Frequently Asked Questions
Main meals are included on a cruise. Typically for breakfast, lunch and dinner there is an a la carte option (order from a menu) or a buffet option. There is so much choice available, and food is excellent. However, your cruise doesn't always just include these 3 main meals. You can in fact eat non-stop for 24 hours a day if you would like. Also most cruise lines offer specialty dining as an alternative option to the main restaurants. There is typically a small cover charge for this, but the food is well worth it, and the specialty restaurants are normally smaller and more intimate than the main restaurants so they make for a great place to celebrate a special occasion.
Can I bring my own alcohol?
Many cruise lines have rules restricting you from taking your own alcohol on board your cruise ship. If you have pre purchased duty free alcohol the ship will take it off you when you board and store it away for you. The night before you disembark the alcohol will be delivered to your cabin. The same applies if you purchase it when you are in port. Any purchases made onboard will also be delivered the night before you disembark. However, some will allow you to bring a few bottles of wine onboard which can drink at dinner (with a corkage fee) or in your cabin.
These restrictions were put in place to create a safer environment on board your cruise ship, where people drink within a controlled drinking environment.
Is smoking allowed on a cruise?
The rules surrounding where you can smoke on board a cruise ship vary from cruise line to cruise line. Most only allow smoking in designated areas on the open decks excluding balconies or cabins as they pose a fire risk.
Will I be able to relax onboard without worrying about my kids?
Most parents find holidaying on a cruise is safer and therefore more relaxing than on a land-based holiday, because there aren't places for children to get lost or to disappear as on land. Shipboard youth activities are directed and organized by a staff member that has been specially chosen to work with kids.
They are highly qualified and educated in the fields of child psychology, child development, education and recreation. Cruises have strict requirements for staff and most require certification in First Aid and CPR. Some cruise lines even provide parents with beepers so they can be contacted at any time. Cruise ships have proven to be very safe environments for families travelling with children.
What's available for teens?
Ships these days offer some of the hippest stuff made just for teens. Teens like to mingle with others in their age groups and have a place they can claim as their own. Clubs, discos, computer labs, soda bars, coffee houses and DJ booths are just a few of the places they can hang. Plus, most will get into the same things that appeal to some of the adults onboard: hanging out at the pool, in-line skating, ice skating, miniature golf, arcade games, feature movies, rock-climbing walls, Ping Pong, basketball and volleyball, to mention a few.
What about cruising with infants?
If you are travelling with an infant(s), cruising is among the most convenient holiday options. Some ships offer private babysitting services for infants as young as three months. Often the sitter is a crew member working on their off-hours and with some experience babysitting. Most ships upon request provide cribs as well as high chairs and booster seats in the dining room. If you need to store or heat up some milk or formula, you'll find the onboard staff willing to assist.
Are there things for children to do?
Many cruise ships have year-round children's programs with trained youth counsellors on board. Newer ships have playrooms, teen discos, video arcades or computer rooms. Some ships even have "kids only" shore excursions. Our cruise experts will be able to tell you about the ships best suited to children and families.
Most cruise lines offer age-specific, supervised activities that will not only keep kids happy, occupied, and interested, but will also teach them a thing or two. Games, parties, treasure and scavenger hunts, talent shows, movies, arts and crafts, puppet shows, pool games, water slides, the list goes on. Children are usually grouped by age. You can expect to see three or four distinct "troops" from toddlers (around ages 3-4), juniors (ages 5-8), intermediates (ages 9-13), and teens (ages 14-17).
Are there any age restrictions for onboard activities?
There are age restrictions onboard, which may vary slightly. Guests must be 18 or 21 or older to be served alcohol (proper I.D. is required). Guests must be at least 18 to enter the casino; at least 17 to use the gym/spa facilities. Guests under 18 should not be in the disco after midnight.
Are there medical services onboard?
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.
What about tipping onboard?
Tipping/gratuities are a big issue for a lot of Australasian cruise passengers as it is not our custom to reward good service in this way. What cruise passengers need to consider is that outside of Australasia, the remuneration for personnel in the service industry is quite low, hence to keep up a high standard, employees have the incentive of earning additional income via the tips they get rewarded. At the end of the day, how much you tip is ultimately up to you.
The most common way cruise lines to suggest tipping, is that they add a suggested amount to your daily on board account. Some cruise lines ask that passengers wait until the end of the cruise and discreetly leave an envelope in your cabin in which to place the appropriate amount, or others state that the fare you have paid includes gratuities. Deluxe cruise lines often have a "no tipping" policy, though even there a tip for exquisite service may or may not be accepted. Tipping ranges from cruise line to cruise line, but on average is about US$10, per person, per day. Tipping guidelines are often printed in the cruise documentation you'll receive, and you can check with International Cruise on your specific cruises tipping guidelines.
Again, the amount you tip is up to you (unless it is prepaid) and it isn't intended to have a negative impact on your holiday.
What is the visitor policy?
For security reasons most cruise lines have implemented a "no visitor" policy aboard their vessels.
What are the boarding procedures?
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. 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 carry nothing but your hand luggage. 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).
When can I expect my travel documents?
As long as you have provided all of your personal details, your tickets will be sent to you via mail or email 2-3 weeks prior to departure.
What are Shore Excursions?
Shore excursions are pre-organised tours and sightseeing options that you purchase onboard for when your ship is in a port of call. Every ship has a “Shore Ex” desk with qualified staff who can advise you of different excursions available, what’s best to do and generally help you with information on the particular region your itinerary is visiting.
Shore excursions can only be booked onboard your ship however some cruise lines allow you to pre-book and pay for excursions online. If there is a tour you really want to do them it is recommended to prebook it as popular tours do sell out.
Shore excursions are not compulsory, you are free to go ashore and return to the ship as many times as you like however visas maybe required for this. Please check this with the consulate for the countries you are visiting.
When you go ashore it is important to take note:
You must take your cruise I.D. card (ticket) as proof for re-embarking
The city or town you are visiting may not be close to the port where the ship is docked, cruise lines normally organise shuttle buses (at a minimal charge) throughout the day to and from the city centre
You must return to the ship at the stipulated time as the ship WILL NOT wait for late passengers
What does "category guarantee" mean?
When you make your cruise reservation, you will either be confirmed in a specific stateroom or offered a "category guarantee." This means the cruise line is unable to confirm a specific stateroom in the category you wish to book and guarantees you will be assigned a stateroom in that category, or a higher category at no additional cost. You will be advised of your stateroom prior to sailing, possibly in advance or at the pier upon check-in. Either way, you are assured accommodations on the cruise.
What is the best stateroom location?
To some degree this depends on your personal preference and from a practical standpoint, on availability. Generally, there is less motion the closer you are to the water line and the more mid-ship you are. Some people like to be higher up and nearer to the public areas of the ship, (not unlike those desiring higher floors in a hotel). It used to be that mid-ship staterooms were the most desirable because older ships didn't have the sophisticated stabilization systems of today's cruise liners. Today's technology has advanced enormously, and location on most ships is much less of an issue.
How many people can fit into a cabin?
For most cruise lines the maximum number of passengers that can be accommodated into a cabin is 4. This is known as a Quad cabin. When a cabin is made up to accommodate 4 people, 2 single beds (upper berths) will fold down out of the wall and 2 twin beds (that can often be made into a double) will be made up on the ground, creating 2 sets of bunk type beds. For Suites, Mini Suites and Balcony cabins, they typically have a fold out sofa bed to accommodate 3rd and 4th passengers in the cabin
One of the biggest highlights of your cruise will be your cabin attendant. Your cabin attendant is on hand throughout the day, every day, to service your cabin with fresh clean sheets, towels and amenities. To minimise any disruption, your cabin will be cleaned while you are out enjoying yourself. Your attendant will even turn down your bed and prepare your cabin while you are at dinner or at a show, ready for your return. Ask them for anything you may require, they will be more than happy to assist you and make your holiday a relaxing one.
What type of accommodations are found on a cruise ship?
Typically it is where your cabin is located onboard the ship will influence the price you pay, along with the type of cabin. For example, an Inside cabin on a lower deck is cheaper than Inside cabin on a higher deck.
There are generally 4 main types of accommodations on a cruise ship: inside staterooms, ocean-view staterooms, balcony staterooms and suites. Not all types are available on all ships.
No matter what type of cabin you choose, the standard of service, cleanliness and facilities are consistent throughout the whole ship.
Inside cabin, a cabin/stateroom that doesn't have a window. Typically the cheapest option available. These are usually located on an interior hallway. Providing the same space and amenities as standard outside cabins, these are a frequent choice of cruisers on a limited budget.
Outside cabin, a cabin/stateroom that has a window and allows natural light into your cabin. Typically the same floor size as an inside cabin
Balcony cabin, a cabin/stateroom with a private balcony. Typically the same floor size as an inside cabin (excluding the balcony)
Suites, a cabin/stateroom with a private balcony with many added features and increased cabin and balcony size. Suites are the most expensive accommodations, they’re also the first to sell out, so it’s important to reserve well in advance.
Obviously a Suite is the best cabin available, but this is not suitable for everyone’s budget so the best option is to choose a cabin type that fits your budget. Then choose a cabin category that is located in a position on the ship that is suitable for you.
What determines the cost of a cruise?
There are basic price variations between the different standards of cruises. However, a suite with private balcony on a 4 star cruise may cost more than the least expensive stateroom on a luxury cruise! Beyond these category differences, the cost of your cruise depends on your choice of accommodations, from the least expensive inside stateroom (a room with no windows) to a suite with private balcony, Jacuzzi and butler service. Generally, the least expensive staterooms are found on the lower decks of the ship (but above the water line!) and increase in price on higher decks. Inside staterooms are less expensive than ocean-view staterooms. The most desirable staterooms are those with private balconies or verandas.
A good measure of the service level you can expect is the passenger to crew ratio. Silversea and Crystal Cruises will typically have a ratio of around 1.5-1.6 passengers per crew member, while PandO Cruises and Royal Caribbean have ratios above 2. The space ratio is a good indicator of how much elbow room you'll have onboard, typically the luxury cruise lines have space ratios above 35.
When is the best time to book a cruise?
As soon as you have decided you want to take a cruise, start making plans. The best staterooms always sell out first, and the most expensive and least expensive staterooms are the first to sell out. So if you're travelling on a budget and looking for the least expensive inside, or want all the amenities and luxuries of a suite, you need to book early! For these staterooms, a year out is not too early to be planning your cruise.
Also, each cruise line has limited space onboard the ship for children as the kids club facilities can cater for a limited number of children, and any child booked onto a cruise has access to the kids club. If you are planning on taking a cruise during the school holidays then you need to book early as the children's space will sell out.
If you are prepared to risk waiting for a “last minute cruise deal” you may be rewarded with a good deal. However it might not be in your ideal cabin.
How much luggage can I take?
Unlike airlines, there are no luggage restrictions on a cruise. However you need to consider that you need to store it in your cabin for your holiday. There is plenty of storage space in your cabin but if you are travelling in a quad cabin you may want to impose your own restrictions.
NB It is important to remember that airlines have different luggage allowances, so if you are flying either pre or post cruise then you may want to keep within their restrictions.
What should I pack?
Do not let the idea of formalities put you off going on a cruise. Unless you are traveling on a 5 star + cruise ship, formal does not mean a tuxedo.
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. Footwear should include comfortable walking shoes for visits ashore and sandals or rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck.
In the evening, ships vary as to dress. There are three types of "evenings" on board - casual, smart casual and formal. On casual nights, sport shirts and slacks are suggested for men; sundresses or pants for women. On smart casual nights, dresses and pantsuits for women; jackets and ties for men. For formal nights, women should wear cocktail dresses; men should wear suits and ties or tuxedos (optional). But don't buy a tuxedo just for the trip. If you do want to dress to the nines, many ships offer tuxedo rental services. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Generally, three and four-night cruises consist of one formal night and two or three casual nights. Seven-night cruises include two formal nights, one smart casual night and four casual nights. Ten, 11 and 12-night cruises consist of two formal nights, three smart casual; all other nights are casual. 14 and 15 night cruises usually have three formal nights, four semi-formal nights and the remainder are casual. Again, these are guidelines and your evenings attire is left up to your discretion. In addition, most cruise lines offer alternative casual dining for anyone who may prefer not to dine in the main restaurant.
What kind of entertainment & activities are there on a cruise?
The entertainment onboard is varied. Typically in the evening you have your shows in the main show lounge, these are generally shown twice a night so depending on your diner time, you can always catch the show. Some evenings the show will be a Los Vegas style production, other nights there may be a guest entertainer or comedian. There is always something for everyone.
The entertainment doesn't stop with the nightly performances, each evening you will receive a daily newsletter detailing the following days events. This may include dance classes, arts and crafts, table tennis, live music, tournaments, trivia quizzes, recent release movies, and other deck games and deck parties. The great thing about doing a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you like. Sit around the pool with a good book, or join in the many activities offered – the choice is up to you.
Do I need a passport?
Yes, a passport is required for all cruises.
What if I get sea-sick?
Seasickness is unlikely on today’s modern cruise ships as they contain hi-tech stabilizing devices and advance weather notification processes. Motion discomfort tends to occur the first day at sea, however if you eat and play in moderation in the first 24 hours you can help reduce the risks, the sumptuous feasts and exciting activities will still be there the next day.
Like all holidays however, weather conditions are unpredictable. If you are susceptible to sea sickness then no matter the size of the ship or where you are located, if it is rough, you will feel it. Choose your destination carefully and stick to destinations that do not enter into open seas and hug sheltered coast lines.
There are also a number of other precautions/medications you can take you can take, and these can be purchased before you travel. Herbal remedies are good alternatives, ginger works for me. If you feel seasick onboard then visit the ship’s doctor. They can give you an injection that will give you relief from your seasickness within 30 minutes. You have planned and saved for your holiday, don't ruin it by feeling sick. Visit the doctor for the injection and get it treated straight away. If you have travel insurance then you can claim this back.
IMPORTANT: A visit to the doctor onboard will cost you money so we strongly recommend you get travel insurance before you depart on your holiday.
What's included in the cost of a cruise?
In most instances your cruise fare includes accommodation, main meals onboard ship (including 24-hour room service), onboard daytime activities, night-time entertainment including live stage shows. Cruising is good value because you'll know what most of your holiday will cost before you go. Generally your only extra expenses will be airfare, gratuities, drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as spa and salon treatments. Each cruise line does vary with inclusions, so please check or ask for full details.
Why should I take a cruise holiday?
Cruising is excellent value, so much is included in the cruise price: your accommodations, main meals, attentive service, fun activities and entertainment. In between visiting exciting ports of call and discovering new destinations, you can lounge by the pool, enjoy spa treatments, work out, leave your kids to play in the supervised kid's centre, take in a lecture or class, or a host of other activities. And perhaps best of all, you only have to unpack once!