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Cruise FAQ

If you havn't been cruising before there are often many questions to think about.  Is crusing right for you?  What kind? and how much will it all cost?  We try to answer some of the most common questions here.

Of course you can simply call us and we will be happy to give you the benefit of our personal knowledge and experience too.  
 

Is cruising affordable and a good vacation value?

Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes your accommodations, on board activities and entertainment, most meals, plus transportation from port to port. You'll know what your vacation will cost you before you go. (Typically, your only extra expenses will be drinks, specialty restaurants, optional shore excursions and personal services such as massages or hairstyling.)

How long are cruises?

As long or short as you want. Cruise companies offer itineraries from as short as 2 days to Oceania Cruises "Around the World in 180 Days" cruise.

Where can I go?

Wherever you want! Cruises visit over 500 ports worldwide and practically every destination accessible by water. You can embark on your cruise vacation from a wide variety of over 30 North American ports or an exciting 143 worldwide exotic locations around the globe.

How do I book a cruise?

Contact us by phone or email to help you pick the cruise that fits your vacation schedule, tastes and budget. We can make all the arrangements to get you from your doorstep to your ship and back. Over the last 37 years in business, we have booked hundreds if not thousands of cruises for our clients. Our cruise specialists have completed extensive programs of training, including sailing on and inspecting a number of cruise ships. You can feel confident that a recommendation from a Travel Broker and Cruise Centre Specialist is based on personal knowledge and experience.

Are all ships fairly similar?

Far from it. Cruise lines' ships range from intimate and yacht-like to vessels stretching longer than three football fields. You can sail with fewer than 12 fellow guests or with more than 5,400.

Enjoy atmospheres ranging from casual to formal, contemporary to classic. Enjoy the endless activities offered on a contemporary resort-style cruise, or immerse yourself in the culture of a destination on a special interest cruise.

Are there different types of cruises?

There are cruises designed to suit virtually every interest and personal preference.

The choices include: boutique, luxury cruises with globetrotting itineraries; large, contemporary ships with a fantastic array of recreational facilities; classic vessels evoking the time-honored traditions of cruising; specialinterest or exploration cruises specializing in unique destinations with an accent on cultural enrichment; river voyages into the heart of a destination.

There are cruise lines that feature soft adventure expeditions to such unique frontiers as Antarctica, the Arctic, the Amazon Rain Forest or the African Serengeti. Or, discover historical legacies closer to home with enlightening itineraries to New England, French Canada, Colonial America, and America's Rivers.

For experienced travelers, destination-focused cruises specialize in culturally-rich ports of call with itineraries dedicated to illuminating such historic, world-class treasures as the antiquities of classical Greece, the Polynesian paradise of Hawaii, the fabled splendor of Norwegian fjords or the castles and museums of Europe's rivers.

For many, the perfect vacation includes the non-stop fun and sun of a tropical resort-style cruise to the Caribbean, where you can sample a variety of island cultures and cuisines while relaxing your cares away. Plus, many cruise lines create special "themes" on board, with entertainment ranging from jazz festivals and classical music concerts to golf clinics and murder mysteries at sea!

Are there any special educational programs on-board?

To complement the spirit of discovery that travel evokes, many cruise lines feature an extensive program of on board enrichment programs hosted by distinguished guest experts. In addition to lectures highlighting the history and sights of the ports you will be visiting, there may also be special in-depth presentations ranging from Renaissance art to strategic financial planning to epicurean secrets of classic French cuisine.

What's an air/sea cruise?

A fly/cruise or an air/sea vacation package includes, along with your cruise fare, free or reduced-cost airfare to and from the ship's port of embarkation. These convenient money-saving options are available from most major North American cities and include ground transfers between the airport and ship as well as baggage handling.

Do I need a passport?

Yes. All persons, including citizens of the United States, traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to have and carry a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States by air, land or sea.

For travel outside of the western hemisphere countries, U.S. and Canadian citizens must have and carry a passport valid for six months beyond the duration of the cruise.If your itinerary requires a visa prior to boarding, Holland America Line will send a visa information letter to your travel agent.

Visas: Some countries require that you obtain official authorization (called a visa) before entering the country. Usually there is a fee required. If your cruise itinerary requires a visa prior to boarding, you are responsible for obtaining any necessary visas.

The Travel Broker and Cruise Centre strongly recommends that all travelers apply for or renew their passports as soon as possible. Government regulations are continually being modified and it is best to be prepared. Besides, a passport grants you unlimited cruise vacation options around the world!

Are there different classes of service?

The vast majority of today's cruise ships are "one-class." Everyone can use all of the ship's facilities. The price of your cabin is based primarily on its size and location. Regardless of the category you book, you'll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities, and entertainment as everyone else on board.

Will I get bored? Feel confined?

Hardly! Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer. There's plenty of room and it will probably take you two or three days just to discover everything that's on board. Plus, you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call, often a new one every day of the trip!

Cruise ships are floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer. You can lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books, or watch the ever-changing seascape. Smaller ships focus on the treasures and delights of myriad destinations.

If you're more active, join in exercise or dance classes, or sports contests. Practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or take in some fresh air on the jogging deck. Or you can swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym. You can also watch a feature film, attend an enrichment lecture by experts, or play backgammon and bridge. And that's just when you're on board!

What can I do in port?

So much that you'll have a hard time choosing! You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (referred to as shore excursions). Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids or a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid. Follow the footsteps of history or the wake of a waterskiing boat. If there's still time, play golf or tennis. Learn how to windsurf. Sun and swim at some of the world's best beaches. Catch a record marlin. Sail, snorkel or Scuba dive. Take a cable car to the top of a mountain. Explore dark catacombs.

In short, cruising is the perfect way to sample a number of new destinations and try all the things you've ever dreamed of doing, while never having to pack and unpack!

Do I have to participate in the activities?

On a cruise, you do what you want, when you want. You can do everything or do absolutely nothing. It's your vacation!

Do cruise lines welcome families with kids?

More and more cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Twenty-five percent of cruisers sail with children and a majority of cruise lines provide plenty of supervised activities for kids, especially during school holidays. If your children enjoy swimming, sports, games, movies and the adventure of new places, they'll love a family cruise. You'll find that children adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you won't have to wonder what they're up to every minute. Trained youth counselors will help keep them safe, busy and entertained. Ships even offer different types of age-appropriate activities, suitable for toddlers to teens.

What's there to do at night?

When the stars come out, a cruise ship turns on. There's dancing, live entertainment, nightclubs and lounges, feature films, and parties with all your new friends. Most ships also have casinos. What's more, there are many special events like the Captain's Cocktail Party, Passenger Talent Night, Broadway-style shows and Las Vegas-type revues.

Is there a charge for entertainment?

On a cruise vacation, the entertainment is on the house. There's no cover, minimum or charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live, films first-rate and all included in your cruise fare.

Will there be people like me?

There's no such thing as a typical cruise passenger! All kinds of people take cruises now... all ages... from all walks of life... singles, couples and families. Just ask us for advice on the best ship for you, based on your tastes and lifestyle.

What should I pack?

Pack like you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or ashore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. As on shore, attire is dictated by occasion. At the Captain's Gala, for example, you'll probably want to wear something more formal, such as a dark suit, or cocktail dress; perhaps even a dinner jacket or gown.

Will I need a tuxedo?

Reflecting today's lifestyle trends, many cruise lines now feature a more relaxed and casual approach to dress throughout the cruise – while on others, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But don't buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Plus, many ships offer tuxedo rental services.

Can singles have fun on a cruise?

Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone because it's so easy to meet other people. In fact, most ships have parties for singles early in the cruise, so you can get to know other guests right away. Some ships even offer gentlemen hosts to be dance partners, dinner companions or a fourth at cards.

Many ships also have single staterooms and others offer single rates for double staterooms. If you ask, many cruise lines will even find you a roommate so you can obtain the per person/double occupancy rate, saving you even more on a great vacation..

Can I use my hair dryer or shaver?

Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms but do check with the cruise line to be sure. Most ships feature hair-dryers in your stateroom.

What about meal times?

Choices, choices and more choices. During the day, there are many different dining options – in the formal dining room, on deck, in a pizzeria and at an espresso bar, to name just a few. At night, most ships offer several venues. Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all guests at one time, called a "seating." Many ships offer you a choice of several seating times, and others offer multiple restaurants for "anytime" dining. More traditional ships have two seatings in their formal dining rooms, which differ only by time: typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late – then have us request your preference when you book your cruise. Frequently, you can choose to enjoy dinner someplace other than the formal dining room, such as in an intimate restaurant that features Italian or Asian cuisine. More and more cruise lines are opening up their informal lido areas to evening dining, where the dress and dishes always are casual, and sometimes, you can even eat out under the stars. And a large number of ships offer romantic in-cabin dinners. The choice is yours!

Is cruise ship dining as good as I've been told?

Everything you've heard about cruise ship dining is true. At each meal, you'll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too), and each day the selection will be different. If you've ever wanted to experiment with a cuisine or try a dish, you can feel free to order more than one entrée or appetizer (or dessert!). But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because your meals are included!

Can I get a special diet?

Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, low cholesterol, diabetic, or other diet preferences. This request should be made in advance, so be sure to advise us when you book your cruise.

What about dining companions - can I sit with my spouse and friends only, or will I have tablemates?

Experienced cruisers say they prefer sitting at a table with several other diners; some lifelong friendships have been made this way. But the cruise lines are geared to accommodate each guest's wishes, and it is possible to request a table for two or four. In the unlikely event that you do wish to change tablemates, speak with the maitre d', who will make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions...discretely and politely.

Are there non-smoking areas?

Virtually all dining rooms are smoke free as are designated areas in other public rooms onboard the ship. Check with us regarding the individual cruise line's policies.

Can we celebrate a special occasion?

Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of "Happy Whatever" to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers or canapes. You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise us in advance.

Is cruising right for honeymooners?

Without a doubt. Cruising offers an atmosphere that's just right for romance...cozy dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars). Most lines provide special services – from Sunday or Monday departures to champagne and breakfast in bed.

Also, some ships offer special packages for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing marriage vows.

Can we stay in touch with the outside world?

Maybe too easily! Most staterooms are equipped with televisions and have satellite or cellular telephones. You can even use your own cell phone on some ships, where cellular service is available. Many cruise ships are now Wi- Fi enabled, so you can check your e-mail on your laptop in your stateroom or go to the on board computer café for Internet access. You can also call someone on shore through the ship's radio officer while at sea. In addition, most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores.

What about tipping?

Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is $3.50 - $5.00 per person per day for your cabin steward and dining room waiter and about half that for the dining room assistant. Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services or at your discretion. Some lines include an automatic gratuity in the price of your cruise and will advise you of that as well as the amount while other lines maintain a no tipping policy. Check with us regarding the individual cruise line's policies.

Are there medical services onboard?

While cruise ships are not comprehensive medical facilities, cruise lines understand that some people may have health needs during a cruise. Thus they are committed to providing first response and emergency care to guests until they can be transferred to a shoreside medical facility. Most cruise lines have 24-hour medical services and staff operating under guidelines developed in conjunction with the American College of Emergency Physicians (AECP). Cruise lines and travel agents encourage vacationers to obtain medical insurance, travel with adequate supplies of medical prescriptions and devices and to disclose pre-existing medical conditions before sailing.

Are there laundry services aboard ship?

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and many provide dry-cleaning services. There is, however, an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services. Many ships also have self-service launderettes.

Do cruise lines accept group bookings?

Most lines welcome groups – often at special rates, depending on how large the group. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes seasonally. Consult us for more details.

Are there meeting rooms onboard?

Nearly every full-size ship has public rooms or a conference center to offer as meeting space for private or corporate groups. Many feature dedicated meeting facilities. If you'd like to make meeting or incentive travel arrangements, ask us to contact the cruise line's group sales department to coordinate schedules and arrange for any special requirements. Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment, communications, meeting coordinators, secretarial and printing services and more.

Can I extend my cruise vacation?

Cruise lines feature special pre-or post-hotel packages that allow you to extend your vacation in either your port of embarkation or debarkation.

Is motion discomfort a problem?

Rarely. Popular cruise itineraries ply some of the calmest waters in the world. In addition, stabilizers on modern ships, availability of advance weather information, and development of effective preventative medications have, for the most part, eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort.

How can I stay healthy on board?

Follow your mom's advice and wash your hands! Cruise ships work very closely with public health agencies such as the CDC to make sure they provide the healthiest shipboard environment for guests. The last thing you want is to be ill while you're on vacation, so take the simple precaution of washing your hands often with soap and warm water thoroughly. Wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating and avoid touching your face.

It sounds too good to be true! Is it?

The one complaint we hear time and again is that cruises end far too soon! Beyond that, it's hard to find any negatives. All you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation. Most importantly, every crew and staff member on board is dedicated to making your cruise the best vacation of your life (until you top it with your next cruise!)

Who should I see if I have questions that haven't been answered?

Please feel free to contact us by phone or email and we will do our best to answer any further questions you may have.

Cruising Terms

Aboard
Onboard or on the ship, refers to being or doing something on the ship.

Add-on
An addition to the cruise fare that usually includes airfare, transfers, or shore excursions.

Aft
The back of the ship.

Air/Sea Package
A cruise package that includes airfare and transfers with cruise price.

Alternative Restaurant
An onboard, usually themed, restaurant where guests can choose to eat in lieu of dining in the main dining room. Also called a specialty restaurant.

Ashore
On land, usually at ports of call or embarkation/disembarkation points.

Bearing
The compass direction that the ship is sailing.

Berth
The place where the ship is docked in port.

Bow
The front of the ship.

Bridge
Where the captain and crew control, steer, and navigate the ship.

Cabin
The passenger's room onboard the ship, also called a stateroom.

Cabin Steward
The crew member who cleans the cabin.

Cast Off
To release the ship from its mooring.

Category
The level of cabin based on location, amenities, and size.

Channel
The deepest, most easily navigated part of a river or harbor.

Course
The route of the ship from one port to the next.

Cruise Director
The crew member in charge of ship entertainment, often emcees and organizes events.

Deck
Each level of the ship.

Disembark
To leave the ship and go ashore.

Dinner Seating
The time a passenger is scheduled to dine in a particular venue on the ship, also known as fixed seating.

Dock
The place to moor the ship.

Embark
To go onboard the ship.

First Seating
The earlier, or first, of two meal servings in the ship's main dining room -- also referred to as early or main seating.

Fleet
The number of ships owned by the same cruise line company.

Funnel
The ship's smokestack.

Galley
The ship's kitchen.

Gangway
The ramp or stairway from the ship to the shore when docked.

Hand
A crewmember.

Helm
The ship's steering equipment, located in the bridge.

Hold
The ship's main cargo area.

Hotel Manager
The crewmember in charge of hotel operations such as housekeeping and passenger services.

Hull
The outside shell of the ship.

Inside Cabin
A stateroom that does not have a window, balcony, or outside view.

Knot
The measurement of the ship's speed.

Lines
The ropes used to tie up the ship when in port.

Maiden Voyage
The first voyage of a new ship.

Mini-Suite
The smallest and most affordable luxury suite on a ship.

Moor
To hold the ship in place with lines when docked.

Muster Station
The meeting place on the ship where guests should meet to get into lifeboats when there is an emergency.

Ocean view Cabin
A stateroom with a large porthole window or balcony, also referred to as outside cabin.

Open Seating
A dinner seating with no assigned tables.

Passageway
A hallway inside the ship.

Passenger to Crew Ratio
The total number of guests divided by the total number of crew.

Port
The left side of the ship when facing forward; also a name for the harbor where a ship docks.

Porthole
A round window on a ship.

Port of Call
A port where the ship anchors or moors and passengers disembark.

Promenade
The open deck that circles the ship, usually used for walking or jogging.

Purser
The officer onboard who serves as a financial or administrative manager for guest services.

Repositioning Cruise
A one-way itinerary that takes a ship from one region to another at the change of cruise seasons.

Second Seating
The later of the two meal seating’s in the ship's main dining room, also known as the late seating.

Single Supplement
An extra charge some cruise lines require travelers to pay to have just one person in a cabin.

Sister Ships
Ships built with the same design, usually in the same cruise line.

Shore Excursion
A tour or guided activity ashore, usually pre-paid.

Starboard
The right side of the ship when facing forward.

Suite
The largest class of stateroom, features separate living and sleeping areas.

Tender
A small board used to transport passengers from the ship to the shore when the harbor is no deep enough for the ship to dock.

Transfer
Transportation from the airport or hotel to the ship.