Mike's Cruise Information Page

New to Cruising?

Cruises are generally the best vacation value. You unpack only once, no checking in and out of hotels while you visit several destinations in a very efficient manner. No extra cost for food on board, and there is plenty of food on a cruise. Do it all or do nothing, or somewhere in between, it is up to you. Cruises offer travel in an environment that's safe and comfortable. You're pampered like nowhere else!

Some reasons to consider cruising to be the best vacation value, Romance, Excursions, Extraordinary Food, Live Perormmances, Dancing, Sunbathing, Adventure, and Relaxation.

The evenings are wonderful, with casinos, resturants, games galore. It is the vacation where there truly is something for everyone. Visit exotic places without leaving the comfort of the ship or take time away from the ship to enjoy all the ports have to offer. On a cruise, it seems like the whole world is having a good time. Walk with friends, or alone on the most beautiful places on earth. Ready to relax? Pools and spas are there for you. First or second honeymoon, it's a special time with that special someone.

A cruise is a vacation resort at sea. Imagine a floating vacation village with restaurants, bars, shops, theatres, nightclubs, sports facilities, swimming pools, children's play areas and more. A cruise ship is a self-contained resort. You'll find all the amenities that you would find at a hotel and you can choose your accommodation to suit your budget. Your cabin will be cleaned daily, with fresh towels every day.

Relax on board in a cash-free environment, no need to worry about carrying money around with you. Sign for your drinks, excursions and all on board purchases. Either pay by credit card or cash at the beginning of your cruise. Register your card at the start of the cruise and be automatically debited at the end. You'll normally receive an interim statement and final statement.

Whatever your lifestyle and age cruising is for everyone. Cruising is great for singles, couples and families. Cruising is the fastest growing "vacation destination" and there are over 30,000 cruises to choose from each year. Dress code is not always formal, but a mixture of casual and informal. During the day, dress code is quite casual (swimwear not allowed in restaurants). Pack to suit the destination you are travelling to and take advice from the brochure and your travel agent. Wardrobe space may be limited, so don't pack too much, and make sure you take comfortable shoes for walking.

Any health problems and you'll be taken care of. All ships carry at least one doctor and one nurse and have fully-equipped medical facilities. Medical treatment has to be paid for but can sometimes be claimed back through your insurance company or the optional travel insurance if you purchased it, which you should before any cruise. Most ships now have excellent facilities for disabled travellers.

Tipping, a delicate subject, but don't let it cause you embarrassment. On some ships, an automatic gratuity of 15% is added to your bar bill. Your ship will recommend how much to tip, and to who, and some cruise lines operate a 'No Tipping Required' policy or include some gratuities in your cruise fare.

As stated above, Cruises are generally the best vacation value for your money. Cruising doesn't have to be expensive, It is possible to get a 7 night cruise for as little as $410. Book early and take advantage of great savings as almost everything is included - accommodation, entertainment and meals on board. Regular cruisers can join the cruise line loyalty programs and receive additional benefits.

Packing for Your Cruise

Make a packing list, gather all the items on the list before starting to pack, then check off the items as they are packed.

Resist the urge to pack items that you probably won’t need or use.

To help keep garments wrinkle-free, leave them on their hangers, cover them with dry-cleaning bags, and fold over once before placing them in the suitcase. Most cruises of less than 7 days usually have 1 formal night. On 7 days or longer there are usually 2 or more formal nights. With "Freestyle Cruising" you can still dress up for dinner and remember they usually have photo nights where most still dress up for their photos which are taken before or after dinner. While some like to dress up in formal gowns and tuxedos for ships' formal night, most people dress in business attire (suit for men, cocktail gowns or silk dresses for women).

Shop for sample/travel containers of your favorite toiletries, and remember if you are flying to the port the total is limited to what will fit in a 1 quart size baggie. Flying restrictions - 3-1-1 for carry-on = 3 ounce bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3 oz. container size is a security measure.

Zip lock style top storage bags, a packer’s best friend. Undergarments and knits take only a third of the suitcase space they normally occupy when they’re compressed in these bags and the excess air is removed.

Travel alarm Clock, all the rooms have wake up calls, but very few have a clock.

If you really want to pack light and the ship has self-service laundry facilities you can pack lighter and wash clothes midway through the cruise or use the laundry service, but remember this is your vacation so you really don't want to be doing laundry yourself, but it is an option.

See the different "Casual" definitions in the post below - Casual Dress Defined.

One important packing tip - share space, cross-pack your luggage with your travel companion. Chances are if a suitcase is missing, it’ll turn up eventually. In the meantime, you’ll both have fresh clothing.

Save some room in your suitcase for items you pick up shopping while cruising. A canvas bag with handles can be folded and packed and used later if you bought too much to fit into the suitcase for the trip home.

Make sure you have a great time cruising, no matter what you pack!

Casual Dress Defined

There are many different classes of casual dress noted for different events. Below are the most common ones you will find on a cruise. This may help you in what you may want to pack for your upcoming cruise.

Business Casual: Relaxed clothing that is appropriate to conduct business in a professional manner. Collared dress shirt and trousers, (pants or slacks). Neckties are generally not part of business casual dress.

Resort Casual: Attire that is a cut above casual, no jeans, no shorts, no t-shirts. Trousers, pants or slacks with polo or tropical print shirt.

Casual: Khakis, shorts, jeans, t-shirts, etc.

Seasickness and Cruising

First time cruisers often wonder if they will get seasick. For the majority of Passengers, sea sickness is not a problem. First, the sea cannot make you sick, is not a virus and therefore you cannot catch it. It is the motion of a car, plane, train, ship or amusement park ride that can make some experience sickness, the symptoms are the same and the cause is the same. The real name is motion sickness. Motion sickness happens when the body, inner ear, and eyes all send different signals to the brain, resulting in confusion and queasiness. It is a problem generally attributed to disturbance in the balance system of the inner ear. Your sensory perception gets out of synch as these nerve fibers attempt to compensate for the unfamiliar motion of the ship moving through water.

The good news for sufferers is that the condition often disappears without medical treatment within a few days. As your brain learns to compensate for the swaying and pitching of the ship you will get your “sea legs”. If you do feel sick and don't want to wait a few days to get your "sea legs", there are several remedies available, both medicinal like Dramamine, Dramamine II, Bonine and patches (Dramamine II and Bonine are non-drowsy formulas) and non-medicinal like Sea-Bands that are worn around the wrist, and they usually do the trick.

Almost all ships are designed with stabilizers that minimize side-to-side roll. When choosing a cabin, think about what is important to you. If you love the water, as I do, you will want a cabin with a balcony or at least a window. If you are susceptible to motion sickness, a cabin on a lower deck toward the middle of the ship is your best bet. The closer you are to the ship's center of gravity, the less motion you will feel.

Remedies must be taken before setting sail. Medication can be obtained from Pharmacies, and even in the ship stores - usually at a higher price, which help most people by sedating the balancing organs. These can cause drowsiness and instructions for their use should be read carefully and they should be taken with care. Ask your pharmacist for advice if you are not sure. At lunch on the day of the cruise before the ship leaves port, both my wife and I each take 1 Bonine tablet and that usually is all we need for a cruise.

Some people find special wrist bands effective and the Sea-Bands are sold in many pharmacies and luggage stores. There are also stick-on patches that can be worn on the skin behind the ear, but these are obtained by doctor's prescription only.

Don't let Seasickness keep you from taking and enjoying a cruise.

Passports and Cruising

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), once implemented, will require all travelers entering or re-entering the United States to be in possession of a valid passport, even when traveling from certain countries in the Western Hemisphere for which passports previously were not required. Implementation of the WHTI is presently expected to be on the following schedule:
• January 23, 2007 - Valid passport required for travel by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. • As early as January 1, 2008 - Valid passport required for all U.S. air, sea and land border crossings. This requirement may become effective Summer 2008, but no later than January 2009, but with the passport backlog being caught up, the extra time probably won’t be needed.

Until that time and for Sea Travel Only, for domestic travel which includes: the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, a passport (valid or expired) is highly recommended. In the absence of a passport, a birth certificate (original or certified copy), plus laminated picture ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency is required. Note: Baptismal papers and hospital certificates of birth (except for new borns) are not acceptable. For U.S. Naturalized citizens, in the absence of a passport, Naturalization papers (either original or notarized copy) plus a picture ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency is required. A voter registration card or Social Security Card are not considered to be proof of citizenship. Children under 16 years of age do not require a picture ID.

A passport for a cruise is still the preferred proof of citizenship even when traveling before the initiative requires a passport. The unforeseen possibility of a medical disembarkation or early cruise termination may require that you have a valid passport to enable you to fly back to the United States, which now requires a passport.

The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory. U.S. citizens returning directly from a U.S. territory are not considered to have left the United States and do not need to present a passport. U.S. territories include the following: Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

International Travel - A valid passport is required: visas are required where they apply. This includes Europe, Asia, Central and South America. This has not changed.

To see Passport Information click on the Passport graphic.

Cruise / Travel Insurance

Planning to take a cruise? While booking you will be asked if you would like to purchase Travel Insurance. Your first instinct will probably be to say no. This is something you should really think about. There are usually two options on the Travel Insurance, those offered by the Cruise Line, and the other offered by the Cruise Agent. Not all insurance policies are the same, even though they may be written by the same company.

Usually the Travel Insurance offered by the Cruise/Travel Agency will cover more than the Travel Insurance offered by the Cruise Line, normally with higher limits. Some of the benefits of purchasing from the Cruise Agent are:

• Insure 3rd party travel arrangements at the same benefit limit and pricing schedule
• Coverage for Financial Default of an airline, cruise line, or tour operator
• Coverage for Missed Connection
• Trip Interruption
• Trip Delay
• Offers a waiver of the Pre-existing medical condition exclusion
• Provides higher medical benefit limits than the cruise line products
• May be purchased within 10 days after final trip payment
• Trip Cancellation
• Baggage & Personal Effects
• Baggage Delay
• Medical Expenses
• Emergency Evacuation
• Accidental Death & Dismemberment
• Is refundable.
• Provides all refunds in cash

Cruise lines advertise "cancel for any reason" coverage. Cash refunds are provided for "named peril" reasons. "Cruise credits" are provided for all other reasons.

On two different cruises I have been on I have seen a ambulance on the dock at a port of call. I watched as a stretcher took someone off the ship and head to a local hospital. Your Medical Insurance usually will not cover you when you are out of the United States. Travel Insurance will take care of you and even get you back home after you leave the hospital if the ship has left that port to continue the cruise and you have a passport so you can fly back home.

If you are flying to the Port, especially in the Winter months, there can be delays because of weather. Travel Insurance usually covers Missed Connections, Trip Interruption and Trip Delays. Some Travel Insurance Companies even have 24 hour support lines to help you get a new flight to your destination.

Most people think nothing will happen to affect their trip, but these are everyday possibilities. I always purchase the Travel Insurance, as I never know when something may come up that could ruin my cruise. So far I have not needed it but you never know when you will.

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