How to save money without sacrificing fun!
Accredited Cruise Counsellor
Owner/Manager, Group Cruises Unlimited
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE ROLE OF THE TRAVEL AGENT
DOING YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Ports of Call
Cruise Line Considerations
LET'S GO CRUISING
A SIMPLE PLAN
TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE (TIPS)
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
More Than Bus Trips
FOOD, FOOD, FOOD
Dinner Meal Time Selection
GETTING YOUR DRINK ON
MAMA NEEDS A NEW PAIR 'O SHOES
TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued)
SPORTS AND SUCH
Calgon, Take Me Away
OH MY ACHING TUMMY
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA
NO MONEY, NO MONEY, NO MONEY
WRAPPING IT UP
“Baby let me take you on a sea cruise”
The lyrics to Frankie Ford’s song “Sea Cruise” released in 1959 seem to echo the sentiments of many people when planning a vacation. Did you know, however, that 80% of the U.S. population has never taken a cruise? Some think it’s out of the realm of possibilities when considering a vacation on a budget, but not anymore!
Many people think that cruising the open seas on a luxury ship is a vacation they can’t even dream of...or it's just for the newly wed or nearly dead! However, with some careful planning and saving, a cruise that fits your lifestyle is definitely within the realm of possibilities!
The cost of cruising has dropped dramatically over the last few years, and it's become affordable for almost everyone as a vacation alternative. But many of us could afford to cruise even more often if we could just cut down on all the extra on-board and on-shore costs, above and beyond the actual cruise fare.
There are hundreds of tips out there on how to save money on your cruise. Whether you get advice from family and friends, the Internet, or your local travel agent, they all are valuable. The only problem is how do you remember them all? This book has taken the best tips from several sources and put them in one convenient place – HERE!
Almost anyone can take a cruise vacation that’s everything depicted in the movies and on television. You can enjoy The Bahamas, Hawaii, Mexico, and even Alaska
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aboard luxury cruise ships with all the amenities of a resort on land.
The key to making the most of your cruise vacation is to know where you can save money without sacrificing fun or rest and relaxation. Many cruises are all-inclusive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “ALL inclusive.” There are extra charges for items on board as well as activities and shore trips.
You deserve to enjoy your vacation and all that comes with it, and you can do it on a budget! What could be better than that?
So sit back and read up on the best ways to save money on your cruise. Gopher, Julie, and Doc from “The
Love Boat” won’t be there, but YOU will be!
I listen on the radio quite often to Gopher Smith, a.k.a.
Fred Grandy. He has a show on WMAL 630 in Washington, DC. He's just a nutty on the radio as he was on TV.
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THE ROLE OF THE TRAVEL AGENT
If you decide to use a travel agent, or consultant as they care to be called, know who you are dealing with! Most cruise agents are very competent; others not so. A real travel professional will take the time to qualify you as a client.
Besides the obvious questions to find out where and when you want to go, she'll ask: why? She will ask pertinent questions about your travel history and preferences. If you've cruised in the past, for example, she'll find out what kind of cabin you've had, what you liked/disliked about your experiences, if you're qualified for any past passenger discounts. The travel professional may even ask you what hotel brands you frequent to get a feel for the cruise product best suited to you.
A travel professional can provide you one key item that you cannot get on the Internet: customer service. In fact, that is the “value add” that they bring to your travel experience. If possible, find one that's associated with the
Cruise Lines International Association and is certified as an Accredited, Master or Elite Cruise Counsellor. That way you'll know that the person servicing your cruise vacation is a true professional.
Travel agents are certainly the easiest way to go when booking a cruise. In fact, a number of travel writers recommend that a cruise is one of those occasions where you need to use one. Here's an article we wrote entitled:
Why You Need A Travel Agent. It references and has a link to an article in MSNBC.com from Christopher Elliott, a travel
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columnist. Mr. Elliott states in his article entitled “Stay off the computer”:
Travel agents remain your best bet for a floating vacation. Why? Two main reasons: First, cruise lines give travel agencies access to special deals that you probably won’t find anywhere else. And second, because a cruise can get complicated. There are airline tickets that have to be bought, hotel rooms to be booked, shore excursions and lots of options on the ship.
If you do use a travel agent to book your cruise, you have plenty of company. The Cruise Lines International Association reports that upwards of 87% of people use a travel agent to book their cruise. The reason is pretty obvious when you consider that the World Wide Web lets us know the price of everything and the value of nothing!
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DOING YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Start with research. We’re assuming you don’t have a particular cruise line in mind, but if you do, start with their web site. If you don’t care whether you cruise on Carnival or Oceania, do a quick web search for cruise deals and you’ll find tons of places that will give you information on what they have to offer. In fact, you'll be overwhelmed with information!
There are some web sites we have found that might help guide you:
You will have a lot of options to consider when deciding on your cruise, which we will outline in this chapter.
One such option is taking a theme cruise. What exactly is a theme cruise, you ask? It is a cruise booked around a certain theme that could focus on a particular interest such as murder mystery, sports, music styles, etc. The cruise line may provide special events and lectures for you to attend revolving around the theme. Some theme cruises
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have celebrities along for the ride giving you the chance to rub elbows with the rich and famous. If you can think of a theme that interests people, they probably have a cruise to match it.
A theme cruise can be great fun if you pick the right theme for you. One resource is ThemeCruiseFinder.com to find a theme cruise that matches your interest. Here's part of a description for a Total Ship Takeover Adult Lifestyle Cruise we found at that site.
You can expect the same great entertainment, playrooms, and parties that we had on this past cruise, and a lot more. Nudity will be allowed on the sun decks and pool areas, and you will also be able to go topless in the disco.
This cruise is being produced by a group that has been producing lifestyle events for many years. They have a depth of understanding of the lifestyle community, and they have held many successful lifestyle events previously...The ultimate erotic vacation for lifestyle couples. Sensuous fun on a Radiance class ship. FINALLY, Lifestyle Cruising with class - where your fantasies can be fulfilled.
Besides the “Lifestyle” category mentioned above there are more wholesome choices available to you. The cruise lines will tell you that the hottest theme cruises this year are food and wine. Some of the premium cruise lines have made major investments in teaching kitchens. Here's an
article about how Celebrity Cruises has teamed up with the Food Network to offer their guests “enticing and exclusive experiences.”
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Here are some other categories of theme cruises sailing this year:
• Hobbies & Crafts
• History & World Affairs
• TV & Film
• Gaming & Technology
Don't expect to get a bargain on a theme cruise. After all, if you going on an Oldies But Goodies cruise, for example, the cost of the entertainment is added to your cruise fare.
You may want to check out a group cruise. This isn’t necessarily you getting together a bunch of people and planning a cruise with them. There are some groups out there that have secured special, low rates for large groups of people. You don’t even have to know the people you’re cruising with. Here's an example of a web site for a group
You can find these group cruises in various places. Try looking at an Internet chat board for cruisers. They often have postings on there for groups who have secured such rates, and you can save a lot of money by booking with them instead of on your own.
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There are two types of groups: affinity and
promotional. Affinity groups are created by travel agents to accommodate groups of people with a like interest who want to travel together. They may be members of a social club, a family reunion or a church, for example.
A promotional group is one a travel agent or travel agency assembles through advertising, word of mouth, or other promotional means. A promotional group is typically composed of people that do not necessarily know each other.
One of the easiest ways to find groups is with travel agents/consultants. For example if the consultant you're working with is part of a large host agency there may be dozens of agents they network with regularly that have affinity or promotional groups that have extra space. And you'll be able to book with that group and take advantage of the perks they may have received, such as on-board credits.
If you're considering establishing your own affinity group, you'll want to get some more basic information as to how the process works with the cruise lines. Our web site,
GroupCruisesUnlimited.com, lays it all out for you and shows how you can cruise for free as an organizer, or divide the savings up equally among your fellow travelers.
Alternatively, you may download my free report Group
Ports of Call
Check out the ports of call on your cruise's itinerary.
Since these will also be a major part of your cruise, you want to know where you’ll be going and what you can do
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there. You’ll want to ask about the types of the shore excursions available. What do you enjoy: shopping, nature, sports, historical sites or exotic culture? You’ll want to pick ports of call that have activities that interest you.
You can easily get tourist information about the ports of call at Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory web site. This site provides a collection of addresses, phone numbers, and web links to many foreign governments’ official tourism offices. It also contains a search feature that lists contact information and web links for official U.S. State Tourism Offices, regional, city, and convention and visitor bureau sites.
Next, check out air/sea packages available. An air/sea cruise is when your cruise has been booked with airline tickets to get you to the ship’s port and back home again.
The cruise line buys its tickets in bulk from the airlines.
They find out where you are coming from and book you passage from a nearby airport to one close to the ship’s home port. Each cruise line has its own policy on how they deal with the sale of airline tickets, so you’ll want to ask some important questions.
• What is the cost of the tickets if I book them with my cruise?
• If I need to cancel, are the refund policies different for the plane tickets than for the cruise?
• Is there a service fee charged to have the cruise line issue my airline tickets?
• Do I have any choice in which airline is used?
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• Can I get credit for my frequent flyer mileage membership?
• Can I fly nonstop or have any control over the route that is taken, or do I just get what ever they find?
• How do I get from the airport to the ship’s port?
• Is there a shuttle service available from the airport where you’ll be arriving? Is there a charge for this service or is it included? Is the service included if you don’t book your flight through the cruise line?
• How and when do I meet up with cruise line personnel?
• How is my luggage handled, do I have to pick it up at the airport or is it automatically sent to the ship?
• What accommodations, if any, are made if the airline they use causes me to miss the ship?
There are many advantages to booking an air/sea package. The cruise line takes care of the airline reservation. Since cruise lines buy in bulk and usually provide a discount package rate, the ticket price is generally lower than what can be found in the general market. The transfer of luggage is easier, and a free shuttle will take you from the airport to the docks.
The cruise line will have your flight information and will be able to track your flight in case of a delay. Others on the cruise might be on the same flight and they might just hold the ship waiting for you to board. The biggest advantage is that if anything goes wrong to delay you, the cruise line will
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generally become more involved to help you make it on board the ship.
There, of course, are disadvantages as well to booking an air/sea package. You might be able to find a better deal on your own, but you may have to fly an airline you don’t like. You will probably not get credit for frequent flyer miles by going through the cruise line, and you might not be able to fly non-stop. Finally, you might end up flying a longer route than you’d pick for yourself.
You could book your own airline tickets, but only do so if you can get a better deal. The strongest consideration should be how confident you are in being able to make it to the ship on your own. If you are already flying in a few days early, know you’ll be there on time and you can save over the air/sea on plane tickets and shuttle costs, then you might just consider going it alone. But, remember you are going it alone.
The cruise lines will be more likely to make
accommodations and work with the airline if their booking didn’t get you to the ship on time. They will be better able to track your late flight and might even delay the ship if they know you’ll only be slightly late. They might pay for you to stay in a hotel or pay for flights so you can catch up with the ship at the first port.
Depending on the circumstances, they might even rebate some of your cruise or give you a discount toward your next cruise with them. However, the airlines are independent contractors. Most cruise conditions of carriage state that since the airlines are independent contractors the cruise line makes no warranty and assumes no responsibility for any failure or delay in their contractor’s services. This is
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another reason to purchase a strong trip insurance package.
We’ll get to the topic of trip insurance a little later.
When you book your own airline tickets, if the route you picked to make it to the ship fails, you are on your own.
Don’t risk missing the whole cruise over a few frequent flyer miles. Sure you can probably get on if you can catch the ship, but will you be able to find a flight and transportation to the ship. Will it be worth it, considering how much you’ll have to pay in last minute travel arrangements? No matter how you get there, try to avoid this situation by booking a flight that leaves you plenty of time to get you to and from the port to the airport.
It’s a good idea to book early. The booking rates become more expensive the closer to sailing. Although some people report that if you’re able to wait until the last minute, there are deals that can be had on under-booked ships. The objective of the cruise line is to have a full house before sailing. If they find themselves with some empty cabins, they may reduce the rate just to fill them. Just keep in mind that you will be limited on your choices as far as where your room is located, whether you have a balcony or not, etc.
Booking early on a cruise line generally refers to 120
days prior to sail date. If you book early you will have a better chance of getting exactly what you want and at a discounted price. However, if the ships have low occupancy rates close to sailing, you can still find great deals. With all the new large ships that are being launched, last minute deals are still a possibility. But, these deals can be limited and many people don’t have the flexibility to leave or at least book in an instant.
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Shopping the Internet can be the quickest and easiest way to compare many different cruise rates. Be flexible about your travel plans. As with every other travel industry, cruising during the off season will also help you save money.
Here's our basic, no-frills site you can use to quickly search for cruises.
Apply any coupons or special discount programs for which you are eligible. Discounts may be available for associations, corporations, seniors, children or even large groups or family reunions. Memberships in loyalty clubs like the Elks or the Moose often include offers of discounts and upgrades. Some credit cards will have special discounts available to their cardholders.
Package deals often include a discounted cruise price along with pre- or post-cruise activities. Most cruise lines will also give discounts to the military, so if you or someone in your party is or has been in the military, ask for their discount.
Two for one deals are popular sales incentives where two cruises are offered for the price of one. However, airfare is usually not included in the two for one rate.
Cruise lines have also offered discounted or free airfares, free post or pre-cruise hotel stays, free cabin upgrades, extra days free or free shore excursions.
Some cruise lines will offer a first time cruiser discount to encourage you to give their cruise line a try. It probably won’t have to be your first cruise, just your first cruise with that particular line.
The bottom line with discounts is….ASK! They may not offer you the discounted rate up front, but if you ask, they
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will certainly tell you if any would apply. The goal of the cruise line is, after all, to gain your business.
Cruise Line Considerations
The cruise line you choose is another important factor to consider when picking your cruise. The cruise ship is your hotel, restaurant and entertainment for your whole vacation. It is a package deal that is different from a traditional vacation.
You’ll want to spend some time and do your research to make sure you pick the right cruise for you. The perfect cruise for some might be a miserable one for others. Make sure you find the best match. You’ll want to find the best rate on the right cruise for you, not just the cheapest rate.
Cruise lines cater to certain groups and their whole ship is meant to entertain and please that crowd. Some cater to certain age groups, singles, or families. Some are calm, elegant and feature haute cuisine. Some have lots of loud, exciting activities to attract the active crowds. Others have lots of family activities planned, so the ship will be filled with kids. Some will have shore excursions that are right up your alley, while others might be a real snooze for you.
Like many other industries, cruise lines "target" their product or cruise ship experience to hit certain markets. For an excellent primer on this subject we recommend you read this recent article by Paul Motter entitled: “Cruising 101:
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When considering what type of cabin you want, generally, the more desirable cabins (i.e., more expensive) are on the top decks of a ship. They almost always sell out first.
The old adage used to be, don't worry about your cabin; you won't spend much time there to begin with.
Actually, that's not true. Since cruise lines have shifted to the concept of thinking of a ship as a self-contained resort, more emphasis has been placed on making your cabin as comfortable (and larger) as possible.
For example, some people wonder about getting an outside cabin with a balcony. This, of course, is almost entirely dependent on the cruise and the weather. If you’re cruising the Caribbean with wonderfully warm weather, you’ll want that balcony! If the weather is somewhat temperate, you can sit outside and enjoy splendid scenery.
On the other hand, if it is blustery weather as sometimes happens to and from Alaska, you probably won't think that a balcony is such a good deal.
You may want to seriously consider having a cabin with a balcony. Springing for a balcony gives you your own piece of paradise when the decks get crowded.
There's a new class of balcony that was introduced with mega-cruise ships like Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels
—the inside balcony overlooking the expansive mall area.
And they are very popular.
Selection of your cabin may also affect whether you feel the ship "rock & roll”. If you’re prone to seasickness
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(which we will address later), your best bet is to book a cabin near the middle of the ship to minimize the wavy feeling as the ship moves across the water.
You might want to study the ship's diagram in the brochure or online, and book space in a category that has fewer cabins than others on a guarantee basis. The upside to this little trick is that with fewer cabins in the category booked, your chances of being upgraded to a nicer cabin/higher deck is better. With an actual cabin number assignment, the chance of an upgrade lessens (unless one is a repeat customer, but that's another story). The downside, of course, is that with a full ship, the guaranteed category could result in a cabin assignment in that category, so one must be prepared to be satisfied with it.
Another great bargain opportunity for cruises involves repositioning. Twice a year, you might clean out the garage.
Maybe you visit relatives in the winter and summer. Some of these things, no matter how mundane, fall into consistent schedules all their own. If you run a cruise line, you must reposition many of your ships twice a year, too.
Because there isn't big demand for cruising the fjords in January, your ship that spent the summer in Scandinavia might find more profitable waters in the eastern Caribbean during the colder months. Alaskan cruise liners might winter in San Diego, a base from which to explore the Mexican Riviera as Sitka shivers. Come spring, the process reverses.
They're known as repositioning or "repo" cruises in the travel industry.
Trivia, you say? Perhaps. But you can bet the people who move those ships want as many paying travelers
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aboard as possible. Savvy travelers book those cabins and take trips they otherwise could not afford. Maybe it's time for you to "reposition" your thoughts on cruising.
Consider a typical repositioning cruise that took passengers from Genoa, Italy, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 16 days. During the first week, ports-of-call included Genoa, Marseilles, France, and St. Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Not bad! But four of the first seven days on that cruise, there were no stops. This is not standard fare for most traditional itineraries. Bring reading material and an appreciation for the open sea. Make sure you REALLY like your cruise partner too!
The ports you do visit might not see cruise ships at any other time of year. You'll find rare opportunities to visit African or South American cities off the usual tourist paths.
Because the trips are longer in duration, the total price might equal or exceed what you'd expect to pay for a standard cruise. But when you begin to divide money into days, the per diem costs are attractive. The repositioning trip just described started at $2500 USD/per person. That's about $156/night, including airfare from New York to Genoa and Fort Lauderdale to New York. A three-night cruise to the Bahamas can cost that much per night without airfare.
For some people, the main purpose of cruising is to get to various destinations and see the sights, shop, have an adventure, or just plain relax. For others, especially with newer ships like the NCL Epic or Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas, the ship is the destination!
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Nonetheless, shore excursions remain extremely popular. Many cruisers believe their only two options for packaged excursions are: those offered by the cruise line or those you encounter after you arrive ashore. Not so anymore. The free enterprise system has stepped in to fill a void.
There are two third party companies recommended by travel agents that also offer excursions in practically every port of call. And these excursions typically involve a smaller touring group, are less expensive than a comparable one available through the cruise line and result in a better excursion experience. When researching your ports of call be sure and stop by Shore Excursions by PortPromotions.com
or ShoreTrips. You'll get a sense for the numerous other excursions that are available that the cruise line doesn't offer.
You can't wait until you board the ship to book third party excursions, but there is a real benefit to you when you take action early. By booking your excursions in advance of your cruise, you will enjoy a full selection of the quality, discounted shore excursions you want while avoiding the onboard shore excursion lines and potential tour sell-outs.
When visiting the Shore Excursions site, if you don't see the excursion you want just contact their concierge staff and they'll make recommendations based on your interests.
With ShoreTrips you can create your own TripPlanner® - an electronic mini-brochure of the ShoreTrips® that interest you. By the way both companies always refund in full for ship itinerary changes and weather-related safety considerations.
Once you’ve considered all these factors, you’ll be ready to book your trip. Take a deep breath and enjoy. You
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won’t be dreaming of a cruise vacation anymore. You’ll be doing it!
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LET’S GO CRUISING
Congratulations! It’s time to make your reservations!
There are a few things you’ll need to know next. They’re just housekeeping items, but it’s always good to be prepared! Because the vast majority of people use a travel agent to book their cruise, we'll assume the same.
First, you’ll need a list of the names of the passengers that will be going on the cruise. You’ll have to bill your trip to a major credit card, so have the card type, number, and expiration date on hand. The agent may ask for that little three-digit number on the back of the card. Why, I have no idea, but it seems anymore almost everyone asks for that number!
Obviously, you will need to have selected a ship and cruise date, and have in mind any pre- or post-cruise activities that you are booking through your agent. You’ll need to have decided how you are getting to the port so you can book an air/sea package, check on shuttle services or parking policies.
Your agent will ask you for your choice of cabin and you need to have already selected your meal seating (if applicable) and the names of any other passengers you wish to have join you at your table for those meals. If you have special requests such as dietary needs, have your agent inform the cruise line when booking. As a note, many ships do not allow smoking except for in very specific designated areas, so don’t be surprised if you request a smoking table for dinner and they have none available.
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This is also the time to book any shore excursions with discount third party suppliers recommended by your travel agent, if you are already sure you plan on going on a particular one. If you’re not sure, that’s all right too. You can book the more expensive cruise line-offered excursions once you board and have had the chance to look through the multitude of activities that will be available to you.
If you have discount or coupon information you want to use, do so at booking. This is a great time, as well, to ask for any discounts they may be offering that you don’t know about. If you’re not paying for the trip completely, ask when the last payment will be due and how you will be receiving your tickets.
You will also have to decide about trip insurance. What is trip insurance? This is also often referred to as trip cancellation insurance, but most policies do more than protect you if your vacation is canceled. Policies are sold that will refund your losses if you have to cancel your cruise beyond the time you could get a full refund from the cruise line. They can also offer protection if a delay causes you to miss the ship. Policies may extend coverage to protect your luggage or other personal belongings.
Many offer a very important extension of medical coverage to protect you if you become ill or are injured while on your vacation. As with any insurance, each policy will vary in its cost, deductible, protections and exemptions.
You’ll need to read the individual policy yourself to find the best coverage for you.
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Purchasing trip insurance is certainly worth your strong consideration. With most cruises, you book far in advance and although we don’t like to think about it, many things can happen in a year’s time that would cause you to miss your cruise. Most airlines and cruise lines state very low liability limits. If they lose or damage your luggage, you’ll probably not receive enough to cover your losses.
You should look closely at your own personal medical coverage. You may not have any coverage at all outside the United States. If something would happen on your trip, you might not only be stuck without coverage, but also be in a place that cannot offer sufficient medical aid. The cost of a medical evacuation back to proper medical care is extremely high.
When you do consider the trip insurance, be sure to read the fine print. As with any insurance, there are exceptions and in many cases pre-existing conditions are not covered. You want to make sure the policy you buy is a good one for you.
Ask your travel agent if you will receive confirmation in the mail physically or virtually through e-mail. I know of a person who recently took a cruise and was waiting for their information packet to arrive. When he called to find out where it was, they were to have sent it to him in his e-mail.
They re-sent the info and he had everything he needed right there printed off on his home computer including boarding passes!
Once you get this information, read through it thoroughly. It is filled with most everything you need to know about your trip. Forms will be included that you
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should fill out in advance, so you don’t keep people waiting in line. It should also have a section on the travel documentation you'll need to go on the cruise. If you get the packet in the mail, there should be tags for your luggage inside the packet.
You will also get instructions on how, when and where you will meet the ship. You’ll want to get the ship’s satellite communications telephone number so you can leave it with someone in case of an emergency. You should also check your booking to reconfirm all your plans.
It never hurts to confirm your reservation directly with the cruise line, especially if you depended on someone else to book your cruise for you. Be sure to verify all your booking information and make sure that the cruise line has the correct contact information in case they need to contact you before the cruise.
Now that the reservation has been made, you’ll need to prepare for your trip. This involves much more than just packing up your clothes and getting traveler’s checks! The next chapter focuses on that.
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A SIMPLE PLAN
Knowing what type of information you’ll need to have before you board and what to pack isn’t an exact science.
However, it does help to know in advance what to expect and how to plan your cruise.
Your ticket packet information will give you specific instructions, but most cruise lines will require at least a state issued picture I.D., even if your cruise will stay in U.S. territorial waters. If your ship is going to another country, you’ll probably need to bring a passport or a birth certificate with a raised seal and a government-issued I.D. such as a driver’s license.
Whether you need a passport or not depends on where you are going. Foreign travel often requires a passport.
However, you may be able to enter some countries with just a notarized birth certificate with a raised seal and your driver’s license. Although, some countries may not require much to enter, you’ll still need proof of citizenship when you re-enter the United States. You’ll need to find out if any of the foreign travel you are planning will require a passport or visa.
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one at least three months before travel. If you already have a passport, make sure it will still be valid for your entire trip. If your passport will be within six months of expiration while you’re traveling, you may want to get a new passport since some countries now require that your passport must be valid six months after your return to the U.S.
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You can get a passport at a State Department
Passport Agency, a clerk of any Federal or State Court of record, designated municipal or county official or a designated U.S. Post Office. They usually run around $110
for an adult, so be sure and figure this expense into your cruise budget. Passport pricing has recently increased.
Check out this State Dept site for additional information.
To get your passport, you will, most likely, need to appear in person at the issuing facility. If you are a first time applicant, you’ll need to appear in person at one of the official locations listed above. You will also need to appear in person if it has been more than 12 years since your last passport was issued or you were under 16 years of age when your last passport was issued. Applicants under 13 are not always required to appear in person since a parent or guardian may execute the application on the child’s behalf.
You will need to provide one of the following to prove United States citizenship:
1. A certified copy of your birth certificate with a U.S. State or county embossed seal. Hospital
certificates are NOT accepted. OR
2. Your naturalization/Citizenship certificate. OR
3. Your previously issued and expired passport. If your name has changed from the one listed on
your previous passport, you must submit the
sealed legal document showing the name change.
(Marriage certificate, divorce decree, etc.)
You will also have to provide two identical recently taken 2x2inch front view facial, from the bottom of your chin
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to top of head, photographs. No hats or dark glasses can be worn in the photographs.
Have them taken at a passport shop since snapshots and machine photos are not acceptable. You may also want to get several extra copies of the photograph since they can also be used for international driver's permits and other documents. Traveling with extra photographs will also make it easier to replace your passport, if yours is lost.
Also bring your driver’s license or Military I.D. issued over six months ago. State I.D. cards are only acceptable with several other forms of I.D. Temporary or altered documents are NOT accepted. Parent’s I.D. will be used for that of a minor child. Have a completed official passport application form. There will be a small fee for your passport, but it will be listed on your application form.
A visa is an endorsement on your passport that will allow entry into the country you’ll be visiting. It states that your passport has been inspected and that everything is valid. It will usually give permission for you to visit a country for a specific time period and purpose.
Many countries you’ll be visiting on a cruise do not require a visa. You’ll want to ask your travel consultant or the cruise line in advance and consult your cruise packet just to make sure you’ll have the papers you’ll need. Visas often take several weeks to process. All travel documents are the responsibility of the passenger.
To find out if you need a passport for your cruise, go to The U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs’
Foreign Entry Requirements web page located at
Travel.State.Gov. This site lists the entry requirements of foreign countries. It also includes the addresses and telephone numbers of foreign embassies and consulates in
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the United States. This web site is a good starting point, but since the information presented is subject to change, you should also check directly with the embassy or consulate of the country you a planning to visit.
Complete and take with you a personal medical history. Your doctor should be able to help you complete the history. It should include:
• Your insurance company’s name and address.
• Trip insurance contact information.
• Contact person in case of emergency.
• Your blood type.
• A copy of your eyeglass prescription.
• A list of current medications with their generic names. Brand names can vary in foreign
• A list of allergies, including any known food or drug allergies.
• A list of immunizations with their dates.
• A basic description of your past and present medical condition, including past hospitalizations and any current problems.
It’s always good to be safe rather than sorry. If anything catastrophic should happen while on your cruise, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible.
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No one wants to contemplate getting sick or having an accident during their cruise, but unfortunate things can happen. Most group insurance policies do not cover members when they are out of the country and Medicare assuredly does not. Check your coverage before leaving home and consider purchasing travel insurance, as we have advised, for peace of mind and unexpected contingencies. It can be a wise investment because the cost of a typical policy may run about the same as a trip to the ship's doctor.
As a general rule, pack anything you would need, if you were staying at a resort hotel in the same geographic area of your cruise. Avoid over packing by reading the recommended dress section of the cruise literature that will be mailed to you after you book.
It’s a good space saver in your luggage if you purchase space saver bags. They can be found in drug stores and discount stores like Wal-Mart. You pack them with your clothes then roll out the air inside and double the space allowing you to pack twice as much inside your bags. They are waterproof, reusable, and a good investment for your trip.
Check to see if they have a theme night or talent show where you might need some special outfits. Even in the warm Caribbean, you might need a sweater on the decks at night. The air conditioning can also be icy.
Pack some comfortable rubber soled shoes to get around on the decks. Bring a pocket calculator to help you figure your ports of call exchange rates. Bring a white T-shirt if you plan on going snorkeling or you may have a burned back when you are done. You might also pack some drinking
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straws to use while at port. This will help you to avoid touching your lips to a can’s top. The top might be covered with contaminants that will make you sick.
A lot of cruise ships still have dinners where more formal clothes are appropriate. The last night of a cruise is usually a formal night, and a seven-day cruise will usually have two formal nights. These are the meals that used to require tuxedos or cocktail dresses. They are now optional but, if you have them dust them off and bring them along.
Many cruise lines will rent tuxedos, so you can check into this option before you go. Fewer passengers are taking this option and a dark suit and dresses are perfectly appropriate and will probably be the most common passenger attire for the formal nights.
On the other nights a sport coat and tie or pants suit are appropriate. Some cruise lines are recommending even more casual attire such as sport shirt and pants on all but the formal night. Read your cruise packet or check out the line’s web page for your particular ship's recommendation.
There is always a big controversy regarding packing your own alcohol for use on board. In short, check with your cruise line first. Here, for example is Royal Caribbean International's policy which is typical for the industry:
Guests are not allowed to bring alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages onboard for consumption or any other use. Alcoholic beverages that are purchased in ports-of-call or from Shops On Board will be stored by the ship and delivered to your stateroom on the last day of the sailing. Alcoholic beverages seized
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on embarkation day will not be returned.
Security may inspect containers (water bottles, soda bottles, mouthwash, luggage etc.) and will dispose of containers holding alcohol. Guests who violate any alcohol policies, (over consume, provide alcohol to people under age 21, demonstrate irresponsible behavior, or attempt to conceal alcoholic items at security and or luggage check points or any other time), may be disembarked or not allowed to board, at their own expense, in accordance with Royal Caribbean International's Guest Conduct Policy.
Carnival's policy is much more lenient. They will allow you to bring a bottle of wine per adult on the cruise.
I've also seen cruisers boarding with an entire case of bottled water!
We have a few suggestions listed for you in the section on food and beverages on how to save on alcohol related purchases.
Packing a carry-on bag is important. Items of value should never go in your checked luggage. These would include cash, jewelry, medication, travel documents and a list of everything in your checked baggage. Since luggage is often not delivered to your cabin until after your first dinner, be prepared and pack a change of clothes in your carry-on as well.
You might also consider one-day items, in other words all the items you would need to make it through a 24-hour day, just in case your luggage goes missing. Keep lots of crisp one-dollar bills wherever you keep your money. This will come in handy when dealing with all the skycaps and porters. We’ll cover tipping later!
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Before you go on your cruise, you’ll need to decide how much money you need, or can, bring along. You’ll probably find this easier on a cruise than for other vacations because of the all inclusive cruise programs. The cabin, on board entertainment and food are generally always included. Some things not included would be:
• Beverages (bottled water, soft drinks, alcohol)
• Casino Gaming & Bingo
• Specialty Restaurants
• Specialty Ice Cream & Coffee