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First Cruise Basics – No Question Is Too Dumb

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For many first time cruisers, after they’ve booked their first cruise they suffer more anxiety about their upcoming cruise, and worry more about what they don’t know about what awaits them than when they were deciding which cruise to take.

I receive numerous emails from these first time cruisers asking all sorts of questions; many of them asking questions that could be considered most basic in nature. I really try and encourage people to post their questions to our message boards, rather than rely solely on the answers and opinions I can supply.

People have explained they are leery of doing so because of their experiences on some other message boards, where the responses they’ve received have been sarcastic, rude, or just direct them to use Google, or the cruise line’s web site.

This is a particularly significant point, where CruiseMates, thanks to the members of our community, is different. As I explain to the people emailing me, at CruiseMates “no question is stupid; it’s only stupid not to ask”. As much as that might sound like a cliché, it’s absolutely true to the people who frequent and participate on our message boards.

In an effort to encourage people to ask those questions, I thought in this week’s Blog I would touch on some of the most basic matters a first time cruiser might think about.

– Identification is required, and that means more than a driver’s license and a credit card, which might suffice to write a check for your groceries at your local super market. At the very minimum an official state birth certificate is necessary to cruise when your ship is leaving from a U.S. port, and concluding at the same port where it began.

The very best form of identification is a passport. A passport is not difficult to obtain, and the cost is not high considering the length of time they are normally valid for, as well as the ease of travel they provide.

– Money matters matter. Most cruises, even those on luxury cruise lines, are going to require you to spend extra money, above the cost of your cruise fare. Other than in ship’s casinos, cruise ships operate on a cashless system, but cashless does not mean costless.

On every ship a “charge account” is established for each passenger to give them the ability to make onboard purchases. The payment of charges to this account are guaranteed by either a credit card (swiped at boarding) or by cash deposited with the ship’s Purser at check-in.

Any purchases on the ship, above the cost of your cruise fare, are entirely optional. Those optional choices to spend more are abundant, and include (but not limited to) alternate restaurants, pictures taken by photo department staff, shore excursions, drinks (alcoholic, as well as sodas, some juices, specialty coffees, bottled water), and retail goods from the ship’s stores.

– Gratuities are automatically added to the cost of drinks (at present the rate is 15%). Additionally most cruise lines automatically add “their suggested amount” for the service staff to your account, though you may change the amount of those gratuities, if you wish, with a visit to the Guest Relations Desk.

– Dress codes used to be an area of concern for many first time cruisers. Some of the cruise lines still have a suggested dress code for their passengers, including some nights which they designate as “formal”.

Where some people used to think they had to buy an entire new wardrobe before they cruised, and for some the topic of dress codes can still be a bit of a “hot button” issue. However, the reality of the situation these days, with a few exceptions on a couple of cruise lines, is that overall dress on ships is not near as regulated as it used to be. While I still suggest men wear a suit on ships with designated formal nights, it’s not at all rare to see men wearing sports jackets, or even just a pair of slacks and a shirt. With very rare exception, you are not going to be turned away from a dining room door unless you are dressed in shorts, T-shirts or torn blue jeans.

While I’m sure there will be some who vehemently disagree, the reality these days in the industry, is that what you wear on a cruise is no longer anything you need to concern yourself with so much anymore.

I’ve only touched on some of the very basics here, and there’s certainly no end to the discussion about all things cruising. I encourage anyone reading to please feel free to post their questions on our CruiseMates message boards. As I said… NO question is stupid!!

– A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –








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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time April 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

Aside from the mega ships and their mega prices and charges for EVERYTHING on board, the basics boil down to the specific criuse line itself, and sometimes a given ship within a specific cruise line.

To say that a passenger may seldom be turned away for wearing jeans tee or the like is probably not the best information. You don’t dress correctly, on cunard, lets say, YOU DO NOT GET INTO THE MDR, and now, not the Lido at night, either, nor do you on Crystal and Silversea. Then again, most people trying their first cruise probably will be suckered into a cruise on the YOU KNOW WHO’S, …….I will end that with just that.

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