You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Cruised!
Every day, more and more people discover the inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation. Cruising is like staying at a floating all-inclusive hotel! More singles, families, couples, honeymooners, second honeymooners, and groups of friends sail away on the vacation of their lives. If you add it all up, it’s easy to see why.
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The price of your cruise includes your accommodations, onboard activities, and entertainment (including karaoke and dancing); most meals and snacks on board; and, an exciting voyage to some of the most enchanting and culturally enriching places in the world.
- You’ll find that the large cruise ships are floating resorts, with all the things a fine resort has to offer and more. Smaller ships often offer unique destinations. You’ll meet new friends who share the same tastes and interests as you.
- The hassles of an ordinary vacation are eliminated. A cruise is one convenient package. You don’t have to make flight connections as you travel from one destination to another, or constantly pack and unpack.
- You can lie back and be completely pampered. Or, go nonstop. Dine like never before. Enjoy one great show after another. Visit interesting places. Let your cares float away!
It’s no wonder that more people are taking cruise vacations than ever before. And once they get a taste of cruising, they come back for more, again and again.
Types of Cruise Lines
Every cruise line has something different to offer. Based on your objective for the trip and who is coming along,
If you’re traveling with family you should check out different cruise lines to be sure that they’ll have something for the kids. If you’re looking for a honeymoon cruise or some time to get away from it all, consider cruises that are more about couples and less about family.
For family cruisers, especially those with children under the age of 12, you should consider Disney Cruise Line. There, your kids will enjoy time with Mickey, Minnie, and their other friends! There are also family activities such as “Studio at Sea” which allows families to participate in karaoke, TV-style game shows, and other family fun. Also, Disney owns its own private island, Castaway Cay. If you’re on a Bahamian or Caribbean Cruise, you’ll be making a stop there.
Your best bet will be something like Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruise Line, or Norwegian – These cruise lines offer a multitude of activities onboard. Also, you’ll likely meet other honeymooners and young people who are looking for a good time. Royal Caribbean’s trademark rock wall is featured on many of it ships. Norwegian offers guests “Freestyle Cruising” – where you have a much more flexible schedule (for dining and other activities) and also features a freer dress code. Costa Cruises specializes in Italian hospitality – your experience with Costa will include fine food, entertainment, and artwork. There will be a lot of dancing, karaoke, and group activities on these sailings.
Some people fantasize about having a wedding at sea. Why not? Anytime is a good time to cruise, including a wedding cruise! Most cruise lines require that a party book 8 cabins for a group discount, so call your friends and see who’s game for a wedding on the open ocean! Weddings are often officiated by the ship’s captain and are always a lot of fun.
A MORE SOPHISTICATED EXPERIENCE
Consider a more premium cruise line such as Azamara, Celebrity, or Holland America, or for a truly premium experience Crystal Cruises. The crystal features the softest linens, the finest Egyptian bath towels, comfortable kimonos, and plush Frette robes.
Top Cruise Lines
- Azamara Cruise Lines
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Celebrity Cruises
- Costa Cruise Lines
- Crystal Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Holland America Lines
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Royal Caribbean International
- Seabourn Cruise Line
Selecting a Ship
Many first-time or potential cruisers wonder: What kind of ship should I sail on? Here’s a short guide to help you decide:
More than 1,200 passengers. The large ships appeal to travelers who enjoy an active, resort-like atmosphere that bustles with lots of people, numerous and varied entertainment and dining options, and extensive programs and facilities. The environment is fairly structured, with activities and events operating on a set schedule. Travelers typically find activities and programs to suit a variety of ages, including children. Think of mainstream cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. These ships feature large gyms, multiple jacuzzis and children’s activities set apart by age. Many Royal Caribbean ships feature rock walls, miniature golf courses, and various aquatic activities. Traveling on large ships affords you the opportunity to meet many people and find the party! On some Carnival sailings, there are deck parties where all passengers can participate in group dancing and other group activities.
500 – 1,200 passengers. Midsize ships operate similarly to large ships, except that the dining and entertainment options are not as vast, and the programs and facilities are scaled down. In addition, these ships typically can call at smaller ports than large vessels can. The activities and programs are still structured and scheduled.
200 – 500 passengers. Niche Ships: Maximum 200 passengers. Both types of ship offer limited choices for dining, entertainment, and facilities; however, travelers typically experience more attentive service and a higher quality of food, often using fresh, local ingredients. The atmosphere is more flexible, and the overall experience is more relaxed and intimate than on midsize and large ships. Small and niche ships can visit small, unique ports that are inaccessible to midsize or large vessels. These ships appeal to travelers who want to appreciate the destination and prefer to forgo the razzle-dazzle in favor of a more laid-back experience. These ships can frequently access smaller waterways, such as rivers to afford guests a better view of their destination and the surrounding areas.
Cruise Ship Ratings
Five Star: Luxury
Crystal Cruises features our picks for 5-star ships – there are only two ships in their fleet – the Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony. The Crystal Serenity features a Dolby-equipped Hollywood theater. You can also attend complimentary clinics held on the ship’s driving range and putting green, these are hosted by PGA golf pros onboard.
Four Star: Premium
Think “Queen Mary 2” – that ship actually has an onboard planetarium! Such ships will also feature special amenities such as golf simulators, putting greens, etc.
Three Star: Moderate
These ships are well-equipped and tend to be medium-sized. Examples include the MSC Lirica, Carnival Paradise, and Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas. They generally have two pools, multiple jacuzzis, various themed bars and lounges, and medium-sized fitness centers. They will also feature a deck that serves meals throughout the day so that you don’t have to bother with schedules and sit-down dining.
Value – Value ships tend to be a little older and have fewer amenities, features, and meal choices. They will also be smaller and have relatively reduced staffing. It is rare that a cruise line will actually operate two-star cruise ships because the experience will likely not be enjoyable.
One Star: Budget
Budget ships may be used for party cruises of very short duration or last-minute budget trips.
Know before you go
Identification Requirements: We advise all guests to be aware of the travel documentation that is required at embarkation and throughout the cruise. Any guest traveling without proper documentation will not be allowed to board the vessel and no refund of the cruise fare or airfare will be issued. All cruise lines are strictly enforcing this policy. American and Canadian citizens must travel with a valid passport. Some countries require that passports be valid for six months or longer beyond your stay in the country. Passport and entry requirements are subject to change at any time without notice. For the most current information, visit the official Web site of the U.S. Department of State at (www.travel.state.gov). Canada requires certain foreign nationals to obtain a Canadian visa in addition to the multiple-entry visa. A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) is required by citizens of several countries to enter Canada, including ports in British Columbia during the Alaska season. This policy is strictly enforced. Passengers requiring a TRV and who are not in possession of the required documentation will be denied boarding. For the most current information, visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/. Resident Aliens and Aliens are advised to contact the appropriate consulate, U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Immigration office to inquire about necessary travel documentation. It is imperative that all passengers have the required documentation before leaving home for their cruise. GeratCruises.com has provided the foregoing information as a courtesy to its guests makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for advising guests on travel documentation requirements. Some cruise lines have different rules for “closed-loop sailings” where the cruise ship departs from and returns to the same port. In such cases, an original birth certificate and a copy of a state-issued ID (for anyone over the age of 16) MAY be acceptable.
Cruise Documents and Immigration Information: Please review your documents carefully. You are responsible for ensuring that your documents are accurate, and for any changes or reissue fees that may be assessed if they are not. For bookings made within 21 days of departure, documents may be sent to you via e-mail or made available for pick-up at embarkation. Please note that cancellations may be subject to a full penalty (the full amount of the booking) and full payment may be required for bookings made 60 days before sailing. Prior to sailing (and, in some cases, for documents to be issued), all passengers are required to complete Immigration documentation. Most cruise lines allow you to complete the required documentation online at their Web site.
Newlywed Information: Congratulations on getting married! Tickets, travel documents and identification must be in the same name. If your tickets have been issued in your new married name, you must carry your marriage license in addition to the other required identification, unless you’ve already changed all of your identification to your new name.
Shore Excursions: If your cruise booking is paid in full, Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, and Windstar allow for pre-booking of shore excursions online at the cruise line Web site. This is a helpful tool as many of the most popular shore excursions sell out early.
Minors: Each cruise line has strict policies regarding passengers under the age of 25. For specific policies, please refer to the cruise line Web site. For children traveling with only one parent, or if the accompanying adult is not the child’s parent or legal guardian, a notarized parent/guardian consent letter, authorizing the minor to travel and further authorizing medical treatment if necessary, must be presented upon airline check-in and at cruise embarkation. If one parent is deceased, the accompanying parent must provide a death certificate. Failure to present these documents will result in denial of boarding and no refund of your airfare or cruise fare will be allowed.
Stateroom Guarantee: This is essential to consider before you book. At the time of booking, you may either reserve a specific stateroom number or you may receive a “guaranteed” stateroom. A guaranteed stateroom means that a stateroom number will not be assigned until close to, or on, the embarkation date. At that time, you will receive the best available stateroom in the category you booked, or higher, based on availability. The stateroom or category that has been selected for you may be on a lower or higher deck, and may or may not have an obstructed view, based on the category in which the guarantee was booked. Once assigned the cruise line will not allow changes to the stateroom location or category.
Changes to Ports, Itinerary, Charter Status, or Cruise Line/Ship Ownership: Should it become necessary for the itinerary or ports of call to change due to weather, mechanical or world events, or any other reason, the decision will be made at the sole discretion of the cruise line. Reimbursement, if any, is at the discretion of the cruise line. Should a cruise line elect to charter a ship for a sailing on which you are booked, or should the cruise line or ship change ownership that affects your travel, reimbursement, if any, for changes or cancellations as a result of those situations are at the discretion of the cruise line.
Government Fees, Taxes, and Surcharges: Any increase in government-regulated fees, taxes, or surcharges will be reflected in your total cruise fare at the time of final payment. Those fees, taxes, and surcharges, which are imposed upon the airlines and cruise lines by the government, are outside our control and are the passenger’s responsibility to pay.
Meeting Your Transfer: If you purchase transfers, a cruise line representative will be waiting for you at or outside your airline’s baggage claim area and will direct you to your motor coach. The representative will have a placard with your name so that you can identify the personnel. If you do not see a cruise line representative at or outside your airline’s baggage claim area, please use the courtesy phone to page that individual.
Lost Luggage: If your airline loses your luggage, please complete the necessary paperwork at the lost-luggage desk in the baggage claim, and then proceed to the ship. Every effort will be made to ensure that your luggage is delivered to the ship prior to sailing. If your luggage has not been located by sailing time, the information will be given to the local ship’s agent who will coordinate the delivery of your luggage to the first available port. As lost luggage is always a possibility, please remember to keep valuables, such as your passport, travel documents, medication, jewelry, your camera, and any other items you can’t afford to lose, with you in your carry-on luggage.
General Safety: Safety tips commonly recommended by experts include:
- To make it easier to replace your passport if it’s lost or stolen, in addition to your passport, take a photocopy of the information page (keeping it separate from your actual passport)
- Carry only a limited amount of cash, just enough for gratuities and incidental purchases. Major credit cards are widely accepted and can be replaced if lost or stolen. Many cruise lines offer onboard cards similar to credit cards that can be linked to your actual credit card to make purchases aboard. Store your credit card in an in-room safe (if available) and be careful with your “onboard spending card.”
- Always lock your stateroom room door (including the balcony door).
- Store your valuables (cash, credit cards, airline tickets, cell phones, jewelry, etc.) in the stateroom’s in-room safe or front desk safety deposit box.
- If you must carry valuables on your person, do so in a pouch or money belt concealed under your clothing. Purses and backpacks can be easy targets for thieves. This is especially true when you are on a shore excursion.
- For complete and current safety and security information, including traveler’s tips, public announcements, travel advisories, and more, please visit the Web site of the U.S. Department of State at http://www.travel.state.gov/.
Health Information: For the most current worldwide health information, please consult your family physician or the official Web site of the Center for Disease Control at wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/ or by phone at 1-800-311-3435.
Expectant Mothers: Cruise lines have very strict policies regarding passengers who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy. For complete rules and restrictions, please visit the cruise line’s official Web site.