Top 12 ‘need-to-know’ cruise questions

First-time and seasoned cruisers alike often have burning questions when it comes to preparing for and getting the most out of their trip. This is why experts from Panache Cruises, the specialists in ultra-luxury cruises, are providing insight by addressing must-ask questions before boarding a ship.

Once on-board, cruisers are encouraged to simply unpack, sit back and enjoy the experience. This is made much easier for cruisers who are prepared for the experience and are best-placed to get the most out of their trip. The expert’s answers provide advice for the best time to book, how to pay for amenities once onboard, need-to-know cruise lingo and what happens if someone is delayed back to ship after an onshore excursion.

James Cole, founder and managing director at Panache Cruises said: “Planning a cruise trip can be daunting for novice and beginner cruisers alike, as knowing the best way to get deals on bookings, when to book and the best type of cruise for you can all be tricky. “We try to make it as easy for our customers as possible by providing you with your very own Cruise Connoisseur. They work directly with you and get to know your preferences in order to make sure you have the best possible trip.”

Here are Panache Cruise’s insights on need-to-know cruise queries: 

1. When should I book my cruise?
The best time to book a holiday is generally as far in advance as possible. The booking sweet spot, also known as the ‘wave season’, is from January to March. This is the period when a lot of popular cruises first go on sale and travellers can get the best deals, as fares often rise as the ship fills up. Cruise lines often announce itineraries 18 months or more in advance, so the best cruising deals can be found by planning a trip well ahead.

Planning your cruise holiday early is especially important if you have specialist needs in terms of the type of cabin or stateroom. There are usually only a very small number of family cabins or interconnecting cabins on-board even the most modern of cruise ships, so it pays to book early to secure the accommodation you need. The same is true for disabled or solo traveller cabins.

2. How do I pay for things onboard?
Every cruise line handles onboard payments slightly differently. As a general rule purchases are made using a cruise card, a multipurpose credit card sized ‘card’ which also acts as your ID and room key. Some lines will give you a bracelet which allows you to pay as well. Increasingly, mobile phone apps are allowing people to book chargeable aspects of their cruise too from restaurant reservations to cruise excursions. Mobile phone apps can also be used to operate cabin based technology such as curtain blinds and televisions.

3. Is there a dress code onboard?
These days, most cruise lines operate a casual dress code. Cruisers to warmer climates tend to opt for beach wear or shorts and t-shirts during the day and smart-casual wear in the evening. A few cruise lines will include a gala dinner as part of the onboard itinerary, where guests are invited to wear their finest clothes or dress to a specific theme. Travellers who are feeling unsure about the clothes they will need to pack for their cruise should speak to a leading cruise retailer or cruise connoisseur from Panache Cruises.

4.What is a muster drill?
The muster drill is a mandatory safety exercise which all passengers will have to take part in after boarding their cruise. Under Maritime Law, each cruise line is required to hold a safety briefing before departing, the drill familiarises all passengers and crew with the muster station. This means everyone onboard knows what to do in a case of emergency.

5. How can I book shore excursions?
For the best selection and guaranteed availability, cruisers should book via your agent before you travel or book onboard. Excursions are usually included free of charge on luxury and ultra-luxury cruises, which is one of the main benefits. Always compare the total cost of the cruise and not the initial fare or ticket price.

6. What happens if I am late back to the ship after an excursion?
If you book a cruise-line organised excursion, the ship will wait for you. Otherwise, it is your responsibility to get back to the ship before it departs. Always make a note of the ship’s contact details plus departure time and make sure when booking any non-cruise organised excursions to give yourself plenty of time to get back on the ship so you aren’t rushing. Don’t risk the chance of being left behind.

7. What is the best type of cruise for me?
With so many options available, choosing the right cruise line for you can make all the difference. Consider who you are travelling with, your budget, what you want to experience from a cruise and your dream destinations. Whereas expedition cruises can take you to some of the most remote parts of the world, luxury river cruises are perfect for travelling through land-locked countries and for visiting famous cities.

8. When it comes to entertainment, what do I have to pay for?
Typically with luxury and ultra-luxury cruises, all entertainment will be included within the cruise package with the exception perhaps of the casino (if available).  Although popular on US cruise lines many smaller European ships will not feature a casino at all.

9. Do I need a passport to cruise?
Yes – all cruisers will need a passport in order to travel. Even British people touring the British Isles must hold a valid passport which conforms to the entry requirements of each destination visited.

10. What is the check in process like?
Many cruise lines allow you to check in online and upload all of your security details electronically. This is also where you can provide any vaccine proof if required for the countries you will be visiting. Many cruise lines have their own mobile phone ‘apps’ to allow passengers to easily update this information.

11. What happens if I start to feel sea sick? What health and safety is there onboard?
For any sea-sick or unwell passengers onboard a cruise, most ships will have a doctor or extensive medical facilities. Any urgent cases of injury or sickness will be airlifted off the ship if at sea. All passengers are encouraged to take sea sickness medication or wear travel wrist bands just in case the weather turns bad.

12. Can I do laundry onboard?
Packing enough clothes for a long excursion is a difficult task for many. Luckily, cruisers are able to make use of onboard laundry services to get longevity from their luggage. Many cruise lines offer laundry services for passengers meaning they can re-wear their clothes and don’t have to worry about packing weeks worth of clothes. Such services are included free of charge on luxury cruise lines but are usually chargeable on lower tiered lines.

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