Always confirm any issue that is important to you directly with your agent or cruise line. Actualities may have changed since the production of this article, or there may be exceptions not identified. The answers below are for US and Canadian cruise operations, some points might not apply in other countries.
The following are the most frequently asked questions by those who are thinking about going to a cruise for the first time.
Question 1: What is the best time to book a cruise?
For majority of the cases, the best strategy is to buy your cruise as early as possible. Booking early gives you a chance to choose and book the exact cabin that you want. This is particularly important if you want to book a cabin that is in high demand (as most balcony cabins are on most sailings). Also, cruise prices tend to go up over time, so booking earlier will give you cheaper prices most of the time.
The only case when you may want to buy late and get good bargains is if the sailing that you want is not very popular and you’re not particularly picky as to what cabin you want. In that case, you may want to wait until about a month before the sailing and get last-minute really cheap prices for the cruise.
You can also go to the website of Cayole Cruises to see whether a price of a particular sailing that you’re interested in is likely to go up or down.
Question 2: What is included in the price of cruise?
The cruise price that you see advertised on cruise agency websites is the total price i.e. it includes pretty much everything (please see below for exceptions). In particular, the price includes your room, the good and abundant food on the cruise ship and many types of activities – cooking lessons, piano performances, fun games for both passengers and their kids to name just a few. The price also includes daily entertainment in one of the big halls of the cruise ship, where you will see magic shows, stand-up comedies (good ones) and musical-type shows, like the ones you see on Broadway. The service on a cruise ships is generally excellent – on par with some of the most luxury resorts out there. As a matter of fact, cruise industry has the best consumer satisfaction rate among all travel sectors. Also, absolute majority of first time cruises feel that they had a great time on their cruise journey.
The things that are not included in the price of your cruise are alcoholic drinks (if you choose to have them), shore excursions (which are not mandatory but it’s usually good idea to experience at least some of them) and tips, with recommended range being $11-13 per person per day.
Question 3: What cruise line would be ideal for my trip?
Your cruise experience will be quite similar on all large cruise ships, no matter which cruise line you choose. However, there are some differences among cruise lines that are described below.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean are the largest cruise lines. Generally, they also offer the most affordable cruise options. First time cruisers usually take their first cruise with one of those 2 lines; both of these cruise lines are great companies to start your cruising experience.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is the most laid back cruise line. Most of the time, there is not even a formal time for dinner and no table seating assignments. Norwegian also tends to attract the youngest crowd among all the cruise lines.
Holland America is the polar opposite of NCL i.e. it’s the most formal cruise line. Here you will find few families with children, so if you’d prefer to see very few kids running around, Holland America is your cruise line.
Princess and Celebrity are the luxury brands of Carnival and Royal Caribbean, like Lexus is the luxury brand of Toyota. Princess and Celebrity ships are more extravagant and upscale than Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships. The prices are also somewhat higher. Also, cruise journeys, especially on Princess, are usually long in duration (many 14+ night cruises).
Question 4: What should I pack for my cruise?
Most of the time on the cruise ship you’d dress casually i.e. the way you’d dress to go to your local grocery shop. Because of that, make sure to bring a good set of your favorite casual clothes in your cruise suitcase. However, during the dinner time, when people go to the common dining hall and share a dinner with
their fellow cruisemates, you should be dressed in business casual attire. Flip-flops or even jeans are often prohibited in the dining room.
Other than that, you should be aware that one night on a cruise ship (or sometimes multiple nights if the cruise is more than a week long) is a Gala night. During this night everyone dresses formally – tuxedos, or at the very least good suites for men and beautiful, formal dresses for women. Make sure you pack a good, formal dress for your cruise trip so that on Gala night you’d be dressed appropriately.
While packing your cruise suitcase, you should also be mindful of the destination that you’d be visiting. If you’ll be going for an Alaska cruise, make sure you pack warm sweaters and raincoats because it can be cold and rainy in Alaska. On the other hand, if you’re going to Caribbean or Bahamas, pack a lot of sunscreen because you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy beautiful sunny beaches over there.
Question 5: Will my cell phone work on the cruise ship? Is there a TV and internet onboard the ship?
Cell phones access, until very recently, was not available on cruise ships. However, that has changed lately and now US and Canadian passengers can use their cell phone on the cruise ships. However, when the ship is not docked in US/Canadian port, roaming charges will apply. These charges can actually be quite high, so you may want to check with the cruise line and your cell phone provider to make sure you know what to expect.
As for TV, there will be one in your cabin. However, most likely you won’t be using it much because of many activities available on the ship and on shore. There is also internet available on cruise ships, but prices can be quite high ($0.50 per minute).
Thanks to Ashot Hayrapetyan (Cayole Cruises) for information and advice used in the production of the above cruise FAQ.
I don’t have personal experience of Cayole Cruises, but I checked out their website. It’s search is, quick, simple to use, and makes it easy to identify the cruises that meet your wishes. It has an apparently unique price predictor (as mentioned in this NY Times article on finding cruise deals).
Our cruise articles:
- Cruises from Bridgetown, Barbados and San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Cruises from Seattle to Alaska
- Cruises from Vancouver, Canada
- Cruises From Alaskan Ports – Seward and Whittier