Cruise Q&A

Below you will find some information about cruising, what to expect and what you'll need.

When you get a quote from your Travel Agent for the cost of the cruise, make sure you understand the bottom line. The cruise cost is usually quoted on a per person basis. If the cruise line will be supplying you air transportation from your home town to the port of departure, the cost of the air fare portion is usually quoted separately. Be clear on this point, as whether the cost of air is included or not in your quote is often the easiest place for a serious misunderstanding. The port charges and airport taxes are almost always quoted in addition to the cruise fare, and are not insignificant (typically over $125 per person for a 7 night cruise). Travel insurance is almost never included in your quote unless you ask for it, as it is an optional item. So, in summary, your mandatory costs are probably the sum:

  • Mandatory Costs = Cabin + Port Charges & Taxes – with airfare & transfers separately stated.
  • Included in these costs are all of your food, entertainment, use of facilities, etc. If you would like to partake of some alcoholic beverages (or even soft drinks on most ships) expect to pay extra for them. Juices, milk, coffee, tea are available for no charge.
  • Although not “mandatory”, you should plan on tipping your waiter, cabin steward, and busboy. More on tipping later, but for budgeting purposes plan on tips adding $8-$9 per person / per day. Thus if a couple goes on a 7 day cruise, they would expect to give a total of $110 – $125 in tips at the end of the cruise.

Where your cabin is located on board ship can be an important decision.
Here are the guidelines you should consider:

Inside vs. Ocean View

There are two basic “kinds” of cabins, Ocean View (also called “Outside” cabins) and Inside cabins.

Ocean View cabins are located on the outside wall of the ship, as shown in pink here, and have a window so one can view the ocean.

Inside cabins, in blue, are located inside the corridors of the ship and have no windows.

Be aware that windows on ships can vary from port-hole size to full length picture windows affording a spectacular view.

The choice between an Inside or Ocean View cabin depends on your personal preference and budget. Here are things to consider:

Inside Cabins

  • Inside cabins are less expensive than Ocean View cabins as in the deck plan shown above.
  • On newer ships Inside cabins are usually identical to standard Ocean View cabins.
  • Passengers in Inside cabins are afforded all the same ship’s amenities as passengers in Ocean View cabins while taking advantage of price savings,
  • Without daylight, one can wake up and not know if it’s morning or the middle of the night, or what the weather is outside.
  • There are two possible features of inside cabins which you should know about before hand:
    Some inside cabins may have only upper & lower berths.
    Some older ships have some real closet-sized inside cabins.

Ocean View Cabins

  • Having a view from your cabin of passing tropical isles or massive glaciers while lounging, dressing or romancing is a special treat.
  • There is greater variety and selection among Ocean View cabins ranging from standard cabins to Deluxe Suites.
  • There are categories of cabins on newer ships that include your own Veranda affording privacy while passing spectacular scenery.
  • Would you like a Butler? Some Deluxe Suites include 24-hour butler service.\
  • Not all Ocean View cabins are truly ocean view. All ships have Coast Guard-required life boats. These must hang along the sides of the ship, usually up high and can sometimes obscure the view from some Ocean View cabins. Non-Stop Travel makes you aware of this when booking. However, these cabins are less expensive.

When you book a cabin assignment, you are choosing the specific cabin you will be occupying. You will be able to look in your cruise lines brochure at the ship deck plan, and see exactly where the cabin is located. You will be able to check the legend for the deck plan, and see what the cabin configuration is. If you book a cabin assignment, the odds of getting a free upgrade some time in the future are almost nil, perhaps less that 1 in 1,000.

One way you can get more than you paid for is to accept a guaranteed booking. Simply stated, you pay for one category of cabin and could be assigned a more expensive category. You won’t get a suite, but you may be placed a deck or two higher than the cabin you’d get otherwise. Here are the rules:

  • You are guaranteed a cabin on the ship in a specific category or better at the price specified at time of booking. If you book far enough in advance, it is likely that you will receive free upgrades to the tune of 1, 2, 3, maybe even more categories. If you book last minute, odds of being assigned a cabin in exactly the same category as the guarantee you paid for are good.
  • What you give in exchange for the better cabin is the cruise line’s right to assign you to any cabin in that category. Categories are indicated on the deck plan as cabins of the same color.

When you book a guarantee, you are giving up your privilege to specify anything whatsoever about the cabin you will be assigned. You are guaranteed a cabin of at least the category and quality you have paid for, and you are hoping for a free upgrade. So in the final analysis what’s the right thing to do? You need one more piece of information… For a particular cabin category, the price of a guarantee and a cabin assignment may be very different, then again they may be the same. Your Cruise Professional at Non-Stop Travel will be glad to explain your options.

There are some very important things you must know about the size and placement of beds in your cabin. Although most cabins on modern ships are identical with convertible bedding, your cabin may have:

  • Two lower beds that cannot be moved.
  • Two lower beds that can be converted (moved together) to form a queen-sized or king-sized bed.
  • One queen-sized bed.
  • One double-sized bed (larger than twin, smaller than queen).
  • One lower bed on the floor and a pullman upper berth (upper/lower berths).
  • Third, fourth, & fifth berths in a cabin may be a convertible sofa bed or upper berths, or both.

The choice is yours. We provide you with the ability to indicate if you must have a king-sized bed or prefer separate beds, etc. You will always know the kind of beds in a cabin before you make a commitment. We want you to be happy.

“What’s an upper berth?”

Like the top bed of a bunk bed, the upper berth is accessible by a ladder. It is a bed with the same mattress as the lower bed. There is a restraining bar to keep you from rolling out as well as to remind you that you should look before you leap, should you awaken in the middle of the night. Upper berths will fold up against the wall during the day to get them out of the way. Upper berths are the general means in which to accommodate 4-5 persons in the same cabin.

What’s an option?
Taking an option is cruise line lingo for reserving space on a particular date, ship, and category. It may involve reserving a particular cabin. For the duration of the option, you have locked in a particular rate for what it is you have reserved. It is in fact the only way to assure that the price and space you have been quoted will still be good 5 minutes from now (yes, I’ve simplified by ignoring groups for the moment). When the space is reserved with the cruise line, your agent is given two dates: the option date and the final payment date. If the cruise line does not receive your deposit by the option date, their computer will automatically cancel your reservation. Usually a cruise line will give a 5-7 day option for a cruise far enough in the future. If it is for a sailing date next week, you might only get a 3 hour option.

How Do I Pay For My Cruise?
There are two basic ways to pay for your cruise: credit card or check. We find that about 95% of our clients like to pay their cruise deposit and final payment with a credit card. The payment information is relayed to the travel agent who then turns around and phones it into the cruise line (it should be the cruise line that debits your credit card, not the travel agency).

Paying by check is a bit more complicated and risky. Cruise lines only accept checks written by a Bonded & Licensed Travel Agency. This means that your travel agent must first deposit your check into their own account, and then write a check to the cruise line. Because options are a maximum of 7 days, timing becomes an issue. Many banks require 3 days or more for an out of state check to clear (funds to actually become available). In order to not lose your booking because of the option expiring, your travel agent will usually require you to pay with a Bank Cashier Check or Money Order, and send it by overnight or priority mail.

When Are Cruise Payments Due?
The deposit for your cruise is due at the time of booking. For a 3 or 4 day cruise the deposit required is usually around $100 per person. For a 7 day or longer cruise, the deposit is usually $250 per person. Alaska, Panama Canal, and other parts of the world outside of the Caribbean sometimes require higher deposits, with $300 – $450 per person being common. Each passenger, whether child or adult, is subject to the deposit requirement. Thus, if you are traveling alone on a 7 day cruise your deposit due might be $250. If sailing with your spouse and two children, the deposit usually quadruples to $1000.

The balance due, or final payment, is usually due 70 days before sailing for a 7 day or longer cruise. Some shorter cruises allow final payment to be delayed until 45 days prior to sailing. Since the due date is when the funds are due in the hands of the cruise line, expect your travel agent to request payment up to two weeks in advance of the official final payment date. This is especially true if paying by check.

Here is some general information of when meals are served aboard ship. We can’t be specific because of the large variation among cruise lines and individual ships. It’s safe to say that you can get some food at any time you’d like. Here are a list of the meal and snack times offered by most cruises (times and durations are approximate):

  • Sunrise Continental Breakfast: 6:30 A.M. – 7:30 A.M.
  • Buffet Breakfast: 7:30 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.
  • Dining Room Breakfast Seating’s: 7:00 A.M. & 8:30 A.M.
  • Mid Morning Continental: 10:00 A.M. – 11:00 A.M.
  • Luncheon “Lido” Buffet: 12:00 P.M. – 2:30 P.M.
  • Dining Room Luncheon Seating’s: 12:00 P.M. & 1:30 P.M.
  • Afternoon Tea/Snacks: 4:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.
  • Dining Room Dinner Seating’s: 6:15 P.M. & 8:30 P.M.
  • Casual “Lido” Dinner: 6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.
  • Midnight Buffet: 12:00 A.M.
  • Room Service: 24 HOURS A DAY

Special Meals
For the most part, special dietary requirements can be met on board ship. Be advised that many cruise lines require as much as a 30-day notice (yes, that’s a full month) in order to ensure the availability of these meals for you. Here are some guidelines:

  • A large assortment of gourmet “Health-Wise” dishes are now available as part of the normal fare onboard most ships.
  • Vegetarian, low-salt and low-cholesterol meals are available on most ships.
  • Buffets, poolside grill and café meals may not include all these choices, but there is always a great selection of fresh fruits and vegetables available for the healthy lite-bite.

There are a few meals that must be prepared off-ship and packaged prior to sailing. These include*:

  • Kosher meals.
  • Gluten-free meals.
  • Other special medical diet meals.
    * It is recommended that these special meals be ordered at the time of your booking.

Two Dining Times For Each Meal
Most ships have two sessions, called Seating’s, for each of the main dining room meals, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. This does not affect buffets and meals served poolside or in the ship’s cafes or alternative restaurants. These dining room seating’s are called Main (or Early) and Late. The meals are identical in every regard except the time at which they are served.

  • Main seating is served approximately at these times:
    Breakfast: 7:00 A.M.
    Lunch: 12:00 Noon
    Dinner: 6:15 P.M.
  • Second seating is served approximately at these times:
    Breakfast: 8:30 A.M.
    Lunch: 1:30 P.M.
    Dinner: 8:30 P.M.
  • This may vary by cruise line and itinerary.
  • In port, Lunch is often held as “Open Seating” and all passengers are free to eat at either seating time.

Tables available for 2, 4, 6 or 8.

Most cruise ships have non-smoking policies or designated non-smoking areas in dining rooms, theatres and public rooms. Smoking lounges, and with the growing popularity of cigar smoking, cigar-bars are also available on some ships.

There is at least one cruise line (Norwegian) that has designated non-smoking cabins and at least one ship (Carnival Paradise) that is totally smoke-free. Non-smoking ships will prohibit smoking even on the outside, open deck areas.

Depending on where you live, and from which port you would like to cruise, you may have to fly to and from the ship. You have some choices:

  • You can use the cruise line’s Air/Sea option. Some cruise lines and sailings afford you reduced airfare for your flights to the ship. Non-Stop Travel can check at the time you book and let you know if you’re better off making your own arrangements or using the cruise line’s.
  • Your flights can be arranged independently from the cruise line. This may save you substantially!
  • The cruise line will provide meeting service and transportation (transfers) between the airport and the ship. These are included in the air/sea package. In many cases they can be purchased separately if you choose to make independent flight arrangements.

Whether you choose to use the cruise line’s flights or travel on your own, stay-overs at your departure and return ports can be arranged for you by Non-Stop Travel.

If you are flying to your cruise, the port from which you depart, or to which your cruise returns, can be an interesting and fun addition to your cruise. You can choose to arrive a few days earlier than your cruise or stay-over a few days later. Non-Stop Travel can arrange for hotel, car rental or local tours & excursions as an exciting add-on to your cruise experience.

Penalties are assessed by the cruise lines if your cruise is cancelled too close to booking. The cancellation policy does vary by cruise line, so it is important that you understand exactly what this is. Like other Terms and Conditions related to your cruise, the cancellation policy is listed in the back of the cruise line brochure. Please review the Cruise Line’s Terms & Conditions found on this website.

For an average 7 night cruise, if you cancel before final payment is due (typically 71 days prior to sailing), there is no penalty. For no penalty to be assessed, your travel agent must cancel the cruise on your behalf in sufficient time. This means that you must give your travel agent sufficient time to process the cancellation. If you should miss the penalty free period and cancel your 7 night cruise 30 – 70 days prior to sailing, a penalty assessment of your deposit amount is typically assessed, this is usually $100-$450 per person. Cancel 29 days before sailing, and the ante goes up to 50% of the total cruise price, incl. port charges. Depending on the cruise line, cancellation somewhere between 3 and 14 days before sailing will result in a 100% penalty. Remember these numbers are just generalities, and your particular booking may have different terms. Please review the cancellation penalties in the Cruise Line Terms & Policies section of our website.

Lastly, it is important to understand that the cancellation penalty rules are contractual. No matter how sad your special case is, it is very unlikely any penalty terms will be waived by the cruise line. Even if you would like to re-book for a different sailing date, you almost always still pay the penalty. Cancellation due to illness, injury, and death is exactly what cruise cancellation insurance is for. All cruise lines offer the insurance for a fee, and all cruise lines highly recommend that you get some form of cruise cancellation insurance. Deciding to not get insurance and accepting the risk is a personal decision. But, accepting the risk and then trying to go back to the cruise line and plead a special case is much like trying to talk an Auto Insurance Company to retroactively give you collision damage coverage after you’ve had your auto accident.

Cruise insurance is sometimes also called trip cancellation insurance or travel insurance. Cancellation insurance is not really a good name for it, since in addition to cancellation protection the insurance will usually cover emergency medical treatment, lost or delayed baggage, or trip delay. To understand what this is all about, you should also read the section of the FAQs on cruise cancellation penalties. When you cancel a cruise for a covered reason, the trip cancellation insurance coverage will reimburse you for the portion of your funds that the cruise line will not give back. If the cancellation occurs close to sailing, this is most likely the entire cost of your trip. Every policy is different, but valid covered reasons almost always must involve illness, injury, accident, or death. The person suffering the malady does not always have to be the traveler themselves, but could be a traveling companion or close family member as defined by the policy terms and conditions. It is important to understand that no insurance policy will cover cancellation expenses for business or personal reasons. Proof of covered cause usually requires producing either a doctor’s letter advising against travel or a death certificate.

As important as the cruise cancellation coverage is, the health coverage is also vital. Most passengers have some form of health insurance such as an HMO or PPO. Check with your insurance agent, but we know of no policy that covers your health care expenses out of the country or on a cruise ship. The stakes here are high. Should a passenger develop a life threatening condition while at sea, a Medical Evacuation helicopter will be ordered to transport them to the nearest hospital. Typical expense for this is $10,000 which is covered by your cruise insurance. Also, foreign hospitals require payment in full before you are released if you do not have verifiable insurance. Less critical medical conditions that can be treated by the ship’s doctors are usually covered if treatment is medically necessary or advised before the end of your cruise. Check your policy, but practically this means if you develop something that should be treated with antibiotics or slip and break a bone, you should be covered. If you need medication to help with seasickness, you are probably on your own

Trip delay insurance most commonly comes into play when you miss the sailing of the ship due to airline flight delays or cancellations. Many clients believe (falsely) that if you booked your air through the cruise line, you don’t have anything to worry about. This is not true. Read your cruise document fine print, and you will see in black and white that the cruise line has no legal responsibility for the performance or lack of performance of any airline. Although there are other good reasons to book your flight through the cruise line, missed sailing reimbursement is not one of them. Typically the trip delay portion of a cruise insurance policy provides for a maximum amount of dollars to fly you to the next port where you may reasonably join the cruise. It is not unusual for this maximum amount to be $500 for the policy. This especially comes into play if you decide to purchase a family policy. For a single premium, this type of policy covers married couples and legal dependents traveling together. Although the premium may be lower than getting an individual policy for each passenger, you must weigh this against policy maximum coverage. For example, if a couple were taking an Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Miami and arrived so late to miss their ship, they would likely have to fly to San Juan to join the cruise. With a family policy they would have a total of about $500 for the two airline tickets, but with individual policies they would usually have twice the maximum coverage of the family policy. Again, please be cautioned that all policies are different, and you must take the time to read and understand the coverage that you personally are signing up for.

Lastly, we occasionally meet clients that decline the cruise insurance based upon the fact that “we never get sick.” Unfortunately, even if this were true they fail to appreciate the possibility that they might be involved in something that is unavoidable. We have known clients that “never got sick” and: were involved in an unavoidable auto accident on the way to the port; or their car unavoidably broke down; or the airline they were scheduled to fly went on strike!

Premiums for cruise insurance are sometimes related to the total cost of the cruise, and sometimes not. A typical individual policy for a 7 day cruise has a premium of $89 – $150 depending on cruise and coverage.

Most cruise lines Staterooms are equipped with a 110-volt alternating current (A.C.) with standard U.S. plug fittings for your convenience. If a blow dryer is all you need, certain ships may already have it available in your Stateroom.

Please ask your cruise agent to check with the cruise line if you have any doubts.

(Exact policies vary by Cruise Line)

Pregnancy is a medical condition. An expectant mother’s applicaiton for passage must be accompanied by a medical certificate establishing her due date and fitness to travel, and acceptance is subject to the folowing conditions:

  • Cruise Line will not be responsible or liable for any complications of pregnancy which may arise or occur during the cruise.
  • Cruise Line will not accept passengers who will have entered their 24th week of pregnancy by the time their travel concludes.