New to cruising? Got questions?
Here's everything you need to know!
Scroll to the bottom of the page for some great blog posts from our own agents about their cruise experiences and top ten cruise tips.
What's the ONE THING YOU MUST HAVE in order to get on a cruise ship?
Proper identification!!! US and International customs requires that you have either a passport or birth certificate. A drivers license or military ID is not enough! If your cruise does NOT start AND end in a US port, you MUST have a passport and it must be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your cruise ends.
*NEW* - One thing that you CANNOT bring on a cruise ship is a the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Cruise lines, like air lines, are banning the phone.
What IS included in the cost of a cruise?
- Your room
- All meals in either a large buffet that is open most of the day and evening and/or a formal dining room where a multi-course dinner is served by white-gloved waiters (it's very fancy). You can eat at both places if you rush through the formal dinner.
- Coffee, tea, juice, ice tea and lemonade
- Kids clubs (On almost every cruise line there are kids clubs for ages 3 to 17, with separate facilities, staffs and activities for each age group!)
- Nightly entertainment - big Broadway-type shows, comedy club
- Activities on the ship - use of the pools, hot tubs, water slides, games, athletic facilities
What's NOT included in the cost of a cruise?
What's the food like on a cruise ship?
- There's a ton of it, available almost 24 hours a day, and it’s all FREE! (Except the few specialty restaurants which charge a small surcharge, if you choose to dine there.)
- There's always a huge buffet of amazing-looking desserts - so plan on gaining weight.
- There's fancy dining rooms where you can sit down, order off a menu, and have your lunch or dinner served by white-gloved waiters.
- Or, you can peruse the endless options at a huge buffet that's open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and just eat as much as you want there, whenever you want.
- Even at the buffet, there's always a half dozen protein options, including meat carved off the bone to order. It's quite nice. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available.
- There are always beautiful vegetable and salad bars available, so you can keep it clean and healthy if you want to.
Which cruise lines are good for kids, singles, couples or seniors?
Virtually all cruise lines (except the high-end luxury lines like Viking, Regent, Silver Sea, Seabourn and Crystal) have great kids programs with lots to do for kids.
Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, MSC and Costa all have large kids programs with separate facilities and activities for 3 or 4 different age groups.
Parents - you can leave your kids in these kids clubs all day, knowing your kids will be having very supervised and safe fun. You can even go on one of the cruise line’s excursions, and still leave your kids in the kids club for free!
But there are singles, couples, and seniors on every single cruise too. There is almost no cruise that has just ONE of those groups.
Cruises that take place during the summer, spring break weeks or holidays are going to have more kids on them.
I have three, four, five or more kids. Can all five (six, seven, or more of us) fit into one cabin?
Each cruise line is different. The short answer to that question is:
Royal Caribbean and Disney have a few cabins that will hold five - but very few.
Princess, Celebrity, Holland - no.
Carnival has many ships with cabins that hold five!
When do we have to pay for the cruise?
The cruise lines require a deposit to hold your cabin until 75 days before sailing, at which time final payment is due.
Most cruise lines require a deposit of $250 to $400 per person to hold a cabin until final payment.
MSC is different in that they only charge $200 per cabin!
To see what the deposit is for your cruise line click here.
To make a payment for a cruise booked with us you, can go to our encrypted form at payformycruise.com
What is onboard credit good for?
If the cruise you book has an onboard credit offer, that credit can be used for any purchases made WHILE YOU ARE ON THE SHIP only. You cannot apply it to the price of the cruise or to anything you add before the cruise.
You can apply it to any onboard purchase such as drinks, drink packages purchased ONBOARD, spa and salon treatments, excursions, gift shop items, photos, etc.
Can I cancel the cruise and get my money back?
If it were up to us - that would be fine. But the cruise lines have very specific rules about that. They are:
Your deposit is fully refundable, up until the time of final payment (usually 75 days before sailing). Unless you used a non-refundable fare code, then you MAY get a future cruise credit but more likely, you will lose the deposit. (Only Carnival and Princess have non-refundable fare codes.) Some river cruise and luxury lines have $50 or $100 pp admin fees to cancel at anytime like Azamara for example.
To see the cancellation schedule for your cruise line click here.
Once you're within 75 days before sailing, you can't cancel your cruise without incurring penalties, somewhere between the deposit amount all the way up to 100% of the cost of your cruise, depending on how close it is to sailing.
The only way to get your money back, is if you purchased TRAVEL INSURANCE and you are cancelling FOR A COVERED REASON.
Covered reasons are: illness, death, or injury in the family, redeployment or revocation of leave. There is a list of other covered perils, but these are the most common. Ask us for the complete list.
How much are drink packages?
Be aware that with most cruise lines, Royal Caribbean being the notable exception, if one person in a cabin purchases a beverage package, ALL persons in the cabin must purchase a package.
For each cruise line's beverage package prices, individual drink prices, and article on whether drink packages are "worth it," go to our Beverage Package Page
What is there to do in each port (each place the cruise stops)? How do I book shore excursions?
Look how close the beach is to your ship in Grand Turk! That's why Grand Turk is one of my favorite ports.
There will almost always be many shops and activities located very near the cruise terminal. So you can just walk (or tender) right off the ship and be surrounded with many options.
Or you can choose to take a SHORE EXCURSION that is offered by the cruise line or a company we can recommend to you.
The cruise lines offer many shore excursions in each port that range from $35 to $350 per person.
Once you have made your final payment on your cruise, you will register on the cruise line’s web site, do your online check in, and then have an opportunity to see all the shore excursions that are available and reserve your space for the ones you choose.
After you book your cruise with us, we'll send you a link for a company called SHORETRIPS, which is an alternative to booking your excursions with the cruise line. Prices on Shoretrips are usually less, and the group size is smaller.
How do you book spa treatments or specialty dining?
You do that once you are aboard the cruise ship. You can press the 'concierge or spa' button on your room phone and make those requests. Some cruise lines, Princess for example, will allow you to make reservations online in your trip planner before your cruise.
Spa treatments are usually very expensive aboard a cruise ship. Like, $120 per hour massage, plus you'll need to tip on top of that.
There are usually several small restaurants on aboard your cruise ship, that you can dine at for an extra fee, usually about $20 to $30 per person. You'll have to book these in advance, by calling the concierge when you first get on the ship.
The food at these specialty restaurants is usually 4-star, so if you’re a big foodie, you should do this.
Where is the cruise terminal located? How much is parking?
Here is our information for U.S. cruise terminals.
Here is our information for European cruise terminals.
What should I pack? Is there a dress code?
Usually there are a couple formal nights, where everyone dresses up very nicely and photographers are everywhere taking pictures.
So you will want a couple of fancy outfits for those nights.
Also, there is a dress code for the formal dining room: no shorts, tank tops, flip flops allowed - that sort of thing.
So do bring some nice dress pants, shirts for men - not just shorts and tee shirts!
Anything is fine on kids.
You will want comfortable shoes to walk around the ship and around the ports of call.
And of course if your cruise is to a colder/cooler climate, you will want a rain jacket and layers.
Want to hear what a first time cruiser has to say? Read these articles!