What’s included in the cost of my cruise? Most cruises included the following items in their basic cruise packages:
Accommodations (i.e. your stateroom or suite)
Meals in main dining rooms and some alternative dining rooms
Most onboard activities
Transportation! Remember - your ship moves from port to port! Unlike a hotel or a resort, your ship is moving, taking you from place to place. Almost every day brings you a new destination!
What’s not included in the cost of a cruise? Typically, those items and services that are of a personal nature cost extra.
Alcoholic beverages & soft drinks*
Meals in some specialty restaurants
Shipboard purchases at gift shops, etc.
Spa & beauty salon services
Casino gaming, Internet usage, telephone calls
Transportation from/to your home city and your cruise ship
*Aboard "ULTRA-LUXURY" cruise lines such as Seabourn and Silversea, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and gratuities are included in the cruise fare. Radisson offers complimentary wine with dinner and in-suite set up at the beginning of the cruise. On luxury cruise lines a complimentary shore excursion event is included, too!
How much are gratuities and how can I pay them? Suggested Gratuities Per Person Per Day per Cruise Line Policy and in most instances may be prepaid. These gratuities range from $8.50 to $11.50 per person per day. Gratuities for guests in upper categories (Suites or Concierge Class, for example) may be higher. Most cruise lijnes will allow you to prepay your gratuities. Some cruise lines provide alternaties to prepaid and automatic gratuities so you should check with the Purser's Office before the end of your cruise if you are not satisfied with some aspect of the service you recieved during your cruise. It should be noted that luxuary cruises such as Seabourn and Silversea include grattuities in the price of the cruise. Windstar does not charge require a gratuity.
Isn’t cruising expensive? No, it's not. On average, here's what you might expect to pay on the major cruise lines. We've organized them into four, generalized groups based primarily on a cruise fare "per diem" cost analysis (i.e. cost per person per day averaged throughout each cruise line's ships).
Mainstream: Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean. Average per diems range from $80 to $160.
Premium: Disney, Cunard (standard accommodations). Average per diems range from $200 to $250.
Luxury: Crystal, Cunard (Suites & Penthouses), Oceania, Windstar. Average per diem ranges between $275 and $350.
Ultra-Luxury: Silversea, Seabourn and Radisson. Average per diems hover between $550 and $650.
Again, the above ranges are fleetwide accommodation averages and can vary considerably within a cruise line, within a ship, and even by sailing season. For example, the "Ultra-Luxury" Celebrity Xpedition is an exception within the otherwise excellent, "Mainstream" Celebrity Cruises fleet.
What's so great about cruising? In a word: VALUE. When comparing a cruise vacation to a land-based holiday (package tour to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Jamaica, etc.) consider this: accommodations, meals, entertainment, and most activities are ALL INCLUDED WITH YOUR CRUISE PRICE! Even an all-inclusive land resort package can’t match a cruise - and your land-based hotel doesn’t go anywhere!
Isn’t my time at each port limited on a cruise? Yes, of course it is. Typically, port visits are full day stops, usually from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But here's how that 8 or 9 hours of valuable time isn't spent:
You won't spend time waiting for your luggage on arrival at the airport.
You won't spend time waiting to pick up a rental car.
You won't spend time checking into a hotel.
You won't spend time checking out of a hotel.
You won't spend time returning your rental car.
You won't spend time checking in for your flight to your next destination. On a cruise your time in port is just that - your time. Your ship usually docks downtown or very close by (versus arrival at a distant airport). Your tour bus is waiting because you've had the option of pre-selecting your tour onboard. You just step off the ship and onto your bus and your visit begins! Your time in port is utilized more efficiently than on almost any other form of vacation travel.
If you fall in love with a destination - Excellent! Come back on another vacation and schedule all the time you can! Just remember that it was a cruise that introduced you with an overview of that city!
When’s the best time to go on a cruise? That depends on where you want to go - but it also depends on when the cruise lines go there! If you're looking for a cruise to Alaska in January, you won't find one. That's because cruise ship - like birds - generally follow the warm weather! Here are some general guidelines:
Caribbean & Bahamas - Year round
Mexico - Year round
Hawaii - Year round
Panama Canal - Fall, winter & spring
Alaska - Late spring & summer
Europe - Spring, summer & fall
South America & Australia/New Zealand - Winter (i.e. N. America's winter)
Asia, Africa & S. Pacific - Fall, winter & spring
Tip: Check out our Destination pages! Within each listed destination region we've included information on the cruise season and other hints and trends to help you pick the best time to visit that region.
Myth: "Cruise prices are lower in the fall because it's "Hurricane Season" and nobody wants to cruise the Caribbean then." In fact, the "Hurricane Season" begins in June and therefore includes the higher-priced peak summer months of July and August. Prices drop in the fall primarily because school's back in session and fewer vacations are scheduled!
When are the best cruise deals? There are just too many variables to give a specific answer to this question. But, in general, there tends to be a vacation lull - and therefore more likihood of finding a "deal," during these times of the year:
First week or two of January, after the New Year's holiday
May & early June (before school's out)
Late August & early September (when school starts)
First two weeks of December
Tip: Great deals can come at any time. We suggest you frequently check our Home Page for our Hot Deals pages. Better yet, sign up for our Hot Sales Newsletter!
Hurricanes! How can I avoid them? You don’t have to - your ship will. Today's ships are like moving meteorological stations, what with all the weather tracking systems installed onboard. (Plan a Bridge visit during your cruise and check out those systems!) The Captain's #1 concern is passenger & crew safety and the ship will do whatever necessary to avoid a hurricane's path.
This is not to say that if you're cruising the Caribbean during the "hurricane season" (June through November, but especially August & September) you'll always avoid the effects of distant storms. Winds and high seas can affect a cruise ship hundreds of miles from a storm center sometimes causing itinerary adjustments. Again - it's all about your safety.
What about motion sickness? Most cruise ships avoid rough seas wherever possible. When rough seas are encountered, out go the stabilizers to help smooth the way. The operative word here is "help." Even a 100,000-ton ship is subject to the motion of the seas just as a 747 jumbo jet often reminds you you’re still airborne.
Having said this, there are a number of readers out there who are probably feeling a bit queasy just reading these lines. If you’re one of them, know that there are plenty of medications out there! In most cases, these medications either eliminate or minimize motion sickness discomfort. Some are available over the counter (Dramamine, Bonine, the wristbands, for instance) and some require a doctor’s prescription (the "patch"). Keep in mind, most require intake or application before embarkation.
Bottom line? Thousands and thousands of passengers sensitive to motion sickness discomfort cruise every year with no problems whatsoever. If you're still not convinced, talk with friends who've cruised.
I’m taking prescription medications. Will I have problems bringing the pills I need? No. Just be sure to leave them in their original prescription containers. Also, be sure that your prescription medications will be sufficient to cover the duration of your cruise - plus a few days. Re-filling subscriptions in some ports can be difficult and often time-consuming.
Tip: Don’t ever pack prescription medicine in checked luggage. That’s what your carry on luggage is for!
What are the age restrictions for cruise travel? Alcohol? Gaming? Generally, cruise lines won’t accept anyone under the age of 21 unless accompanied by an adult aged 25 or over. Underage married couples are the exception, but written proof of marriage is required.
Bars generally restrict alcoholic beverages to guests 21 or over.
Casino Gaming is generally limited to guests age 18 or older.
Health spas are generally limited to guests age 18 or older, unless accompanied by an adult.
Fitness Centers (gyms) are generally limited to guests age 16 or older, unless accompanied by an adult.
Many cruise ships offer "adults-only" pools, sunning areas or late-night entertainment venues. Age restrictions vary but are always posted.
I’m pregnant. Can I still go on a cruise? Congratulations, and yes - you can cruise! But you must not have entered your third trimester by the completion of your cruise.
What are the baggage allowances on cruise ships? In general, cruise lines will not limit the amount of luggage you bring onboard though there may be limited storage space in your cabin for empty suitcases (though most beds are designed to allow most suitcases to fit underneath). Check with your cabin attendant if you can't find space in your cabin for empty suitcases. Airlines, however, do have restrictions on number, size, and weight of checked luggage and you may be charged for exceeding any of those limitations.
Tip: Most First-time Cruisers (many Frequent Cruisers, too!) over-pack! Plan your wardrobe if you can, but know that most cruisers return home with at least a few clothing items they never wore. Know also that if you've missed something, chances are you can buy it onboard your ship or in port.
What if I forgot to pack something! It happens all the time. You have your brown shoes but forgot your brown purse or belt. You left your razor in the toilet kit you left on the bed - at home. Not to worry. Cruise boutiques are ready with all sorts of things for the forgetful packer. Or, you might turn around your loss and rationalize away a day of serious shopping at the next port of call! Rarely, however, does anyone walk off a cruise ship claiming they didn’t pack enough!
Dress Codes - What should I wear to dinner? Clothes-wise, you probably have everything you'll need or want to wear on your cruise in your closet or dresser right now. Cruise line dress codes have loosened up considerably over the last few years and the days of rigid, "must-have-tuxedo" or "must-have-evening-gown" days are largely gone.
Evening Dress Codes fall into four main groupings:
Casual. For women – a pants suit, skirt and blouse, or casual dress. For men – slacks and a sport shirt with collar. "Casual" never means shorts or flip flops, however.
Resort Casual. Same as above, but maybe just a bit "dressier." Women may prefer a slightly more "elegant" look to their "casual" wear choices. Men may wear a sports jacket to wear over their open-collar shirt, if they like. Some cruise lines use the "dress like you're going to a country club for dinner" analogy. Others call this "smart casual."
Informal. For women – a nice pants suit or dress. As with Resort Casual, elegant but comfortable resort wear is fine. For men, a jacket, dress shirt - and usually a tie - is the norm.
Formal. For women – dressy pants suit, cocktail dress or evening gown. For men – a dark suit and tie or a tuxedo.
On most cruise lines, the number of "Formal" nights is largely dependent on the length of the cruise. Typically, for cruises of 3 to 6 nights, expect one formal evening. For 7 to 11 nights, expect two. Almost without exception, the first and last nights of a cruise are designated as "Casual" or "Resort Casual." Note that many cruise lines offer formalwear rentals!
Note: Most cruise lines will not permit jeans, shorts, or bathing attire in any restaurant during evening meal times.
Tip: On most cruise lines, particularly the more "formal" lines such as Cunard, Crystal, Radisson and Silversea (except in their "always-casual" dining alternatives) the evening's dress code is generally observed throughout most areas of the ship including bars, lounges and casinos.
Dress Codes - What "daytime" wear is appropriate on a cruise ship? Across the board, casual is the general rule. But within that guideline, weather is the biggest factor in determining daytime attire aboard cruise ships. If you're heading for Alaska, pack for cooler weather. If you're headed to the Caribbean, pack for heat and humidity! Still, there are some tips we think will be helpful:
1. Layers! If heading to cooler climes, leave the bulky sweaters and heavy-quilted jackets at home. Instead, pack light sweaters, light jackets, nylon windbreakers or parkas. Temperature swings from morning to mid-afternoon can be great; you'll want lightweight jackets or sweaters you can "peel off" or slip back on as the weather changes. These items are easier to pack, too! Even if you're headed to the Caribbean, bring along a light jacket or sweater. Evenings at sea can be surprisingly cool - not just out on deck but in the casinos, as well.
Think "Casual." Comfortable slacks, shorts, jeans, sport shirts, t-shirts, tank tops - all are fine for daytime wear on most cruise ships. Pool side attire is appropriate for the pool and most deck areas; bathing suits without coverups are not acceptable indoor daytime attire regardless of the cruise line.
2. Respect Local Norms. There are often local customs or regulations regarding head coverings, shorts, sandals, tank tops or similar attire. Shore excursions to places of worship or museums often require head coverings or frown on shorts or tank tops.
3. Comfortable Shoes. A cruise vacation is NOT the time to break-in a new pair of shoes or sandals. You'll be doing a lot of walking - not just ashore but on the ship. Pack comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes are perfect for daytime wear) and sandals.
4. Cover-Ups. Bring along hats with broad brims, sunglasses, and plenty of sun-screen!
Note: Consider the company you're keeping. Some cruises - say, a Cunard transatlantic - tend towards the dressier side, both day and night. But aboard a weekend getaway cruise, casual is the word.
What kind of travel documents do I need to cruise? Get yourself a passport! If you already have one, be sure it has at least 6 months remaining validity. With heightened worldwide security, it is becoming increasingly difficult to travel from the country without a passport.
Effective December 31, 2006 (recently extended from the previous deadline of December 31, 2005), passports will be required of U.S. citizens for all air and sea travel to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central and South America.
Effective December 31, 2006, passports will be required of U.S. citizens for all air and sea travel to and from Canada and Mexico.
Effective December 31, 2007, passports or other accepted travel documents will be required for land border crossings to and from Canada or Mexico.
Effective December 31, 2008, all U.S. citizens departing and returning to the United States will be required to have a valid U.S. passport.
Non U.S. Citizens: You will need a valid passport and, in some cases, a visa. If you live in the U.S., you will also need the original copy of your Alien Registration Car (ARC or "Green Card") and any other documentation the countries on your itinerary may require due to your alien status.
If you're a U.S. citizen traveling ENTIRELY within the U.S. (an intra-Hawaii cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines, for example), you do not need a passport.
Tip: For information on obtaining or renewing a passport, visit the State Department's Website. - Click here - U.S. passports are valid for 10 years.
What is Pre-Registration? To expedite immigration procedures, cruise lines require that you pre-register with them either online or by fax or mail.
How do I get from the airport to the ship? It depends on the arrangements you’ve made. Typically, you have three choices when reserving your cruise:
Air booked through cruise line - transfers included. With most - but not all - cruise lines, if you purchase their optional air program then the necessary ground transfers from airport to pier (and pier to airport on return) are included at no added cost.
Air booked through cruise line - transfers not included. Those cruise lines whose air programs do not include ground transfers still offer those transfers on an optional, extra-cost basis. These costs vary depending on the distance between the airports and the piers utilized.
Independent arrangements. If you choose to plan your own flights to/from your ship's embarkation/debarkation ports, then you are also responsible for making the ground arrangements between the airport and the pier. Still, most cruise lines give you the option of purchasing airport/pier transfers at extra cost.
Most cruise lines' transfer programs utilize bus or mini-bus transport. Luggage handling and portage fees are usually included in the cost of these transfers. In all cases, uniformed representatives from the cruise line are available to coordinate and assist in the transfer programs.
Tip: You may often be able to "beat the price" of the cruise lines' transfer packages by arranging your own, independent transfers (i.e. taxi, airport shuttle, private car). We recommend this option only if you are familiar with the city in which the transfer is taking place.
Do I have to make my own travel arrangements to get to the ship? No. All major cruise lines offer "air programs" which allow you to purchase air travel to and from your cruise through the cruise line. In most cases, the airlines featured are major carriers with whom you're familiar; occasionally, charter airlines may be utilized.
These programs are optional at extra cost. In many cases, the air programs include ground transfers between airports and the ship. Most cruise lines, for various added fees, will allow you to request specific carriers, routing, travel times, alternate dates of travel and upgrades.
Alternatively, you're welcomed to arrange independent travel to and from your cruise; in fact, most cruise passengers in most cruise regions do exactly that.
AnchorWhat exactly IS a "Cruise Wedding?" "Wedding Cruises" fall into four basic options, all of which are arranged in concert with the cruise line:
Pre-Cruise Wedding - Off Ship. The wedding ceremony is performed at a location near or adjacent to the ship's embarkation port. A shipboard reception follows the ceremony.
Pre-Cruise Wedding - On Ship. The wedding ceremony is performed onboard the ship, usually in the ship's "Wedding Chapel" or private function room. A shipboard reception follows.
Cruise Wedding - On Ship at sea. The wedding ceremony is performed during the cruise, usually in the ship's "Wedding Chapel" or private function room. A shipboard reception follows.
Cruise Wedding - In Port. The wedding is performed at a pre-arranged port of call in the cruise itinerary. The reception may be ashore or onboard the ship.
Not all cruise lines offer all four options and wedding packages can vary considerably in cost and services. The wedding "officiant" can be arranged by the couple or provided by the cruise line but only on Princess can the Captain officiate the ceremony.
Wedding prices range from about $750 to $4000, largely dependent on the location of the wedding service and the package amenities (flowers, cake, champagne, photographs, etc.) chosen.
Reception prices (usually lasting one hour) range from about $20 to $50 or more per guest, largely dependent on the hors d'oeuvres, bar service, and enhancements (# of wedding cake layers!, champagne toasts, ice carvings, etc.). There's usually a minimum (16 or so) and maximum (50 or so) number of guests that may be accommodated.
Not included is the cost of the cruise or marriage license and processing fees. But compare these prices to a shore side wedding and you'll see that a cruise wedding is not only more special and more romantic, but less expensive!
How do I go about booking a Cruise Wedding? Set a Wedding Date! If you've got your heart set on a Wedding Cruise, choose a date that fits well with your cruise destination - i.e. nix the idea of a March cruise to Alaska! Check out our "Destination" pages for cruise seasons and destination tips.
Choose a Cruise! Choose well. Consider factors such as whether you're going to invite guests and where they'll be coming from. A Venice wedding sounds absolutely romantic but its distance will trim your guest list considerably!
Do the Math! How many guests are you expecting? Will there be a shipboard wedding and reception? Will there be an open bar? Will there be food served and if so, hors d'oeuvres or buffet - or both? And don't forget to factor in the cost of the cruise and marriage license and fees.
Work with Us! There's a lot of choice out there. Your Texas Cruise and Travel Specialist can work with the cruise line (and easily compare among cruise lines) to find you the package that matches your tastes and budget.
We're interested in "Renewing our Vows" on a cruise. What documents do we need to bring? Most cruise lines ask only that you to bring proof of valid marriage. They’ll also provide you a choice of "Vow Renewal Packages" and exempt you from license fees.
Before you leave for your cruise or any other trip you should consider the following carefully to insure that you have the best trip possible.
1. Consider purchasing trip/vacation cancellation and interruption insurance from your travel agent or cruise line
2. Review your cruise documents in advance for important information, guidelines and tips
3. Prior to leaving home, call the airline - or check their web site for flight arrival/departure information
4. Be at the airport early - 2 hours or more unless local circumstances require more time
5. Minimize your carry-on luggage AND be prepared to have them searched. Suspicious items (knives, scissors, clippers, files, etc.) may be confiscated and subject you to a further delay
6. Make sure that your baggage is clearly tagged with your name and contact information and that you have completed and attached the cruise tags provided with your cruise documentation
7. Verify that any required medical items are with you and not in checked luggage
8. Verify that you have the proper identification required for all travelers in your party and that it is on your person - not in checked luggage
9. Expects some delays and be patient
10. Enjoy your cruise and have a great vacation