As you know, Pete, Andy and I here at Super Savvy Travelers, are masters and booking cruises and finding the best travel deals and experiences.
Whether you are interested in rock bottom pricing or loading up as many amenities as you can for a fair price, we are the truffle pigs of the cruising world and we can root out the best of the best for you.
That said, I spend a lot of time with first time cruisers explaining some basics about what to expect when you are cruising. Here are some points that you will want to remember when you call to book your first cruise.
The price you see on almost any website is not what you will be paying
The price you see on pretty much all web sites that offer cruises is called the lead in price. This is only the base price for the cabin per person. This DOES NOT include taxes and port fees which depending on the sailing can vary. Call us and we will get you the real price for comparison purposes.
Gratuities ARE NOT included
Gratuities in cruising lingo are basically tips and they cover everything from waiters and waitresses, to cabin stewards to bar tenders. In short it covers anyone you would normally tip. Gratuities vary based on cruise line and cabin type. They are normally around $13.50-$17.50 per person per day.
You can pay the gratuities up front or pay them on the last day of your cruise.
If you had fantastic service from someone, please feel free to tip them in addition. On Azamara and Royal Caribbean Pete and I had amazing service from our cabin stewards so we gave them an extra tip. You don’t have to tip extra but you can.
Travel documents and your cruise account
Things have changed a lot since the early days of travel. We used to receive tickets and boarding passes in the mail or via Fed Ex.
This is no longer the case. Most cruise lines have websites set up to make it easy for you to check in (provide vital information the cruise line will need), down load your travel documents and purchase dining and beverage packages and shore excursions.
The websites are well set up and easy to manage. Pete, Andy and I are always ready to assist you to negotiate these sites if you need help.
The check in process requires that you enter credit card information. The reason for this is that when you board, you will receive a cruising card. With this card you will purchase everything that you purchase onboard the ship.
The cruise card is also vital as you will need it to get on and off the ship. The cruise lines keep close track of everyone so they don’t lose you. Make sure you keep your card in a safe place!
At the end of your cruise you will visit accounts on the ship and settle up for any extras you purchased while on the cruise. It is wise to keep track of what you are spending on board so that you are not surprised with a big bill at the end of you cruise.
Many closed loop cruise itineraries (Closed loop means it begins and ends in the same cruise port) do not require passports but you will need accurate travel documentation when you travel so it is best to check, check, double check before sailing and passports are the best documentation.
Your passport must valid for 6 months beyond your travel dates. Make sure you don’t need to renew before traveling.
Allianz who we use for travel insurance has a great blog post that goes over this. However if you are in doubt check with your travel professional. It would be extremely disappointing to arrive at your cruise port and not be allowed to board because your travel documents are not in order.
In addition, if you are not a US citizen, there may be certain visa requirements. Check with your embassy to ensure that you have what you need to travel.
Traveling With Children
If you are traveling with children or minors who are not your own, you will need special documentation (normally a notarized letter of authorization form the parents) stating that they are allowing you to take the child with you on the cruise. This is true even if you are the grand parent. Check with your travel pro again to ensure that you have everything you need to travel with the littles.
Traveling While Pregnant
If you are pregnant or planning to be while you cruise, be aware that certain airlines will not allow you to fly if you are in the final stages of your pregnancy. If there is a chance that you will get pregnant and your cruise is booked many months out, ensure that you get refundable deposits and trip insurance that will cover this if it occurs.
DUI’s and Felonies
If you have a DUI or a felony you may not be able to cruise to certain places. Canada has strict rules against allowing people with certain infractions into the country. Always check with your travel professional if you have DUI or felony on your record.
I know that many people do not elect to purchase travel insurance as they have not factored that in as an expense.
I always carry travel insurance when I travel. Even if you are a lucky person or do not have many health issues, if something comes up in terms of accident or illness, it is INSANELY expensive to be air lifted off a ship. In addition the airlines may insist that you have a full time nurse with you if they fly you home. These costs can add up very rapidly and end you up with a huge bill.
I had a friend who went for a few days long cruise and ended up with a $10,000 bill because something happened. In addition he had to cut his trip short and was not compensated for this either.
Food Allergies and Mobility Impaired
Almost all cruise ships in this day and age have facilities for mobility impaired passengers. The staterooms are specially equipped so you should book in advance if you need one to ensure that you get what you need.
In addition, food preferences and allergies can also be accomodated.
Last year I had a family cruise for the first time. Their son had some severe allergies, so severe that they had to bring all of his food onboard.
The cruise line not only allowed them to bring the food onboard but they also had their chefs thaw and heat it for them so that they could all have family dinners together. they were so happy because this was the first vacation they had ever taken as a family and now it opened the door to more wonderful family memories for them.
Get a Taste of Where You Want to Spend More Time
Cruising is such a great option for travelers. I love it because while you don’t get a lot of time in the ports, you can get a taste of which areas and cities you might want to spend more time in.
Pete and I cruised to the Greek Islands last September and we fell in love with Corfu and decided to plan a trip there for a week. The other areas were nice but Corfu was extra special. Had we not cruised, we would not have known where we would like to spend more time.
Cruising is Great Value
Pete and I are constantly amazed at some of the cruising values we can find. Our hosting agency, Avoya, reserves group space on selected sailings and we as independent agents get to sell them for the group price and with all the amenities. Essentially we are leveraging buying power when we do this and we get to pass the savings on to you.
You can cruise for less (and sometimes way less) than $200 per night. And when you consider that this includes all of your food and all of your travel from place to place, most of your entertainment and the fact that you only have to unpack once and you do not waste valuable vacation time traveling from place to place, you can see the cruising is a spectacular deal.
Pete, Andy and I have access to the best booking engines ever and the best rates through Avoya. We can also sometimes sweeten the deal in other ways as well.
Give us a call and let’s book our first cruise!