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Cruising 101: Frequently Asked Questions

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Below are some of the most frequently-asked questions we get from first-time cruisers. Simply click on a question and the answer will appear below.

Can't find the question you want to ask? Simply call (281) 301-5818, toll-free at (800) 304-6789 or e-mail and your Certified Travel Consultant will be happy to answer any additional questions you might have.

Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes your accommodations, on board activities and entertainment, most meals, plus transportation from port to port. You’ll know what your vacation will cost you before you go. (Typically, your only extra expenses will be drinks, specialty restaurants, optional shore excursions and personal services such as massages or hairstyling.)

Here's a chart comparing a typical vacation to cruising.

Cruising 101

As long or short as you want. Premier Custom Travel represents over 50 cruise lines, offering itineraries from three days to over three months.

Wherever you want! Cruises visit over 500 ports worldwide and practically every destination accessible by water. You can embark on your cruise vacation from a wide variety of over 30 North American ports close to home or exciting and exotic locations around the globe.

Simply call Premier Custom Travel at (281) 301-5818 or toll-free at (800) 304-6789. Your Certified Travel Consultant will help you pick the cruise that fits your vacation schedule, tastes and budget. They can make all the arrangements to get you from your doorstep to your ship and back. Plus, we have Certified Cruise Counsellors and Luxury Cruise Specialists on staff. These cruise specialists have completed an extensive program of training, including sailing on and inspecting a number of cruise ships. You can feel confident that a recommendation from a CLIA Elite Cruise Counsellor is based on personal knowledge and experience.

Far from it. The ships we represent range from intimate and yacht-like to vessels stretching longer than three football fields. You can sail with fewer than 100 fellow guests or with more than 5,000.

Enjoy atmospheres ranging from casual to formal, contemporary to classic. Enjoy the endless activities offered on a contemporary resort-style cruise, or immerse yourself in the culture of a destination on a special interest cruise.

There are cruises designed to suit virtually every interest and personal preference.

The choices include: boutique, luxury cruises with globetrotting itineraries; large, contemporary ships with a fantastic array of recreational facilities; classic vessels evoking the time-honored traditions of cruising; special interest or exploration cruises specializing in unique destinations with an accent on cultural enrichment; river voyages into the heart of a destination.

There are cruise lines that feature soft adventure expeditions to such unique frontiers as Antarctica, the Amazon Rain Forest or the African Serengeti. Or, discover historical legacies closer to home with enlightening itineraries to New England, French Canada, Colonial America, and America’s Rivers.

For experienced travelers, destination-focused cruises specialize in culturally-rich ports of call with itineraries dedicated to illuminating such historic, world-class treasures as the antiquities of classical Greece, the Polynesian paradise of Hawaii, the fabled splendor of Norwegian fjords or the castles and museums of Europe’s rivers.

For many, the perfect vacation includes the non-stop fun and sun of a tropical resort-style cruise to the Caribbean, where you can sample a variety of island cultures and cuisines while relaxing your cares away. Plus, many cruise lines create special “themes” on board, with entertainment ranging from jazz festivals and classical music concerts to golf clinics and murder mysteries at sea!

There are four basic types of cruise ship cabins (also called staterooms): Interior, Oceanview, Balcony and Suite. For a more detailed look at the various types of staterooms, play the video below.

To complement the spirit of discovery that travel evokes, many cruise lines feature an extensive program of on board enrichment programs hosted by distinguished guest experts. In addition to lectures highlighting the history and sights of the ports you will be visiting, there may also be special in-depth presentations ranging from Renaissance art to strategic financial planning to epicurean secrets of classic French cuisine.

A CruiseTour is a cruise with additional days on land before or after the cruise (and sometimes both). For example, in Alaska you can enjoy a standard cruise or opt for a CruiseTour, where you'll take that same cruise but also spend up to an additional week on land. The packages are seamless with all hotels, transportation and even some activities included. CruiseTours are available at many destinations around the world and are the perfect way to extend your vacation.

Premier Custom Travel recommends a passport on all cruises. While the U.S. Government may not require a Passport for Sea travel on certain “closed loop cruises” originating in the U.S. and for travel only within the Western Hemisphere, other specified documentation is required.

Be sure to ask your Certified Travel Consultant what passport requirements apply to your cruise vacation. Premier Custom Travel strongly recommends that all travelers apply for or renew their passports as soon as possible. Government regulations are continually being modified and it is best to be prepared. Besides, a passport grants you unlimited cruise vacation options around the world.

The vast majority of today’s cruise ships are “one-class.” Everyone can use all of the ship’s facilities. The price of your cabin is based primarily on its size and location. Regardless of the category you book, you’ll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities, and entertainment as everyone else on board.

Hardly! Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer. There’s plenty of room and it will probably take you two or three days just to discover everything that’s on board. Plus, you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call, often a new one every day of the trip!

Cruise ships are floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer. You can lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books, or watch the ever-changing seascape. Smaller ships focus on the treasures and delights of myriad destinations.

If you’re more active, join in exercise or dance classes, or sports contests. Practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or take in some fresh air on the jogging deck. Or you can swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym. You can also watch a feature film, attend an enrichment lecture by experts, or play backgammon and bridge. And that’s just when you’re on board!

So much that you’ll have a hard time choosing! You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (referred to as shore excursions). Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids or a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid. Follow the footsteps of history or the wake of a waterskiing boat. If there’s still time, play golf or tennis. Learn how to windsurf. Sun and swim at some of the world’s best beaches. Catch a record marlin. Sail, snorkel or Scuba dive. Take a cable car to the top of a mountain. Explore dark catacombs.

In short, cruising is the perfect way to sample a number of new destinations and try all the things you’ve ever dreamed of doing, while never having to pack and unpack!

On a cruise, you do what you want, when you want. You can do everything or do absolutely nothing. It's your vacation!

More and more cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Twenty-five percent of cruisers sail with children and a majority of cruise lines provide plenty of supervised activities for kids, especially during school holidays. If your children enjoy swimming, sports, games, movies and the adventure of new places, they’ll love a family cruise. You’ll find that children adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you won’t have to wonder what they’re up to every minute. Trained youth counselors will help keep them safe, busy and entertained. Ships even offer different types of age-appropriate activities, suitable for toddlers to teens.

When the stars come out, a cruise ship turns on. There’s dancing, live entertainment, nightclubs and lounges, feature films, and parties with all your new friends. Most ships also have casinos. What’s more, there are many special events like the Captain’s Cocktail Party, Passenger Talent Night, Broadway-style shows and Las Vegas-type revues.

On a cruise vacation, the entertainment is on the house. There’s no cover, minimum or charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live, films first-rate and all included in your cruise fare.

There's no such thing as a typical cruise passenger! All kinds of people take cruises now... all ages... from all walks of life... singles, couples and families. Just ask your Certified Travel Consultant for advice on the best ship for you, based on your tastes and lifestyle.

Pack like you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or ashore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. As on shore, attire is dictated by occasion. At the Captain's Gala, for example, you'll probably want to wear something more formal, such as a dark suit, or cocktail dress; perhaps even a dinner jacket or gown.

Reflecting today’s lifestyle trends, many cruise lines now feature a more relaxed and casual approach to dress throughout the cruise – while on others, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But don’t buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Plus, many ships offer tuxedo rental services.

Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone because it’s so easy to meet other people. In fact, most ships have parties for singles early in the cruise, so you can get to know other guests right away. Some ships even offer gentlemen hosts to be dance partners, dinner companions or a fourth at cards.

Many ships also have single staterooms and others offer single rates for double staterooms. If you ask, many cruise lines will even find you a roommate so you can obtain the per person/double occupancy rate, saving you even more on a great vacation.

Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms but do check with your Certified Travel Consultant to be sure. Most ships feature hair-dryers in your stateroom.

Choices, choices and more choices. During the day, there are many different dining options – in the formal dining room, on deck, in a pizzeria and at an espresso bar, to name just a few. At night, most ships offer several venues. Some ships’ dining rooms can accommodate all guests at one time, called a “seating.” Many ships offer you a choice of several seating times, and others offer multiple restaurants for “anytime” dining. More traditional ships have two seatings in their formal dining rooms, which differ only by time: typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late – then have your Certified Travel Consultant request your preference when you book your cruise. Frequently, you can choose to enjoy dinner someplace other than the formal dining room, such as in an intimate restaurant that features Italian or Asian cuisine. More and more cruise lines are opening up their informal lido areas to evening dining, where the dress and dishes always are casual, and sometimes, you can even eat out under the stars. And a large number of ships offer romantic in-cabin dinners. The choice is yours!

Everything you've heard about cruise ship dining is true. At each meal, you'll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too), and each day the selection will be different. If you've ever wanted to experiment with a cuisine or try a dish, you can feel free to order more than one entrée or appetizer (or dessert!). But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because your meals are included!

Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, low cholesterol, diabetic, or other diet preferences. This request should be made in advance, so be sure to advise your Certified Travel Consultant when you book your cruise. Watch this video for more.

Experienced cruisers say they prefer sitting at a table with several other diners; some lifelong friendships have been made this way. But the cruise lines are geared to accommodate each guest’s wishes, and it is possible to request a table for two or four. In the unlikely event that you do wish to change tablemates, speak with the maitre d’, who will make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions...discretely and politely.

Virtually all dining rooms are smoke free as are designated areas in other public rooms onboard the ship. Check with your Certified Travel Consultant regarding the individual cruise line’s policies.

Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of “Happy Whatever” to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers or canapes. You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise your Certified Travel Consultant in advance.

Without a doubt. Cruising offers an atmosphere that’s just right for romance...cozy dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars). Most lines provide special services – from Sunday or Monday departures to champagne and breakfast in bed.

Also, some ships offer special packages for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing marriage vows.

Maybe too easily! Most staterooms are equipped with televisions and have satellite or cellular telephones. You can even use your own cell phone on some ships, where cellular service is available. Many cruise ships are now Wi-Fi enabled, so you can check your e-mail on your laptop in your stateroom or go to the on board computer café for Internet access. You can also call someone on shore through the ship’s radio officer while at sea. In addition, most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores.

Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is $3.50 - $5.00 per person per day for your cabin steward and dining room waiter and about half that for the dining room assistant. Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services or at your discretion. Some lines include an automatic gratuity in the price of your cruise and will advise you of that as well as the amount while other lines maintain a no tipping policy. Check with your Certified Travel Consultant regarding each individual cruise line’s policies.

While cruise ships are not comprehensive medical facilities, cruise lines understand that some people may have health needs during a cruise. Thus they are committed to providing first response and emergency care to guests until they can be transferred to a shoreside medical facility. Most cruise lines have 24-hour medical services and staff operating under guidelines developed in conjunction with the American College of Emergency Physicians (AECP). Cruise lines and Premier Custom Travel encourage vacationers to obtain medical insurance, travel with adequate supplies of medical prescriptions and devices and to disclose pre-existing medical conditions before sailing.

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and 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.

Most lines welcome groups – often at special rates, depending on how large the group. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes seasonally. Consult your Certified Travel Consultant for details.

Nearly every full-size ship has public rooms or a conference center to offer as meeting space for private or corporate groups. Many feature dedicated meeting facilities. If you’d like to make meeting or incentive travel arrangements, ask your Certified Travel Consultant to contact the cruise line’s group sales department to coordinate schedules and arrange for any special requirements. Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment, communications, meeting coordinators, secretarial and printing services and more.

Cruise lines feature special pre-or post-hotel packages that allow you to extend your vacation in either your port of embarkation or debarkation.

Rarely. Popular cruise itineraries ply some of the calmest waters in the world. In addition, stabilizers on modern ships, availability of advance weather information, and development of effective preventative medications have, for the most part, eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort.

Follow your mom’s advice and wash your hands! Cruise ships work very closely with public health agencies such as the CDC to make sure they provide the healthiest shipboard environment for guests. The last thing you want is to be ill while you’re on vacation, so take the simple precaution of washing your hands often with soap and warm water thoroughly. Wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating and avoid touching your face.

The one complaint we hear time and again is that cruises end far too soon! Beyond that, it's hard to find any negatives. All you have to do is relax and enjoy your vacation. Most importantly, every crew and staff member on board is dedicated to making your cruise the best vacation of your life (until you top it with your next cruise!)

Contact your Certified Travel Consultant today by calling (281) 301-5818, toll-free at (800) 304-6789 or via e-mail at
We are available at any time to assist you and answer any questions you may have.