CruiseXcel First Time Cruisers: FAQ

We've brought together many of the most frequently asked questions that we get and put them into this FAQ to help answer your questions. 


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General Information


Is cruising affordable and a good vacation value?

Yes! Cruising is the best vacation value! There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. Your cruise fare includes all meals, your stateroom, on-board activities and entertainment, plus transportation from port to port. You'll know what your vacation will end up costing you before you go. (Typically, your only extra expenses will be drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as massage or hairstyling.)


How long are cruises?

As long or short as you want. CLIA's member lines offer itineraries from three days to three months.


Where can I go?

You can go wherever you want. Cruises visit over 1,800 ports worldwide and practically every destination accessible by water. Just check the Cruise Guides for Worldwide Destinations to see all the exciting choices available to you.


How do I book a cruise?

Visit or call a CLIA-affiliated travel agency! These professionals will help you pick the cruise that fits your vacation schedule, tastes and budget. They can make all the arrangements to get you from your doorstep to your ship and back.

Plus, many travel agencies feature CLIA certified cruise counsellors on staff. These cruise specialists have completed an extensive program of training, including sailing on and inspecting a vast number of cruise ships. You can feel confident that a recommendation from a CLIA Certified Cruise Counsellor is based on personal knowledge and experience.


Different Types of Cruises

Are all ships fairly similar?

Far from it. CLIA member lines' ships range from under 200 feet to over 1,000 feet long. You can sail with fewer than 100 fellow guests or over 2,600. Enjoy atmospheres ranging from casual to formal, contemporary to classic, old world luxury. You can even choose between traditional propeller-driven vessels or sail-assisted ships. Enjoy the endless activities offered on a contemporary resort-style cruise, or immerse yourself in the culture of a destination via a niche or special interest cruise.

You can view profiles of the world's finest cruise lines and over a hundred ships in CLIA's Cruise Line & Cruise Ship Profiles section.


Are there different types of cruises?

There is an incredible diversity of cruise vacations available -- all custom designed to suit different interests and personal preferences.

The variety of styles ranges from boutique, luxury cruises with globetrotting itineraries to large, contemporary ships with a fantastic array of recreational facilities; from classic vessels evoking the time-honored traditions of cruising to special-interest, niche lines specializing in unique destinations with an accent on cultural enrichment.

For the explorer, there are cruise lines which feature soft adventure expeditions to such unusual and rustic frontiers as Antarctica, the Amazon rain forest or African Serengeti. Or discover historical legacies closer to home with enlightening itineraries to New England, French Canada and the Colonial America coast.

For experienced travelers, destination-focused cruises specialize in premium, culturally-rich ports of call with itineraries dedicated to illuminating such historic, world-class treasures as the antiquities of classical Greece, the Polynesian paradise of Hawaii or the fabled splendor of Norwegian fjords.

For many, the perfect vacation includes the non-stop fun and sun of a tropical resort-style cruise to the Caribbean, where you can sample a variety of island cultures and cuisines while working on a terrific sun tan.

Plus, many cruise lines feature special-interest themes on-board, with entertainment ranging from jazz festivals and classical music concerts to golf clinics and murder mysteries at sea!
You can view our different Cruise Guides to get information about the differences in the cruises that you can take.


Are there any special educational programs on-board?

To complement the spirit of discovery that travel evokes, many cruise lines feature an extensive program of on-board enrichment seminars hosted by distinguished guests experts. In addition to lectures highlighting the history and sights of ports you will be visiting, there may also be special in-depth presentations ranging from Renaissance works of art and strategic financial planning to epicurean secrets of classic French cuisine.


What's an air/sea cruise?

A fly/cruise or an air/sea cruise vacation package includes either free or specially-reduced airfare along with your cruise ticket. These convenient money-saving options are available from most major North American cities and include ground transfers between the airport and ship as well as baggage handling.


Before You Go

What should I pack?

Pack like you would for any resort. Cruise vacations are casual by day, whether you're on the ship or ashore. In the evening, ships vary as to dress. As on shore, attire is dictated by occasion. At the Captain's Gala, for example, you'll probably want to wear something more formal, such as a dark suit, or cocktail dress; perhaps even a dinner jacket or gown.


Will I need a tuxedo?

Many cruise lines now feature a more relaxed and casual approach to dress throughout the cruise - while on others, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun. But don't buy a tuxedo just for the trip. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. If you do want to dress to the nines, many ships offer tuxedo rental services.


Can I use my hair dryer or shaver?

Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms. But do check with your CLIA-affiliated travel agent or agency to be sure. Most ships even feature hair-dryers in your cabin.


Is motion discomfort a problem?

Rarely. Popular cruise itineraries boast some of the calmest waters in the world. In addition, stabilizers on modern ships, advanced availability of accurate weather information, and development of effective preventative medications have, for the most part, eliminated the incidence of motion discomfort.


Do I need a passport?

This depends on the type of cruise and your destination. You will need some proof of citizenship and identification. You'll receive complete information on required documents well in advance of your departure.


Activities During the Cruise

Are there different classes of service?

Today's cruise ships are "one-class". Everyone onboard can use all of the ship's facilities. The price of a cabin is based primarily on its size and location. Regardless of the category you book, you'll enjoy the same courteous service, menus, activities, and entertainment as everyone else onboard.


Will I get bored? Feel confined?

Hardly! Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer. There's plenty of room. And it will probably take you two or three days just to discover everything that's on board. Plus, you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call.

Cruise ships are like floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer. You can lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books, or watch the ever-changing seascape.

If you're more active, join in exercise or dance classes, and sports contests. Practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or take some fresh air on the jogging deck. Swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym.

You can also see a feature film, attend an enrichment lecture by renowned experts, play backgammon or bridge. And that's just when you're on board!


What can I do in port?

So much you'll have a hard time choosing! You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (often referred to as shore excursions). Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids, a bicycle down the side of a 10,000 foot volcano, or a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid. Follow the footsteps of history or the wake of a waterskiing boat. If there's still time, play golf or tennis. Learn how to windsurf. Sun and swim at some of the world's best beaches. Catch a record marlin. Sail, snorkel, or scuba dive. Take a cable car to the top of a mountain. Explore dark catacombs.

In short, cruising is the perfect way to sample a number of new destinations and try all the things you've ever dreamed of doing, while never having to pack and unpack!


Do I have to participate in the activities?

On a cruise, you do what you want, when you want. You can do everything or do absolutely nothing. It's your vacation!


Do cruise lines welcome families with kids?

More and more cruise vacations are booked by families with children. Most cruise lines provide plenty of supervised activities for youngsters, especially during school holidays. If your children enjoy swimming, sports, games, movies, and the adventure of new places, they'll love a family cruise. You'll find that children adapt to shipboard life with ease, and you won't have to wonder what they're up to every minute. The youth counsellers will help keep them busy and entertained. Ships even offer youth camps that cater to all ages, from toddlers to teens. Best of all, children generally travel at a substantially reduced rate. You can view our Cruise Guide For Families with Children to get more information.


What's there to do at night?

At night, life aboard a cruise ship really turns on. There's dancing, live entertainment, nightclubs and lounges, feature films, and parties with all your new friends. Most ships also have casinos. What's more, there are many special events like the Captain's Cocktail Party, Passenger Talent Night, and the Masquerade Parade.


Is there a charge for entertainment?

Never. On a cruise vacation, the entertainment is on the house. There's no cover, minimum, or charge for an admission ticket. The shows are live, films first-rate and all included in your cruise fare.


Will there be people like me?

No matter what you've heard to the contrary, there's no such thing as a typical cruise passenger! All kinds of people take cruises now... all ages... from all walks of life... singles, couples and families. Just ask your CLIA-affiliated travel agency for advice on the best ship for you, based on your tastes and lifestyle.


Services During the Cruise

Can we stay in touch with the outside world?

Quite easily. Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores. Many staterooms are equipped with televisions and have satellite telephones. You can also call someone on shore through the ship's radio officer while at sea. And, you can make phone calls from most ports. In addition, most ships have fax capabilities and many are adding computer cafes with Internet access for e-mail communication.


What about tipping?

Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $3.00 per person per day for your room steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your busboy. (A few cruise lines include tipping in the price and will so inform you.) Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services at your discretion.


Are there medical services onboard?

Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a medical facility and health care professional on staff to handle almost any emergency.


Are there laundry services aboard ship?

Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and many provide dry-cleaning services. There is, however, an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services. Many ships also have self-service launderettes.


Are there meeting rooms onboard?

Just about every full-size ship has public rooms or a conference center to offer as meeting space for private or corporate groups. If you'd like to make meeting or incentive travel arrangements, ask your CLIA-affiliated travel agent to contact the cruise line's group sales department to coordinate schedules and arrange for any special needs. Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment, communications, meeting coordinators, secreatarial and printing services, and more.


Dining On Board

What are different meal seatings?

Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all passengers in one "seating." But most ships have two seatings, which differ only by time. Typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late–then have your CLIA-affiliated travel agent request your preference when you book your cruise. Whichever seating you choose, remember that one of the best ways to make new friends is to ask for a large table. In addition, some ships offer alternative dining rooms, such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Southwestern themed restaurants, separate from the main dining room.


Is cruise ship dining as good as I've been told?

Everything you've heard about cruise ship dining is true. You'll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too) every time you sit down. And there's virtually no limit on what or how much you can order. But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because all your meals are included! Check out our Guide For Lean and Light Cuisine to get more information.


Can I get a special diet?

Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, this request must be made in advance, so be sure to advise your CLIA-affiliated travel agent when you book your cruise. Look at our Guide For Lean and Light Cuisine to get more information about dietary concerns.


What if I don't like my tablemates?

Rarely is this a problem. However, if you wish to change tables, speak with the maitre d'. He'll make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions... discretely and politely.


Specific Cruising Purposes

Are there non-smoking areas?

Virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking sections in the public rooms. In fact, many dining rooms, and even some entire ships, are now totally smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, just tell your CLIA-affiliated travel agent. On board, in "open-seating situations," you can advise your waiter or the maitre d'.


Can we celebrate a special occasion?

Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of "Happy Whatever" to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, or canapes. You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise your CLIA-affiliated travel agent in advance.


Is cruising right for honeymooners?

Without a doubt. Cruising offers an atmosphere that's just right for romance... cozy dinners for two, strolling on deck at sunset, dancing the night away (even under the stars). Most lines provide special services–from Sunday or Monday departures to champagne and breakfast in bed.  Also, some ships offer special programs for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows. Go to our Cruise Guide For Honeymooners to learn more.


Can singles have fun on a cruise?

Cruising is ideal for people traveling alone, because it's so easy to meet other people. In fact, most ships have parties just for singles–early on, so you can get to know people right away. Many ships even offer gentlemen hosts who can be dance partners, dinner companions or a fourth at cards.

Most ships also have single cabins as well as single rates for double staterooms. If you ask them, many cruise lines will even find you a roommate to share a cabin so you can obtain the per person/double occupancy rate, saving you even more on a great vacation. Our Cruise Guide For Singles has additional information for you.


Special Bookings

Do cruise lines accept group bookings?

Most lines welcome groups–often at special rates, depending on how many people are involved. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes during certain times of the year. Just consult your CLIA-affiliated travel agent for details.


Can I extend my cruise vacation?

Cruise lines feature special pre- or post-cruise hotel packages that allow you to extend your vacation in either your port of embarkation or debarkation.


More Questions

It sounds too good to be true! Is it?

The one major complaint we hear over and over again is that cruises end far too soon! Beyond that, it's hard to find any negatives. All you have to worry about is relaxing and enjoying your vacation. Most importantly, every crew and staff member on board is dedicated to making your cruise the best vacation of your life (until you top it with your next cruise!)


Who should I see if I have questions that haven't been answered?

Just ask us!  Go to our customer service form and ask away or if you prefer, you can call us toll free at 1-877-333-8303.  You can also email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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