Cruising 101

If you are planning a cruise for the first time, you probably have many questions about the ins and outs of a cruise such as dress codes, tipping and much more.

What is included in the price of a cruise?

Included in an "all inclusive" cruise are generally lodging, meals, snacks, activities, fitness facilities, and entertainment. Things that are generally not included are tips or things that have to do with upgrades or personal luxuries such as:

  • Tipping -  You need to calculate about $10 to $12 per person per day.  Most cruise lines charge 15% tips for bar tabs.
  • Beverages - Most cruise lines charge for alcoholic beverages, soda and specialty drinks.
  • Alternative Dining - Some cruise lines offer alternative dining options in addition to their dining plans. The proices are comparable to shore-based restaurant prices. 
  • Special shore excursions - Cruise lines offer special shore excursion packages that can range from $25 to $400
  • Special activities - Many on-board activities are free but some are not. Expect to pay for exercise classes or babysitting for very young children
  • Spa Health and beauty treatments
  • Medical Services
  • Personal items
  • Intenet: Cruise ships have to rely on satellite communications, so internet connections at sea can be as much as 75 cents a minute. 

What is the Dress Code on a cruise ship?

Dress codes on cruise ships vary between different cruise lines.   In general terms, passengers need to be prepared to dress for different occasions.

  • Day wear:  Shorts, pants, blouses or shirts, knit tops or polo shirts, swimsuit cover up.
  • Pool: Bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts, tanktops,
  • Fitness  Fitness-wear, shorts, t-shirts, tanktops
  • Port: For women includes a casual dress, skirt and blouse, or pants outfit; for men, casual pants or walking shorts, and polo-type shirts. Comfortable walking shoes are a must.
  • Casual  Dinners:  Sport Shirts and slacks for men dresses or pants for women
  • Smart Casual: Jackets and ties for men, dresses or pantsuits for women
  • Formal: Suits and ties or tuxedos for men, cocktail dresses for women

Dining

Cruise ships today offer a delightful variety of dining options. Cruise ship buffets are legendary and many people come back just for that attraction. You will find the most memorable selections of salads, meats and desserts at just about any time of day.  

Dining rooms on the other hand offer a more refined experience for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as afternoon tea.  Refined service, a special menu with lobster and steak dinners and beautiful decor offer a memorable experience. Dining room dress codes vary among cruise lines but in general there are evenings where smart casual attire is required - sport shirt and slacks for men, while women will be comfortable in a skirt or pants and blouse, or casual dress.  Other nights more formal attire is required such as cocktail dresses for women and suits or tuxedos for men.

Many cruise lines now offer special restaurants where you can enjoy that amazing Hamburger steak or iItalian delicacy. There is usually a cover charge of $10, $25 or more. However, these for-fee restaurants are completely optional and you will have an amzing experience just dining in the regular dining room or buffet.

Room Service is available on most ships and is included in the price.This may be a great option after being a little tired out from a shore excursion and you just want to stretch out and relax.   

Dining options like seating time (early or late) and table sizes can be selected with many cruise lines online or at the beginning of the cruise.

 

Cruising with Children

Cruise lines openly encourage family cruising, and children between 2-18 years are more welcome than ever to come cruising, making it a wonderful family experience. Cruise lines offer extensive educational programs, and special facilities as well as special menus designed for children. Many ships have babysitting services and parents can enjoy a relaxing time knowing their children are well taken care off.   

Some adults prefer to cruise without too many children on-board.  Choosing cruise times outside school vacations can accomplish that.

 

How to pay for things

Life on-board a cruise-ship is much simplified by the on-board charge card cruise lines issue.  Each passenger gets a special card that serves as room-key as well as charge card on-board. These on-board cards can be linked to a credit or debit card, traveler’s checks or alternatively a cash deposit.

 

Sea­sick­ness:

Sea-sickness is less of a problem these days because many ships today have special stabilizers that minimize movement. However in the open ocean, conditions can occur where there is some motion that can be felt.
For most people, over the counter medications like Dramamine, Bonine or Marezine take care of the occasional spell. The ship’s purser office may give them out for free. If you prefer a prescription solution, there is a Transderm Scop patch that you can apply behind the ear.  Possible side effects of the patch include dry mouth and sometimes, dizziness after removal. As always, check with your physician before using any medication, even over-the-counter products. Note that many of these types of meds can cause drowsiness (taking a half-pill might help al­le­vi­ate the problem) and that said sleepiness will only get worse if you drink any type of alcohol while on them.

 

Medical Care on board

Most cruise ships generally carry a doctor or and one or more nurses on-board to care for the medical needs of the passengers and crew.  They are equipped to take care of everyday cuts, bruises and sprained ankles as well as medical emergencies.  In fact they carry special equipment including defibrillators, EKG and X-ray machines. Most ships also carry a small supply of medication  that passengers may have forgotten at home.  If you have special medical needs, please make sure you contact the cruise line before embarking.