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Cruising FAQS

We have compiled this FAQ section to help you understand the cruising industry. Whether you are a first time cruiser or seasoned passenger, we want you to have all the information we have amassed as cruise specialists over the years. If there any suggestions you have please let us know and we will gladly add them. Happy cruising!

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Choosing a Cruise

You want to go on a cruise! Great ....and then comes the "What do I do next?" thought. Those first thoughts of cruising may de daunting! There are so many decisions to make and things to plan. Relax. That is what we are here for. The only thing you need to do is to think of what appeals to you, what places you'd like to visit, what you would like to do? What accommodations would you prefer? What would you like to experience? Then give us our thoughts and we make it happen. We create the experience for you. Because that is what cruising is all about, experiences! And with all the choices out there we know which one is right for you. Believe me, there is a ship for EVERYONE-- not all are about the stereotypical "Love Boat" experience. There are themed cruises, like wine, culinary, music, sports, etc. and destination cruises, along with adventure cruises. So before you panic, we are here to organize those thoughts into one cohesive trip. That is what we do. Cruise Specialists are just that, specialist in this field. We have cruised many times. We know what to expect and how to get you the best bang for your buck. We know what cruise lines are best for what you want. We know what extras you need and what you do not need. And we know the best adventures and experiences each ship has onboard and in their destination stops. Best of all ... we have the exact same price structure as the cruise lines themselves. We will provide you with the best price for the best cruise vacation you can imagine. There are so many different variables in booking a cruise it may seem overwhelming but again that is what we do. That is why we are here. Let us work for you!

Did you know a cruise is also the ideal place to bring a group or family reunion? The rates with a group are lower and it's all-inclusive, there are children's programs (also included) and each person can do as much activity or as little as they like. You also don't have to agree on the same place to eat, as there will be many dining choices on the same ship. So why cruise alone? We can help you plan that perfect club trip or family reunion. Talk to us about it!

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When to Book

The rule of thumb is the earlier you book the better deal you get. You could use the last minute specials if they fit in your time frame, which they usually don't, so you should plan and book as soon as you can to do it right. The ships tend to fill almost nine months before the sailing date and you certainly would not to want to miss out on the cruise you want. When you book early you are guaranteed your choice of cabin and your price. The price of a 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.

Paying for the cruise is easy. You will make a deposit at the time of booking and pay over time before you cruise. The final payment is usually due 90 days or so before you sail. So that leaves you with time to fit the cost into your budget. And of course as your partner in this we make sure you price is always the best price, regardless when you booked. We make it easy for you. So let's go cruising!

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Cabin category examples

Interiors are usually the least expensive and smallest cabins on a ship. They do not have windows, but are ideal if you are the type of traveler who does not spend a lot of time in your room.

Outside refer to cabins with either a porthole or window. It is important to check the location of the cabin, as the view may be obstructed. But that is where we come in!

Balcony-A higher category of cabin with a balcony. This can be an excellent value, especially if you are on an itinerary where the views are breathtaking. I love breakfast on my balcony. Remember room service is included in the price of a cruise!

Suite-The highest category of cabin. These usually include a balcony and butler service. These also include family suites.

Within all these categories are sub-categories where prices are also determined by a cabin's location on the ship. So believe me when I tell you, there is a ship for everyone! And we will find that ship with every thing you could want. Remember it is about the experiences!

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Cruise Ships

Have you seen the size of some of the new ships? I am sure you have and that is the first thing you think when cruising comes to mind. Some of these ships are floating cities, holding upwards of 3,600 people! These huge ships are great for families and groups. They have some many amenities and things to do onboard, you may never leave the ship! And yet there are smaller ships for people who like a different time onboard. Including destinations and relaxation like beaches and shopping.

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Luxury/River Cruises

If you have different tastes and want a higher level of service and a five star experience the luxury cruises may be for you. These tend to be a little higher priced and on smaller ships that come with a crew who will pamper and cater to your every whim. These type of cruises offer more destination, cultural and sophistication based itineraries. Including exotic destinations and tours with guest lecturers and artists presenting programs on the trip. These ships provide fantastic dining options and they tend to be all inclusive. These cruises are a bit more upscale as far as dress and options onboard. They tend to have very limited activities for children or teens and cater more to adults. These range from European river cruises to exotic places around the world.

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Other than the actual cruise, and depending on where you live, you may need airfare and hotels. In all our quotes (unless otherwise requested or not needed) we include round trip airfare and a hotel room in the port city for the night before the cruise. We book your incoming flight to the port city for the day before you board. We do this to eliminate any last minute flight cancellations or other travel issues. This gives you breathing room to board as early as possible on the first day. And we book your return flight for the afternoon or early evening of the day you return home, again this to alleviate any delays of getting to the airport. We also arrange for the transporting you and your luggage from the airport to the ship and back to the airport.

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Why Buy Travel Insurance?

Vacations can take months to plan and only hours to ruin if you have to cancel your trip or get sick while traveling. Protect your travel investment. Our insurance offers benefits like trip cancellation and interruption, emergency medical and dental coverage and a 24-hour assistance hotline so help is always just a phone call away. This Insurance can protect you against covered unforeseen circumstances that can disrupt your plans. Key benefits include reimbursement for nonrefundable expenses if you have to cancel due to a covered illness, injury or death of a traveling companion or family member, or an unexpected covered injury or illness while traveling requires you to receive medical care. This is particularly important if you're traveling overseas.

In many cases, U.S. medical insurance is not accepted outside the U.S. Coverage also includes canceled services that may leave you stranded at the airport for an extended period and you incur meal or lodging expenses as a result. Emergency Assistance is available from anywhere in the world and provided by our in-house, multi-lingual coordinators. Limitations apply, please review the terms and conditions for complete details. If you interested we will give you all details when purchased, this insurance in our opinion is invaluable, and something you should never refuse. Just the cost of medical treatment alone onboard a ship is a frightening thought but, what if you get sick in port and can't get back on board to due to a hospital stay. What if you need to be transported back home in a an emergency situation before the end of the cruise or even in a far away port. To know you will not incur any unnecessary expense is comforting. And of course we will be right there with you.

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Passport Information

Passports and photo ID (i.e. drivers license or photo ID cards) are REQUIRED for cruise passengers at most ports-of-call. This includes the Canada, Caribbean and Mexico. I highly suggest obtaining one even if it's not required, as it simplifies the identification process. Please go to for details on obtaining a passport. If you have a passport and it expires the same year you are cruising I suggest renewing. It is no longer accepted to reenter if it will expire within 6 months. So do not take it for granted. Make sure it is current and valid! In this post-9/11 world, you will not be allowed to board the ship under any circumstances without both forms of current and valid ID.

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Pre Cruise

All information will email or sent regular for your review before purchase. Included in this packet will be all financial information such as payment dates and amounts. All trip details i.e. cruise itinerary, excursions or tours purchased, flights, hotel, insurance and transportation information will be included. Please review this carefully and inform us of ANY changes that may be need before finalization and booking. YOU MUST READ the entire booklet of documents, as they contain very important instructions and "fine print" of your cruise vacation. Within a few weeks of your boarding, we will send you a second packet containing ALL boarding information, luggage tags and tickets. Please fill out all pre-boarding information as marked. Taking care of this now will expedite your boarding process trying to do it while waiting to board not only causes mistakes but holds up the process for you and everyone else. Please be sure to use the luggage tags we provided as they are coded to aid the crew in getting your luggage to your stateroom. Making sure you have all your t's crossed and i's dotted will help you get on board faster and easier.

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Packing List

Packing for a cruise is a little different than any other vacation. There are things you will need that you never would have thought of. As for clothing

Formal dining nights: (two per seven night cruise.)You do not have to participate, but if you choose, this is usually when they pull out all the stops with the "best menu". Ladies: fancy dress/pantsuit. Men: A nice dark suit and a tie is fine.

Hosiery and feminine products if needed. Onboard they will be expensive.

Caribbean itineraries: I suggest a sweater or long sleeve shirt or two. Weather is never predictable. Just because you are in the islands does not mean it won't rain or be chilly. Also the ship's air conditioning can be cold after a day in the sun.

Alaskan itineraries: Layering for cold weather and rain gear. It rains A LOT.

Alarm clock or cell phone. There are no alarm clocks or radios in the cabins. Do not trust the wake up calls, you do not want to miss a departure time for an excursion.

Rain gear again just in case.

For those beach days: Beach shoes, sunglasses, suntan and sunburn lotion, bathing suit (2) so you can have one dry for next day use. A good book if you like.

A bag to carry it all. Make sure the bag is big enough to carry your towels and hold all the other items so you only carry ONE bag to the beach areas. Make it easy on yourself. I always take mine. I pack it empty in my suitcase. Then when I am coming home I have an extra carry on bag for gifts and souvenirs so they are with me and not in danger of being broken.

If needed...Exercise clothing for fitness center.

Sundries, batteries and film will be very expensive or unobtainable onboard. Pack them.

Hairdryer/Curling iron/Iron or Steamer. If one is provided in your cabin, it's usually not very adequate. As for the iron and steamer. Most ships will tell you NO! I always bring my little iron. I have a little travel iron that fits in the palm of my hand. It always goes with me in my luggage.

Cell phone chargers!!! And extra camera and cell phone batteries. A multi plug adapter. There is usually only one plug in your cabin. So bring an adapter that supplies you with at least 4 outlets. Cameras, phones all can be charged overnight.

Make sure you alert your carrier of your travel plans. They will advise you of any additionial charges you may incur using your phone on a cruise ship. Better to be safe and sure than to come home to a $1,000.00 phone bill.

Lanyard for keycard.You may get a free on onboard. Ask around. However they do sell them also. Usually at an outrageous price. So to be on the safe side ...take one!

Your suitcase will not be delivered right away to your stateroom. You may not get your luggage until dinnertime. If you will need something from it the first day onboard, pack it in your carry-on. Especially necessary medical items! I always pack my bathing suit and a change of clothes in my carry on. That way I have something with me if my luggage does not arrive until late.

If you don't like the taste of tap water, or drink soda, buy some before you get to the pier and put it in your carry-on or luggage. Lets us know and we will tell you how much you can legally take on board. Some ships have limits. Remember, room service is free for once in your life, enjoy it!!

Bring plug in night lights, you can get them at the dollar store. If you have little kids, those cabins get awfully dark at night, especially the interiors.

I always bring a foldable clothes hamper for each passenger, again found at the dollar store. Put you dirty clothes in there so there are separate and not floating in piles around the room. At the end of the cruise just dump the clothes in your luggage and either throw the hamper away or keep it for next time. It folds flat so no space needed in your luggage. Some cruise lines also do your laundry for you or have laundry rooms available on board. This is very inexpensive and totally worth it to go home with clean clothes!!

MEDICATIONS. Do not forget these. Make sure you have enough for the entire cruise and then some. I always make up two weeks worth in the weekly pill cases. I also suggest a written list of names and dosages required, along with your Dr's name and number and other family members information for emergency information if needed. I also leave a copy of this list with a family member.

A fanny pack, money belt or small bag to you carry when you are off the ship. Preferable a RIFD protected bag. DO NOT carry a large purse. You do not want to be a victim! Remember to bring enough cash to use when you are off the ship and for tips. The onboard ATM is very expensive and the closer you get to the end of the cruise may run out of money. I also suggest just one credit card. There is a safe in your cabin to keep all money, Credit cards, passports and IDS when you are onboard and at sea.

Finally-DO NOT FORGET passport, and photo ID. If you have children traveling with you, bring their birth certificates and passport also. Make sure the birth certificate has the parents name listed. If both parents are not traveling with the child, the absent parent(s) must provide a notarized letter stated their permission for the child to travel with the parent or persons accompanying. The children WILL NOT be allowed to board without it.

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Getting to the Pier

Getting to the pier either from the airport, parking lot or hotel is fairly simple. Hotels have shuttles to the port that are sometimes included in your hotel stay. There are a multitude of options, from local taxis to limos and even cruise ship sponsored transportation. When you book with us we include the transfer arrangement of you and your luggage to the pier.

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Once you drop your luggage with the porter you will enter the cruise terminal. Depending on the efficiency of the prior cruise passenger's departure, you may be allowed to board the ship earlier than the published boarding so do not delay. Once inside, you will have to pass through security. You will then stand in line for your check-in. Make sure you have your boarding documents filled out before you get to this point! If you have checked in online before leaving home, look for the queue marked as such and you will have a much shorter wait.

You will be asked to give a credit card or cash for onboard charges. You will be issued a keycard for your cabin which also doubles as your onboard charge card. So keep it in your possession at all times. Lanyards are helpful. Ask where you can get on onboard for free, or bring your own. Your onboard purchases will be totaled and charged to the credit card or subtracted from the cash amount at the end of the cruise. At the end of the cruise any extra cash in your account will be cashed out to you either onboard or by check. Always keep this keycard with you, as you will need to swipe it to enter and exit the ship. Sometimes your picture will be taken for security purposes. Each time you enter or exit the ship you will have to swipe the card.

If you want to request a change in cabin, now is the time to request it. Remember, if you are eligible for an upgrade through the cruise line loyalty club, it is not guaranteed! Also, upgrades are usually only given within the same category, i.e. inside to inside, not inside to balcony. With the cruise lines sailing so full these days, please don't expect much so you avoid disappointment. Finally, it's time to board the ship!! Expect to be accosted by the ship's photographers for a picture just before boarding. These will be available for purchase onboard. Do not feel pressure to have your picture taken-- they are strictly voluntary !

Make your way to your cabin; if it's ready you will be able to enter, but remember you may not have your luggage until later in the day. Most times your cabin will not be ready so the ship always has a buffet lunch prepared. Feel free to roam the ship, get familiar with your surroundings and RELAX!

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Onboard Fun

There are some must do's for your enjoyment!
Read your daily newsletter which is delivered to your cabin in the evenings! You will find all the next day's activities, dining, and entertainment venues listed along with shore excursion info, specials, and other pertinent information. I cannot stress enough the value of the newsletter, as it will keep you informed as to how things operate and any changes that have occurred. Also, you may miss some very important information regarding policies and procedures.

Sample all activities available. There are wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, bingo, karaoke, trivia game, cards, art auctions, pool games, casino tournaments, movies, production shows, lounge entertainment, spa services, yoga, pilates, aerobics, weight training. They have these listed in your daily news letter! There is something fun for everyone. Again you won't be bored!

Many ships have activities at the main pool during the day. Sometimes a band or music is playing outside. People watching is a great activity at that place also! But it does get crowded and loud. So if you like peace and quiet try going up a deck or two or even around to the stern of the ship There are usually plenty of open deck chairs out of the way.

If it is a full ship, you may want to get out to the pool deck early to get a choice of lounge chairs. Towels will be provided.You are not permitted to reserve your lounge chair by placing a towel or other object, overnight or even walking away for hours. Just an FYI, most outdoor pools close at night.

Most ships have at least one wrap-around deck, or hidden away decks. The card room and library are also good bets.

Spa and Fitness: All mid- to large ships have an extensive gym and spa area. Sometimes you will also find an adults-only Jacuzzi, or a special mineral bath pool located inside the facility. Yoga, aerobics classes, personal training, free weights, fitness machines, treadmills are all here. The spa offers salon services, massage, and an array of body therapies. Prices are high, so do not let the staff pressure you into buying their products. If you want a massage, facial, etc. note that many times they run discounts on port days or the day you set sail. Sea days are the busiest. Or try to book when the ship is in port. You may even get a discount!

Is it tipping mandatory? The answer is a not "no," remember that tipping is based on the service you received. However the cruise line will ask you to pay up front for a standard amount per cabin or per person for tips depending on the length of your cruise. Some folks complain that this is not an acceptable practice. My standard is not to have it taken out of my account but to tip my room steward and waiter personally depending on how good the service was. When you order a drink the tip is added on so pay attention and tip accordingly to your own beliefs.

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Booking an excursion should be done as soon as you have decided on a cruise. They tend to fill fast. The main question everyone asks us is...Do I buy the ship's excursions, use a local tour guide, or venture out on our own? The answer: Well, that depends. This is another area where we can help you decide. Here are some thoughts:

Does your ship dock directly to a dock or will you be tendered in (meaning will a small boat take you from your ship to the main dock)? Or can you just depart the ship directly onto the dock. Sometimes being tendered in is not conducive to excursions and the nearby shopping areas.

Does the excursion fit in the time you will be in port? You are only docked for a specific amount of time, sometimes the excursion cuts that time close. And if you want to do other things like shop or just wander around you may have a time issue. If the ship is scheduled to leave at 4PM they will leave at 4PM. believe me they WILL NOT wait for you to get back on board? They will leave you there!

You may want to do an activity that could be more expensive to book from an outside vendor or to complicated to piece together on your own. Again that is where we come in! Ask us!

Maybe you are just not sure what you want to do until you get there.

The cruise line sponsored excursions mainly hit the best selling activities the average tourist would like to do. You don't have to do any planning on your own, and sometimes can save you money in the long run. When you book directly through the ship you have the convenience of charging it to your shipboard account. The ship-sponsored shore excursions are sometimes more expensive than planning it yourself. And you will be in a medium to large crowd of people all going to the same place. You do not have flexibility when it is a group tour or excursion. Again let us help you decide.

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When you book your cruise you have the option of picking a time to dine. Groups can arrange to eat together by notify the cruise line when you book. If you are not with a group we can find out where you will be seated and arrange a table to your liking. Your dining time and dining room seating assignment is either on your keycard or on one of your cruise documents. If that seating arrangement is not to your liking you could ask to have it changed but that is sometimes not guaranteed to work so make sure we procure the seat and time you when you book.

There are many other choices on board, there is the buffet and other options like pizza, deli, etc. and of course room service is available. Upscale dining is another option, for a slight cost per person, so look around and read your daily newsletter. I always check the menu during the day so I can decide where I want to eat.

Reserving a table for any alternative dining restaurants should be done as soon as possible.

If you drink a fair amount of soda, you might consider purchasing unlimited soft drinks for the week. Usually runs $20-30. The same applies to alcoholic drinks. You can pay per drink out of your onboard account or purchase a package for entire cruise. Keep in mind how much you drink and go from there. I usually find it is cheaper to purchase by the drink.

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Unfortunately this does end. A day or two before the final cruise night, in your daily newsletter, you will receive important information about settling your on board account and disembarking instructions and of course customs regulations. You must read this thoroughly, so you will not cause delays for yourself and all other passengers. Believe it or not the staff only has a few hours to get the ship ready for the newly arriving passengers for the next cruise. Remember what time you boarded?

You will also receive your account balance. You may change the method of payment at the Pursers Desk if you wish. But these lines get very long on the last day so it may be a good idea to do it a few days ahead or even late at night.

There may be a form asking about your departure plans, i.e. flight information, method of travel etc. The time you will be given to exit the ship will depend on your filling this out correctly. You have two choices depending on your departure arrangements. If you have arranged to have transportation to the airport you will be given color coded tags that you will place on your luggage. Before you retire for the night, place your luggage outside your room. Leaving you clothes and items need for tomorrow morning! The staff will magically deliver it to airport and airline. All you will have to do is go to the airport and board the plane!

You also have the choice of taking your luggage with you. I usually do that, because it provides me with a earlier departure time and easier access to transportation.

In the morning the instructions for debarkation will be announced, you will be asked to vacate your cabin by a certain time and wait in one of the public areas for your color of your luggage tag to be called. No one will be allowed to leave the ship until all accounts have been settled and US Customs has cleared the ship.

So take that last soak in the Jacuzzi, Have a last drink on the deck watching the sunset, linger over your last meal! You have had a great vacation and call us when you get home, let us know all about so we can start planning your next great cruise!


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