This discussion is an experiment by me to generate is a list of common topics/posts and the answers. If you have a general question, you can look here for the answer. If you do not find it here, (or even if you do and still need more information) go ahead and ask it anyway. Once we have a question and the answers, I will edit them into a Q/A format and leave the edited post in this thread or include it in my “starter” FAQ.
If you have a “contribution” you would like added to this, please send it to me in a private message and I will add it to the document. Or reply to the thread and make your post in a Question/Answer format and we can just build up a discussion list of FAQs. But note, that replies in this thread may be edited or combined (I will include acknowledgement to the original authors) as needed to keep the thread in a FAQ format and not a discussion of each answer.
Also, where details are required, but not known (like the prices of some things) ??? will be inserted. Feel free to provide up to date information . Also where there are cruise ship specifics, they will be called out in the answer with cruise line abbreviations- CCL – Carnival Cruise Lines, RCCL – Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, NCL Norwegian Cruise Lines etc…
Q What kind of drinks are free on the ship? What do the non free drinks cost?
A. On Carnival and Royal Caribbean, (the other cruise lines will be included) tea, juices, milk, and water (not bottled water ) are free. You have to pay for your soda and alcohol and specialty coffees. For those, there is a 15% gratuity added on for each drink. You can purchase a soda card (available on both cruise lines) if you are going to buy 3 or more sodas a day. The card costs $7 day for an adult. $5 for a child ??? Cans of soda are $2.25 (true price anyone?)
CCL- Coffee on Lido deck is free. However the specialty coffees on the Promenade cost extra.
Soda card – Fun Fountain Card - http://carnival.com/CMS/FAQs/Fountain_Fun_Card.aspx
BUT, you can get free espressos and cappuccinos in the formal dining room during lunch and dinner.
Q My cruise documents say embarkation starts at 1:30p.m. When is a good time to be at the port to unload, park, and get in line in? Can you board prior to 1:30?
A Official Embarkation start time is 1:30 PM (some lines start at 1:00 PM.) But they often allow boarding earlier than this. Sometimes you can start boarding before noon. This all depends on how long it took to get through the disembark process for the previous cruise AND can vary from port to port depending on the port size and the US Customs ship clearance times on a given day. So, there are 2 trains of thought on this. First is to arrive early (10:30 or 11AM) and stand in line hoping to be allowed on early. Then you can go eat in the buffet and start enjoying the cruise early (my preference) Second method , for those that don’t do lines, is to arrive later (3 PM) after most of the people have boarded. Though I have never seen this work because with the size of the ships lately, there seems to be a long line up until 4PM! So you can do whichever thinks suits you better.
Q. How much money/cash will I need?
A. This is a difficult question to answer. This truly depends on your spending habits. Obviously a credit card is very handy but you will need some cash (budgeting $100/day per person per port day) is a good guestimate. This normally covers taxis, entrance fees, food/drink, tips, etc. For many people this is a smaller amount., but it’s a good starting point. Shopping can most often be done with a credit card, but there are always local vendors that would prefer cash or bargain more if you have cash. Note that you should always notify your credit card company that you are going to be traveling and to where so that they will know that charges are ok. Do you like to gamble? You can get money from your credit card for this, but some cruise lines (CCL will charge a 3% fee for cash advance) So, to avoid this bring cash for gambling (travelers checks are good for this as the casino will freely cash them for play.)
Other cash needs are - extra tips on board the ship. Bring small bills so you have change for tips. we usually take about $50 in ones and get more change on board. So from that you can judge your cash needs. If you wish to pay off your on board charge account, bring enough cash to do so. Again, traveler’s checks are better for this. Or just plan on paying the bill when you get home and you will not have to fuss with the cash.
Q Please explain how to apply a countdown ticker to my signature.
A. Cruise tickers need to be put into your signature (change your signature by editing your profile) in BB code format. To create one, go to the Cruisetickers.com website (there is a sticky post on it at the beginning of the General Cruise Chat section) Use that site to create the ticker of your choosing. Once you have it made there should be a button to "copy" the source code for the ticker. Be sure to copy the "BBcode" version, HTML will not work. Once you have the ticker copied, got to your profile and paste the code you copied into the end of your signature. Then save your profile. Assuming you copied correctly, everything else is automagic. After a few hours, every post you made will have the new ticker applied.
Q. Do the rooms have irons to press my clothes with?
A. No. Cruise lines do not permit irons in the staterooms. The general policy for cruise ships is that items with heating elements or open flames are not permitted. This includes clothing irons, hotplates, candles, incense and any other item that may create a fire hazard. (Curling irons and hair dryers are allowed.) Some of the larger ships have launderettes on the guest floors which have irons available for use. Most of the seasoned cruisers recommend the travel steamers for de-wrinkling your clothes.
The following was contributed by "Frase" on another topic. I thought it was good beginners advice and can be applied to any of the major cruise lines because they all do things in similar ways. Thanks Frase!
Let me give you a little advice and tips for first time cruisers:
- Avoid drinking the soft drinks and bottled water they leave in your room. They tend to be quite over-priced. At least look at the price list before you start drinking them.
- Bring lots of sun proctection items with you:
sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, hats, etc.
- Avoid using the phone in your room to call home. It too, is quite expensive (around 7 to 10 dollars per minute).
- Events on the cruiseship worth attending:
The evenings featured shows in the main auditorium after dinner
The midnight dessert/buffet gala. Make sure to bring your camera to this event.
The formal night in the dinning room
The Captains Gala (just before the formal night's dinner)where you get to shake hands with the captain and get complimentary drinks and Hors-D'ourves[no.. I don't know how the French word for finger snacks is spelled]. By the way, all Carnival Captains are from Italy, so I learned to say a few things in Italian like "Buona sera Signori Capitano
If art appeals to you, take a good look at the art work (paintings,sports memorablia, and sometimes scupltures) and attend the auction for them. I attended one auction, but the prices got way too high for my budget.
Check out the sales events they have in the stores. At the very least you can get free samples of liquor and rum cakes they sell.
-All purchases made on board are made using your Sail-N-Sign card. If you buy anything (even a candy bar from the gift shop) they will ask you for your Sail-N-Sign card and it will be charged to your cruise account. When you recieve your documents(before your cruise), you will need to fill in the page that asks for what credit card (or other method) you will use to pay for the cruise account.On the first day of the cruise, when you check-in, they will take that page from your documents. They might even swipe that credit card using the old-fashion metal slide with multiple carbon copy receipt forms(so make sure to bring that particular credit card). You might be able to pay for your cruise account using cash, but I never did it, so I don't know how that works. Anyway, on the final morning, when the ship returns, and just before you have to leave to return home, they will slip a final copy of the total of your cruise account, under the door of your room. You will then have just a little while to look at it and dispute any charges at the main desk of the ship.
- Make sure to bring a multiple oulet electrical strip if you will be using allot of electrical items in your room.
- They do have a hair dryer in the room, but it is usually small, wimpy and tethered to the vanity desk. So if you use one, it might be good to bring your own.
- Bring spending cash to use: in the casino, while ashore on the island, and to tip crew members when appropriate. Although, they do have a way of using your Sail-N-Sign card to place bets while in the casino (if you win they credit your cruise account, if you loose they charge your account). Sounds a little scary to me: so I only used cash in the casino. And besides, I am not a big gambler at all.
- Make sure to read your "Carnival Capers" cruise newsletter. It has a listing of the events that will go on each day and the time they will happen. The cabin stewards will place on in your room each day when they clean. Also, you can get an extra copy at the main desk, too.
Q. Our cruise takes us to Cayman, Cozumel and Ocha Rios. Any suggestions on must see, must do, must eat list in these locations.
A. For info on the ports, go to the Caribbean Ports section ofthis forum. You can do a "find" for each and get your question answered.
Q. If we have to do laundary how do we get it done, do we contact room service?
A. Laundry- The new biggers ships and should have mini laundry mats on the passenger decks. You can do a load of wash there if you must. You can also have laundry service from the ship but it is pricy. We usually just bring enough clothes to last through the cruise. But I understand with kids, anything is game. If you need change for the washing machines, go to the casino. Bring a sample size box of soap if you plan on using the washine machines.
Q. Is an earlier seating time better or a later seating time better for dinner.. we were thinking about 8.30.
A. Dinner seatnig is really a personal choice. They have two showings of the night's entertainment, so you won't miss anything if you choose either seating. Do what's best for you.
Q. When we are on day trips, do we have to have local currency or the [currently not so]almighty dollar is enough? If so how much will you recommend we carry in addition to the credit cards and in what denominations?
A. You will not need to exchange currency in any of the Caribbean ports. In Cozumel, sometimes they will give change in Peso's. If that is a problem, ask them before you order (like Burger King etc). Of course there is always plastic.
Q Is it safe to leave the credit cards, cash and passports in the room while on port or while on the ship during the day time.
A Yes, leave everything in your room that you don't need in port (you won't need your passports) THere is a safe in the room for this purpose. On the ship you will ONLY need your sign and sail card.
Q What will be a good place to meet other couples to socialize?
A You will meet new people from the moment you get into line to get onto the ship. Chat it up and you'll meet someone with the same interests. We are amazed at how often we run into the same couple of groups over and over.
This question comes up alot here on cruise chat. Can you bring your own alcohol onto the cruise ship.
THe answer to this is "Only wine" The amount varies from cruise line to cruise line, but most allow you to bring 2 bottles. Sometimes they charge a"corkage fee" if you bring one to dinner. Sometimes they don't.
For for any other form of alcoholic beverage or liquor- NO! Many people go through great troubles trying to smuggle a bottle of liqour onto a cruise. Its not really worth it. If you want a bottle for your cabin, there is at least one cruise line -HAL that you can order a bottle for your cabin- on HAL, one can contact "ships services" before departure and order a bottle of whatever it is you drink. It will be delivered to your cabin/suite and SHOULD be waiting for you when you arrive (else, it should get there shortly after). This is safer than trying to smuggle aboard and risk denied boarding AND it's still cheaper than buying in the bars if that's the main reason for trying to sneak booze aboard! But again, the bottom line is after spending whatever it cost for the cruise itself plus airfare, tips, shore excursions, etc., etc., WHY sweat a few more dollars for cocktails.
There are other cruise lines that do this also. NCL and Royal Caribean have been reported to do this. If anyone has experience with doing this on cruise lines other than HAL, please let me know.
From LHT28 - "Just a note to say Oceania allows you to bring alcohol for use in your cabin.
The cruises tend to cost more than CCL & RCCL though"
This safe is each cabin is basically a standard hotel room safe. It operates by swiping a plastic card (with a magnetic strip on back) in the diagonal slot you see on the door of the safe. That will cause the door to lock. Later on, you would then swipe the exact same card again in that slot. That would cause the door to unlock, opening the safe. You have about a shoebox amount of volume in the safe to store your valuables.
You can use almost any plastic card with a magnetic strip on back(credit card, driver's license,ATMcard, gift card, etc.). You could even use your Sail&Sign card, but they warn you not to use it. They say that it will damage the magnetic information on the strip rendering it useless (NOT TRUE, I learned first hand). Rumor has it the main reason not to use your Sail&Sign card to lock your safe is that it would make the safe vulnerable to a dishonest cabin steward who could use their master Sail&Sign card to gain acess to the safe. I don't know how true that rumor is.
They use this master Sail&Sign card on the job to open every stateroom door, in order to clean the rooms.
Anyway, I found that cards with wider magnetic strips on back work better with the safe. I first used my Kinko's Photocopy card on the safe (it has a narrow magnetic strip on back).I kept getting a "Card Read Error" message unless I swiped the card just right. I then used my Florida's Drivers License (which has a wide magnetic strip on the back). My Driver's License worked every time with no problems.
I had no problems with the safe during my cruise, and the valuable contents inside remained safe. Even when I naively used my Sail&Sign Card to lock the safe (before reading the warning not to do so). I also used the room safes on the two other Carnival ships I was on in past cruises, all with no problem as well.
I wouldn't say there are a lot of choices available, but there are some. The cruise lines offer "healthy choices" entrees. These very from cruiseline to cruiseline but most will be identified on the menu as such. They also serve vegatarian entrees. As far as sugar free goes, I have seen deserts that are sugar free being offered (made with sugar substitutes) on Carnival menus and I imagine many of the cruise lines are offering similar items.
If you have special dietary needs, you should discuss them with the head waiter the first day of the cruise so that they can prepare them if possible. You can read Carnival's note about special diet needs here.