Cruises are fun – except you are covered by unpleasant surprises. Before booking a cruise, you want to make sure that you have accurate information about some of the issues that frequently come up during cruises. We compiled a list of questions that you might want to get answered before you sail on your cruise vacation.
What is the cruise ship like? What are the specifics of my room? There are a lot of differences between ships. Even when it's the same ship model, the inside could be designed differently by your specific cruise line. You do not want to have any ugly surprises about the size, furniture, and the view of your cabin. It may also be a good idea to ask about things near your room: Is there a night club above / below my room? How much foot traffic am I going to have?
What is the itinerary? Are there pre-arranged tours that are offered by the cruise line at different ports?
Carefully review the ports you will be visiting and how much time you will spend at sea and at each port. Make sure that they are aligned with your preferences.
You will probably have a good range of onshore tour options such as walking tours, bus tours, or even exciting zip-line excursions. If your group wants to participate in these, make reservations early. Another alternative is to book tours on your own or explore independently. Compare the prices of your different options.
What kind of official ID will I need? Do I need a passport?
This one is a tricky. Depending on your nationality and visa status as well as your destination and ports of call, you may have to fulfill different requirements. Experienced cruisers strongly advise to carry a passport book regardless of your destination. For one thing, if an emergency occurs, you may need to fly home and it will be much more convenient to have a passport with you when booking a ticket and entering your home country. Make sure that you made all your plans clear to the cruise line so they can confirm the documentation to make your cruise vacation a success.
What is included in the cruise price? Do they have special hotel and transportation rates to / from the departure port?
Most cruises include accommodation, food, entertainment and travel, but you may face additional fees for extra amenities such as spa treatments. Alcohol and sodas are typically considered extra, too. Shore excursions are another important element of a cruise trip. So get informed about the pricing of the alternatives and whether they are included in your cruise.
You can look into cruise packages that include airline tickets. In addition, some cruise lines have separate air / sea booking services. As for hotel stays, they may offer special rates for before and after the cruise. Sometimes, those turn out to be higher than booking on your own. So make sure that you have a deal by checking the rates by yourself. Also keep in mind that you may have less flexibility in a package deal to change your itinerary.
What are the dining options?
All cruise lines offer traditional dining restaurants with no cover charges. If the passengers are told when, where and with what they will dine, inform your cruise line about your preferred time slots and your group's intent to eat together.
There may be some specialty restaurants onboard. Make a reservation as early as possible if you want to take advantage of these; however, keep in mind that you may have to pay a surcharge to use them. If you have special meal requests (vegetarian, diabetic, kosher, halal, etc.), let the cruise line know before you book it.
Here are some other questions you may want to consider when booking your trip:
– What are the cruise demographics like? What age groups does the cruise typically attract?
– What about age restrictions? Are there adequate accommodations for small children?
– What is the dress code?
– What is the weather like on the destination ports? What do I need to pack?
– Are gratuities / tips included?
– What is the list of activities that one can do onboard the ship?
– What is your policy on cancellations, deposits, and refunds?