The world of cruising is constantly innovating and revolutionizing the travel experience! Getting to each exciting port of call is only part of the journey, as the ships themselves are now destinations. As new cruise ships are being built and old ships being refurbished, the focus of cruise companies is to deliver cutting edge and refined experiences. Each year, cruise lines invest millions of dollars in order to deliver the most innovative and creative onboard amenities and features. With cruise ships moving into the spotlight as the marvel of modern architecture, state-of-the art ships are being built with an unrelenting attention to detail, adding to the traveling experience!
Cruising offers travellers the chance to unwind in modern amenities and luxurious spaces, and the chance to completely explore the best of their dream destinations; combining the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure! While onboard you can savor delicious meals created by master chefs, and on land you can experience culturally authentic local flavors. Of course one of the biggest bonuses of taking a fabulous cruise vacation is also the fact that you only have to unpack once and you can travel to far reaching dream destinations all in one trip.
Most of all, while you make your way to the most idyllic destinations you'll be taken there in complete bliss with gracious service, exquisite dining, world class amenities, lively entertainment, relaxing spas and the freedom to enjoy them at your own pace! The incredible value of cruising extends beyond life onboard; a cruise can take you to a plethora of destinations around the world all in one trip with everything planned out for you in advance. Once you set sail your biggest concern will be how to relax, making cruising the perfect way to escape the ordinary and enjoy something extraordinary! We've put together a variety of tips to make the most of your first cruise!
Cruising is often described as a luxury floating hotel in which a traveler wakes up to a new destination every morning! While this is very true, it's important to keep in mind what is included in your cruise fare. Specific amenities do vary by cruise lines, but where available and unless otherwise indicated, the following are included in the cruise fare:
- Delicious dining is always included
- Well appointed stateroom
- Most drinks including coffee, tea, and water
- Room service
- Most onboard entertainment
- Broadway-style shows
- Piano bar(s)
- Poolside entertainment
- Main stage comedy and magic acts
As well as there are a variety of onboard activities to enjoy, including:
- Trivia contests
- Cooking demonstrations
- Live stage shows
- Karaoke nights
- Rock climbing
- Sport courts
- Children's programs
- The use of fitness center equipment
Some specific cruise lines, such as river and luxury, offer an all-inclusive experience which include boutique wines, spirits, and speciality coffees with meals. River cruises and luxury cruise lines also include shore excursions and offer a variety of options for exploring each port. However, each ship is unique and offers different amenities, for further information contact your Cruise Consultant!
What's Not Included
With new state of the art cruise ships it's easy to find something exciting to do onboard, however, not all the new features are included in your cruise fare. Each cruise line is unique just like each port of call, therefore be sure to check pricing for any additional spending you do onboard!
Each cruise varies in terms of inclusion and pricing, however, the following are generally not included in the fare, unless otherwise indicated:
- Specialty coffees, sodas, and alcoholic beverages
- Meals in alternative or specialty restaurants
- Spa and salon services
- Exercise classes like Yoga and Pilates
- Casino gaming
- Organized shore excursions
- Photographs taken by the crew
- Medical services
Just like not all ships are created alike, not all passengers are created alike. Your fellow passengers will come from many different cultural backgrounds and tipping is not customary in many cultures, as such over the years cruise lines have adopted minimum service charges or gratuities per day. There are exceptions to this rule, for example special promotions or varying cruise line policies; however, gratuities or service charges are generally added to your shipboard account.
Therefore, tipping is not mandatory but of course is appreciated, especially if a crew member has gone above and beyond to make your voyage special. Crew members work hard to ensure that your onboard experience is enjoyable and comfortable. A tip is just an exemplary form of thank you, and sometimes your verbal admiration goes a long way in making someone who gave you exceptional service feel appreciated.
What to Expect
There is never a dull moment aboard a cruise ship; with onboard events such as live performances, impromptu poolside parties, cooking classes, enrichment activities, adult only decks, water activities, specialty programs, and a whole lot of other activities, you'll always have something to keep you busy. How you choose to spend your day onboard is entirely up to you! Each cruise line is different, but every cruise line is designed to optimize your vacation adventure or assist in allowing you to relax onboard, whichever you choose to do.
No matter which cruise line you choose for your dream vacation you can expect gracious and exceptional service, all you have to do is decide what activity you want to partake in next! For an experience of being completely pampered, some cruise lines even offer Butler service in your stateroom!
The dress code on ships varies from contemporary casual to formal. Many cruise lines will have a formal night, and you can check your itinerary before setting sail to confirm whether formal wear for one or two nights is required. Over the years, cruising has become contemporary and larger cruise lines have incorporated facets that appeal to all types of passengers. As the cruise lines have evolved, so has the dress code! The nautical sailing outfits, the formal gowns and tuxedos of the past are now only required on certain formal evenings, and for some cruise lines are completely optional for passengers. However, feel free to dress up in your formal wear whenever you'd like!
As a general rule of thumb, resort wear is a good option for every cruise line. So take out those sundresses, skirts, golf shirts, and slacks! Swim wear is generally limited to the pool side, and a cover up is required for lunch in the lido dining rooms and restaurants. Also, shorts and swim wear are never permitted in the dining rooms during dinner, and in some cases neither are jeans and caps. Keep your packing to casual and elegant, after all, you're on vacation and it's the perfect time to look your best!
A Typical Sea Day
Morning: Start your day off right with a reinvigorating workout at the fitness center, or a rejuvenating yoga session, coupled with a hearty and healthy breakfast, plus your morning coffee! If caffeine isn't your cup of tea, you can also indulge in a variety of decaffeinated beverages! You can head to one of the specialty restaurants, buffets or bistros onboard, or enjoy an array of breakfast selections in the main dining rooms. Once breakfast is done, it's time to enjoy one of the many activities available onboard!
Noon: If this a sea day, then hopefully by now you've had a refreshing swim, have mastered a chocolate soufflé in a cooking class, or have taken an enriching onboard lecture. It's a good time to start thinking about lunch, and head to one of the exceptional dining venues onboard. Whether you're craving sushi, pizza, or a healthy salad, there's something onboard for everyone! Once lunch is done, head to the spa for a massage or lounge in one of the adult only decks with a book from the library. Catch a movie with the sun getting ready to set on the horizon, or make your way to exciting water activities by the pool! Be sure to keep your eye on the clock, as it'll soon be time for afternoon high tea or happy hour, depending on which you prefer!
Evening: There's nothing like a night under the stars with a gentle breeze! Enjoy the perfect cocktail in one of the lounges or one of the exceptional dining venues. After a scrumptious multi-course dinner, you can try your hand at Blackjack in the casino while you're waiting for your Broadway style show to start in the theatre. After the show, you can dance the night away, grab a quick bite at the midnight buffet and retreat to your elegant stateroom to rest for the next big day ahead!
Cruise lines are continuously evolving to make your cruise vacation experience extraordinary, and each cruise line continues to introduce new and fascinating onboard experiences! Here are just some examples of possible onboard entertainment and activities:
- Broadway Shows
- Enrichment Classes
- Spa Services
- Water Parks and Water Slides
- Ice Skating
- Rock Climbing
- Poolside Games
- Fitness and Wellbeing Classes, such as: Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Cardio, etc.
- Library and cards room
- Mini Golf
- Zip Lining
- Ice Skating
- Portrait Studios
- Salon Services
Cruise lines now offer some of the most innovative and imaginative ships at sea that include exhilarating activities onboard, exceptional service, an array of dining options, exciting entertainment and contemporary public spaces, perfect for active adults and families. Contemporary and premium cruise lines house something for everyone which can include rock climbing walls and mini golf courses for all ages to enjoy! Moreover, some of the new innovative amenities include hydrotherapy pools and whirlpools, adult only retreats, 3D movie theatres, al fresco movie screens, ice skating rinks, zip lining, and world class spas with signature spa treatments. Cruise lines are designing their ships to exceed all expectations without compromising your comfort and relaxation!
One of the greatest aspects of your dream vacation is matching the perfect cruise line to create your ideal vacation. We offer itineraries that range from the world's most loved destinations to completely off the beaten path locales! Whether you're looking for a luxury vacation or an excitement filled cruise with the family, we've got the perfect cruise for you. Our experienced Cruise Consultants will assist you in discovering exactly which cruise is right for you! You can choose an intimate way to explore some of the most idyllic locations in the world on a river cruise, or take an all inclusive luxury cruise around the world, the possibilities are endless!
How to Book
There's nothing like the excitement of looking forward to your dream vacation! Feel free to contact us any time for more information, and we'll make the process as simple as possible. We'll work with you to find the ideal vacation, and make your booking experience for your bucket list destinations seamless! Generally, a low refundable deposit is required at the time of booking, and full payment is required closer to the sailing date. We can help you book a cruise up to 18 months in advance. If you're comfortable searching your own itineraries and booking online, our online booking tool is perfectly safe and easy to use.
When you purchase a "category guarantee" you are not purchasing an exact stateroom. You are, rather, guaranteeing a cabin in a certain category. The cruise line will place you in that cabin category or higher depending on availability. If you chose this option, you will not receive an exact stateroom number at the time of booking. Your assignment is made either a couple of weeks prior to sailing or at the pier.
Run of Ship
When purchasing a "run of ship" ticket, you are buying yourself on to the ship without a pre-arranged cabin or category. You will not receive your stateroom number until you arrive at the pier. Your cabin may be anywhere on the ship, from the lowest deck to the highest, or may be an inside or an outside stateroom.
Best Sailing Seasons
Any time of the year is a good time to set sail on your dream vacation! However, certain destinations have seasonal highs and lows. It's important to remember that each traveler has their own preference, for example, some travelers prefer to cruise during low season because they like the exclusivity of the ship and others like cruising in different seasons due to weather preferences. For example, those who like fall foliage may prefer a Canada/New England or Europe cruise in September and October, those looking for a beach getaway may prefer Caribbean and Mexico cruises in midsummer, it really depends on your ideal vacation. With new ships and discerning travelers who want to experience the world in a different way, you'll find variability in seasons, but here's a general guide to some specific destinations:
Plus, don't forget there are certain highs and lows due to holidays! Families tend to travel often in the peak seasons during children's spring and summer breaks, especially on contemporary and premium cruise lines. If you prefer to have less crowds and families, then you may wish to work around peak summer holiday season. Also, there's nothing like celebrating the winter holidays onboard a magnificent cruise ship, and there are many itineraries available during the holiday season.
- Alaska: Generally, the Alaska cruise season starts in May and ends in September, with June to August being the high seasons. This is commonly related to the fact that temperatures are warmer. However, during the low seasonal months of May and September, you may find some additional benefits such as possibility of snow, and the Northern Lights in September!
- Caribbean: The Caribbean is a popular destination all year round, especially during the summer months from June to August, during the winter holiday season, and from February to April. The Caribbean is also popular among all aged travelers!
- Europe: European destinations, including river cruises, Northern Europe, and the Mediterranean tend to be most popular during the summer months but the high season runs from May to October! However, since Europe is beautiful all year round, it depends on what experience you would like, whether you want to see spring in Netherlands, summer in Greece, or winter in Paris, there's a cruise itinerary right for you!
- Mexico: Cruising to Mexico is also popular all year round, however, is specifically high during holiday weeks in North America. Mexico remains a great getaway for families, and the weather tends to be pleasant all year round.
Taking a shore excursion can enable you to enhance your visit to each destination and truly experience the highlights of each port of call! Shore excursions are designed to fit your needs, whether you would like to truly immerse yourself in local culture and nature, take a guided tour of the city and monuments, or seek thrilling experiences of a life time. Plus, shore excursions also allow you to set the pace of how you visit each port, you could take a tour with free time to explore, or take a bike ride through the city. Choosing the right shore excursions can maximize the adventure on your cruise vacation and create lasting memories for everyone! Besides being well organized and detailed, added bonuses of shore excursions include:
- A safe and stress free way to explore the ports of call.
- The ability to maximize your time in port without worry about finding your way around an unfamiliar destination.
- Experienced, professional and knowledgeable tour guides who provide insightful information and tips for enjoying your time in each port.
- Group lunch provided on many full day tours, intended to enhance your cultural experience in the port you are visiting.
- Multi-port packages, providing you with additional savings!
If there is an experience, for example diving in Aruba or taking a dog sled ride at Mendenhall Glacier, that you absolutely must try, booking your shore excursion ahead of time is advised since you wouldn't want to miss out on the experience you're looking forward to the most. Also, be sure to ask questions and read over the shore excursion itineraries so that you will know what to expect and you will understand exactly how your time will be spent. Shore excursions are an excellent way to explore each destination to the fullest and create an unforgettable dream vacation. Some of the best memories on vacation are created by once in a lifetime experiences and adventures!
It's important to remember to look into all your travel documentation before embarking on your cruise. Generally, a passport or proof of citizenship is required on your cruise. Citizens of the U.S.A. or Canada need proof of citizenship (passport). Depending on whether you're flying into the port city, and the destinations you're visiting you may require multiple entry visas. In addition, if you're traveling with a minor and you are not their parent or guardian be sure to have a Parent/Guardian Release Form signed and completed before embarking on your cruise. For questions or further information regarding specific rules and policies check with your Cruise Consultant, cruise line, or embassies.
It's always a good idea to keep three copies of airline tickets: one copy for your carry on, one for your checked luggage, and one copy for someone at home. Further, if you plan to use your credit card while on vacation you may wish to notify your credit card company of your travel plans. Also, estimate the amount of credit you’ll need for your vacation and plan accordingly. Most importantly, don't forget your camera and extra film or memory cards!
Travel insurance is essential to ensure that your vacation is worry free, and to ensure that you're covered in case of an emergency or any unforeseeable circumstances. If you're headed to your dream destination chances are you'll be partaking in new exciting experiences and encountering different cultures and languages. It's important to protect your vacation investment and ensure that you're covered on all aspects of your trip, whether it's an emergency medical situation, lost personal items, or last minute cancellations, a complete insurance package is essential to ensure that you can set sail on your dream vacation knowing that you're well protected.
Onboard Currency/Credit Cards
Onboard pricing is in U.S. dollars when sailing on Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. On all of these ships, passengers make purchases on board with a "cruise card" that is issued to passengers at embarkation. This card is both identification and a credit card.
Many lines suggest the use of U.S. travelers' cheques when paying your shipboard account. Only cash is accepted in casinos and for medical charges. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted by all cruise lines.
Transportation to/from Cruises
It's finally time to set sail on your dream vacation! To ensure you reach the port with adequate time before embarkation, make sure you plan your transportation to the port ahead of time. Also, if you plan to drive to the port be sure to research parking facilities and give yourself ample time for unforeseeable delays. It's also important to remember that most cruise lines now offer online check in, and if you don't check in online you're required to do so at the pier. In general, all passengers must be checked in and onboard the ship 90 minutes prior to the published sailing time, however, check your specific cruise line for their rules and regulations regarding embarkation. You can also consult with your Cruise Consultant if you have any further questions or inquiries.
So now that you've relaxed and been pampered, it's time to go home! Disembarking directions will be given to you prior to the last day of your sailing by your cruise line, however, if you're taking a flight back home it's important to give yourself ample time to make it to the airport for your flight check in. If you have a particularly early flight, be sure to advise the purser's office so that they can assist you with ensuring that your designated departure time from the cruise ship is early enough for you to catch your flight. Be prepared for customs and immigration processes at the time of departure, as this is standard procedure in many ports. Also, many ports offer shuttles, public transit, and taxi services so be sure to have a plan in place for getting home or to the airport. In addition, check with your departure city's airport rules and policies on departure tax, and be sure to have adequate cash or credit, if accepted. However, most importantly relax and enjoy your last moments on vacation!
Pre & Post Hotels
Depending on whether you're taking a flight or other means of transportation to the port city, you may require accommodations. In addition, it may be a good idea to fly in to the embarkation city at least 24 hours before your cruise to give yourself enough time to make it to the port on schedule, as well as offset any jet lag, especially in cities that require longer flights.
Your Cruise Consultant can provide you with a plethora of information and can help you plan your Pre and Post cruise hotel stays. You may also wish to discuss pre or post cruise land tours at your port cities or surrounding areas!