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Planning Your Cruise Back to Top
Choosing a cruise line is a personal choice that will depend on your lifestyle, tastes and budget. Take time to understand your options. Browse our website and do some research; our comprehensive cruise line overview will help to point you in the right direction: http://cruises.united.com/promotion/cruising-101.do
A cruise offers unmatched variety, convenience, and fun. Plus, it's more affordable than many land-based vacations. Cruises enable you to visit multiple locations for one low price, without the hassle of coordinating travel details. Your vacation begins the moment you step onboard. And now, many cruises are just a short drive or flight away.
When to Go
Cruises are like any other product; prices depend on supply and demand. The more popular dates, ships and cabins are priced higher and sell out faster. The less flexible you are, the farther ahead you should book. If price is your main priority, then sail between September and December (excluding holiday weeks). Typically during school vacations when families travel, it's a bit more expensive.
The U.S. National Hurricane Service officially designates June 1 to November 30 as hurricane season. The greatest concentration of hurricanes and tropical storms generally tend to be between late August and mid-Octobe. Cruise ships have one great advantage over resorts and tropical islands - they can steer around the weather! A cruise is your best option if you're concerned about weather.
Many Spring Breakers typically opt for a land vacation rather than a cruise, however if you are looking for a more relaxing experience, be aware that in late winter through mid-spring there may be somewhat livelier crowd onboard.
Cruise lines attempt to follow published schedules as closely as possible, yet this is not always feasible. Cruise lines reserve the right to change a scheduled itinerary without prior notice - it's all part of putting safety first. Situations which may call for an itinerary change are weather, mechanical difficulties and political tensions, to name a few. Cruise lines are not legally liable for any loss to guests by cancellation, advancement, deviation, substitution, or postponement. If an itinerary change is necessary, cruise lines may substitute another ship or port of call, and they will always attempt to keep passengers informed of changes.
No, in some instances cruise ships must utilize a tender to transport passengers ashore if the ship is unable to dock directly. While there is no charge for the tender service, mobility impaired customers may experience challenges when trying to take the tender ashore.
Many cruise lines now offer various packages and amenities (at an additional cost) to help you celebrate.
Azamara Club Cruises
Carnival Cruise Lines
Celebrity Cruise Lines
Disney Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line
All passenger staterooms are located well above sea level.
Travel Requirements Back to Top
Passports & Visas
The following information is from the US Department of State website, regarding travel requirements for US Citizens:
If you do not already have a passport, you must apply for one in person. If you have an expired passport, you may be able to renew it through the mail. Please see the following website for specific instructions and information on obtaining a passport: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html
An international trip may require valid travel documents such as, but not limited to:
Every country has its own laws regarding entrance by non-citizens. Please check the specific laws governing the country you are visiting. It is your sole responsibility to obtain all necessary documentation prior to your departure. Regardless of the ticket you purchase, applicable immigration laws apply.
Please note that there is a new United States regulation in effect that requires citizens from some countries to obtain a visa if their flight is stopping over in the US, even if the US is not the final destination.
In addition, citizens from waiver-countries visiting the US should be aware that per the US Department of State, travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must have a machine-readable passport. Any traveler without a machine-readable passport will be required to obtain a visa before coming to the United States.
For more information on US visa regulations visit http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
Please check all appropriate laws for the country you are visiting.
If your middle name appears on your proof of citizenship, you must provide your middle name at time of booking to ensure that the name on your reservation matches your documentation.
Parents of minor children (under 18 years old) must carefully document legal custody prior to traveling.
Yes, and they differ for each cruise line. The age requirement policies are strictly enforced by the cruise lines, and passengers who do not meet the minimum requirement will not be permitted to board. For specific age requirements by cruise line, please click here.
Online registration is a process by which you provide the cruise line with personal information (such as name, date of birth, passport #'s, etc.) for each passenger via the cruise line's secure website. The online registration process is not only a requirement of most cruise lines but also of the Department of Homeland Security. To complete your registration, visit the following link for your specific cruise line:
Getting to the Ship Back to Top
Pre and Post Cruise Flights
At the Port
Booking Your Cruise Back to Top
Earning and Using Miles
Payment Back to Top
Making a Payment
Services Onboard Back to Top
Although many cruise lines do provide cell phone service while at sea, please keep in mind that such services require additional fees, often at rates much more expensive than your normal roaming charges.
Many cruise lines now feature Internet Cafes onboard, where you can surf the Web and send and receive emails. There is a charge for this service, and the per-minute rates vary by cruise line.
Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a fully equipped medical facility and staff to handle medical emergencies.
Many cruise lines offer one or both of these services, sometimes for an additional fee. Click here for a highlight of programs offered.
Both laundry and dry cleaning services are offered by most major cruise lines. Specific instructions and information about fees can be found in your cabin.
Typically, yes. However, most charge considerably high fees for use (in addition to any bank charges).
Medical Concerns Back to Top
The cruise lines require all guests with special medical needs to submit a "special needs" form to them prior to travel. This is to ensure that they have the necessary information to give you the proper care in the event of an emergency. Passengers who carry syringes for medical use must also carry a letter from their physicians indicating this. Please call and speak with our Customer Service Team to obtain the correct forms for submission to the cruise line.
Pregnancy is regarded as a medical condition, and some cruise lines require a medical certificate establishing the passenger's due date and fitness to travel. Additionally, each cruise line has specific policies with regard to how far along in a pregnancy a passenger can be at time of embarkation. Click here for further details.
Accessibility varies from ship to ship, however the newer, larger cruise ships are often a better bet for wheelchair-bound travelers than are older ships. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has put together an excellent reference guide regarding wheelchair accessibility by ship.
Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a fully equipped medical facility and staff to handle medical emergencies.
Yes. Today, virtually all ships have non-smoking and smoking designated areas. Dining rooms on many of the major cruise lines today are totally smoke-free.
Although seasickness is rare on larger cruise ships because they are equipped with stabilizers, if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to consult your physician prior to travel. If you should feel queasy onboard ship, medicine is available from your stateroom steward or the ship's doctor.
Many types of medication may not be readily available either aboard ship or in ports of call. Commonly used medication may be purchased at the office of the ship's doctor.
Please carry any medication in its original bottle. It is recommended that medication be carried on your person or in your carry-on bag so that it will be available when needed, as checked luggage may not be accessible at all times. If you take any prescription drugs, vitamins or other medication on a regular basis, you should bring an adequate supply with you.
Ship Security Back to Top
Yes. To ensure the safety of all cruise ship passengers, pre-cruise security measures have been strengthened in recent years. Passengers can expect to encounter screening measures similar to those used in airports, including metal detectors and examination of photo IDs. In addition, their luggage and carry-on bags may be inspected.
These are commonly referred to as lifeboat drills (or "muster"). Everyone on board the ship is required to be in attendance for a safety drill before departure, to comply with Coast Guard and international safety regulations.
For safety and security reasons, no visitors are allowed onboard.
What to Bring Back to Top
Consider your ship's itinerary when deciding what to pack.
For a typical Caribbean cruise, you'll want to take shorts, skirts or sundresses, pants, blouses, t-shirts, knit tops or polo shirts, and a bathing suit. For cooler days or evenings, pack a sweater or lightweight windbreaker.
For Alaska cruises, sweaters, raincoats, and fleece are also suggested. Bring a pair of sneakers or rubber-soled shoes for deck sports and a swimsuit cover-up for cool areas on the ship.
Keep in mind that when visiting some countries or participating in shore excursions to shrines or religious sites, a more conservative dress code may be in order.
Most cruises will have at least one formal night for dinner. Women generally wear cocktail dresses or gowns, while men can wear a dark suit and tie. Many ships also offer tuxedo rentals.
For casual or semi-formal nights, sport shirts and slacks or button-down shirts and sport coats work for men, while women can wear a dress, pantsuit, or slacks and top.
Generally speaking, there are three types of evening attire: Casual, Smart-Casual or Business-Casual, and Formal.
Casual attire would be dresses or slacks and blouses for women, sport shirts and trousers for men
Smart- or Business-Casual would be dresses or pantsuits for women, jackets for men; and Formal would be long or short cocktail dresses, dark suits or tuxedos for men. That being said, some cruise lines have loosened their dress codes and sometimes allow much more casual dress in the main dining rooms.
On most cruises, a tuxedo is not required, although gentleman should plan on bringing a dark suit in order to attend the formal night(s). If you prefer to dress to the nines, many cruise lines offer tuxedo rentals.
In port and on the ship, you will have many opportunities to enjoy duty free shopping. Depending on your itinerary, there may be a limit to the amount of duty-free merchandise allowed per guest. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, so you will not have to bring much cash (except for some shore side purchases). In fact, it is strongly recommended that you bring a credit card, since it will make your onboard registration very quick and easy. For non-credit card purchases, we encourage you to bring traveler's checks.
Electric razors and hair dryers can be brought with you. Staterooms for most cruise lines are equipped with 110 volts AC and are capable of handling all normal appliances. Some appliances may require the use of an adapter. Keep in mind, cruise lines do not provide irons in your stateroom and they prefer that you do not bring one along, due to the fire hazard. There is often laundry service on board should you need a special outfit ironed.
Dining, Activities & Purchases Back to Top
Beverages & Dining
Non-bottled water, coffee, tea, and juice are generally included in your cruise fare. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included in the cruise fare, and in most cases, a 15% gratuity will be added to your bill when ordering these beverages.
Although most ships travel in International waters, the rule of thumb is that the drinking age aboard ship is contingent upon the drinking age at the Port of Departure. Always check with your Vacation Consultant or Customer Service before sailing if you have any concerns regarding the drinking age.
Yes, many cruise lines offer beverage packages to offset the expense. Click here for further details.
Most cruise lines offer two seatings for the main dining room(s): Main Seating and Late Seating. Dining preferences may be requested at the time of the booking, however no requests are guaranteed. In addition to the traditional seatings, some cruise lines now offer "freestyle" dining. This provides guests with the flexibility to dine when and with whom they wish. Your seating and table assignment will be confirmed at embarkation. For additional details regarding dining options for the various cruise lines, click here.
Yes. For your convenience, in addition to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night buffets in the main dining room(s), many ships also offer complimentary room service and several additional restaurants. If you choose to dine in one of the specialty restaurants onboard, be prepared to pay an extra charge for the meal.
Low-fat and vegetarian entrees are often offered at lunch and dinner. Low-sodium meals, kosher meals, and certain other diet-restricted meals can be made available. Dietary requests should be made at the time of booking to ensure that you are appropriately accommodated.
Suggested gratuities vary between cruise lines as well as stateroom type, and generally range from $10 to $15 per person, per day. Many cruise lines now automatically add gratuities to your shipboard account. With most cruise lines, you will have the option to remove the automatically added gratuities if you are dissatisfied with the level of service provided, or in the event that you wish to tip the staff personally. This is done by visiting the Purser's desk prior to debarkation.
In cases where the gratuities are not automatically added to the shipboard account, the following guidelines are generally suggested by the cruise lines:
Stateroom attendant - $3.50 per person, per day
Head Waiter - $3.50 per person, per day
Assistant waiters - $1.75 per person, per day.
Gratuities for the Headwaiter/Maitre'D and other service personnel are at your discretion.
For your convenience aboard the ship, a 15% gratuity is automatically included on all beverage tabs.
For additional details regarding onboard gratuities specific to your cruise, click here.
Cruising is so much more than just shuffleboard and all-you-can-eat buffets. Today's ships offer activities and entertainment for vacationers of all ages, from toddlers to seniors. Family-friendly ships may feature everything from kids' clubs to teen coffeehouses. Want to unwind? Activities are as diverse as spa treatments, basketball, and casino gambling. At night, you might catch a comedy show, relax in a piano bar, or feast on five-star cuisine. From luxury to adventure, there's a ship to suit your vacation needs.
Cruise lines publish a daily newsletter that lists all of the activities being offered aboard the ship each day. In some cases your cabin steward will leave a copy in your stateroom the night before, and a copy of the bulletin is also always available at the Purser's desk.
Yes. Most cruise lines offer a variety of organized activities for children, as part of the cruise package. These programs are directed and supervised by specially trained staff, and different activities are offered depending upon age group. Age requirements vary between cruise lines, but a child must be toilet trained in order to participate, particularly in pool-related activities. Many cruise lines also offer babysitting services, at an additional cost. For additional details, please click here.
Most cruise lines offer a variety of evening activities, from Las Vegas-style shows to gambling at the casino. You can also choose to dance the night away at the disco, or spend a more quiet evening enjoying a drink and sharing the day's experiences at one of the many lounges on board. These activities will be listed on your onboard newsletter.
Most cruise lines allow you to establish an onboard credit account that permits you to charge purchases to your stateroom. You will need to present a credit card, cash, or traveler's checks to open this account. This can be done at the designated sign-up area onboard the ship, or during the check-in process.
Each cruise ship has its own guidelines regarding hours of operation of the casino and on-board shops. The basic rule of thumb is that shops and the casino are open while you are at sea, however they will be closed while the ship is in port.