this may have happened. Please try again, following these suggestions:
  •  Verify that you are entering the credit card number and expiration date correctly.
  •  Verify that the address you are entering is the credit card billing address (if you’ve recently moved, it may take the credit card company some time to update your billing address).
  •  Call your credit card company to make sure you haven’t surpassed any daily credit limits.

    Do I have to book cruise line airfare?
    You are not required to book cruise line airfare. However, there are several benefits to booking your flights through the cruise line. One benefit is complimentary roundtrip shuttle service between the airport and the ship. Another benefit is that, if you miss your cruise ship due to flight delays from mechanical problems, the cruise line will make an effort to get you to the next port of call to join the cruise. (The cruise line may not assist you when delays are caused by inclement weather; therefore, we highly recommend that you purchase our travel protection plan.)

    What are the benefits of booking cruise line airfare?
    One benefit to buying cruise line airfare is that you will generally receive complimentary roundtrip shuttle service between the airport and the ship. Another benefit is that, if you miss your cruise ship due to flight delays from mechanical problems, the cruise line will make an effort to get you to the next port of call to join the cruise. However, this may not be the case for delays caused by weather. The purchase of travel insurance is highly recommended.

    If I book cruise line airfare, will I have a choice of flights?
    Passengers booking cruise line airfare do not get to choose their flights. If you would like to book cruise line airfare, but you have particular needs (such as preferred airlines or flight times), book your cruise with a Cruise Specialist by calling 1-888-249-3978. Your cruise specialist will then be able to send specific flight requests to the cruise line. Please keep in mind that making flight requests often increases the flight’s cost. 

    How will I know when my final payment is due?
    All payment due dates will be listed in your confirmation e-mail, which you will receive within 24 hours of making your reservation.

    How do I make my final payment?
    Always book online to get the best offer and information will be shown on your online statement.

    I’m going on a cruise for my honeymoon. Can I travel under my married name?
    To make traveling as easy as possible, we suggest that you travel under the name listed on your proof of citizenship (passport, or government-issued photo ID and birth certificate). If you would like to travel under your new name and you haven’t yet updated your identification, you MUST bring a copy of your marriage certificate. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to board the ship.

    If your proof of citizenship is a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID, and your photo ID reflects your new name, you must bring a copy of your marriage certificate, as the name on your photo ID will not match the name listed on your birth certificate.

    I now have a different name than the one on my birth certificate. Will this create a problem?
    If the name listed on your birth certificate does not match the name listed on your government-issued photo ID, you must bring any legal documentation, such as a marriage certificate, that explains why the names do not match. The only way you can bypass this step is by using a passport that matches the name under which you booked your cruise.

    I have to cancel my cruise. Will I get a refund?
    Whether you receive a refund depends on two things: When you cancel the cruise, and if you purchased the travel protection plan. Cancellation timelines vary by cruise line and actual sailing. To best protect yourself, we highly suggest that you purchase the travel protection plan. Also, please keep in mind that if you must cancel your trip, we will charge you a cancellation penalty of $50 per cabin (the cost of the travel protection plan is also nonrefundable).

    Is there such a thing as a "frequent cruiser club?"
    Just like each airline has its own “frequent flyer club,” each cruise line too has its own “frequent cruiser club.” Refer to the Cruise line reviews for details on each cruise line’s club.

    Is it safe to use my credit card online?
    Absolutely. With just one click, you can sign in securely to our site and have all your transactions protected by powerful Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption technology and Private Communication Technology (PCT) security standards supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer and other popular browsers. SSL encrypts your credit card number, name, address, and telephone number before they travel over the Internet. This makes doing business over the Internet as secure as purchasing by telephone.


    My reservation is pending. How will I know when payment has been accepted?
    You will receive a confirmation e-mail within 24 hours of completing your reservation. If, for any reason, your payment has not been accepted, you will receive an e-mail or telephone call from a Cruise Specialist.

    Should I purchase the travel protection plan?
    Whether or not to purchase the travel protection plan is an individual decision. However, we highly recommend that you purchase the plan to protect your vacation investment. If you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason (including injury, sickness, or death for you, a travel companion, or an immediate family member), you’ll be protected against losing your entire investment. The travel protection plan also protects you against any emergencies while you are on your cruise.

    If you do purchase the travel protection plan and must cancel your cruise, we will charge you a cancellation penalty of $50 per cabin. In addition, the cost of the protection plan is nonrefundable. Please be sure to read complete travel protection plan details before you make the decision whether or not to purchase it.

    My reservation was confirmed. What happens next?
    You will receive a confirmation e-mail within 24 hours of completing your reservation. If you made a deposit only while booking, the confirmation e-mail will provide the final payment due date. You will also receive your cruise documents and information within 14 days of your sail date. Please note that not all cruise lines provide paper documentation. Many now send cruise documents exclusively by e-mail. 

    My credit card statement shows one charge from the cruise line and one charge from your company. Why?
    That’s likely because you purchased the travel protection plan. The charge from the cruise line is the cost of the actual cruise and any cruise line airfare you may have purchased. The charge from us is the travel protection plan you purchased.

    Preparing for your cruise topics

    Planning ahead

    What are the benefits of taking a cruise vacation?
    Can I add a passenger to my cabin at a later date?
    Can I change a passenger in my cabin?
    Should I upgrade to an oceanview or balcony cabin?
    I made a last-minute reservation. How will I get my travel documents?
    How early should I arrive at the pier?
    Where can I find the details about the ship?

    What to bring
    Should I get a passport before I travel?
    What travel documents and identification do I need? Do I need a travel visa?
    What documents might I need when traveling with children?
    I currently don't have a passport or birth certificate. How can I get them?
    Do I need cash onboard the ship?
    Do I need to bring my own life preserver?
    Is there a weight limit for how much luggage I bring?
    What is a medical release form, and how do I know if I have to submit one?
    What types of clothing should I pack?

    Getting to the ship
    I’m booking airfare on my own. When should I schedule my flights to arrive and depart?
    How do I get from the airport to the ship?
    Can I park at the pier?
    What happens if my flight is delayed?
    Planning ahead

    What are the benefits of taking a cruise vacation?
    There are many benefits to cruising. Some of our favorites include all-inclusive meals, unlimited entertainment options, and traveling from one destination to the next from the comfort of your ship (plus, only having to unpack once). Rather than spending your travel time in a car or on a train, you can be watching Broadway-style shows, eating fine cuisine, swimming in the pool, and sleeping in your private cabin.

    Can I add a passenger to my cabin at a later date?
    You may be able to add another passenger, depending on the cabin’s passenger capacity and the point at which you decide to add the passenger; however, there is no guarantee that the person can be added, or that the price would stay the same. If you would like to add another passenger, please call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978. 

    Can I change a passenger in my cabin?
    Many cruise lines will not let you change a passenger’s name after you complete your reservation. If they do allow changes, a large fee will likely be tacked on to the change.

    Should I upgrade to an oceanview or balcony cabin?
    Different passengers have different cabin preferences. Some passengers book an inside cabin in order to save money, the difference between an inside and an outside or and outside and a balcony cabin can be as little as $100 per person, so the choice to upgrade is not as daunting as it might appear. Also, many new ships now have a large quantity of balcony cabins, making them more affordable than ever before.

    I made a last-minute reservation. How will I get my travel documents?
    If you made a last-minute reservation, you’ll likely have to make arrangements to pick up your travel documents. Generally, you’ll pick them up right at the pier on the day of embarkation. If you booked cruise line airfare and the cruise line uses paper tickets, your tickets will likely be sent to you via overnight delivery. A Cruise Specialist will call or e-mail you with special instructions. If you do not receive instructions, please call a Cruise Specialist directly at 1-888-249-3978.

    How early should I arrive at the pier?
    Ship boarding usually begins four to five hours before the ship is scheduled to depart, and all passengers must be onboard at least 60 minutes prior to departure.

    Where can I find the details about the ship?
    Most of the details you'll want to know can be found in the cruise ship's amenities pages and reviews.
    What to bring
     
    Should I get a passport before I travel?
    Yes. Expedia strongly recommends that you always travel with a passport. A valid passport is the only form of identification accepted by most countries. And it's required by the US Department of State for reentry into the United States.

    All travelers must provide proof of citizenship when boarding the ship, even if your cruise includes only domestic destinations. If your cruise ship stops at any port outside of the United States, you must have a valid passport. And if you’re traveling on an international sailing, the countries you visit will also require proof of citizenship.

    For more information on travel requirements, contact the U.S. embassies of the countries you're visiting. A complete list of U.S. embassies worldwide can be found at the Department of State Web site.

    What travel documents and identification do I need? Do I need a travel visa?
    For most cruises, a passport suffices for both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens (although non-U.S. citizens may need a travel visa or green card to gain reentry to the U.S.). Some itineraries, however, may include countries requiring travel visas (Russia, Brazil, and Panama, among others). Visit the CIBT website to research travel requirements by country and to purchase a travel visa online. Be sure to check the requirements for all countries on your itinerary.

    What documents might I need when traveling with children?
    All children, including infants and newborns, must have their own passport. Some countries may require extra documentation as well. Country-specific information is available in the Consular Information Sheets pages on the U.S. State Department website. It also is available from the consulate of the country being traveled to. Please note that requirements can change at any time; confirm them close to your departure date.

    Special requirements apply when purchasing passports for minors age 14 and younger. Please refer to the CIBT website for further details.

    The following information is provided as a general guideline only. Exact documentation requirements will depend on your specific situation and the country to which you are traveling.

    Children's passports and documentation are necessary to board the ship, and they also are likely to be requested by immigration officers at ports of call. Even if you have heard accounts of inconsistency in enforcement of documentation requirements, bring them anyway; without them, you could incur delays at ports of call and be denied boarding.

    Generally, a notarized “permission to travel” letter from the absent parent(s) must be provided. We strongly recommend bringing such a letter even if it is not an official requirement. The letter should be signed by the non-traveling parent(s) and should state that he/she gives the child permission to travel. It also should include: the name of the child and the names of all people traveling with the child; information about the trip including the dates of travel, country (or countries) being visited, and the name of the cruise line and ship; address and phone number of the non-traveling parent(s); and a notary’s signature and seal.

    In some circumstances, legal documents will be required to clarify custody rights and/or the parental relationship. It’s especially important that documentation be supplied by travelers with different last names; same-sex couples; adoptive; or divorced parents. Travelers falling under any of these categories should provide custody and other supporting documents. Widowed parents should provide a death certificate. In all cases, you must bring both your own and the child’s identification.

    I currently don't have a passport or birth certificate. How can I get them?
    If you are a U.S. citizen and have a birth certificate with a raised seal, a passport can be purchased online at the CIBT website, or, if you wish, through a government agency (see the U.S. Department of State website for a list). You should expect to receive your passport within eight weeks (two weeks if expedited passport requested), although processing time cannot be guaranteed.

    If you are a U.S. citizen and you need a copy of your birth certificate, contact the city hall located in your town of birth.

    If you need a passport and you are not a U.S. citizen, please check with the appropriate government agencies within your country of citizenship.

    Do I need cash onboard the ship?
    We suggest that you bring some cash. Some cruise lines require that you use cash for tipping and casino gambling. It's also handy to have in port. Most cruise ships do have ATMs onboard; however, the ATM service fee may be quite high.

    Do I need to bring my own life preserver?
    No, life preservers are provided in your cabin. You will be required to attend a lifeboat drill where you will be taught how to use them in case of an emergency.

    Is there a weight limit for how much luggage I bring?
    Not really. When in doubt, contact the cruise line.

    What is a medical release form, and how do I know if I have to submit one?
    To ensure proper treatment in case of an emergency, cruise lines require that all guests with special medical needs submit this information to them prior to travel. Passengers who carry syringes for medical use must also carry a letter from their physicians indicating such.

    What types of clothing should I pack?
    Keep both your destination’s climate and the cruise ship’s dress code in mind when deciding what clothes to pack. If you’re traveling to Alaska, be sure to bring protective rain coverings for Alaska’s and Canada’s rainy days. If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, be sure to bring plenty of cool clothing and sunscreen for warm days. In addition, if your ship has formal nights, men should bring a dark suit or tuxedo, and women should bring a pantsuit or cocktail dress. If you don’t own these items, no worries: Most ships have casual dining venues to cater to those who aren’t interested in dressing up, and some ships also have formal wear rental shops.
    Getting to the ship 
    I’m booking airfare on my own. When should I schedule my flights to arrive and depart?
    You should schedule your flight to arrive a minimum of six hours before your ship is scheduled to set sail, which should give you enough time to make it to the pier and check in to your cruise.

    We suggest you schedule your return flight to depart a minimum of six hours after you're scheduled to arrive in port. That should give you enough time to disembark the ship, clear customs, and make it to airport check-in. The more time you give yourself, the better.

    How do I get from the airport to the ship?
    If you booked cruise line airfare, you may be met at baggage claim by a cruise line representative who will provide transportation from the airport to the pier. Please check your travel vouchers for details.

    If you booked your own airfare, you will be required to get yourself from the airport to the pier. When you receive your cruise packet, your ticket will provide the name of the pier from which your cruise departs. If you are not familiar with the area from which you are departing, we suggest that you use our Maps to get the best directions to the port. Most taxi drivers will also be familiar enough with the area to easily transport you to the pier.

    Can I park at the pier?
    Most ports do have parking right at the pier. However, like airport parking, it can be a bit pricy.

    What happens if my flight is delayed?
    If your flight is delayed and you booked the cruise line’s airfare, the cruise line will be made aware of the delay (but you should still call the cruise line to inform a representative of the delay). If you miss the ship, oftentimes the cruise line will transport you to the ship’s next port of call.

    If your flight is delayed and you did not book cruise line airfare, please call the cruise line immediately and let them know of the delay so that they can make arrangements to get you to the ship.
    Life onboard topics

    Services

    Are ships wheelchair accessible?
    Do ships offer babysitting services?
    Do I need money onboard?
    Are there ATMs onboard?
    Can I purchase toiletries onboard?
    Can I call home from the ship?
    Is it easy to keep up with the news while onboard?
    Can I check my e-mail from the ship?
    Can I exchange money onboard?
    Do cabins have personal safes?
    Do I have to purchase the pictures taken by the ship's photographers?
    Do ships have exercise equipment?
    Do ships have elevators?
    How do I pay for onboard purchases?
    Can I use a debit card for my onboard charge accounts?
    I’m sharing a cabin with a friend. Can we each have our own onboard charge account?
    How do I prepare for customs?
    What are my customs allowances?
    How do I purchase shore excursions?
    Is there shopping onboard?
    Are there casinos onboard?

    Dining
    Are alcoholic beverages included in the price?
    Are meals included in the price?
    Are there multiple entrée choices at dinner each night?
    Do I have to eat dinner at the same time, and with the same passengers, every night?
    Can I change my dining time or tablemates?
    If I have late dinner seating, will I miss the evening entertainment?
    I have special dietary restrictions. Can the ship accommodate my needs?
    Is food available 24 hours a day?
    Is room service available?
    What are alternative restaurants?
    What are formal nights, and do all cruises have them?

    Activities
    Are there planned activities at night?
    Does the cruise ship have planned activities during inclement weather?
    Can I get a tour of the ship?
    How do I find out about onboard activities?
    Am I required to take part in the ship’s activities?
    I'd like to celebrate a special occasion. Will the ship help?
    Is the onboard entertainment free?
    What are days at sea like?
    What do I do on the last night of the cruise?
    What services are offered at the spa?
    I’m worried about getting bored on sea days or short port days. Is this likely?
    Will the itinerary change?

    Etiquette
    Are passengers expected to tip?
    Does the ship have a dress code?
    Services
    Are ships wheelchair accessible?
    All ships sold on our site are wheelchair accessible. 

    Do ships offer babysitting services?
    Most ships do offer babysitting services, either in a group setting, or with a sitter coming directly to your cabin. To find out whether your ship offers babysitting services, check the Family section of the ship’s review.

    Do I need money onboard?
    We suggest that you bring some cash. Some cruise lines require that you use cash for tipping and casino gambling. It's also handy to have in port. Most cruise ships do have ATMs onboard; however, ATM service fees may be quite high.

    Are there ATMs onboard?
    All ships have ATMs onboard; however, many charge a very high usage fee. If you need cash for tips or casino gambling, we suggest that you use an ATM at a port of call, or cash a traveler’s check at the purser’s desk.

    Can I purchase toiletries onboard?
    Yes, all ships have sundries shops where you can purchase toiletries.

    Can I call home from the ship?
    Yes. Most ships have telephones in all cabins. If your cabin does not have a telephone (which is very rare), the ship’s radio operator can connect you to a mainland number. Please keep in mind that making a ship-to-shore telephone call can be quite expensive, and it may be worth the wait to use a pay phone at the next port stop.

    Is it easy to keep up with the news while onboard?
    Most ships have TVs in all cabins and in some public areas, and daily newspapers can generally be found around the ship as well. Most ships also have Internet cafés, where passengers can go online for around 50¢ to $1 per minute.

    Can I check my e-mail from the ship?
    Most ships have Internet cafés, and some even provide Internet access from cabins. To find out if your ship has an Internet café or online cabin access, check the ship’s amenities page.

    Can I exchange money onboard?
    Some ships do offer money exchange; however, many passengers wait to exchange money at a shoreside exchange bureau. In addition, U.S. currency is accepted at many foreign ports of call, particularly in the Caribbean.

    Do cabins have personal safes?
    Most cabins have personal safes. If your cabin doesn’t have its own safe, you have the option of storing valuables in the ship’s vault. Check the ship’s amenities page to see if personal safes are offered in cabins.

    Do I have to purchase the pictures taken by the ship's photographers?
    No, the ship's photographers capture memories of your cruise, but purchasing them are optional. In addition, if you'd rather not have your photo taken, politely decline and move on. If you would like to purchase a keepsake photo, they're generally displayed in the ship’s photo gallery. Check the ship's deck plan to see where the gallery is located.

    Do ships have exercise equipment?
    Most ships have full-service gyms onboard, as well as outdoor fitness equipment, ranging from simple running tracks and volleyball courts to rock-climbing walls and tennis courts. Check the Fitness & Recreation section of the ship's review to review what fitness options are offered.

    Do ships have elevators?
    Yes, most ships do have a large number of elevators.

    How do I pay for onboard purchases?
    Prior to boarding, passengers will set up charge accounts with their credit cards. All onboard purchases you make, from cocktails to gift shop items, will be charged to this account. Passengers who don’t hold credit cards can also deposit cash into their accounts to cover onboard expenses.

    Can I use a debit card for my onboard charge accounts?
    You may use a debit card; however, the ship may apply a daily spending limit.

    I’m sharing a cabin with a friend. Can we each have our own onboard charge account?
    Yes, each passenger can set up his or her own charge account, regardless of whether he or she is sharing a cabin.

    How do I prepare for customs?
    Customs agents will want to see proof of citizenship (depending on the sailing, a valid passport, or a government-issued photo ID and birth certificate with raised seal), a travel visa (if visas are required at any ports of call), and a customs declaration form (which will be delivered to your cabin on the last night of the cruise). To research whether a country requires passports or travel visa, visit the CIBT Web Site.

    What are my customs allowances?
    Each U.S. citizen is generally allowed to bring $800 worth of duty-free merchandise into the U.S. without being taxed, with an additional $1,000 being taxed at a reduced flat rate. Canadian citizens are generally allowed to bring $750 worth of duty-free merchandise into Canada without being taxed. Each U.S. and Canadian citizen may only return with a maximum of 40 ounces of wine or liquor and 200 cigarettes.

    Non-U.S. and -Canadian citizens should check with their country's customs agencies for restrictions on duty-free merchandise.

    How do I purchase shore excursions?
    At this time, you cannot book shore excursions on our site. However, you can book them from the ship’s shore excursion desk. Many vendors also gather near the ports you'll be visiting. If you plan to book a day trip (and not a ship-sponsored shore excursion), we recommend you ask the ship for vendor recommendations, or check a reliable guide book.

    Is there shopping onboard?
    Duty-free shops are located on all ships. On port days, shops generally open 30 minutes to an hour after the ship leaves port, and stay open until a set time. On sea days, shops are generally open all day.

    Are there casinos onboard?
    Most ships do have onboard casinos which are open while the ship is sailing in international waters (generally 30 minutes to an hour after leaving a port of call). There are four exceptions: Norwegian Wind, and Pride of Aloha, which sail around Hawaii; and the Disney ships, Disney Magic® and Disney Wonder®.
    Dining
    Are alcoholic beverages included in the price?
    You will be charged extra for alcoholic beverages. However, many ships now have drink cards, where you can purchase a set number of drinks ahead of time, generally resulting in significant cost savings.

    Are meals included in the price?
    Basic meals are included in the price of your cruise. These include all meals in the main dining room (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Many ships also have a “lido” restaurant serving buffet meals, a grill serving lunchtime grilled fare, and all-day room service; these meals are also included in your cruise price. The only meals that may not be included in your cruise price are at “specialty restaurants,” which usually charge a small fee for dining (generally $10–20).

    Are there multiple entrée choices at dinner each night?
    Yes. Generally, you’ll be able to choose among three or four entrée choices, with at least one vegetarian selection.

    Do I have to eat dinner at the same time, and with the same passengers, every night?
    This really depends on your ship. Most ships offer two dinner seatings for the main dining room, and your dining time and table size will be confirmed upon embarkation. However, some cruise lines now offer "relaxed" dining, where passengers can dine when, and with whom, they choose. Even if your ship has pre-assigned dining times, you can generally choose to eat at a casual buffet-style restaurant at no additional charge.

    Can I change my dining time or tablemates?
    If you are sailing on a ship with pre-assigned dining times and tablemates and would like to change either, talk to the restaurant’s maître d’, who will do everything in his or her power to ensure that you have a pleasant dining experience each night.

    If I have late dinner seating, will I miss the evening entertainment?
    Shows are generally performed twice nightly, so no matter what time you eat dinner, you’ll still be able to catch all of the evening’s entertainment.

    I have special dietary restrictions. Can the ship accommodate my needs?
    Low-sodium meals, kosher meals, and other specialty meal plans are offered by ships; however, you should arrange for special meals in advance.

    Is food available 24 hours a day?
    On most ships, food is available 24 hours a day, either in an all-night diner, or via free room service. Those ships that don’t offer 24-hour dining generally serve food until the wee hours, and start serving again early in the morning (generally as early as 5 AM). In addition, many cabins now have mini refrigerators where you can keep snacks.

    Is room service available?
    Yes, room service is available on most ships, and is often served 24 hours a day.

    What are alternative restaurants?
    Alternative restaurants, or “specialty” restaurants, are in addition to main dining rooms and “lido” buffet restaurants. Many ships now house alternative restaurants, with cuisines ranging from Italian to sushi. Many alternative restaurants charge a small fee for dining, usually $10–20 per person, including tip.

    What are formal nights, and do all cruises have them?
    Formal nights are evenings which the ships suggest you dress up for dinner, with men wearing dark suits or tuxedos and women wearing cocktail dresses or pantsuits. Special meals are generally served on formal nights. Many ships do have formal nights, but generally only one or two for a seven-night cruise. If you don’t want to dress up on formal nights, you can generally dine at a buffet restaurant at no extra charge. To find out if a ship has formal nights, check the Clothing section of the ship's review.
    Activities
    Are there planned activities at night?
    All ships have planned activities; though, generally speaking, the larger the ship, the more planned activities you’ll find. Evening activities often include casino gambling, Broadway- and Vegas-style revues, cabaret shows, nightclub performances, disco dancing, movies, and passenger talent shows.

    Does the cruise ship have planned activities during inclement weather?
    Yes. Each night, you’ll receive a list of planned activities for the next day, including special activities for sea days with inclement weather.

    Can I get a tour of the ship?
    Many ships do offer tours on the first day of the cruise. However, due to security reasons, tours are generally restricted to public areas of the ship.

    How do I find out about onboard activities?
    Each night, you will receive a news update in your cabin with the next day’s activities.

    Am I required to take part in the ship’s activities?
    No. The only activity you are required to take part in is the lifeboat drill on embarkation day.

    I'd like to celebrate a special occasion. Will the ship help?
    All ships help passengers celebrate special occasions like honeymoons, anniversaries, and birthdays. Some ships simply provide a free or inexpensive cake, while others sell packages including everything from in-cabin massages to private tours of the bridge. If you’ll be celebrating a special occasion while onboard, call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978 so that we can let the ship’s staff know which occasion you’ll be celebrating. If you forget to call a Cruise Specialist before you leave for your trip, or if your cruise line does not accept this information ahead of time, simply tell the maître d’ shortly after boarding, and he/she will be happy to assist you with your celebratory plans.

    Is the onboard entertainment free?
    With the exception of casino gaming, onboard entertainment is free.

    What are days at sea like?
    The ship’s staff fills each day with a host of shipboard activities. However, you are not required to take part in any activities, and can choose to spend the day as you wish.

    What do I do on the last night of the cruise?
    On the final night of the cruise, you’ll be required to place your luggage outside your cabin door. Your cabin steward will also drop off a customs form, which you’ll turn in to a customs officer upon disembarkation.

    What services are offered at the spa?
    Most spas offer a typical range of beauty treatments, including massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and hair styling. Some spas also offer more unique treatments, like hot stone therapy and couples massages.

    I’m worried about getting bored on sea days or short port days. Is this likely?
    It’s not likely that you’ll get bored. Most ships offer more than enough activities to keep passengers very busy, even on sea days. To find out about what activities are offered, take a look at the Entertainment and Fitness & Recreation sections of the ship's review.  Some ships offer everything from typical activities like ping-pong, shuffleboard, sunbathing, and bridge tournaments to more unique diversions like rock climbing, ice-skating, computer classes, and movies at dedicated movie theaters.

    Will the itinerary change?
    All cruise itineraries are subject to change. Weather conditions and other circumstances may require a change in itinerary, such as a change in arrival or departure time. In extreme circumstances, the ship will be required to skip a port entirely, in which case the cruise line will try to schedule a visit at an alternative port of call.

    Etiquette

    Are passengers expected to tip?
    Most ships recommend that you tip around $10 per person, per day. One exception is Windstar, which has a "tipping not required" policy: The cruise line simply suggests that you tip individual staff members if you feel you've received good service. Some ships automatically charge tips to shipboard accounts (which can then be adjusted by the individual), while others ask you to pay cash directly to the staff member. Tipping guidelines will be included in your travel documents, which you will receive two to four weeks before departure. You will also find tipping guidelines in the Tipping section of the ship's review, and in the welcome packet you’ll receive upon boarding.

    Does the ship have a dress code?
    Different ships have different dress codes. Most ships suggest "resort casual" attire throughout the day, which includes shorts, pants, blouses, and shirts; and skirts and slacks for evening attire (except on formal nights, when women wear evening gowns or pantsuits and men wear suits or jackets and ties). Generally, shorts and jeans are not allowed in the main dining rooms while swimwear is not permitted in any onboard dining rooms, including casual buffet-style restaurants. There are some ships that do suggest casual attire, including Norwegian's "freestyle" ships, which follow a "dress up or not" guideline and Windstar ships, which still request "casual elegance" from their guests. For more information, check the Clothing section of the ship's review.
    If you're cruising to Alaska or northern Europe, don't forget to pack sweaters and raincoats.
    Ports of call topics

    Do I have to get off the ship at each port of call?
    How do I get from the ship to the pier?
    Can I charge items to my shipboard account when I'm in port?
    Are there planned activities at ports of call?
    How do I find out what to do at ports of call?
    Is there full meal service on port days?
    Are meals paid for while I'm in port?

    Do I have to get off the ship at each port of call?
    No, you are never required to get off the ship. Some passengers prefer to spend the day onboard the ship, particularly when stopping at a port they’ve previously visited. Many ships have scheduled shipboard activities, even on port days.

    How do I get from the ship to the pier?
    Depending on the size of your ship and the port of call, you'll either dock right at the pier, or be shuttled into port via tender (free of charge).

    Can I charge items to my shipboard account when I'm in port?
    Shipboard accounts are for shipboard charges only. While in port, you can generally use a major credit card or traveler’s check for most purchases. Most ports also have ATMs and money exchange centers.

    Are there planned activities at ports of call?
    At each port of call, you have the option of booking a cruise line's shore excursions, or exploring on your own. All shore excursions can be booked at the ship's shore excursion desk.

    Of course, guests aren't required to get off the ship at all, and may prefer to spend a quiet day onboard.

    How do I find out what to do at ports of call?
    The best way to research port-of-call activities is by reading the port reviews on our
    region pages, or by checking the ship’s shore excursion offerings. We also suggest that you do a bit of independent research, either by searching the Internet or buying a respected guide book.

    Is there full meal service on port days?
    Yes, all ships have full meal service on both port and sea days.

    Are meals paid for while I'm in port?
    No, you must pay for your own meals while in port. One exception is when your ship is visiting the cruise line's private island (generally on Caribbean itineraries), during which time a beach buffet is generally served free-of-charge.

    Go to our Cruise Reservations page to book your CRUISE: CruiseShips

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