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With so many offers about, there's never been a better time to try your first cruise holiday.

Research shows that not only are cruises much more affordable than they were in the past, they also offer better value than land-based holidays because all food and entertainment is included in the price.

With so many different destinations and types of ship available, first time cruisers may think it will be difficult to find a cruise that's right for them - and to 'learn the ropes' once they climb aboard. We hope that you will find in our site answers to your questions, otherwise please do not hesitate to contact us for a friendly chat.

  • how long is a cruise?
  • are all ships much the same?
  • aren't cruises for the retired?
  • aren't cruises expensive?
  • what is included in the price of the cruise?
  • do I need to tip? If so, how much?
  • are there different classes of service?
  • picking the right cabin
  • do I need a passport?
  • what should I pack?
  • will I need a tuxedo?
  • will I get bored?
  • what is a port-of-call?
  • do I have to participate in the activities?
  • what about kids?
  • travelling alone
  • is cruising safe?
  • will I get seasick?
  • are medical services available?
  • is cruising right for honeymooners?
  • can we celebrate a special occasion?
  • are cruises romantic?
  • can we stay in touch with the outside world?
  • can I get / send e-mails?
  • are there laundry services aboard ship?
  • do cruise lines accept group bookings?
  • are there meeting rooms onboard?
  •  

    How long is a cruise?

    Cruises range from two nights to more than 106 nights, but most people end up picking a total holiday duration of between seven and twenty three days; the actual nights at sea most frequently chosen usually ranges from seven to sixteen.

    The length of cruise is greatly, influenced by destination. For example, it would be futile to fly all the way from London to the bottom of Argentina to pick up a three day cruise to Antarctica, so cruises there tend to be ten to fourteen nights at sea. As Caribbean cruises are much easier to get to, the choice of duration is much greater. How long you cruise for is ultimately influenced by family needs, the amount of time you can be away from home and your budget.

    Are all ships much the same?

    No. They can be anything from 200 to 950 feet in length and from 1,000 tons to over 140,000 tons carrying anywhere between 95 and 3,900 passengers.

    The atmosphere ranges from the casual to the formal. The nationality of the ship and the brochure fare are usually the best initial indicator.

    Aren't cruises for the retired?

    No. The average age of a cruiser in Europe is around 54 years of age, but on a worldwide basis only 45 years. It is true that older or retired people (i.e. those who have the time) tend to be the passengers on longer sailings such as a World cruise, but on cruises of one to three weeks in length in Europe or the Americas, you'll find adult cruisers from 20 years upwards. As a matter of fact 32% of all cabins booked in the Caribbean last year were for families traveling with children.

    Aren't cruises expensive?

    When breaking down the cost of your holiday to a per night amount, it is surprisingly cost effective. When you compare what is included in the price, a cruise holiday is great value for money. You can eat whenever you want, enjoy the theatre, go to a casino, listen to live entertainment and not have to pay cover charges, drink minimums or taxi fare. Plus you have the added feature of visiting more than one destination, and only having to unpack and pack once.

    What is included in the price of the cruise?

    Just about everything! All your meals are included (and there are usually about 7 or 8 per day from which to choose), all accommodations, all shipboard entertainment, all taxes and in some cases your airfare and ground transportation to and from the port is included.

    You must pay for extras such as liquor, shore excursions, gratuities, photos, incidentals, gambling, etc.

    Do I need to tip? If so, how much?

    Tipping is up to you. Generally speaking, 4.00 to 10.00 per day/per person should take care of your waiter, bus boy and cabin steward. Other ship personnel can be tipped at your discretion. There are a few cruise lines that have a "no tipping" policy.

    Are there different classes of service?

    There used to be in the days of the liner, but today all ships are one-class except the world's greatest and sole surviving liner, the QE2, which celebrated its 30th birthday recently. One-class means that all passengers can avail themselves of all the facilities aboard ship and are in no way restricted from using others on the grounds of the type of cabin booked.

    Picking the right cabin

    Your budget and where you are planning to cruise has a bearing on the cabin you choose.

    On a warm weather cruise such as those in the Caribbean, many passengers feel that an inside cabin with air conditioning is all they want, with a different port more or less every day, they reckon on spending little more than sleeping hours there.

    For others, seeing the horizon is a must, so they would take an outside cabin on the same sort of cruise.

    Whether inside or outside is strictly a matter of personal choice, ultimately. There is no right or wrong. Some choose to travel as often as they can, so pick the cheapest cabin they can get on the right ship for them. Different travellers feel the need for greater space, so pick cabins with balconies, others pick suites.

    Do I need a passport?

    This depends on the type of cruise and your destination. Regardless, you will need some proof of citizenship, which can be a birth certificate, drivers' license or passport. Prior to your departure, you will receive an Information Pack outlining all of the required documents. Because a passport can take several weeks to process, especially if it's the first one, you should begin that process immediately. It never hurts to have a valid passport on hand to take advantage of those last minute bargains.

    What should I pack?

    Your destination, and the weather at the time year you visit, have a great bearing on what clothes to pack for 'outside'. 'Inside' the dress code by day on all ships is casual - though shorts and swim wear are seldom allowed in restaurants. By night, informal means shirt and jacket, formal means jacket and tie or dinner jacket. The brochure of the cruise you choose, and the tips for travellers sent out by the operator ahead of your tickets will help you plan what to pack.

    Men should always pack one dark suit which will usually suffice even on "formal night." If you need a tuxedo we recommend that you hire one either on board the ship (most ships offer this service) or from a company that specialises in cruise hire, as  - it avoids having to carry all that "extra baggage".

    Ladies can take cocktail dresses or a full length formal dress.

    There are usually 1 to 2 formal nights on a 7 night cruise, only 1 on 3 & 4 night cruises. The rest of the time is typically very casual. Even on "non-formal" nights, men should wear a collared shirt to dinner and slacks or skirts for the ladies.

    Will I need a tuxedo?

    Possibly. Again, check the requirements of the cruise. On some ships, 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 up, we recommend that you hire one either on board the ship (most ships offer this service) or from a company that specialises in cruise hire.

    Will I get bored?

    Today's cruise liners are modern resorts in themselves. For quiet moments choose the library, card rooms lounges and deck areas. For energetic pursuits visit the spas, jacuzzis, pools, gyms and sports decks. For your entertainment, other than in-cabin TV, videos and music, there's the nightclub and casino, there's dancing to the ship's band or orchestra, concerts, cinema cabaret shows, guest lectures, floor-shows, demonstrations and 'educational' activities (one of most popular free options on many cruises is learning about computers - and the Internet in particular). On top of these you get marvellous scenery, life at sea, fine cuisine and service, port lectures and new places to visit. If you're bored with all this choice, maybe a cruise is not for you after all!

    What is a port-of-call?

    When the ship docks in a port other than the originating port, it's called a port-of-call. Passengers generally have the option to leave the ship during this time, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days.

    There is so much to do during a port-of-call, that you'll have a hard time choosing where to start!

    For instance, if you're in Nassau, you can explore on your own or take a guided tour. In the Cancun, search ancient Mayan ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. In Alaska, you can ride a raft over river rapids or cycle down the side of a 12,000-foot volcano.

    But wait, there's more! You can ride a horse across miles of hills and beaches, or scale a waterfall or pyramid, follow the footsteps of history or have the wind in your face as you trail in the wake of a water-skiing boat, learn how to windsurf, sun and swim at some of the world's best beaches. Or you can try catching a record marling, or sail, snorkel or scuba dive, or take a cable car to the top of a mountain. You can even explore dark catacombs. And if that's not enough, and IF there's still time, you can play golf or tennis!

    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.

    Do I have to participate in the activities?

    Absolutely not! On a cruise, you can choose to do as much as you want, as little as you want, or nothing at all. It's your holiday!

    What about kids?

    Many ships have year round programs for children of all ages, with fully trained child counsellors and nursery nurses onboard. Activities range from ship to ship.

    Travelling alone

    A cruise is an ideal environment for single travellers. At meals you will never feel alone, and have the opportunity to meet new friends and travelling companions. On most ships all passengers are assigned to tables for dinner, a process carried out by experienced restaurant managers. They try to mix people by age, gender and background and in no small way contribute to making solo travellers feel at ease. More solo women travel on cruises than men, so there are always plenty of would-be dance partners. With gentleman hosts on many liners, solo lady travellers can enjoy dancing, a game of cards, a chat and a liqueur with well groomed, likeable men without any complications.

    Is cruising safe?

    Yes. Modern cruise ships are built to exacting standards regulated by international convention to ensure Your safety. As a cruise ship is a self-contained world, a cruise vacation is one of the few occasions when treasured pieces of jewellry can be worn and when you can stroll around after dark without fear of interference.

    Will I get seasick?

    All modern cruise ships and most built since the late 1960's, have stabilisers that help reduce the motion of the sea in inclement weather. There is a school of thought that motion sickness is mainly 'in the mind'. If you are convinced you are going to suffer from it, seek help from your chemist or doctor before you go; they can furnish you with a course of tablets or give you a patch to wear behind your ear. You can also buy a bracelet, known as a Sea-Band that applies pressure to your wrist-but does have the odd side effect. Don't forget, if you are feeling poorly during your cruise, the ship's medical team will always administer a prescribed injection.

    Are medical services available?

    Virtually every major cruise ship will have a staffed medical facility to handle emergencies. If you suffer from a medical condition, check with your travel company before booking to make sure the ship on which you are cruising can handle your condition.

    Is cruising right for honeymooners?

    Cruising is the holiday of choice among newlyweds, offering an atmosphere that's just right for romance - cozy dinners for two, strolling on the deck at sunset or dancing the night away.

    Most cruiselines provide special services -- from Sunday or Monday departures, to welcome baskets of champagne and breakfast in bed.

    And if getting married at sea is part of your dream, some cruiselines offer special programmes for performing a marriage ceremony or renewing your marriage vows.

    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 canapé...you can even arrange for a special private party, for an extra fee. All you have to do is advise us in advance, and verify the arrangements with the concierge or pursers' office once on the ship.

    Are cruises romantic?

    The real answer is. 'they can be, if you want them to be.' Perhaps it's the wind in your hair, the smell of the ocean, the twinkle of stars in the sky as you stroll round the prom deck after dark and the heady mix of fine food and service, and the pleasure of having almost no responsibilities. To others, the romance is not of people, but of parts of the world that are rich in history, scenery or wildlife. Yes, cruise holidays certainly engender a little romance and are becoming an ever more popular honeymoon destination as well as the perfect place to celebrate an important birthday or anniversary.

    Can we stay in touch with the outside world?

    Staterooms are generally equipped with televisions featuring channels like CNN and ESPN, offering a plethora of worldwide sports and news events. And depending upon your proximity to land during the cruise, newspapers are often delivered to the ships by helicopters, available for your morning meals.

    Generally, there are telephones in all passenger cabins, accepting incoming calls as well as allowing outgoing calls. Fax machines are almost always available somewhere on the ship. Additionally, you can make telephone calls from most ports. Mobile phone coverage will depend upon your carrier.

    After you book your cruise, your documents package will include detailed information about how friends and relatives can contact you onboard the ship during your cruise - often including direct dial (to your room) instructions. In many respects, you will find your stateroom to be no different to a quality landside hotel room - complete with all the amenities.

    Can I get / send e-mails while onboard the ship?

    Many of the newer ships do have a business center complete with computers connected to the Internet. Some charge as little at £10 an hour for computer time and you can get your e-mail using Microsoft HotMail or Yahoo Mail or other webmail service providers. Check with your cruise line for availability of these services.

    If you have a laptop onboard, you can make a ship-to-shore call to dial into your Internet provider, but it can get very expensive.

    Are there laundry services aboard ship?

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

    Do cruise lines accept group bookings?

    Most lines will work with groups - often at discounted rates - depending on how many people are involved. Policies vary from company to company and sometimes during certain times of the year.

    Are there meeting rooms onboard?

    Just about every full-size ship has public rooms to offer as meeting space for groups. If you'd like to make such arrangements, ask your travel agent to contact the cruise line's group sales department to co-ordinate schedules and arrange for any catering needs. Your ship may also be able to offer audio-visual equipment.

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