Advice

The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Cruising

royal caribbean promenade
Cruise ships have come a long way in the past few decades. - Photo by Royal Caribbean

First-time cruisers often have many preconceptions about sailing. You may fear that the food on all ships is terrible, that days spent onboard are a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, or that cruises are simply boring.

General

How much does a cruise cost?
Do I need a passport? 
Are cruises really all-inclusive?

Concerns

Will I get seasick?
Will I fall over the side?
Are cruises cheesy?
Is the food good?
Will I feel claustrophobic?
Will it be crowded?
Will I be able to see everything?
Will I be bored?

Booking

Should I use a travel agent?
What is an inside cabin?
What is a guaranteed cabin?
Can I bring my baby on a cruise?
Do I have to pay the full fare for my baby/child?
How do I book multiple cabins near each other?

Onboard

How do I pay for stuff?
What is the minimum age for drinking and gambling?
How do I get my luggage onboard?
Will I get my passport stamped?
Where does the crew live?

 

General

How much does a cruise cost?

crystal cruises suite

Larger cabins with nicer amenities can quickly increase the cost of your cruise. -  Photo by Crystal Cruises

It sounds like a simple question, but it’s kind of like asking, “how much does a hotel cost?” Just like hotels, the price of a cruise varies widely based on brand, location, and the time of year. Use our cruise finder to get a rough idea of how much you'll spend on your fare.

 

Do I need a passport? 

As a matter of principle, we always recommend sailing with a passport. With that said, there are certain itineraries that let you cruise without a passport.

 

Are cruises really all-inclusive?

drink celebrity sunset bar

On most lines, alcoholic beverages will cost extra. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

With onboard specialty restaurants, paid entertainment options, and extra charges for alcohol and soft drinks, mass-market lines are most definitely not all-inclusive. Many luxury lines, however, are much closer to the “one price covers all” ideal.

The initial cost of a cruise on Silversea, for example, includes everything from drinks at dinner to your in-cabin minibar, to transportation into town in most ports of call. Love excursions? Though Silversea offers free guided excursions for passengers aboard two of its vessels (Silver Explorer and Silver Galapagos), Regent Seven Seas Cruises is an even more inclusive option — it features free, unlimited shore excursions in all ports. 

 

Concerns

Will I get seasick?

When the weather is mild and the seas are steady, you won’t feel much rocking — especially on large, modern ships. If you’re prone to motion sickness, however, check out our suggestions on seasickness prevention.

 

Will I fall over the side?

In 2014, there were roughly 20 reported cases worldwide of passengers falling overboard. It may sound scary, but when you take into account that over 20 million people took a cruise in that same time period, you have about a 0.0001% chance of falling overboard. To give you some context, it’s more likely that you’ll be struck by lightning (0.00014%) than fall off a cruise ship.

Are cruises cheesy?

carnival karaoke

On Carnival, you can sing karaoke with a real band. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

The personalities of cruise lines are, well, not unlike people: No two are alike. Some mass-market lines offer hairy chest contests. Onboard luxury ships, though, you’re more likely to partake in a wine pairing class than sing along with an elderly woman belting out an oldie. Our experience? Even the cheesiest of shows can be fun if you have a sense of humor, and a couple of cocktails.

 

Is the food good?

ncl zakarian

Some lines have hired celebrity chefs to start restaurants onboard, like Norwegian did with Geoffrey Zakarian and Ocean Blue. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

In most cases, the answer is the same at sea as it is on land — you get what you pay for. Don’t expect to be blown away by the spaghetti carbonara in the main dining room on budget lines. Some luxury lines, however, offer fine dining experiences that rival the best-rated restaurants on land. Restaurant 2 aboard Seabourn Odyssey, for example, serves delicious seven-course meals in an intimate setting.

 

Will I feel claustrophobic?

cruise cabin types

Balcony cabins are a great way to escape from the crowds. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

We only get claustrophobic on the smallest of oceangoing vessels. Fortunately, ships come in many sizes. Some are as large as shopping malls and comfortably accommodate thousands of people — they’re so large, you might almost forget you’re out on open water. Inside cabins can feel confined, however, so if you anticipate being anxious, book a cabin that has a porthole or balcony.

 

Will it be crowded?

carnival lido deck

Sometimes the lido deck can get a little crowded on sea days. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

Probably not, but it depends on the ship and whether it is at capacity. If you’re worried you’ll be literally rubbing shoulders with other cruisers, do your research. To get an accurate idea of how crowded the ship will be, look up the ratio of passengers to square feet on the line's website, and then compare the numbers to similarly priced competitors.

 

Will I be able to see everything?

rome cruise

Rome wasn't built in a day, and you're not going to see it all in one day either. - Sergey Borisov / ThinkStock

Maybe you could in a small port with the right shore excursion. However, instead of trying to cram all the sights into your brief time in town, choose a few things you're excited about seeing or doing at each destination. Think of the cruise as a tasting platter that can help you determine the places you’ll want to return to for a longer visit.

 

Will I be bored?

oasis of the seas royal caribbean

Royal Caribbean ships have mini-golf, rock climbing, basketball courts, and surfing simulators. - Photo by Royal Caribbean

We highly doubt it — especially if you pick the right line for you. Cruise lines cater to different demographics. Families on a budget are not likely to enjoy luxury liners that have little to no children’s entertainment, just as an elderly couple looking for a quiet getaway may not enjoy the options on a ship that boasts rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks.

Since entertainment options vary vastly, it’s important to do your research before booking to ensure you find a ship that appeals to you.

 

Booking

 

Should I use a travel agent?

If you're new to cruising, using a travel agent is a no-brainer. The more important question is what kind of travel agent should you use.

 

What is an inside cabin?

cruise cabin types

The four main cabin types: (clockwise from top left) inside, ocean view, suite, and balcony.

Unlike other cabin categories (ocean view, balcony, and suite), inside cabins are located on the interior of the ship, have no window, and are often slightly smaller. On the other hand, they are significantly cheaper, so they can be an ideal choice if you don’t mind small spaces or don’t plan on spending too much time in your cabin.

Tip: See our full step-by-step guide on how to book a cruise ship cabin for more info on cabin types.

 

What is a guaranteed cabin?

Guaranteed cabins are a gamble you can take when you book. When opting for a guaranteed cabin, you are promised a room in the category you have chosen, but you have no control over which one. The trade-off? You may get upgraded to a significantly better cabin if there are any left over. Still, the possibility of getting stuck in a bad cabin is high, and some of our members have reported getting “upgraded” into cabin that was worse than the original.

 

Can I bring my baby on a cruise?

youthzone nursery royal caribbean crusie

Babies at Royal Caribbean's Youthzone nursery. - Photo by Royal Caribbean

Most cruise lines have a minimum age of 6 months as of the sail date. Consult our chart to see the age requirements for babies on cruises, along with a detailed run-down of the amenities lines will provide for babies.

 

Do I have to pay the full fare for my baby/child?

youthzone nursery royal caribbean crusie

Most mainstream lines have character partnerships with popular kids shows and books. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Once again, it depends on the line. There are several kid-friendly cruise lines where babies sail free or for heavily discounted rates (taxes and fees will still apply). MSC Cruises distinguishes itself by always letting kids under 11 sail free, but other lines will have occasional promotions where children can receive discounted fares.

 

How do I book multiple cabins near each other?

Cruise lines and travel agents love to sell multiple cabins at once, so they’ll do whatever they can to accommodate parties that need more than one room. Be sure to book early to make sure you can snag adjacent rooms and avoid guaranteed cabins.

 

Onboard

How do I pay for stuff?

All purchases on the ship are made using your cruise ID card, which is linked to your onboard account. At the start of the cruise, you’ll have the choice of depositing cash directly into your account or connecting it to a credit/debit card.

 

What is the minimum age for drinking and gambling?

norwegian breakaway casino

Casino on Norwegian Breakaway - Norwegian Cruise LIne

Most lines will have a drinking age of 21+, but there are exceptions. In Europe, for example, where the drinking age is typically 18, many lines will lower their age accordingly. Other lines will allow passengers 18+ to purchase alcohol with the permission of their guardian. Most lines allow passengers 18+ to gamble but there are some exceptions. The best way to make sure is by contacting your cruise line.

 

How do I get my luggage onboard?

Except for your carry-ons, your luggage is checked before boarding the ship. Make sure to pack all of your essentials (bathing suit, toothbrush, formal wear for dinner, etc.) in your carry on, because it can take up to several hours for the crew to deliver your luggage to your room.

 

Will I get my passport stamped?

If you’re flying into a foreign country for your cruise, your passport will get stamped when you go through customs in the airport, but otherwise, the answer is largely no. (And no, we don’t like this practice either.)

 

Where does the crew live?

crew service silversea

Treat your room steward well, and you'll likely come back to a pleasant surprise or two.  - Photo by Seabourn

On the lower decks of the ship.

 

Ready to set sail? Check Cruiseline.com's Guide for First-Time Cruisers to start planning your first cruise today.

 

 

*This article was updated on 1/27/2015 with additional reporting by Thomas Faddegon.


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