EchelonTravels

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FAQ’s For First-Time Cruisers

Posted by JenW On June - 30 - 2010

If you are considering booking your first cruise but have some questions or concerns, look no further! Here are the top ten most frequently asked questions about Ocean Cruising that I receive from my clients:

1) What if there is a hurricane or storm while I’m at sea?

Hurricane season usually begins June 1st and ends in November. This is also the busiest and most reasonably priced season for cruising, so will bad weather affect your vacation?

When you purchase your cruise tickets, you will be told that the cruise line reserves the right to deviate from any destination due to a natural disaster. The ratio of cruises that are affected by this are very slim considering how many ships set sail each day.

My advice, if you have your heart set on any given destination, plan your trip when there is no threat of bad weather. On the bright side, if your itinerary changes you may have an unexpected adventure!

2) Will I need a passport?

Yes. On June 1, 2009 the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a change in the need for American’s to have passports. This included travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. If you are planning a cruise to ‘nowhere’ then you will not need a passport, just a valid photo ID.

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3) Will I get seasick?

I would say this depends on how well you travel by other means, such as on airplanes and in cars. Seasickness usually occurs when there is a constant rocking that will upset your equilibrium and your stomach. Modern cruise ships are equipped with state of the art stabilizers so you more than likely won’t even realize that your are gliding across the ocean!

As a measure of precaution, bring along some non-drowsy dramamine pills or you can purchase a seasickness relief band. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe for you a “Transderm” patch that can be worn through the duration of your cruise. If you are looking for a more natural approach, try bringing some ginger capsules.

My worried clients have often returned from their vacation and happily told me that they were fine, so chances are you will be as well!

4) If I want to bring my children, will they be bored?

Not likely! I’m sure you have seen the many commercials where children are happily splashing in the pool or racing down waterslides. All the major cruise lines have age-appropriate “clubs” for children and young teens that offer so many activities they will never be without anything to do! The nice part is that while the professionals that run these programs keep your children entertained, you will have the opportunity to relax without worry! Each cruise line offers different programs so you will want to check with your travel agent to make sure you are sailing on the right cruise for your entire family.

5) What if I have to cancel my cruise?

Life and unforeseen events may creep up just when you are getting ready to set sail and you find yourself in a position of having to cancel your vacation. I always offer my clients the option of purchasing travel protection insurance just to be on the safe side. There are usually two types of insurance you can purchase: insurance that covers illness and a policy that covers cancellation for ANY reason. The any-reason cancellation policies are usually a little bit more money, but do offer greater peace of mind. It’s always best to have some sort of coverage so you don’t lose your money and can re-book another cruise once you have a chance to!

6) Are there measures of safety and security in place for cruises?

As with any mode of transportation today, ships must also follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations that assure their passengers and crewmembers safety while onboard. The Coast Guard conducts rigorous, quarterly inspections of all ships that operate from U.S. ports, looking to make sure they comply with emergency-response requirements.

Many people worry about the ship sinking but usually fire is the biggest concern. When it comes to fire safety, ships operate under international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The rules require most ships to have smoke detectors, sprinklers and low-level emergency lighting for escape routes.

Within the first 24 hours of sailing, everyone on your ship is required to participate in a safety drill (called a Muster Drill) that includes trying on a nifty orange life jacket and locating your assigned lifeboat on the odd (and rare) chance that you need to use it.

Keep in mind that modern cruise ships are like mini-cities, and you should take the same general precautions you would take on land. Keep any valuables in your cabin’s safe (or leave them at home), don’t open your cabin door without verifying who’s there, and be cautious when allowing your children to roam the ship without adult supervision.

7) What type of cabin should I choose?

This is definitely a personal preference. Most ships offer the following categories: inside (no window), ocean view (window that does not open), balcony (usually with a private balcony), mini-suites and grand suites (larger than most cabins, nice balconies, and extra VIP service).

Usually, the higher the deck on the ship that your cabin is, the more it will cost you. Many of my clients enjoy cruising so much, they don’t mind taking an inexpensive inside cabin because they usually say they are so busy doing things on the ship they just want a place to rest their head at night!

Many of the newer ships feature private verandas or balconies on most cabins, so they are getting less expensive. When determining your cruise budget, be sure to check to see how much more one of these cabins might be. It might be worth your money to upgrade!

When deciding on what type of cabin accommodation you would like, you can always go to the website for the cruise line where they list all the deck plans for each ship in their fleet.

8) What if I have special needs?

More and more cruise lines are going out of their way to accommodate travelers with special needs. Here is another area where you will want to use an experienced travel agent because they can guide you in the planning of your vacation and make sure you have everything you will need.

If you use a wheelchair, one consideration is getting you the proper cabin that will accommodate the wheelchair. This would involved making sure the cabins doorways are wide enough for a wheelchair and that the bath area is also ‘handicap friendly.’ Getting around on the ship itself via wheelchair has also been addressed by putting in ramps so you can navigate your way around the ship with ease.

Provisions can also be made for guests who may be hearing impaired such as a visual smoke detector, visual door knocker and text based telephone equipment. As always, please alert your travel professional with any special needs to make sure that before you cruise you will have everything that you need.

9) What can I expect when I check in for my cruise?

Checking in for a cruise is a lot like checking in for a flight so you will want to keep that in mind and leave yourself enough time for the check in process. If you are going on a relatively short cruise and have bags that are small enough to fit through an airport style x-ray machine you should be ok handling them on your own. If not, there are groups of porters available to help you check in your larger pieces of luggage, which will be delivered right to your cabin for you. It’s always important to attach the luggage tags provided by the cruise line to each of your belongings. These tags contain your name and cabin number so you will be assured that your bags will arrive safely to your cabin.

Another very important regulation is that the cruise lines all require advance online guest registration. Make sure you have completed this and have copies printed out to present when you check in. When you complete your guest registration in advance, you’ll just have to present that paperwork, along with your passport and the credit card you choose to use for onboard expenses to the check-in agent. If you prefer to pay onboard charges with cash rather than a credit card, you’ll have to pay a cash deposit at check-in (minimums vary, but at least $250 will be required). During the cruise, if your account is getting close to the amount you deposited, you’ll be called to the Guest Relations Desk and required to deposit more cash.

10) Is there anything I am not allowed to bring on the ship with me?

Most major cruise lines forbid guests from bringing their own liquor onboard, sometimes with an exception made for wine (usually a 2-bottle limit). However, if you would like it served to you in the dining room with dinner, they’ll charge you a corkage fee (usually around $12-$25).

You will never make it past security with items like candles or knives, and again, when you are preparing to board the ship you should think of it as the security measures that are in place when you fly. With the cruise lines concern over fires on board ship, they may take extra caution with things as innocuous as hair dryers, flat irons and electric razors. If they feel that you can potentially ‘overload’ electrical outlets, they do have the right to confiscate your electronic belongings until the end of your cruise.

Check with your cruise line before you sail to see what provisions they have for your cabin as far as personal needs go and also what you are allowed to bring (such as wine, etc.). Each website will also have a list of restricted items that you can review before you pack. This way, there will be no surprises when you board the ship!

I hope this answered some of your questions if you are considering booking a cruise. If you have anything to ask that has not been addressed here, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions! I do recommend that first-time cruisers take advantage of the planning expertise of a seasoned travel agent in order to have the best experience possible. Please fill out a ‘cruise quote‘ so I can assist you! Happy sailing!

One Response to “FAQ’s For First-Time Cruisers”

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