A cruise can be an amazing vacation which leaves you wanting to go again next year. It can also be a less than amazing vacation which leaves you swearing you’ll never step foot on a cruise ship again! Many first-time cruisers have an unrealistic idea of what cruising is and end up being disappointed.
Just knowing what to expect can do a lot to ward off stress and disappointment. This article will cover the questions first-time cruisers need to know.
Can All Ages Cruise?
There is no minimum or maximum age to cruise although some cruise lines ask for a doctor’s note for infants under six months of age. Cruise lines offer a variety of activities which span all ages and everyone can be as active or inactive as they wish.
There are wonderful children’s programs for potty trained kids through teens. These are drop- in groups where your child can attend as little, or as often, as you choose. Once you sign up, a list will be delivered to your cabin stating the following day activities.
What Documents Are Needed To Board?
All passengers (including children and infants) need a passport. In some circumstances, a visa may also be required. If you don’t already have a passport, get your application started as soon as possible since it can takes weeks for it to arrive.
How Long Does Check- In Take?
Actual check-in time will vary from cruise to cruise but be prepared for a decent wait. You will often be able to check-in before the ship is opened to board, which is normally around four hours prior to departure.
There is always a line to check-in but it moves at a steady pace. When it is your turn, you will give them your tickets along with your passports and a credit card. Each person in your party will then be photographed for their passenger card which is not only your room key but is used for all onboard purchases. It also serves as your identification for boarding and re-boarding the ship.
What Should We Do After Boarding?
After your boarding photo (smile, this is the first of many) there will be crew-members, who will direct you to your cabin. Ask them where lunch is being served and head there after checking out your cabin. After lunch, start familiarizing yourselves with the ship before joining the cast off party. Afterwards there will be a mandatory lifeboat drill which will require you wear the lifejackets from your cabin.
What Will Our Cabin Be Like?
There are multiple cabin types with the largest number being inside (no windows), outside (window or port hole) or balconies. The cabins are small with two lower beds that can be pushed together for doubles and either pull-down bunks or sofa beds for triples and quads.
There are also larger suites with some sleeping up to ten!
Check the ships layout before you book and stay away from rooms next to the stairwells, elevators and any service areas. The middle of the ship moves the least, not to mention letting you find your way around faster.
What About The Food?
You certainly won’t go hungry on a cruise! Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served as buffets and in the main dinning rooms during specific hours. In the dinning room: breakfast and lunch are served open table where you can choose to sit with just your party or at large table with other passengers. Dinners are served the same way on ships that have an open (freestyle, as you like etc.) option. On ships with traditional dinner dinning, you are given an assigned table and dining time. Menus change daily and are posted outside the dining room.
There are always other areas where you can find food such as pool side, the grill, pizza center, ice cream bar, midnight snacks and of course room service.
What Is NOT Included?
The following items are not included in your cruise price: alcohol, soda pop, tips, port excursions (and purchases), some fitness classes, spa, photographs, specialty restaurants and onboard purchases.
What about tipping?
Tipping is a BIG question and often a shock to first time cruisers! It is a personal matter and most lines have their own guidelines. A general rule is $10 per guest, per day and half that for children. Many lines deduct it directly off your credit card while others give you envelopes to dispense them yourself. Spa treatments, room service and the kids’ staff are also normally tipped if you use their services.
It may seem like a large added amount but these people are in the service industry, and therefore, the passenger tips make up the largest percentage of their income! It is important to add this cost into your cruise budget.
Tips for drinks are pre-added so if you add one, you are tipping them twice! This is true on both alcoholic drinks and soda pop.
Cruising really is a wonderful way to vacation. Traveling to wonderful destinations while someone else cooks and cleans, how great is that?