My ship has two "formal" nights. Does that really mean a tie. And what about children?
Can you buy liquor at a port and bring it onto the ship?
Is it really cheaper to do excursions on your own? Thanks!
The expectation on formal nights is for at least a jacket and tie for men. However, those who show up without a tie are not given the heave-ho. I've seen men with just slacks and a dress shirt on formal nights. They do stand out though. Another option is to go to the buffet restaurant on the formal nights. The dress is casual and they have table service for the most part, and a pretty good choice of foods. Children are pretty much exempt from the formal requirements. I wouldn't bring them in shorts and t-shirts though.
The usual drill these days for all the mainstream cruise lines is to take liquor from the passengers if they buy it in a port. Security will hold it and then give it back on the last day of the cruise. The official reason is so the ship can control alcohol consumption and ensure people aren't getting wild-eyed drunk beyond the control of the bar staff. The real reason is that they don't want anything to impact the ship's bar sales.
For the most part, excursions can be had for less if you book with someone other than the ship. However, you do risk missing the ship if your tour is late returning. The ship will wait for it's tours but it doesn't assume any responsibility for private tours.
You will see a wide variety of dress on formal nights. Some people will dress to the nines with tuxedos and sequin dresses. Some will dress with nice cocktail dresses and suits. You may also see some dressing in nice dress slacks, with a collared shirt. It varies from ship to ship, sailing to sailing, depending on the passenger mix. The cruise lines would like to maintain this tradition of formal nights as coat & tie, but you won't get kicked out if you aren't wearing one.
You are allowed to bring back a certain amount of liquor depending on your itinerary. When entering back on the ship from a port the cruise line will have a table set up at the entrance to collect your liquor. It will be placed back in your cabin on the last day.
You may be able to get shore excursions cheaper on your own. However; there are pros and cons of doing so. Depending on what you are planning to do, your comfort level and security should be something you consider. Do you feel comfortable enough in a strange location to do things on your own? If you are looking at renting a car, will you be comfortable driving in busy traffic in a strange location possibly on the opposite side of the road. Whatever you do on your own you would always want to watch the time. If you are on your own you must make it back to the ship on time. One of the pros of booking the ships exursion is they will hold the ship if the excursion is running late. Also safety in numbers. Just some things to consider.
In Grand Cayman when I bought liquor the store will not even give it to you. I bough many different Tortuga rums and the store actually delivers it to the ship. That way you do not have to carry it and again you can not even try to smuggle it onboard.
As far as prices. It is a good bet you will find it for cheaper either onboard or in a port depending upon where you live. Before you go check your local liquor store on the prices of your favorite brands.
Certain brands were only $1 or $2 different. But some brands may not be available in the USA.
When bringing back to the USA when you go through customs, be honest. You are allowed one bottle per person. Each time we come back they ask how many and we have said 6 - 8 bottles. And they have said " have a nice day"
I am still trying to figure out how much duty really is
I've never paid liquor duty either. I think it is around 10%, and it is more of a hassle to fill out the paperwork than it is worth, so most customs officers just let it pass as long as it isn't a huge amount of bottles. As you said - honesty is vital. I always get in line at the customs area if I have exceeded any limit, and have always been sent on my way. Anyone who lies to them is a fool.
Sorry Meldrew, you are incorrect. Even on Carnival I have seen sequin dresses and tuxedos. I have sailed on many of the major cruise lines and on ALL the lines I have seen a variety of dress from tuxs to casual.