Get the Answers Before You Book Your First Cruise
If you are a cruise newbie, you probably have loads of questions about what the experience is like and what to expect.
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are some commonly asked questions for first-timers. Read through these and you’ll find your sea legs soon enough.
1. What’s Included in My Fare?
Generally, the ticket for cruise lines covers your stateroom, meals, ocean transportation and some, although not all, nonalcoholic drinks. The fare also covers shows, deck games, swimming pools and hot tubs. What usually is not included are specialty and alcoholic drinks, internet access and amenities such as spa treatments, shore excursions and fitness classes.
2. What Should I Pack?
Make sure you bring along your passport or birth certificate. Bring a carryon with any medication and other essentials including an emergency change of clothes. The carryon also can double as a bag for excursions. Remember to bring your phone charger.
Many cruises have formal nights so you’ll want pack formalwear if you plan to attend. Even if you’re headed for warmer climates, you’ll want to pack a jacket, long pants and socks. Don’t forget your swimsuit if you plan to take a dip. Always pack sunscreen and, just in case, aloe vera. See our complete list of What to Pack for Your First Cruise.
3. How Do I Book for a Family?
Cruise lines charge on a per-passenger basis unlike hotels, which charge per room. Traditionally, staterooms accommodate two passengers. If you book early, some cruise lines have a limited number of rooms designed for three or more.
You also can book an adjoining stateroom or a nearby stateroom for the kids. Many cruise lines have age restrictions on kids staying in non-adjoining rooms, but allow families to book one adult in each room and change sleeping arrangements onboard. Suites are also available for families, but these can be spendy. For babies or toddlers, cruise lines can wheel in a portable crib.
Fido and Chairman Meow-Meow most likely will have to stay behind. Almost all cruises prohibit pets, although there are some exceptions for service animals.
4. Is There Babysitting Aboard?
Yes. Almost every cruise lines offer some babysitting options. These can be day- or night-time group sessions. Many are free. Some cruises also offer in-cabin babysitting for a fee, so you can slip away for a few hours. What these options are depends upon the cruise line.
5. Can I Smoke on a Cruise Ship?
Yes, cruise ships allow smoking in certain areas. Those include casinos, nightclubs and cigar bars and designated outdoor areas. Cruise lines don’t allow smoking in cabins, restaurants and theaters. Electronic cigarettes are generally treated the same as traditional cigarettes.
Although recreational marijuana has become legal in many U.S. states, including Washington and California, cruise lines prohibit the use on board. And that prohibition includes medical marijuana. Talk to your doctor about alternatives, before you go.
6. Should I Be Worried About Sea Sickness?
You’re heading out to sea, but cruise ships are big enough that you may notice only a slight motion except in the most severe weather. Still some people do suffer from seasickness while aboard and even a little nausea can dampen the fun.
Fortunately, over-the-counter treatments such as Drammamine, Meclazine and Benadryl usually can help your stomach feel right. For those who would like to avoid drugs, ginger ale or chewing fresh ginger can do the trick.
People who are worried about seasickness can also visit a physician before the trip or the onboard infirmary for prescription medication. Make sure that any drugs – either prescription or over-the-counter – don’t interact negatively with your existing medications.
7. Should I Book Excursions Before Boarding the Ship?
One of the best parts of taking a cruise is getting out and exploring new lands and enjoying new sights. Every cruise offers ship-sponsored excursions. With most cruise lines, you actually can book these trips months in advance.
Booking early may be advisable for popular excursions, especially if you are cruising in high season or the holidays. If you need to cancel at the last minute, expect to pay a fee.
Others may want to have a more spontaneous experience. You can still book a ship-sponsored excursion onboard or you may try an excursion onshore with a company unaffiliated with the cruise line. Booking a sponsored excursion will give the peace of mind that the tour operator is reputable.
There also are many websites that allow you to plan and book in advance non-sponsored shore excursions. Quality and reputation vary, so research and read reviews before your book. And you can always count on AAA travel pros for advice and assistance when it comes to booking excursions.
— Written by Jim Davis