Is cruising affordable?

Yes! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget, from the cost-conscious to the most luxurious. Even more important, a cruise offers the best travel value for your money. Your fare includes all meals, your accommodations, shipboard activities, nighttime parties and entertainment. It does not include (in most cases) drinks, optional shore excursions, personal services such as massage or hairstyling, gambling, medical visits, and tips. Since those are mostly all "controlled" costs, you'll know what your vacation will end up costing you before you go.

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How much does a cruise cost?

Cruise costs vary depending on the length, the cruise line, the destination and time of year. Most destinations have peak periods when the prices are higher. Cruise lines vary from economy level to super luxury. You can pay as low as $300 for a 3-night Bahamas cruise, up to $30,000 for a suite on a 14-day African cruise. There are discounts galore out there, sometimes as low as 2 for 1 specials, or even alumni programs for people who have previously sailed before. We research all of the specials before confirming a price to you.

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How long are cruises?

As long or as short as you want. There are cruise lines that offer itineraries from three days to three months. Whatever your schedule, we'll do our best to find the cruise for you. The most popular cruises are either 3, 4, 5 or 7 night cruises.

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When is the best time to take a cruise?

How about next week? Anytime is the best time to take a cruise, but it also depends on where you'd like to go. The Caribbean cruises are offered year round; however, some of the more exotic destinations are seasonal. For example, you can only cruise to Alaska between May and September; to Europe between April and November; to Bermuda between April and October; the Panama Canal, between September and April. It's best for you to just pick an itinerary and date, and we'll do the leg work to find out if the cruise you want sails when you want it to.

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When is hurricane season?

Officially, the National Hurricane Service states that hurricane season starts on June 1 and ends November 31st. That's 6 months a year. However, history has shown us the greatest concentration of hurricane and tropical storm activity tends to be between late August and mid-October. Does this mean you shouldn't cruise during September? Not at all. Some of the best rates are during this period and your Captain would never jeopardize your safety. Cruise ships are certainly safer than land-locked Caribbean islands during a hurricane. With ship speeds of 20-25 knots, cruise ships can outrun a 14 knot hurricane. Today's ships are equipped with state of the art weather equipment that keeps the Captain and his crew fully aware of a storm's position and if he feels that there is any danger to his passengers, crew, or his vessel he can simply "move" this floating resort to safer waters.

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Where can I cruise to?

Where ever you want to. Cruises visit practically any destination accessible by water, the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, Bermuda, Europe, Hawaii, the Greek Isles, the Orient, Australia, Tahiti, the Galapagos Islands, South America, India, the Panama Canal and more. If you can name it, we can probably get you there by ship.

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What's the difference between the cruise lines?

Cruise lines cover a wide spectrum of taste. Some ships range from under 200 feet to over 1,000 feet. You can sail with fewer than 100 fellow passengers or more than 3,600. Some ships have glittering showrooms and casinos, discos, and Internet Cafes. Atmospheres range from party crowds to sedate quiet ships, from casual to formal, classically simple to ultra-deluxe. You can even choose between traditional propeller-driven craft, sail-assisted ships like Windjammer, or even a paddle-wheel river boat like the Delta Steamboat ships.

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Will I get bored? Feel confined?

Hardly. Being at sea gives you a feeling of freedom few places can offer. There's plenty of room to move about. And it'll probably take you two or three days just to discover what's on board. Plus you get the added adventure of exploring new and exciting ports of call. Cruise ships are like floating resorts with all the amenities fine resorts have to offer but your scenery changes daily. Just to keep you updated on all the fun things to do on board, each evening your steward will deliver the ships newsletter to your cabin. The newsletter details the next days activities, their starting times and locations.

Activities vary from ship to ship but usually include things like sports tournaments such as aerobic classes, volleyball, basketball etc. The cruise director and his/her staff will host events from napkin folding, trivia contests, wine tasting and a grandmothers bragging hour. Most ships have small libraries and an activities desk where you can arrange partners for bridge, chess or play your favorite game of cards.

Now if all of that is just too much for you, just go take a nap on one the many lounge chairs around the deck area, or find a quite corner and read a book.

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Is motion-discomfort a problem?

Not really. If you don't suffer from motion sickness on land, chances are you won't on the ship. The most popular cruise destinations boast some of the calmest waters in the world. In addition, stabilizers on modern ships, advance availability of accurate weather information, and development of effective preventative medications have for the most part eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort. If you are concerned about motion sickness, choose a large ship with a cabin located midship.

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What is there to do at night?

Evening entertainment varies among cruise lines. Most lines offer Las Vegas or Broadway-style entertainment with singing and dancing. After the show, you can still stay up and be a night owl and test your luck at the casino. Most lines have casino's offering Craps, Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean stud poker, and of course the famous one armed bandits - slot machines. Other evening entertainment can include watching a motion picture movie in the ships' theater, singing in the karaoke bar, or just taking a moonlight stroll around the deck and wishing upon a star that your trip never ends.

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Do cruise lines welcome families with kids?

Thirty-two percent of cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Most cruise lines make a special point of providing supervised activities for youngsters, especially during the summer months and school holidays. Activities are usually split by age groups. Each group normally has its own counselors, and for the most part, separate activities. The kids usually have their own lounge with video games, dance floor and music. Some of the planned activities include face painting, treasure hunts, dance parties, movies, talent shows, etc. You'll find that kids adapt to shipboard life with ease and you won't have to wonder what they're up to every minute. The cruise staff will help keep them busy and entertained. Best of all, children generally travel at a discounted rate, depending on age.

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Can I get a baby-sitter?

Yes, at an additional cost. Most lines provide this service. Once on board, you need to inquire at the purser's desk for arrangements. The number of sitters available is limited, so inquire early.

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What about singles?

Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone because it's so easy to meet others. Typically, most cruise lines will sponsor singles parties the first night or two of your cruise. This way you get a chance to make friends right away.

Most lines charge 150% of the rate for a single occupancy cabin. However, to help defray your cost, many lines offer a guarantee share. That means they will pair you up with a roommate of the same sex, at the double occupancy rate. And should you decide to do this, you may be fortunate enough to get a single cabin if the line is unable to find you a roommate. If the thought of sharing a cabin with a person you haven't met doesn't bother you this may be an option.

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Is cruising right for honeymooners?

Cruising offers an atmosphere that's ideal for honeymooners. Romantic dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars) and so much more to remember forever. Most lines provide special services such as welcome-aboard champagne and breakfast in bed. (And speaking of beds, most ships have them in double, queen, or king size!) Some lines offer special programs for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows.

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Do I need to tip? If so, how much?

The vast majority of cruise lines do allow tipping and it is expected by the staff. You should allow for tipping when budgeting money for your cruise vacations. Generally speaking, $7.00 to $9.00 per day/per person should take care of your waiter, bus boy and cabin steward. Other ship personnel can be tipped at your discretion. Many lines already add a 15% charge to all bar bills, so unless they have treated you extremely well, there is no need to tip the bar staff again. (Considering what you would tip for an average meal on land or tip a hotel maid it really isn't an unreasonable amount). A few luxury cruise lines such as Silver Seas and Seaborne have a "no tipping" policy.

With that said, tipping is a matter of personal preference. Even though the lines will pass around envelopes at the end of your cruise, and give you guidelines on how much to tip, you really don't have to. If the service was poor, you shouldn't be goaded into a tip. With that said, generally the service is so wonderful you'll want to extend a gratuity to some of the people who have made your vacation special.

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Will I need a passport?

All U.S. and Canadian citizens must travel with proof of citizenship, which is:

(1.) A valid passport, or

(2.) Birth certificate (complete with raised seal, no photocopy) with picture identification, or

(3.)A certified naturalization certificate with picture identification. Any state-issued drivers license or other form of picture identification should be acceptable.

Non-U.S. citizens who are residing in the U.S. are required to travel with their Alien Registration Card (Green Card) and valid passport. All others must have valid passports and visas at embarkation. Non-U.S. citizens not residing in the U.S. should contact your local consulate to check on visa requirements for the countries you will be visiting. You should consult with us for more information if necessary.

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Can I hook up my computer to the Internet while on board?

Cruise lines are expanding their internet capabilities for all you cybertravelers out there. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers Internet Cafes on all their ships so you can surf 24 hours a day. Grandmothers can email their grandchildren, teenagers can chat with their friends back home, and stockbroker-types can sleep easier because they can see how the market closes everyday. Many lines plan to have hookups in every stateroom in the next year or so. Connection prices vary from .75 per minute to $9.95 to film a video postcard of yourself to e-mail back home and let everyone know what a great time you're having.

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Are medical services available?

All ships carrying more that 12 persons are required to have a doctor on board. The ship will have a small infirmary for non-serious ailments. In the case of an emergency, dial the emergency number listed on the cabin telephone. Air lift service to the nearest medical facility will be arranged if necessary. Check with your medical insurance for coverage limits outside your country of origin.

Arrangements for oxygen use and/or dialysis can sometimes be made. With advance notice and a doctor's release you may travel with many conditions. Remember to bring adequate quantities of any prescription medication you need and always pack your medication in your carry on luggage. Be sure to check with us before booking to make sure the ship you want to cruise on can handle your needs.

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What should I pack?

What to pack depends on the cruise line, your destination and the time of year. Caribbean, Hawaiian and Alaskan cruises are more informal while Transatlantic, Mediterranean and European cruises tend to be a little more formal. Dress during the day is usually resort-type casual. Evenings vary from casual to formal. Make sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes for shore excursions. A light sweater or jacket may be useful for cool evenings. If cruising to Alaska, coats and gloves may be needed. On international cruises, some churches and cathedrals will not admit persons in shorts or women in pants.

Since there are no real hard and fast rules, here are some of our suggestions: Men should always pack one dark suit which will usually suffice, even on "formal night". Tuxudo's are generally not required, but if you want to wear one you can bring your own or rent one on board. Ladies should pack at least one cocktail dress or a full length formal. There are usually 1 or 2 formal nights on a 7-night cruise, and only 1 on 3 & 4-night cruises. The rest of the time is typically very casual. (Even on "non-formal' nights men should wear a collared shirt to dinner and slacks or skirts for the ladies).

Make sure that any valuables, prescription drugs, breakable items and personal documents are packed in your carry-on luggage.

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What is there to do in port?

So much so you'll have a hard time choosing! Your ship will typically arrive in port early in the morning at which time you are free to go ashore. In most cases you will need to be back on board by late afternoon. (Remember the ship will sail at the scheduled time regardless if you are on board).

When deciding whether to book a shore excursion from the cruise lines, look carefully at the description to insure it will meet your interests. When selecting a tour, consider transportation expenses, admission fees, meals, length of time, etc. If the cruise lines don't offer a tour you are interested in, taxis and rental cars are generally available for hire at each port.

Once you're in port, you can sightsee, golf, surf, scuba, shop, bike, hike, fish, or just relax and enjoy the new and exciting wonders around you.

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What time do we eat?

Dining preferences are requested at the time of booking. Most dining rooms are now non smoking, but some will still offer you a choice. Your meal times are commonly referred to as 1st Seating (or Main Seating), and 2nd Seating (or Late Seating). Dining times vary from ship to ship, but here is a sample to give you a better idea:


   1st Seating    2nd Seating  
 Breakfast  6:45am  8:00am
 Lunch  Noon  1:30pm
 Dinner  6:00pm  6:00pm

Some cruise lines will confirm your meal preference in advance, while other lines will have a confirmation card inside your cabin.

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I'm on a special diet. Is there something for me to eat?

Most cruise lines have no problem accommodating all types of special diets for your needs. Cruise lines now offer "healthy heart", vegetarian and diet options as part of their main menu. When we make your reservation we will ask if you need any kind of special meals prepared while on board.

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Is smoking allowed on board?

As the campaign against smoking is very strong, especially in the US, more and more ships are instituting no-smoking policies in the dining and show rooms. Cigars and pipes are not allowed in the dining room and some ships have separate smoking lounges.

You can sail completely smoke free on Carnival's Paradise ship. Smoking is not permitted - anywhere and if you're caught smoking on board, you will be fined $250 and taken off the ship at the next port of call. Norwegian Cruise Lines offer non smoking cabins on some of their ships. Please advise us when you book if you are a smoker or not.

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What about phone calls. Can I call home?

Many ships have telephones inside your stateroom. Ship to Shore rates apply so you may want to limit your conversations. A less expensive way to phone home would be to wait until you get to port. Look for a phone booth nearby. Be sure to check with your long distance carrier for access codes and rates before leaving.

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Can I have my laundry done?

Yes. Most ships offer a laundry service similar to that in a hotel. They also offer dry cleaning services in case you drip something on your favorite silk dress. Your cabin steward will provide you with laundry bags and a price list.

Some lines also have self service laundry facilities where you can wash your own clothes. There may be a small charge to use the machines and/or to purchase detergent.

Also, check with us before packing your iron. Some lines provide irons and ironing boards.

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Should I purchase travel insurance?

Cruise lines charge hefty penalties should you have to cancel your trip. We offer medical trip cancellation insurance through Access America, and some cruise lines offer their own insurance as well. Medical insurance can provide peace of mind for a relatively small investment. However, insurance is the one thing everyone buys but no one wants to use. You have to assess the risk you are willing to take. We will be happy to quote you a price to cover the cost of your cruise.

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