All about cruising

Cruises can be as long or short as you choose. The most popular lengths are 7 to 14 days but itineraries range from two days to 112 days and can vary among long days at sea, short trips to nearby destinations, or more port-intensive trips.

Specialty or Theme Cruises are directed geared towards people with similar interests or demographics. One of the best known is Disney Cruise Lines. Like everything Disney does these are excellent, beautiful ships with themed rooms and activities. A floating dream to parents and small children and the ship to hell for everybody else. Specialty cruises can be created for small groups with a specialty guild with a specific itinerary.   “Sober at Sea” and “No-Booze Cruise” are theme cruises which allow people to mingle and meet others with similar interests.

Deposits are required and are generally due within five days after you’ve made your reservation. Final payment is generally due  prior to departure depending on the cruise you have booked, although some cruise lines have different final payment date requirements. Check with your travel consultant to understand your best options.

Documentation U.S. government security regulations require cruise ships to submit certain guest information to law enforcement authorities at least 60 minutes prior to departure. To meet this requirement, the ships must have the necessary information in our records at least 90 minutes prior to departure. If they do not have your information by this deadline, you will be unable to sail. Most cruise lines have the option to complete a pre-boarding check-in process before leaving home and I strongly encourage them to take advantage. If you wait to check in at the terminal you risk being unable to board even if you arrive at the terminal before the vessel leaves. I recommend  all travelers carry a passport that is valid  beyond the date of your travel. Having a passport will enable you to fly from the U.S. to a foreign port in the event you miss your ship.
Travel document requirements vary based on cruise itinerary and whether international flights are required. For voyages that are scheduled to end outside the U.S., a passport that is valid for six months beyond the completion date of your travel is required. Passports or Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant documents are required for cruises to Alaska, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico and the Panama Canal. U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 16 and above may present one of the following valid WHTI-compliant documents:
• Passport (recommended travel document) (valid for travel by air, land and sea)
• Passport Card (valid for land and sea border crossings only)
• State Issued Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – (valid for land and sea border crossings only)*
• Other documents approved by the Department of Homeland Security
For a list of approved documents visit: travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go/checklist.htm

Being at sea gives you a feeling of total freedom that no land-based resort can offer.  There are wide open decks and endless panoramic views. Many of the better ships have abundant spacious private verandas and large stateroom choices.  you get the added adventure of exploring many exciting ports of call, often a new one practically every day of the trip.

What can I do in port?  You can explore on your own or take a guided tour (referred to as shore excursions). Most cruise lines offers a wide variety of shore excursions to fit your lifestyle, ranging from easygoing activities to high adventure. Search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids or a horse across hills and beaches. Climb a mountain or a pyramid. Or sun and swim at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Once you have booked your cruise, talk with your travel consultant who can easily book your shore excursions online; book early for the best selection.

Before you go CHECKLIST:

*Be sure to bring proper proof of citizenship, picture ID, visas (if applicable) and proof of any applicable immunizations.

*Keep your identification, travel documents, medication, jewelry, camera, film, cash and other valuables with you in your carry-on bag and will be available at all times. I never bring valuable jewelry – It is too easy to loose or have stolen. Thieves love to grab your goodies since it is highly unlikely you will every come back to testify against them.

*When you get to your destination you want to start to have fun. Tuck a quick change of clothes in your carry on in case your baggage is delayed. What is the first thing you will want to wear? A swim-suit & shorts, sun dress?   And always an extra tooth-brush and hair brush.

*Bring your travel and health insurance information and have it handy at all times. Also, pack enough medication sufficient for the duration of the cruise/cruise tour. Keep it with you at all times and remember to leave all medication in its original container. If you run out there is a possibility of getting a partial refill if you have the original container.  It is also a good idea to bring your prescription for eye glasses or contacts.
*Leave copies of your passport, electronic airline tickets, traveler checks and any credit cards you plan to use with a family member or trusted friend.  I include my itinerary and emergency onboard contact.

*Inform your bank or credit card company that you are traveling abroad to avoid any challenges with using your credit card on the cruise. I bought a magazine in Seattle, coffee and snacks in Chicago and when I plane landed in Florida my credit card company had shut it off for security reasons.
*Tape a card with your name and address inside your baggage as well as on the outside.
*Have the post office hold your mail. Also, stop your newspaper delivery or have a friend or neighbor take them in for you. I hire a neighborhood girl to come over and hang out for an hour or so each day. She’s old enough to be responsible to lock the door yet young enough to find it exciting to watch tv away from her family. I like the sense of security I get from knowing somebody is in my house daily and it looks lived in.

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