With misconceptions about the cruise industry still prevalent in the minds and polite conversations of many holiday-lovers – the team over at cruise specialist travel agent, Cruise1st, have helped us answer some of the most common questions we are asked about holidays on the seas, as well as a few questions we had ourselves.
Should I choose a big ship or a small ship?
There are benefits to holidaying on big ships and small ships, so it comes down to personal preference and what you expect from the trip.
Modern big ships (some capable of housing more than 5,000 guests at once) are plush with an incredible range of features, amenities, shows and dining options. So if you’re somebody who needs to be constantly entertained, one of the bigger ships may be preferable during days at sea. The larger ships tend to attract more families – with increased attention paid to entertaining children and young adults.
Unsurprisingly, smaller ships tend to offer a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere. So if you wish to spend your days at sea holed up in a private nook with a good book, a smaller ship may be preferable. The choice of food and entertainment may be slightly restricted on a smaller ship, but the quality will never be compromised.
What’s the difference between open and fixed dining – and what option should I choose?
Many cruise ships are incorporating open, flexible dining options aboard their ships to offer more freedom to their guests. This is to help guests choose when and where they want to dine – setting their own timetables and dancing to their own beat. This option may be preferable for holidaymakers who want to experience everything the ship and itinerary has to offer – helping them fit their dining around their on-board adventures.
The fixed dining option channels the traditional atmosphere of cruise holidays. If you want to experience the splendour and glamour of formal evenings and Captain’s cocktail parties, a fixed dining option may be perfect for you.
Will I be expected to dress in formal wear every evening?
Different cruise lines and ships have different attitudes towards evening wear. Family-focused lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises offer guests the option whether to spend their evenings in more formal or relaxed settings.
Some cruise lines have dedicated formal wear evenings such as Captain’s cocktail parties and lobster nights. These evenings will be stipulated on the itinerary prior to the holiday so you’ll know how many cocktail dresses to pack!
The different types of cabin available are confusing – help!
Whilst all the cruise lines have a selection of cabins and suites available, there are a few key factors to look out for.
Interior rooms look inwards on the ship, so you will not get a view of the sea from your cabin.
Exterior cabins are based around the outside of the ship, so you’ll have a view of the sea from the cabin.
A balcony cabin has access to a private balcony. On most ships these are traditionally based on the exterior of the ship but some larger ships do have interior balcony cabins – so it is important to check whether it is an interior balcony or exterior balcony cabin.
Is an all-inclusive fare worth it?
In short, yes. All-inclusive deals aboard some of the larger cruise ships can give you unlimited access to up to six or seven different eateries, meaning you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at no extra cost.
Traditionally, cruise ships will also play host to additional restaurants, cafés and eateries where you can enjoy speciality food at an extra cost if you decide to splash out.
Some all-inclusive deals will allow you unlimited soft drinks, and the most comprehensive will even give you unlimited access to wine and beer.
I’ve heard that there hidden costs, even if I choose an all-inclusive package. What are they?
There are a few costs which fall outside the all-inclusive package, but many of these are for specialist services. The most prevalent additional costs are the gratuities which are added on to the cabin per day. These can be altered or completely removed at the guest services desk, but it is worth considering how much you feel the crew deserve in gratuities before actioning this – in fact, these gratuities can be increased if you believe the crew are doing an extra fine job on your trip.
Additional services such as spa treatments are usually available at an extra cost and the prices will be clearly stipulated in any literature related to the ship’s spa.
Certain alcohol packages will also be available at an additional cost, as will any excursions.
What is a taster cruise?
A taster cruise is a short cruise, traditionally one to three nights in length. These usually take in one of two ports of call before returning to the home port – giving first time cruisers an opportunity to determine whether they’d enjoy a longer cruise holiday. Taster cruises are a good way to see if you can get your sea legs.
What kind of cruise holiday is most suitable for families?
When considering taking a cruise holiday with the family, it is prudent to research the range of facilities available on the ship – this guide from Ports of Call is helpful. Many of the larger ships host a wide range of amenities and facilities – from skydiving simulators to Broadway-style shows. With some cruise ships spending a number of days at sea in between ports – it is vital the ship can accommodate the tastes of the family members and keep everyone entertained during stretches of sailing.
Will the cruise ship accommodate my special dietary requirements?
When booking the cruise, it is prudent to stipulate any dietary requirements you may have so a notice is attached to your booking. All the major cruise lines can accommodate the vast majority of special dietary requirements, and are more than happy to help you find the dining area and menu which best suits your diet.
Aboard the newest class of ship from Royal Caribbean, the Quantum Class, crew members are all issued with small tablet devices which will help them instantly draw up your booking details when seating you in the restaurant. This will help them recognised any special dietary requirements and direct you towards suitable meals and menus.
Can I take alcohol on-board?
The majority of cruise lines and cruise ships will allow you to take alcohol on board but will confiscate it until the final day of the cruise when they will return it to you. This applies to alcohol brought from home or bought during an excursion.
What is the typical age group of travellers on board ship?
The average age of cruise passengers in 2013 (according to CLIA research) was 57 years old. However, there is a significant mix of age groups, here is a breakdown of cruise passenger age analysis:
-26 Years – 7%
26-34 Years – 4%
35-44 Years – 7%
45-54 Years – 17%
55-64 Years – 26%
65+ – 40%
Are excursions normally included in the price?
Guided excursions are traditionally available at an additional cost. These can either be booked through the cruise line or independent operator prior to embarkation, on board the ship or at the port with local operators.
It is free however if you wish to explore a new destination by yourself, although this is not recommended in certain ports.
How much should you budget for tips and are they normally included in all-inclusive prices?
Gratuities are typically added at a rate of $11-$15 per person per day (many cruises use US Dollars as the on-board currency). These gratuities can be altered or removed completely at the ship’s guest services desk if you are not completely satisfied with the rate. All cruise lines will offer the gratuity amount information upon request so you can accurately budget.
If you found this post useful, take a look at our top 10 tips for your first luxury cruise.