Things to Know Before You Cruise

Avoya TravelWith meals, entertainment and accommodations wrapped into one reasonable rate, cruising offers a convenient and affordable vacation option. Many cruises today offer stimulating on board enrichment programs, unique culinary experiences and immersive shore excursions, luring travelers of all ages and interests. Best of all, you can unpack once, and experience the sights and sounds of a variety of destinations without having to figure out how to get from one port to the next.  Here are some things to know before you cruise:

  1. Choose Your Room In Advance  While many cruise destinations are available year-round, the best rooms aren’t. The top rooms on the top ships are usually booked up to two years in advance. Booking early has other perks, too. If the price drops before your final payment, you can get it for the lower price.
  2. Join the Cruise Line’s Reward Program  Before you book a cruise, make sure you’re signed up for the line’s rewards program. It’s usually free, and there’s no reason not to start racking up free benefits. It’s not like you have to be loyal to any one cruise line either. That’s just the fastest way to get perks like free gifts and food, priority reservations and service, and on-board discounts.Carnival Cruise, all about cruises, beach travel, beach travel destinations, best cruise deals, best priced cruises, cruise travel, cruise vacation, last minute cruises, Things to know before you cruise
  3. Pay Your Own Way to the Port  This isn’t always cheaper, but you should definitely compare.  It does usually costs less to pay your own way to the port of departure. This is because cruise lines have to look at air rates much further out than you do. Sometimes they offer “free air”, where the airfare cost is bundled into the ticket price, and you’re paying for it whether you use it or not.
  4. Take Extra Cash  “All-inclusive” is often a little misleading. The basics are covered, but if you want better dining, specialty services like massages, some forms of entertainment — including gambling, merchandise and alcohol — you better bring extra cash.
  5. Tipping  Don’t feel guilty about not tipping everybody who serves you. A per-day gratuity is usually built into the ticket price to cover tips. On the other hand, a lot of these guys and gals aren’t paid that well, so a little extra tip might mean a big boost in the service you get. Remember you’re going to be seeing these people for several days, not just for one meal or one night at a hotel.Cruise Ship LInes, all about cruises, beach travel, beach travel destinations, best cruise deals, best priced cruises, cruise travel, cruise vacation, last minute cruises, Things to know before you cruise
  6. Price Out Shore Excursions  If you’re cruising for a bruising, look no further than the added expense of excursions. Guided exploration and tours in foreign countries can be a lot of fun, but it’s also pricey, and the cruise lines make a lot of their profit this way. However, like airfare, you don’t have to book your adventures through the cruise, and it’s often cheaper not to.
  7. Compare Insurance Prices  Like everything else, you could get your insurance through the cruise. But, like everything else, it’s often cheaper to shop around and buy elsewhere. Especially if you’re touring through a port that’s risky for whatever reason — seasonal weather, political instability, violent crime, disease — you may want coverage for illness, cancellations or evacuations.
  8. Check Out Re-positioning Cruises  When cruise ships are switching routes, you can score big. It’s all weather-related, and some ships will offer re-positioning cruises when they’re going to or from Europe or to or from Alaska. These cruises usually have incredible itineraries that are usually combinations of three or four itineraries, and cruise lines sell these at regular rates. These route changes usually occur during or after September.

CruiseAway by Dreamlines Pty LtdCommon Questions

Is cruising expensive?

Cruise prices range from extremely cheap sale fares like $50 per person per night, to super-pricey rates for fancy suites on luxury lines. Remember that your cruise fare includes your accommodations, meals in main dining venues, activities, children’s programs, and nighttime entertainment, not to mention transportation from port to port.

Are Cruises All Inclusive?

No. Your cruise fare includes a lot, but you’ll pay extra for a whole host of amenities. These include alternative restaurants, some coffee and ice cream bars, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities. The luxury lines include more, but even they are never completely all-inclusive.Norwegian Cruise Line, all about cruises, beach travel, beach travel destinations, best cruise deals, best priced cruises, cruise travel, cruise vacation, last minute cruises, Things to know before you cruise

Are all cruise ships alike?

Cruise ships come in a variety of sizes and personalities. You’ll find a myriad of variations: big ships, small ships, explorer-oriented ships, absolutely decadent luxury ships, river ships, family ships, sailing ships … and on and on. To help you choose the ship that will best suit your travel style, go here for how to choose a cruise.

Is cruising like going to Vegas or a resort?

This can be a yes, and a no. These days, cruise ships do have all the comforts and luxuries that travelers associate with on-land resorts, as well as much of the glitz and glamour of destinations like Vegas, including casinos and lavish production shows. But, you are on a ship. Rough seas can impact your itinerary, and you must debark and re-board the ship at specified times. Your cabin will also typically be smaller than a hotel room, unless you are booking a fancy suite.

Isn’t cruising just for the “newly wed and nearly dead?”

This is definitely not true any more. Cruise ships are increasingly targeting families, with children’s programs and facilities that rival those on land. You’ll find on board water parks, teen discos, video games, craft projects, and interactive play. Singles can enjoy the camaraderie of communal meals and organized shore tours, meet and greets for singles, on board activities and, on some ships, solo cabins. You will also be pleased to find gourmet dining, high-tech and modern entertainment,  along with late-night action at on-board bars and clubs.Caribbean Cruise Line, all about cruises, beach travel, beach travel destinations, best cruise deals, best priced cruises, cruise travel, cruise vacation, last minute cruises, Things to know before you cruise

Will I Get Seasick or Sick?

Most ships are so big and well stabilized that won’t even notice you are moving, especially in the calm waters. The use of radar helps big ships steer clear of hurricanes and other bad-weather, but waters do get rough, queasiness can be relieved by an over-the-counter medication like Dramamine or Bonine.  You may have heard about outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships. Norovirus is a stomach bug that spreads easily in contained environments. You can stay healthy by washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer which the ship has readily available.

Is Cruising Safe?CruiseAway by Dreamlines Pty Ltd

Ships must follow a large number of rules and regulations that protect passengers and crew members safety while on board. The Coast Guard conducts quarterly inspections of all ships that operate from U.S. ports, looking to make sure they comply with emergency response requirements.  The biggest safety concerns for cruise ships are fire and running aground/capsizing. There have been some high-profile and tragic incidents, but they are actually quite rare, given the millions of people who cruise each year. You may be more at risk driving to the airport or boarding a plane to get to your home port than you are once at sea.

Will I get bored?

A week on a ship, locked in a cabin. Every day at sea and play bingo games. Ok, this sounds boring! In reality, it is different. You sail in the evening and at night and every day you are in a different destination where you can make fascinating excursions. Cruise ships are very well designed so there’s much space and light on board. The Daily Program is full of activities and entertainment. You will not be bored for a minute. And if you want to take it easy for a moment, it will be with a cocktail in your hand on a lounger by the pool.

Cruises Are For the Elite

Every evening in a tuxedo or gala dress. Sip cocktails at the Captains Night. Name cards on the table during a 7 course dinner of five hours. It still exists for those who love it, but most cruises are different. More and more cruise line companies use the “freestyle cruising” concept where you can be who you really are. Relaxed and on vacation. For a number of occasions there are stricter dress codes.  Thus, slippers and bathing attire are not appropriate during dinner.

30 Comments

  1. Moni

    Hi Leahrae, thank you for a great post.

    Leahrae, you are right cruises these days are not just for the elite.

    We did a 10-day cruise around the Greek Islands about 6 years ago and as we only paid around 30 euros per person per night I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it very much.

    After reading your article I am reminded of my cruise and now feel like booking a cruise to the Caribbeans, do you have any recommendations for me?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Moni, and thanks for stopping by and reading about the things to know before you cruise. If you are wanting to take a southern cruise, first I would consider a southern cruise, and second choice would be an eastern cruise. The ports are really the best ports with a good variety as well. Haiti is one place a lot of people would not consider, but it is really a a great port and worth having on the itinerary.

      Reply
  2. Christen

    Leahrea you’ve really broken down everything a new cruiser would need to know before hopping aboard! I wish I had a guide like this before my first cruise :). What cruise line do you prefer to travel most?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It really depends on what you are looking for on a cruise. But hands down, Holland America which is a great cruise line for singles like me 🙂 If my son is going with me, then we take Royal Caribbean because they have a flowrider on board and he is a competitive flowboarder. So these are our top 2. Thanks for stopping by Christen and visiting the things to know before you cruise.

      Reply
  3. Amber

    This is a wonderful post!! I have never been on a cruise and have always wondered if I would enjoy it. Your post definitely gave me great insight and makes me want to book one ASAP!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Amber! Exactly what I am trying to do. So many think it is too expensive and will be “boring.” Far from the truth! You would have a wonderful time and no need to break the bank! Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  4. Rain

    I had no idea cruises could be so cheap! I could probably go on a cruise with my tax return next year lol
    do you need a passport to go on a cruise?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great questions Rain, and yes they are super affordable. A lot of people do not realize what a great deal a cruise really is. No, you do not need a passport. US Citizens on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end in the same U.S. port) and travel to destinations in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda are able to re-enter the United States with proof of citizenship other than a passport or passport card. Acceptable proof of citizenship includes an original or certified copy of a government issued birth certificate (raised seal and signature) and a laminated government issued picture ID (typically, driver’s license), Consular Report of Born Abroad Certificate, or a Certificate of Naturalization.

      Reply
  5. Jose

    Hello Leahrae! Hope you’re out and about somewhere enjoying a preferred sunny cruise off on some exotic coast because thanks to you I have something to look forward to when I decide to leave Los Angeles for a bit.what’s your first recommendation for a person who might leave the country for the first time?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Jose and thanks for visiting thinks to know before you cruise. Since you are in California, for a first cruise I would do a 7 night Norwegian Mexican cruise. It will have 3 days at a port in Mexico, with the rest of the time to relax and enjoy the cruise. I have done a similar cruise to this, and for a first cruise, it would be wonderful. I would always cruise from a home port for the first cruise. If you have extra money and want to venture a little, then fly to Florida (several ports) and take a 7 night Caribbean cruise. The best is going to be a southern cruise, followed by an eastern cruise. Those two have the best ports. If you need any help booking, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Reply
      1. Jose

        Wow! I’ll definitely look into that and I will talk to my family and see if they are up for a cruise, I know we all deserve it! The Caribbean cruise sounds appealing!

        Reply
        1. Leahrae (Post author)

          Anywhere in the Caribbean is going to be amazing Jose! I guess I am just kind of bias, as I love the beach, beaches, surf, sand, and sun. You get all this in the Caribbean, along with the culture, and food. You and your family will really enjoy. Please let me know if you need any help planning your cruise.

          Reply
  6. Corey

    thanks for all the information. I have gone on a couple cruises and is by far my favorite way to travel! It has been a few years though so the brush up on them got me all excited to think about taking another cruise soon 🙂 what I love most is being able to see many places without having to drive from place to place in unfamiliar territory. my last cruise was Spain, France, Greece, Turkey and Italy for a couple weeks. was incredible! Thanks again for the reminder and the ideas for a vaca with my kids (who have never been on a cruise!)

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh Corey, sounds like you went on a wonderful cruise. I would love to go to Italy as part of my next cruise. I am glad I got you excited, and hopefully you will go on your next cruise soon!

      Reply
  7. Leo

    Awesome article Leahrae! This is exactly just what I need as well because I’m looking to book my cruise for the coming year. I will definitely need to check out more of your site as well just do some booking on it! Thanks for the informative one-on-one tour on the experience.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Leo. If you needed any information or help with booking, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message!

      Reply
  8. Marie

    Great information! I’ve never been on a cruise but now I think I want to! Thanks for sharing the knowledge, this is all very helpful. If I ever book one, I’ll need to remember your website during my planning. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks for visiting Marie, and glad you enjoyed reading about Things to Know Before You Cruise. Come back when you are ready to start planning!

      Reply
  9. Alison

    Hi great website!

    I am going down to FL in August of this year to visit family and will be visiting Siesta Key Beach and Longboat Key. Nothing better than beach life IMO! I will checking out more of your blog in the future to get some ideas on my next trip!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree Alison, there is NOTHING better than beach life! You are going to have a blast in SSiesta Key and Longboat Key. Beautiful area. Thanks for visiting Things to Know Before You Cruise.

      Reply
  10. Eric

    This is a good list of things to know before you cruise but a few things I wish you could let me know. What kind of laws are enforced on the cruises and how serious can it get if you break one? Being that you are going to lot’s of different areas is there a jail on the ships? Also, will there be stuff that you can’t buy from the destinations that you visit or is that something you will need to research ahead of time for when you fly back home?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      There are reasons that a cruise ship will kick you off the boat, but there is no “jail” on the boat. You will be booted off at the first port. Things like buying a minor a drink, disorderly conduct, making a bomb threat, taking drugs on board…this sort of stuff will get you booted. Each cruise line has a list of items they do not allow on board. for instance Carnival does not allow weapons, candles, irons, alcohol, or other dangerous goods. So obviously do not purchase these items, or bring them on from home.

      Reply
  11. Mick Krug

    Nice article on “Things to know before you Cruise”. Very informative and I think you have everything topic covered. The all-inclusive question was very good. One should be aware of what is and isn’t included in the cost of their cruise. Best to not have any surprises.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      So true Mick. Some people thing that all-inclusive includes drinks (even soda), and all the on board and off board entertainment. It is still a GREAT bargain for sure. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  12. Chris

    I was thrilled when your web site first started loading. I love the banner background you have. Cruising is something I have thought about but never seriously. You make it sound fun. Nice on the tipping, I never know what to tip. I think you really covered everything pretty well. The one place I see for improvement is more graphics. After that great heading picture, you don’t need a lot but you do need some to make it visually appealing all the way through.

    Very nicely done. I want to read your other articles now.

    Chris

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Chris for visiting Beach Travel Destinations. You are right, I do need more graphics 🙂 I noticed that too and had already put it on my “to do” list 🙂 You really should consider taking a cruise, they are wonderful!

      Reply
  13. Irma

    Great post! My mom is heading out for her first cruise to Alaska this September, so I thought I would check in with you for tips that I can pass on to her.

    They will be leaving from Vancouver, and this is a trip that my brother bought for her, so I do not know any other details.

    Is there anything that you can tell me that my mom should know? Mom has been out on the ocean many times in her brother-in-laws fishing boat, but nothing like a cruise ship!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Ok, I lived in Alaska for 22 years Irma, and I can tell you this. September is cold and rainy. She needs to have clothes for the rain, and some warm ones at that. I can remember the state fair every year was in September. It always rained, and it was always too cold for me. It is beautiful, that is for sure. If you let me know what ports she is stopping in, I can tell you the places she must visit at each port 🙂

      Reply
  14. Marla Smith

    Great article. I learned a lot of things for the future. I had no idea you could pick out your cabin ahead of time. I also appreciate the suggestion of possibly booking your own excursions to save money. I have only been on one cruise before and really enjoyed it. I think it is time to do it again. Very helpful.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Marla, and thanks for visiting, Things to know before your cruise. Yes, once you cruise one time, you don’t ever stop, unless the cruise didn’t go well. And in my book, the only reason it wouldn’t is because of not being informed before hand. I am glad you enjoyed reading!

      Reply

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