61 Questions About Cruising Answered (Everything You Wanted to Know)

If you have questions about cruising, then we have the answers. Having taken dozens of cruises across (nearly) every major cruise line and spent time totaling months at sea… well, we’ve seen a lot.

Having sailed a ton of cruises, we know the ins and outs. Below, we cover any question you might have about sailing.

That’s why we decided to answer every question we could come up with to make you as experienced a cruise passenger as we are. And if we didn’t cover your question? Simply put it in the comments below and we’ll answer it, too.

Cruise Booking Questions & Answers

Before you can cruise, you need to actually book your trip. That leads to a lot of questions regarding finding and reserving the right cruise for you.

How do I find the best cruise line for me?

Truth is that the vast majority (we’d say 80%) of a cruise is the same from line to line. You eat in the buffet, hang out poolside, watch a show in the evening and visit the same ports. However, that 20% that is different can make a big difference in your vacation.

The easiest way to see which line is for you is to simply visit their website and get a look at the marketing. Are you a family looking to cruise? Then see if the site shows pictures of kids and families having a blast onboard. Are you older and looking for a more refined atmosphere? Look for cruise lines that feature older passengers enjoying drinks or fine dining.

Just keep in mind that the cruise lines hire attractive models to feature on their websites — we’ve noticed this especially with older passengers. None of us look that pretty!

Can I book a last-minute cruise for cheap?

It would make sense that if a cabin is about to sail empty, then it would be offered at a dirt-cheap price at the last minute just to get people on the ship. In reality, that’s not how it works.

For one, most ships sail full. Occupancy rates regularly average more than 100% (meaning each cabin has two passengers with some having three or more), so there usually aren’t empty rooms on the ship.

Second, cruise lines don’t want to train passengers to wait until the last moment to book but cutting rates right before a ship sails.

Despite the websites and ads offering cheap last-minute discounts, it’s usually not the case.

Where can I find cheap cruises?

Carnival Sunshine and Liberty in port
Cruise fares — even for the same itinerary — change throughout the entire year, but they are almost always priced the same no matter where you buy.

Search around online and you’ll find something surprising — all the websites likely have identical prices. There isn’t a site that offers cheaper fares than all the others.

If you want to find cheap cruises, there are a couple of steps you can take. First, try to sail when school is in session. During this time of year families with kids can’t get away as easily. Cruise lines generally offer cheaper rates to keep ships full.

Second, you’ll find less expensive cruises on older ships. New ships have all the latest and greatest and a price tag that reflects that. Older ships may not have the bells and whistles, but usually have less expensive cruise fares.

Do I need to wait for a sale to book a cruise?

Head to any cruise website and odds are good that you’ll see some sort of sale going on, often with a countdown timer ticking the seconds until it ends.

It can make it seem like you need to jump at the deal. Truth is these deals run constantly. When the timer hits zero the offer may be tweaked slightly or often it’s just extended. But it’s not like a cruise will be hundreds of dollars less one day from the next due to a sale.

In other words, book when you find a deal you like, not based on a sale.

Are interior rooms bad? Should they be avoided?

Interior cabins are on the inside of the cruise ship. They offer a smaller space than other rooms and have no windows to the outside. To some people, that sounds awful.

Having sailed dozens of cruises, we’ve stayed in interior cabins plenty of times. In general, we find them perfectly fine for shorter trips (3-4 days). More than that and we’d suggest an oceanview or balcony cabin.

On shorter cruises, you spend less time in the cabin so spending more on the room doesn’t make much sense to us. Interior cabins can get you on the ship for less money. One big benefit is if you’re a light sleeper, these rooms get very dark, making it easier to get some rest.

Are balcony cabins worth the money?

Having your own balcony is nice, but if we’re honest, most people don’t spend that much time on it. On longer trips, get it. Shorter ones? It may not be worth it.

Thinking of a balcony cabin? You’ve likely noticed the higher price tag versus other rooms on the ship. Our opinion is if you are taking a cruise of more than five days, then yes, having the balcony is worth it. Shorter cruises mean more of your trip is spent out and about. These longer trips often have more downtime where you can enjoy the balcony space.

In general, however, we think people spend way less time on balconies than they think. Most people head out for a few minutes a few times a day to check things out and then head back in. There is a lot of benefit to having the natural light and fresh air in the cabin. So definitely a balcony is wonderful to have, but don’t think it will ruin your cruise if you don’t book one.

When is the best time to book a cruise?

There’s no “best” time to book a cruise. There isn’t a time of year when prices are lower if you book right then. If, say, each February saw cruise lines cut prices, then passengers would simply wait until then to book and not book other times of the year.

However, there are times of year to sail that are better if you want to save money. When going to the Caribbean, the easy way to think about it is to sail when kids are in school. During the school year, fewer families can travel, meaning less demand. Thus, cruise lines generally have lower prices to entice passengers to sail.

What’s the ‘Rule of 2.5’? (Why is my cruise more expensive than the headline price?)

Go to any cruise website and you’ll see low cruise fares. Take a vacation for a few hundred bucks! Truth is, what you pay is much more. Cabins are sold at double occupancy (meaning you’re charged for two people), and then you have to add on taxes and fees.

We like to use something called the Rule of 2.5. Take the headline price and multiply it by two-and-a-half. This is a much more accurate representation of what the final price will end up being.

You can multiply by three if you want a better idea of what you’ll spend when you add in onboard spending and gratuities.

Which cruise line is cheapest?

Want a deal on your cruise? The best option is to search across all the cruise lines as that gives you the highest chance of snagging a cheap vacation. In general, however, we find that MSC and Carnival generally offer the cheapest fares. Both are known as budget-friendly lines and though cruise prices have increased in recent years, they still offer a value.

Where should I book my room on the ship?

Most modern cruise ships are laid out in a similar way. There’s an interior section where things like the main promenade, shops, restaurants, and casino are found. Typically this is multiple decks, such as decks 5-7.

Then the top of the ship features the pool deck and all the outdoor amenities. On today’s cruise ships, this can be as high as decks 18-20.

These two areas are where you’ll spend the most time around the ship. That’s why we suggest a room located between the interior promenade and the pool deck, higher up on the ship. That way it’s easier and faster to get around. It’s also a good idea to be a couple of floors away from either to limit any potential noise.

As for forward, middle, or aft, there are venues the entire length of the ship, so you’ll be back and forth plenty. To us, this doesn’t matter much.

What is the best cruise line for kids?

All the major cruise lines will welcome kids, but Royal Caribbean and Carnival stand out as focused on families.

To be sure, kids will have fun on any cruise line. After all, kids really don’t need more than a pool to have a good time. That said, some are definitely more focused on kids and families than others.

Two cruise lines stand out the most to us: Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Both feature a lot for kids to do with plenty of active elements on board such as climbing walls, ropes courses, roller coasters, and waterslides.

If sailing with older kids (10+) then we’d have to give the edge to Royal Caribbean. Their ships seem to put a lot of focus on things for kids to do such as the Flowrider, slides, arcades, and more. Their biggest ships are able to pack on the largest amount of these things onboard compared to others.

What is the best cruise line for adults?

Want to get away from the kids? Whether you are leaving them home, they are out of the house, or you just don’t have any, you aren’t alone in wanting to sail on a cruise line that’s more focused on adults.

Sure, you’ll have a good time on any line, but if you want something geared toward adults, then we’d recommend three in particular.

First is Virgin Voyages. This is the only line that’s adults-only. Those under 18 aren’t allowed to sail. As a result, the whole experience is geared more toward adults, including everything from entertainment to food options.

For a more traditional cruise experience, we’d suggest Celebrity or Princess. These two lines focus more on an affluent experience that appeals to adults. Princess tends to be the less expensive of the two.

Questions About Preparing For Your Cruise

Getting ready for your cruise? Here’s everything you need to know about preparing.

Where do I park for the trip?

If you drive to the port, parking is no problem. Every cruise port will have parking right near the ship, however, it can be expensive. Expect to pay at least $20 per day for the convenience of being able to park at the ship and walk to the terminal.

Want to save money? Many ports offer independent lots that will offer you parking for a sharp discount from the cruise port (often up to 50%) and a shuttle over to the ship. You can read more about parking here.

Do I need a passport to cruise?

It’s always a good idea to have a passport as it’s more flexible should you have to leave the cruise in the middle of the trip (very rare, but it can happen). That said, if you’re sailing a traditional round trip cruise from the U.S., then you can sail with a birth certificate and photo ID.

Cruises that are “closed loop” — meaning they begin and end at the same port — often fall under a special rule that allows a birth certificate to be used. So if you depart Miami on a seven-day cruise that skips around the Caribbean and comes back to Miami, you don’t need a passport.

That said, you’ll want to confirm with the cruise line, but most trips from the U.S. can be sailed without the passport.

Do I need to bring cash?

money with a cruise keycard
On the ship everything is paid for through your keycard. Still, you do want to bring some cash with you.

It’s always a good idea to have some walking around money, but it’s likely less than you think. On the ship all your spending is done on your room keycard. That means onboard, you don’t need any cash other than what you plan to use for gambling. Even then, you can charge funds to your account if you need to.

In ports of call having some cash is a good idea. While credit cards are widely accepted, we find it simply easier to use cash. So you’ll want some money for things like meals, souvenirs, and cab fare. It’s also nice to have some small bills for tips off the ship. You can see our recommendation on amounts to bring here.

How do gratuities work?

If you’ve never taken a cruise, then gratuities can be confusing (we explain them in full here). Put simply, every passenger on the ship is charged a gratuity (sometimes called a service charge) each day of the cruise. The amount is normally around $16-18 per person, per day. So a couple traveling on a 7-day cruise will pay about $250 in gratuity charges during the trip.

These tips are then pooled and distributed to the crew. You can tip more if you feel inclined, but aren’t required. Passengers have the opportunity to prepay these charges before the cruise to get them taken care of early, or they can wait until onboard and have them charged automatically.

Should I prepay gratuities?

There’s no real difference if you prepay gratuities or not. You will still receive the same level of service. On the plus side, if you prepay then it’s all taken care of before you board and it’s one less charge that you’ll have at the end of the cruise. On the downside, it means giving the cruise line more of your money for longer.

We tend to prepay gratuities just because we like having a smaller bill at the end of the trip.

What should I pack for my cruise?

We’ll assume that if you are sailing to the Caribbean then you know to pack shorts, swimsuit, underwear and socks. But cruising is unique in that you have to pack for a lot of different situations, from formal night in the dining room, to sitting poolside with a drink, to being casual in port.

Then there are nice things to bring for the cabin like an outlet adapter to give more plug space and a shoe organizer for holding smaller items to keep them from cluttering up the room. To answer the question of what you should pack, we have a checklist here and a list of unique cruise items to pack here.

What time should I arrive in port?

You’ll select a time to arrive at the terminal. We usually suggest showing up later so that the crowds have time to die down.

When you check in for the cruise ahead of time, it will offer you a list of times to arrive. These days, most lines have a 30-minute boarding window that passengers choose. So if boarding is from 1 p.m to 4 p.m., you can choose a time such as 2:30-3:00 p.m. to arrive.

In general, we recommend selecting a time later in the boarding window. There is often a big rush to board early, and later in the day you will see much smaller crowds trying to get on the ship. As well, boarding later means your cabin should be ready and you can head straight to it.

What time should I schedule my flight home?

Flying home after your cruise? You’ll want to allow plenty of time to get to your flight. Ships normally arrive back into port early in the morning — 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. From there, the ship has to clear customs and then passengers can start to debark. Once off the ship, you need time to get to the airport and then through security for your flight.

We have a list of suggested times for flights based on your cruise port here. Generally, we’d suggest not booking a flight before 10:00 a.m. at the earliest for most ports. However, allowing more time if you can is smart. Having an extra hour or two ensures that you’re covered if anything goes wrong.

How do I get to the cruise port from the airport?

Flying in for your cruise? The best way to get to the cruise ship will vary from port to port. However, in general we recommend using Uber or Lyft. We’ve found they have rates that are comparable — and often lower — than taxis. They also operate at all the major airport and cruise ports, making it simple to get back and forth.

If traveling with a larger group, then independent shuttles can make a lot of sense. We generally advise against shuttles run by the cruise lines as they only operate on the day of the cruise and cost considerably more per person than Uber/Lyft.

Are there limits on what I can pack?

Within reason, there aren’t limits to how much you can pack on a cruise. Want to pack a couple of large suitcases? That’s perfectly fine and there is no charge for bags like what you see with an airline. There are also no rules regarding liquids like you see when you fly.

That said, we generally recommend that cruise passengers pack lighter. Remember, you still have to carry the suitcases from home to the cruise port and back home. Trying to deal with multiple heavy bags isn’t fun or easy when you’re supposed to be on vacation.

Questions About Food & Drink

Eating and drinking is a major part of your vacation. But there’s a lot to know about food and beverage during the cruise.

What is the food like on the ship?

Food on a cruise can vary. A rule of thumb is that the fewer people that can eat in a particular restaurant, the better it is. We’re not big fans of the buffet (although breakfast is good), but love some of the meals we’ve had elsewhere.

In our honest opinion, the food on a cruise ship can vary widely. We’ve had fantastic meals that we’d take over anything on land down to food that we thought was terrible. Over the years, we’ve figured out what’s good to us and what isn’t.

More generally, the food options are widespread. You have all types of cuisine throughout the cruise and options that range from a quick bite of pizza to fancy steakhouses. Every ship will have a buffet and main dining room. Outside of that, there are a number of other options that will depend on the cruise line and ship. These days most ships go heavy on specialty restaurants where there is a charge to dine.

In general, we find the specialty restaurants to be good to very good. In our years we have yet to have a bad meal here. Restaurants that serve big crowds — such as the buffet and dining room — seem to be more hit and miss. Some dishes are great, some are not.

We do have to give special recognition to desserts on the ship, which we generally find very good. You can read more about eating on a cruise here.

Can you find vegetarian/vegan options?

If you have a restrictive diet, whether it be vegetarian or vegan or gluten-free or something else, cruise lines can accommodate you well. With literally millions of passengers sailing each year, cruise lines have seen every type of special diet imaginable. In fact, at dinner the waiter will always also if you have any diet restrictions or allergies.

As vegetarian and vegan diets in particular have increased in popularity, lines have added a number of options for passengers. You’ll have no trouble finding something good to eat.

How much do drinks cost on a cruise?

If you’ve never sailed before, get ready for some sticker shock when it comes to drinks on the ship. A soda will cost around $3. A beer runs roughly $8, and a cocktail will be in the $12-$14 range. Wine will vary depending on the type, but expect it to start in the $8-$10 per glass range.

In addition, beverages have an automatic gratuity that’s also charged (usually 18%). So that $14 drink is actually around $16.50.

Is the drink package worth it?

Don’t want to worry about the cost of drinks? Cruise lines sell drink packages, where you pay one set daily fee and get to drink whatever you want. For most people, we would suggest that these packages won’t be worth the money, though there are always exceptions.

The issue is that the pricing means you usually need to drink about six cocktails or ten beers each and every day to breakeven on the cost. And even when you’re in port, you still pay for the package. As well, if one person buys the package, then all adults in the cabin must buy it as well, even if they don’t drink.

On a short cruise, maybe you can keep this kind of pace up. Over the course of more than a few days it gets harder to get your money’s worth.

When are bars open?

No matter when you’re thirsty, you’ll find a bar serving somewhere… outside of the very early morning hours.

Are you on the cruise ship? Then bars are open. From the time you step onboard until the time you step off, there will be a bar open somewhere. The only exception may be in the early morning hours (think 3-6 a.m.).

This isn’t to say that every bar is open around the clock. Many don’t open until the middle of the day and then close later in the evening. Still, there will be somewhere to get a drink and most times you don’t have to go far to get it.

How do meals work on the ship?

Food is a big part of a cruise. How meals work can be a little confusing for first timers. Some food is included with your fare. This includes the buffet and main dining room. Others are a charge (specialty restaurants) and need to be reserved ahead of time.

For the buffet and other quick eats, you simply show up, grab what you want and find a spot to sit (yes, you are allowed to take food out of the dining area). For dining rooms, you’ll be given a set time to arrive (normally 5:30 or 8:30) or you might have anytime dining where you can show up whenever you’re hungry. Here, you’ll check in with the staff, and they will take a few minutes to find you a table.

At free restaurants, you simply get up and leave when you’re done. There’s no check to sign or bill to pay.

If dining at a specialty restaurant, you’ll arrive at your reservation time and then be seated. After the meal, you’ll have a bill to sign to confirm the charge and leave any additional gratuity.

Is all the food free?

For most cruise lines, all the food is not free on the trip. To be sure, you can eat without paying extra on any cruise. The lines all have a buffet and main dining room that will be included with the cruise fare. Most also have another spot or two where you can grab a light meal or snacks.

Then there are specialty restaurants that are for an extra charge. In general, this is any restaurant on the ship that includes sit-down, personalized service. So think of spots like the romantic Italian restaurant or the steakhouse.

Other charges for food include specialty coffees, alcoholic drinks, premium ice cream, and more.

Can I bring drinks on the ship?

Yes and no. You can bring on beverages, but there are restrictions.

Let’s start with alcoholic drinks. Just about every cruise line allows you to bring on a regular sized bottle of wine or champagne per adult when you board. However, anything beyond that is not allowed. No beer or liquor is allowed. You can see our list of cruise line policies here.

As for non-alcoholic drinks, many lines (though certainly not all) allow you to bring on a 12-pack of anything you want. This rule varies more from line to line, with some having specific rules regarding packaging. For more details, see our article here.

Miscellaneous Questions & Answers About Cruising

From what to do on the ship to will you get seasick, below we cover all the random questions that might come up as you get ready to sail.

What is there to do on a cruise?

Pool deck on Celebrity
Modern ships offer a lot to do, but some lines focus on activities more than others. The bigger the ship, the more options you’ll have.

The list of what you can do on a cruise is seemingly endless with modern ships. Older ships have fewer activities, but can still keep you busy.

While we can’t cover everything you can do, we can mention some of the big ones. Every ship will have a large pool deck, a casino, and tons of bars. There are activities put on by the staff during the day (everything from trivia to putting contests) and evening entertainment that on some ships can rival Broadway. Shopping is widely available, as are a number of restaurants. For kids there are arcades. Sport courts with basketball (and pickleball!) are common.

Newer ships feature everything from full waterparks to go-kart tracks to roller coasters, bumper cars, surf simulators and rock walls for kids and teens.

Even with all that, it sells short what you can do on a cruise.

What is included on a cruise?

In general, all your basics are included on a cruise. So for your cruise fare you get your cabin and basic meals and snacks such as the buffet, dining room and included restaurants. Your fare includes drinks like water, tea, lemonade, and coffee. You also have free run of the ship, enjoying the pool, waterparks, and other activities onboard. Finally, entertainment such as the evening shows are also included in your fare.

What costs extra on the cruise?

While there is plenty included with your cruise, there’s also lots that cost extra. You can expect to spend about 30-40% of what you paid in cruise fare in onboard spending based on the financial reports from cruise lines.

So what costs more? Any specialty restaurants are not included in your fare. This is essentially any restaurant with sit-down waiter service, outside of the main dining room. Casino gambling of course costs extra. Alcoholic drinks are an extra charge, as is wi-fi service, and any treatments you might want to get in the spa. You’ll also have a daily gratuity charge for each person sailing.

When off the ship, all expenses are extra unless visiting a cruise line’s private island. As well, any shore excursions or tours you do will cost extra.

Does the ship have a casino?

Casinos are a big deal on a cruise and (nearly) every ships will have one.

Unless sailing a handful of ships (such as Disney) then yes, you will have a full casino on board. While relatively small compared to a land-based casinos, it’s plenty large for the ship.

You’ll find all the games you’d expect in a normal casino including slots, blackjack, roulette, and craps. There are also a number of games you don’t see on land. For instance, cruise ships often have coin pusher machines, skill cranes for money, and their own scratch-off tickets.

What is my keycard? What does it do?

There’s arguably nothing on the ship more important for you than your keycard. Most times this looks just like a credit card. A few lines have wearable devices instead.

These cards are your room key, but they also are used to check you in and out around the ship. When you leave the ship to go to port, you’ll scan your card so the staff knows who is on and off the ship.

Perhaps most importantly, this card is tied to your onboard account. Want a drink? Buy a souvenir on the ship? Book a spa treatment? You’ll used your card to pay for all these items on the ship. Then your bill is settled at the end of the cruise.

What do I wear to formal night?

Depending on your cruise, you’ll likely have one or two formal nights during the trip. We cover what to know and wear here, but in general you don’t have to be too worried about meeting the dress code.

Some folks dress to the nines, including a full evening gown and tuxedos. It seems that most people, however, simply dress nice without going all out. For women, a nice blouse or dress is fine. For men, a button up or collared shirt and a pair of pants is suitable. On lines that are higher end, expect the formal wear to be a step higher.

What you want to avoid are flip flips, ball caps, shorts, and the like.

How fast is the wi-fi on the ship?

Speeds for wi-fi vary widely but seem to be getting better. Usually it’s in the 3-5 Mbps range, but we’ve had some cruises that are considerably faster.

The good news is that if you need it, wi-fi is available on any major cruise ship. The bad news is that service is pricey (often more than $20 per day) and the speeds can vary.

Based on our cruises, the highest-tier internet tends to average in the 3-5 Mbps range. That’s much slower than on land, but fast enough for general browsing and streaming.

That said, cruise ships are trying to improve speeds, including the implementation of Starlink. Still, the speeds can vary widely. We’ve seen cruises with speeds consistently in the 40-60 Mbps range (no different than what many have at home) while other cruises still see 3-5 Mbps speeds.

What is an Alaskan cruise like compared to the Caribbean?

Maybe you think of a cruise as a bunch of people hanging poolside with lots of drinks, tropical music playing, and lots of passengers in swimsuits. An Alaskan cruise couldn’t be more different.

Cruises to Alaska take you to one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the entire planet. You’ll see mountains, wildlife, glaciers, and some of the most amazing scenery you’ve ever seen.

Onboard the atmosphere is different as well. It’s still a cruise so there is a lot going on, but it’s much more subdued (for instance, there’s no sail away party with lots of dancing poolside). Your other passengers aren’t there to party, they are there to take in the nature and scenery.

Is there a difference between new and old cruise ships?

Old cruise ship docked next to a new one
Yes, cruise ships have changed *just a little* over the past few decades.

Cruise lines love to show off all the new features on their latest and greatest ships. What they don’t really show you is that these new ships can be completely different from older ships.

Like anything else, cruise ships evolve. And given that the life of a ship can approach three decades, that’s a lot of time for things to change.

Older ships are still kept up well, but they are generally smaller, hold fewer passengers, and have a lot fewer amenities like restaurants and activities. Many people prefer this style of ship, but newer ones will definitely have more to see, do, and experience.

Will I get seasick on a cruise?

Seasickness does happen on a cruise, but we’d guess it’s much less often than you’d think.

For one, cruise lines want you to have a fun and comfortable trip. So when possible, they can maneuver the ship to avoid rough seas.

Still, it is possible that your ship might encounter a storm of simply larger swells. In that case, you might be surprised at how stable a modern ship feels. If you’re imagining rocking back and forth, that’s not the case. Having sailed dozens of cruises, the absolute worst we’ve really felt was enough motion to let you know you are at sea, but not enough that you were bumping into walls or swaying while walking. It can happen, but it’s rare.

Is there a difference between short and longer cruises?

Cruises come in all sorts of lengths, from three nights to three months and even longer. You’ll find a big difference in the atmosphere onboard depending on the length of trip.

In general, the longer the cruise, the more subdued you can expect the atmosphere to be and the older the average age. Shorter trips often see younger and more lively crowds. Longer cruises are more relaxed with passengers that have the ability to take off for extended periods of time.

How do I book shore excursions?

Cruise excursion cenote
Cruise shore excursions give you the ability to do things — like swim in this cenote — that you just can’t do back home.

Shore excursions are tours that you can take in port. Instead of having to put together something you do yourself, excursions allow you to pay one fee and get everything all taken care of in a single transaction, including transportation to and from the ship.

The easiest way to book is through the cruise line. You’ll be able to reserve a spot through your online account ahead of the cruise. If you wait until on the ship, you can head to the Shore Excursions desk, which every ship will have. There, the staff can explain the different options and book your tour.

You can also book excursions independent of the cruise line online or even as you walk into port last minute.

What’s the rule of 5-10-15?

Another rule of thumb we created is the rule of 5-10-15. It covers what type of cabin to book and where on the ship.

Let’s start with the five. Here, it relates to when to get a balcony cabin. If sailing a cruise of five days or more, then the balcony will be worth it to have. Shorter than that and you’re likely to not spend enough time in the room to get your money’s worth.

The “10-15” is the deck to book. As mentioned in this article, there are two main areas you’ll spend time. The interior promenades, restaurants, and shopping are in the middle of the ship, usually around decks 6-8 or 5-7. Then you have the pool decks at the top of the ship, which today can be as high as deck 20.

Since this is where you’ll spend the most time, picking a cabin deck between the two spaces is ideal. Hence, we think decks 10-15 are ideal.

What happens if I’m late for the ship?

Let’s just say that you don’t want to find out. Cruise ships stick to a set schedule. A late departure can throw everything off and even mean not making the next port in time. So when they say all aboard is at 4:00 p.m., that’s not a suggestion.

While the ship doesn’t leave right at the all aboard time, it does leave soon after. And yes, if you are late back to the ship, then it has been known to leave passengers at the dock. It’s one reason why we always aim to make it back at least 45 minutes before all aboard, just in case there is a delay.

Can I bring marijuana on the ship?

In many states where cruises sail — California, Washington, New York — marijuana is legal for recreational purposes. Even more states have laws that allow medical marijuana.

Given the international nature of cruises, however, it’s not allowed on the cruise ship. Lines follow federal law, which still outlaws marijuana. As well, with the trip taking you to multiple countries, the complexities of laws can be overwhelming.

Instead, cruises keep things simple. It’s not allowed, no matter where you are sailing from.

What should I do in port?

Your day in port is your own to do whatever you want. Hit the beach, book an excursion for some adventure, or just mill about in the port area. It’s up to you. There’s no “should” for how you spend your vacation. In fact, some people even just stay on the ship.

In general, we do suggest that you book a shore excursion for at least one port of call. Excursions give you a chance to do things that you simply can’t experience back home. We find them to be some of the most memorable experiences of the entire cruise.

What do I need to bring into port?

Bottle of sunscreen sitting on a table
Packing plenty of sunscreen is a must for any cruise to the Caribbean. We always bring it and a small backpack big enough for a towel, sandals, and a few small items.

If you’re headed into port, you actually don’t need to bring that much. The most important thing to bring is your ship-issued keycard (which is used to check you off and on the ship) and a photo ID if you are an adult.

Other than that, you just want to bring what you might need for the day. We like to bring a light backpack with a towel if we plan to hit the beach, sunscreen, and some cash. Items like a hat and/or sunglasses are also smart.

We’d also suggest wearing comfortable walking shoes into port. There’s typically a lot of walking, so comfy shoes are nice to have. You can always bring a pair of flip-flops to change into if headed to the beach.

Is smoking allowed on the ship?

Yes, smoking is allowed on the ship but it is very controlled. For instance, smoking isn’t allowed in your cabin (there are big fines) nor is it allowed in most places on the ship. Instead, there are designated smoking spots onboard. You can find the location by asking the crew or looking in the ship’s daily planner. Smoking is usually also allowed in the casino.

What is the “space ratio”? Why should I care?

Many people worry about too many people on the cruise ship. After all, the newest ships can carry upwards of 6,000 passengers at once. But that doesn’t just mean cruise lines are packing more people in the same amount of space. Cruise ships have gotten larger as well.

That’s why we like to use what we call the space ratio. This calculation takes the tonnage of a ship (a measure of its size) and divides it by the occupancy. From here, you have a metric that you can use to compare one ship to another.

In general we consider a ratio above 40 to be a sign of a ship with good space per passenger. You can find the space ratio of your ship here.

Do cruise ships feel crowded?

The best answer we can give you is “it depends.” We’ve been on some ships with small space ratios that do feel crowded seemingly everywhere you go. Other ships might feel crowded in certain areas at certain times — such as the pool deck in the middle of a day at sea.

What we have noticed is that ship design can play a big impact in how busy a ship feels. Ships built with choke points where lots of people are funneled through a narrow space will feel more crowded than an open design.

Our advice? Expect some crowded moments, but it’s not always that way.

How can I see my cruise ship’s latest health inspection?

Many people don’t realize it but cruise ships undergo health inspections, similar to a restaurant on land.

Ships are subject to two inspections a year under the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program. The inspection scores are then posted online for the public to see. There is also a report that covers all the issues found.

In general cruise ships score very high (it’s not unusual to see a score of 100). Occasionally a ship will score ‘unsatisfactory,’ meaning they scored less than an 86.

Do I need the cruise line’s app?

Cruises used to be a place where you put the phone down and don’t use it for a week. Now, you have to carry it with you. Cruise lines all have phone-based apps and they’ve become a part of the sailing.

The apps now have a lot of information you need or want to know, including the daily planner, maps, reservations, and even the ability to chat with other members of your party and track your onboard spending.

We’d love to tell you the app is optional, but at this point we’d say you need to have it.

Is there a dress code on a cruise?

For most of the time you’re onboard, there isn’t a dress code. Wear what you want, when you want. The one exception is that if you head into a restaurant during the day, you will want to cover up. The buffet is casual, so shorts and a t-shirt or coverup are fine, as are flip flops. Any time you eat in the dining room, you’ll want to avoid swimwear, hats, and anything too casual. Just wearing a pair of pants or jeans is fine.

Things change on formal night or if dining in higher-end specialty restaurants. If eating in the main dining room during formal night or a nicer restaurant, you’ll want to dress up some. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie or an evening gown, but avoid shorts and t-shirts.

Do I need to worry about hurricanes?

The good thing about cruise ships when it comes to hurricanes? They can move. While big storms might capture the imagination, the truth is that cruise ships are rarely (if ever) directly impacted by a hurricane. They can see they forecast well in advance and steer clear.

There is a chance that a port of call or departure port could be impacted by a storm. In that case, a port of call could be canceled or you might be delayed in getting back home or embarking on your cruise. However, that’s relatively rare.

What happens if a port of call is canceled?

We’ll never forget spending two days at sea headed to Roatan, Honduras, only for the captain to come over the loudspeaker the afternoon before and tell us that another ship damaged the pier and we wouldn’t be able to dock.

As a result, we spent a third day in a row at sea.

When a port of call is canceled, not much happens for passengers. If it’s feasible, another port might be substituted. If not, then you’ll often spend the day at sea while heading toward the next port. No compensation is normally offered unless missing the port completely alters the cruise (such as a trip that has to end early).

Are cruises LGBTQ friendly?

In general, you can expect a cruise to be a good spot for LGBTQ passengers. That’s not to say that the ship is decked out with rainbow flags or there is a pride parade in the evening, but most people simply are there to have a good time… not worry about other people’s lives. Some lines — such as Virgin Voyages — do seem to cater more to LGBTQ passengers than others.

That said, any major cruise line will offer up some sort of meet-up time for like-minded passengers if you want to find some new friends during the trip.

What’s the deal with rubber duckies?

Ducks found on a cruise ship
You may find ducks hidden around the ship during your cruise. It’s part of a passenger-led treasure hunt to add a little fun to the vacation.

Maybe you’ve seen them online or perhaps you’ve taken a cruise and there seems to be a random rubber duck sitting in an out of the way place.

Over the past decade or so, these ducks have become a sort of game in cruising. Passengers bring these ducks from home and hide them around the ship in a type of treasure hunt. If you find one, you can keep it, leave it be for someone else to find, or pick it up and re-hide it somewhere else. There is often a note attached that says who hid it and wishing you a good cruise.

Can I bring my pet?

No. If you have a service animal, then you can make arrangements to bring them onboard with you. Just keep in mind that due to customs restrictions, there are a considerable amount of hurdles and paperwork you’ll need to complete to get off the ship with your animal.

However, emotional support animals or pets aren’t allowed on the ship with you.

Is there a gym on the ship?

We don’t think most people consider working out while on a cruise. However, there are those that like to get a workout in. If you’re part of this group, then yes, there is a gym.

If you’re imagining some tired workout spot like in a chain hotel, that’s not the case. Cruise ship gyms are nicely equipped with lots of space, plenty of machines (including dumbbells, weight machines, exercise bikes, treadmills and more), and they normally have stunning views high up on the ship.

Gyms are normally located next to the spa on the ship. While the sps charges a fee for services, the gym is free to use.

Will I get bored on a cruise?

In our opinion, if you get bored on a ship, then it’s your own fault. We will say that older ships do have significantly less to do. If you are sailing one of these and there are multiple days at sea, you may be pretty happy to finally hit a port of call.

Larger ships have lots of things to do around the clock to where there will almost always be something you can find to keep from getting bored.

For most cruises, being bored isn’t an issue. And if you do get a little bored, well, that’s nothing a drink while sitting by the pool can’t fix.

Are there kids areas on the ship?

Yes. One big benefit of sailing any major line is that there will be a spot dedicated to kids on the ship and it’s included with the cruise. Here, parents can drop kids off and the staff will watch them, and also provide activities and entertainment like board games, movies, video games, arts, and crafts and more.

You will simply register at the start of the cruise and bring the kids by whenever you want while the area is open (it normally keeps long hours). This means on a family vacation the kids can have a spot to themselves while parents get to enjoy some kid-free time as well.

Are cruises accessible for handicapped passengers?

We’d argue there isn’t a better vacation for passengers with a disability than a cruise. Ships go out of their way to ensure everyone — no matter their abilities — can enjoy a vacation. That includes everything from those with sensory issues to people in wheelchairs and seemingly everything in between.

Ships are built with mobility issues in mind. There are fully accessible cabins, ramps around the ship, and touch buttons for opening doors. There are also lots of crew around should you need any assistance.

When in port it can be a different story as many ports don’t have the infrastructure that we’re accustomed to in the United States. Private destinations from cruise lines, however, will offer accessible features.

Have more questions? Let us know in the comments below…

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