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Cruise FAQ

Make sure that you have all of your documentation on embarkation day. Most cruise lines require you to pre-register for your cruise on line. This can usually be done after final payment has been made on your cruise. Don’t wait until that day to check the validity of your passport. Port security has increased in recent years. Make sure that the information on your travel documents matches those on your cruise tickets. Arriving at the port without proper documentation can result in denied boarding without a refund.

Included: Meals, entertainment, accommodations, activities.

Additional: Soft drinks and alcohol on most cruise lines, spa treatments, shore excursions, specialty dining, internet, gratuities on most cruise lines. Beverage packages are available.

Note: Inclusions vary from cruise line to cruise line. Be sure to check specifically what is included when making your booking.

Learn about the ports that you are going to visit. Check out the weather and what there is to do. Find out how far from the port a city center is. This will help you to determine if you might want to book a shore excursion and what type of an excursion you may want to book, or if you just want to explore a port on your own.

Shore excursions are an important part of every cruise. It’s not necessary to book excursions in every port but it is important to do your research in advance. Find out what is offered in each port and decide what is important to you. If there is a limited time in a large city it is sometimes good to book a short city tour to give you a quick overview of the city that you are visiting. This allows you to get orientated and to maximize your time in that port. Also, if the distance between the port and the city is far, then booking either a transfer or a tour that drops you off in the city center is a good idea. If you are in port where there may be a language barrier pre-booking excursions can provide a certain comfort level. Lastly, if you are interested in an activity where space is limited (such as a helicopter tour in Alaska) it is a good idea to book that tour in advance to avoid disappointment if that excursion is no longer available when you arrive.

Shore excursions can be booked in advance either through the cruise lines or through companies that specialize in shore excursions. If you wait to book on the ship don’t wait until just before the scheduled port arrival time or you will be disappointed. Shore excursions do sell out.

 

Group Shore Excursion: You can book an excursion as part of a group by booking with the cruise line or with an independent shore excursion company. When you book as part of a group the costs are lower and you travel with many of your fellow cruisers. Transportation is usually via motorcoach.

Private Shore Excursions: Private excursions are exactly that. You will be met by the guide and driver at the port and you can see exactly what you want to see. You can customize your tour exactly to your liking. While private tours might be slightly more expensive you really have the ability to see what you want to see and maximize your time in port without having to wait for everyone else in a larger group tour. If you are traveling with four or more people the benefits can easily justify the cost difference. Private excursions should be booked in advance.

Independent Travel: In smaller ports it’s quite possible to get off of the ship and explore on your own. You can create your own experiences, sample different cuisines and see different sights. Sometimes taking a quick taxi ride into town is all it takes. Be sure to know the price of the ride up front or make sure that the taxi is on a meter.

Flight delays are possible. Arriving early reduces stress and protects against unforeseen issues. It’s best to arrive the day before if you are flying in. This way you can explore the port city and have a built in buffer in case of delays. If you cannot come a day early plan to arrive between noon and 1PM for most ships. Most ships pull out of port between 4PM and 6PM but don’t schedule a flight that arrives just an hour before. If you miss the ship it is your responsibility, both physically and financially, to get yourself to the next port if you booked non-cruise line air.

Every cruise line publishes an activity sheet which is delivered daily to your cabin. Here you will find listed all of the things that you can do on board the ship that day, dining times, special events and activities, contact numbers and more.

For security reasons most cruise lines have implemented a “no visitor” policy aboard their vessels.

Travel insurance can be purchased online prior to your departure. The price will vary depending on the cost and length of your cruise. The purchase of travel insurance is strongly recommended. Once you are within the final payment period the cruise lines will impose strict cancellation penalties as outlined in their brochures. These penalties will not be waived even for medical reasons. Travel Insurance plans may also provide emergency medical benefits for covered illness or injury that occurs during your trip. Most personal insurance policies, including Medicare, do not provide coverage outside the U.S. Please contact us for further details.

AIR TRAVEL
All U.S. citizens including children must present a passport or other approved travel document when entering the United States by air. U.S. citizens can present a passport, NEXUS card at airports with NEXUS kiosks, U.S. military ID with travel orders, or a U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when on official business.

CRUISE TRAVEL
U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, will be required to present one of the travel documents listed below.

U.S. Passport – This is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea.

U.S. Passport Card – This is a new, limited-use travel document that fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea.

Trusted Traveler Program Cards – NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use at land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.

Note: Cruise Ship Passengers: U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port) will be able to enter or depart the country with a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the countries your cruise ship is visiting. Check with your cruise line to ensure you have the appropriate documents.

U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 16 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 19 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory and traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization, or sports team, may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

The group should be prepared to present a letter on organizational letterhead with the following information:

The name of the group and supervising adult;
A list of the children on the trip, and the primary address, phone number, date of birth, place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child; and
A written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has obtained parental or legal guardian consent for each participating child
These rules, requirements and regulations became effective on June 1, 2009 and replace all previous requirements. Cruise.com is not liable for any fees or penalties if passengers are denied boarding for failure to provide adequate documentation of citizenship.

OUR RECOMMENDATION
Cruise.com strongly recommends that all guests travel with a valid passport during their cruise. This greatly assists guests who may need to fly out of the United States to meet their ship at the next available port should they miss their scheduled embarkation in a U.S. port; guests entering the U.S. at the end of their cruise; and guests needing to fly to the U.S. before their cruise ends, because of medical, family, personal or business emergencies, missing a ship’s departure from a port of call, involuntary disembarkation from a ship due to misconduct, or other reasons.

Guests who need to fly to the United States before their cruise ends will likely experience significant delays and complications related to booking airline tickets and entering the United States if they do not have a valid U.S. passport with them.

All Non-U.S. citizens: Any non-US citizen who has previously been admitted to the United States for permanent residence must carry their passport and Alien Registration Receipt Card. All other non-U.S./non-Canadian citizens must have valid passports and any necessary visas. Such guests should verify carefully the existing identification requirements for their particular travel situation, as these requirements may change.

IMPORTANT: ALL guests should carefully verify the existing identification requirements for their particular travel situation DIRECTLY WITH THE CRUISE LINE OR THEIR LOCAL CONSULATES OR EMBASSIES, as these requirements may change. Guests arriving for embarkation without proper documentation may be denied boarding and will not be entitled to a refund.

First and foremost, dress for comfort. Daily life aboard ship and in ports of call is laid-back and casual. You are encouraged to wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable: sportswear, shorts, slacks, sundresses and so on. Warmer temperatures call for clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics. For cooler temperatures we suggest casual clothes that can be layered easily. On some days you may need a raincoat and waterproof hat or umbrella. Gloves are a good idea as well. Footwear should include comfortable walking shoes for visits ashore and sandals or rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck.

In the evening the dress codes varies according to the ship that you are sailing on. Most ships now offer a variety of restaurants to choose from and the dress codes for those restaurants will vary from casual to smart casual to formal. The suggested dress code in the ships’ main dining rooms is generally sport shirts and slacks for men and sundresses or pants for women although some guests prefer to dress up for the occasion and are welcome to do so. In specialty restaurants and on the luxury cruise ships, jackets and ties for men are suggested for men and cocktail dresses or a nice pantsuit outfit would be appropriate for women. Tuxedos are no longer the norm for formal nights as even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Tuxedos are usually available for rental if preferred. Again, these are guidelines and your evening attire is left up to your discretion.

Many cruise lines now offer a variety of dining options including specialty restaurants. As these restaurants tend to be smaller it is recommended to make reservations in advance during the pre-cruise registration process. Reservations can also be made in advance for the Spa and for some other onboard activities and entertainment venues.

Most airlines require passengers to check in online on their website 24 hours prior to the flight departure time and to print out boarding passes. At this time you can set your profile preferences to be notified about schedule changes either by email, text or a phone call. Please note that while you need to check in 24 hours prior to your flight departure, boarding passes generally cannot be obtained in advance for international flights as the airlines need to be able to verify the validity of your passport and other boarding documents. Plan to be at the airline counter at least 1-1/2 hours before flight time for domestic flights and 2-1/2 hours before flight time for international flights to account for any possible delays.

Parking available at most of the piers and the rates vary by location. Visit Port of Galveston Parking Page for links and additional information if you are departing out of the Port of Galveston. Please note that at some piers only cash is accepted.

Most cruise lines include transfers between the airport and the pier on embarkation/disembarkation day if you have purchased an air/sea package directly with them. Passengers providing their own air must get their own transportation to/from the pier. Prepaid transfers can be purchased separately from most cruise lines. Flight information must be provided to the cruise line with final payment if separate transfers have been purchased.

Generally, you will be allowed to board two or three hours before the ship sails. Keep in mind that you must be on the ship at least one hour before departure, and the gangway will be pulled thirty minutes before sailing.

Upon completion of check-in, you will receive a guest identification card. This card will serve as your identification on-board and will be used as your payment method for all onboard charges. In addition, it will also serve as your identification for security procedures when embarking and disembarking the ship and when making purchases on board.

As you walk up the gangway, a member of the cruise staff will welcome you aboard. Your luggage will be delivered to your cabin shortly after it arrives at the ship. You will only have your hand luggage while boarding so be sure to keep important articles such as medicines, cameras, diapers and other necessary items in your carry-on luggage. It’s also a good idea to pack your bathing suit in your carry-on luggage so that you can enjoy the pool area while waiting for your luggage to be delivered. Once you are on board you are free to explore the ship. Refreshments are available during embarkation and most cruise lines offer a nice buffet lunch (depending on the departure time).

Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms however nearly all ships now feature hair-dryers in the cabins. While traveling outside of the US a converter and an adapter is usually necessary for most electronic devices. Some ships sailing outside of North America offer both 110 and 220-volt outlets. Most hotels outside of the US only offer 220-volt outlets.

Mass Media: Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores. Staterooms on most ships are equipped with televisions featuring a variety of news and entertainment channels.

Telephone: While most ships have telephones in passenger cabins, you can also call someone on shore through the ship’s radio operator while at sea. Please note that the costs for ship to shore calling can be quite high. You can make phone calls from most ports and most cellular carriers offer international calling plans as well as Cellular at Sea plans that you can purchase for the specific time period before you depart for your trip. If you plan of making phone calls while abroad then pre-purchasing an international calling plan from your cellular carrier can help save you money. Please note that the Caribbean is considered international and roaming charges will apply if an international calling plan is not purchased. Please contact your specific mobile carrier for detailed information about the calling plans that they offer.

Fax and Internet: Many ships have fax capabilities and internet access. If you plan on using internet while onboard it is often less expensive to purchase an internet plan. Internet packages vary according to the amount of minutes purchased and can be used by most cell phones, laptops or other mobile devices. Information about specific plans can usually be found in your stateroom or at guest services.

Most cruise lines have set up a “cashless” system designed to make your life on board as simple as possible. You simply sign a receipt for each of your on-board purchases and then settle your shipboard account at the end of the cruise. Cash, VISA, American Express, MasterCard, Discover, and personal or traveler’s checks are accepted as payment on most cruise lines.

Gratuities vary by cruise line and are usually added to your shipboard account. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $12.50 to $15.00 per person per day which includes gratuities for your room steward and dining room staff. On many cruise lines it is now possible to prepay the above gratuities. Certainly, if you have received exceptional service from an employee and want to give an additional tip as a token of appreciation, then cash can certainly be offered. On most cruise lines a 15%-18% gratuity is automatically added to beverage purchases, spa packages and other service related items which you may adjust according to services rendered. Most luxury cruise lines and river cruise lines include tipping in the price and will advise you accordingly.

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and a great 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.

All cruise lines will make your “special” day special. Most will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of Happy Whatever to honor the occasion.

Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a fully-equipped medical facility and staff to handle almost any emergency.

Your prescription medication should be kept close at hand in your purse or carry-on bag rather than in your checked luggage. Be sure to bring a sufficient supply of medication and transport it in the original container. It is also a good idea to carry a written list of your medications in case they are lost. The list should include the name of the drug, dosage, and times taken.

Please note that charges are usually incurred for services provided by onboard medical personnel. This is another reason why the purchase of travel insurance is very strongly suggested.

*All information on this page is courtesy of cruise.com and can be found on https://www.cruise.com/cruise-information/faqs/ and https://www.cruise.com/cruise-information/cruise-tips/ as of 11/12/2022.