Top 10 Cruise Questions for New Cruisers

Do I need to pre-register on-line for the cruise?

The short answer to this is yes you should.  If you pre-register before you get to the ship your check-in on sailing day will be expedited.   Your travel agent should be able to give you the link to do your on-line registration or they may do it for you ahead of time.  You will need the following items to complete this task:

  • Reservation Number
  • Ship Name and Sail Date
  • Credit Card to put in the system for your on-board account
  • Passport or other identification document

Print out your sailing boarding pass and luggage tags if tags have not been provided for you ahead of time.  Usually on-line check-in can be completed up until 3 days before sailing.  After that you will need to check-in at the port.

Do I need a passport for a Caribbean cruise from the US?

Passports are always recommended for all trips out of the country.  If you get left in a port,  or get sick and need to fly home, you will need your passport to be able to travel from a foreign country.  Certain Caribbean sailings such as Cuba require passports and valid visas. To find out the current requirements for all countries you are traveling to you can visit the US Government website.   Certain closed loop cruises (leaving  and returing to the same US city), may allow you to travel with a government issued picture ID and your birth certificate.  Keep in mind in these cases, the birth certificate must be the official copy with the raised seal and we still recommend a passport.  To renew your passport you can visit passport information page of the US website.

What is a group cruise? and how much do I have to do with the group?

Group cruises are getting together a group of families and friends to cruise together.  Setting up a group with your travel agent allows everyone in the group to be able to dine together and sometimes get cabins near each other.  Usually your travel agent will link your reservations together and sometimes give you special amenities for booking a certain amount of cabins.  Each cruise line and each sailing has different requirements for the special amenities.  The amenities can range from group-t-shirts to a martini tasting. Who doesn’t love the show of a good martini tasting?

How much do I have to do with the group if I am on a group cruise?

Group cruises are usually very flexible.  You can do as much or as little with the group as you’d like.  Cruisers can choose to eat dinner nightly with the group or have dinner on their own.  Be part of the group excursions or hop to the beach by yourself.  Many times a travel agent will have groups already developed to get you some special perks.  I have been with groups that I spend all my time with the groups and other times that I don’t spend any time with the group.  It really depends on the trip.  Check with your travel agent to see what options are available to you and know that usually the cruise lines will not necessarily give you the best deals directly.

What tips are expected of me on a cruise?

Most cruise lines will automatically charge your tips to your shipboard account each day you sail.  You have the option of asking the cruise line to take the amount off your bill and pay the amounts suggested in cash directly to the following people:

  • Suite/Stateroom Attendant
  • Waiter
  • Assistant Waiter
  • Headwaiter

You can also pre-pay your gratuities before you sail.  To do this, have your travel agent add them to your cruise price ahead of time.  For some people this allows them to better budget for the trip.  If you get on board credit, you can use that towards your gratuities.

What is tendering?

Tendering is when the cruise ship anchors off shore at a particular port.  At these ports you are required to take a smaller boat to shore.  These are “tender boats”.  Taking the tender boats require you to line up or sometimes get a ticket for a certain boarding time depending on the cruise line.  This method of getting on and off the ship takes longer but is the only way the mega ships can dock in some islands.

How do I book my excursions?

Excursions can be booked directly with the cruise line or with a variety of reputable third party booking companies.  It is especially important to make sure you are back to the ship on time and  to check with whoever you book with  to make sure they know when you have to get back to the ship.  You should also check to see if they guarantee that you can cancel your excursion if your ship does not make it to the port in question.    We recommend checking in advance all the policies of any third party vendor you decide to book with.  You don’t want to be disappointed either by the vendor not showing up or by being charged for an excursion when your ship makes a change to its itinerary when a storm is in the area.

What is the dress code on the ship?

Each ship and cruise line sets its own dress code.  The ships go from super casual to very formal.  Most cruise lines do require men to wear pants at dinner in the dining room.  Some will allow jeans. Most cruise lines also have formal nights on sailings of 5 nights and longer.  For cruises of 7 nights and longer there may be more than 1 formal night.  Men should expect to wear a tuxedo or dark suit while ladies can wear a cocktail or long length dress for these evenings.  During formal nights you may opt to not dress up and dine in the a less formal venue on the ship (most ships have them) if you prefer.  Shorts and cover-ups are usually fine to wear in the dining room for lunch.

 Will my cell phone work on this cruise?

The short answer is – “It depends.”  Firstly it depends on your cell phone coverage carrier.  Secondly it depends on where you sail to.  Most likely when we are in the ports  your cell carrier might include some ports or have a day pass or international plan you can get so it works.  Many cruise lines are upping their wireless capabilities and offering WiFi packages for purchase or a freebies as booking bonuses.  Wireless speeds are getting faster and the packages are getting cheaper.  The phone on the ship is incredibly expensive, so if you can plan to make calls use WiFi calling if your cell allows it, apps like WhatsApp or call when you are in port.

How crowded will the ports be when we get there?

You can either be the only ship in port or it can be extremely crowded.  We were once in Cozumel and 7 other ships were in port due to a hurricane that shifted a bunch of itineraries.  Captains will move a ship away from bad weather.  If the weather appears that it is going to get bad they will reroute the trip.  If you want to see how many other ships will be in port the day you plan to be in a particular port you can look at a consolidated calendar.  To get  this information visit Cruise Calendar to see the whole schedule for your ports.  This will help tell you how quickly your excursions are likely to fill up and how quickly you need to book them.




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