Cruises are a fun way to explore the world, but they involve a lot of precise planning. Make sure you have the best trip by asking all the right questions when booking your next cruise. Cruises can be expensive, so whether you are booking a first-time cruise or have cruised before, it's important to ask questions about what the cruise will entail.
Basic Cruise Ship Questions
Vacation Travel Planner Andy Lyon of Cruise Brothers says there are tons of questions travelers should be asking before booking a cruise. It's important to understand all the details of your trip so you can relax and enjoy your vacation at sea. Some simple questions you'll want to ask first include:
- How big is the cruise ship?
- How many passengers can it hold?
- Is the cruise line reputable?
- Does this specific cruise have good reviews?
- How often does this specific cruise run?
Questions About Costs and Fees
"Budget is one of the biggest considerations when booking a cruise," says Lyon. Since each cruise line and cruise schedule is different, you'll want to make sure you fully understand all the costs before booking. Ask:
- What fees are included in the cruise fare?
- What additional fees will be added onto the cruise cost?
- Is the listed cabin price per person or per room?
- Are there discounts for kids, seniors, veterans, AAA members, etc.?
- Which expenses include tips automatically?
- What forms of payment can I use on the cruise?
Room and Board Considerations
Ask specific questions about the cabin you are booking to ensure you will have enough space and pack accordingly. Lyon suggests: "It's a good idea to put a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage is delayed getting to your cabin." Room and board questions to ask include:
- How many beds are in the cabin and what sizes?
- Are there options to change the bed sizes?
- How much storage room is there in the cabin?
- Does the cabin come stocked with linens or do I need to bring my own?
- Are there laundry services available on the ship?
Questions About Meals and Food
On many ships basic meals are included in your fare, but there are options to pay more for specialty dining. Check if any meal or drink packages are available for pre-purchase. Ask about:
- How many meals are free?
- Are there options to pay for meal upgrades?
- Should I make special meal arrangements now?
- Do you accommodate for special diets?
- Can I bring my own food onto the ship?
- Is alcohol allowed on the ship?
Questions About Entertainment
"Anything from The Cat in the Hat to Grease" might be offered on the ship, shares Lyon. Consider your traveling companions and their preferences, then ask about the options that fit these desires. Ask entertainment questions like:
- What age group is the cruise geared toward?
- Are there age restrictions for any of the attractions or events?
- Do I have to pay extra to attend certain events?
- Do I need to buy an advanced ticket to attend a show?
- Does the ship offer formal events we need specific attire for?
- Is there free internet available on board?
Once you have selected a destination and booked your cruise, start looking at your options for excursions on shore. If you wait until you get on the ship, many of these extra experiences will already be full. Ask:
- How many stops will the cruise make?
- How much time will I have to spend exploring on land?
- Can I book my excursions now, or do I have to wait until I'm on the ship?
- If I change my mind about an excursion, can I cancel it and get a refund?
- Where can I find additional information about each excursion to make sure it is safe?
- What happens if I don't make it back to the ship before departure time?
Group Travel Considerations
Cruises are a great way to travel with family and friends or a small company incentive group. You can usually find good discounts for groups as small as five cabins. Consider asking the following:
- Can all members of our party book together at the same time?
- Will we be guaranteed rooms next to each other?
- Do we have to all participate in the same meals and excursions?
- Is there a discount for booking as a group?
- Can we schedule special activities that are only open to our group?
Safety and Medical Concerns
Lyon's biggest safety warning is that "most people don't know as soon as they leave the harbor their health insurance is no good." Most health insurance plans don't cover medical expenses administered on the ship or at international ports. You'll need to purchase special cruise insurance through a travel agent or the cruise line. Make sure you have all the information you need to be taken care of in the case of an emergency on your trip.
- What type of safety equipment is on the boat?
- Does my health insurance cover medical expenses on the trip?
- What documents might I need to bring?
- Do the on-board pools have lifeguards on duty?
- Are there medical professionals on board in case of emergency?
- Can I bring prescription medications on the cruise?
Ask Now, Enjoy Later
Learning all you can at the time of booking can ensure your cruise experience is top notch. Try imagining each aspect of every day on your trip to make sure you've covered all your questions before you ever step foot on a ship.