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Cruise Tips & Tricks: Cruise Packing Guide, FAQ & More

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What's Included on a Cruise?

Health & Safety Onboard

Popular Cruise Destinations

First Time Cruise Tips

Frequently Asked Questions

Cruise Articles

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What's Included on a Cruise?

With included amenities like meals, activities, and room service, cruises can be much more cost-effective than land-based vacations. Plus, you can visit multiple destinations without extra transportation costs while only unpacking once.

Here’s what you'll typically find included in the rate of your cruise. Please note this varies by cruise line:

Included in Rate Not Included in Rate

Onboard accommodations

Standard meals

Most non-alcoholic drinks (including coffee and tea)

Room service

Onboard activities (pools, waterslides, rock-climbing, and more

Entertainment (onboard stage shows, comedy acts, trivia and more

Children’s activities and clubs

Fitness center

Specialty coffees, sodas and alcoholic beverages

Meals in alternative restaurants

Organized shore excursions

Spa or salon services

Special exercise classes

Casino gaming


Health & Safety Onboard

Cruise lines have been taking extra precautions to ensure your cruise experience is both enjoyable and safe. For information on vaccine requirements, testing, and refund policies implemented by each cruise line, check out our COVID-19 Cruise Guide for Travel.

There is also this handy search tool that can help you find out more about regulations for destinations, and safety and health guidelines.

Popular Cruise Destinations

Where do cruises go? All over the world! Check out some of the most popular cruise travel destinations below:

alaskan mountains


Alaska is one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations, famed for relentlessly beautiful scenery stretching along its icy coastline.

Learn more about Alaska Cruises

people snorkeling in water in bahamas


Experience the total relaxation of a Bahamas cruise, with 700 idyllic islands famed for their stunning beaches and translucent seas.

Learn more about Bahamas Cruises

bright blue waters


Discover the pink sands and and calming beaches of Bermuda on a cruise, the easiest way to discover this history-filled paradise.

Learn more about Bermuda Cruises

pile of orange leaves

Canada & New England

Cruise to Canada’s east coast and down into New England past old-world towns and ultra-modern cities.

Learn more about Canada & New England Cruises

beach with blue waters and palm trees


Caribbean cruises are some of the most popular cruise vacations, and are the easiest way to see several islands in one trip for the best value.

Learn more about Caribbean Cruises

cityscape in Europe with a bridge and water


In just one European cruise, you can experience Nordic hospitality in Oslo, stroll around the Colosseum in Rome or take a shore excursion to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Learn more about European Cruises

palm trees and sands at beach


A Hawaii cruise can take you to the shores of some of the world’s most lush and pristine islands including the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai.

Learn more about Hawaiian Cruises

Famous love arches in Mexico over the water


Mexico cruises offer a sunny getaway year-round, with August and September offering some of the best Mexico cruise deals.

Learn more about Mexico Cruises

First time cruise tips


1. Best time to book a cruise: Wave Season (January–March) is when you'll score the year's top deals, including free perks (like upgrades & onboard credits) and discounted fares.


2. Avoid the queasy stomach: Sensitive to motion sickness? Choose a cabin on a lower deck, mid-ship.


3. Arrive early at the cruise port: Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your ship's departure time. If possible, fly to your embarkation city the night before in case of flight delays.


4. Take advantage of promotions and add-ons: When booking a cruise, look for any reduced rates, free upgrades on dining or beverage packages, free onboard credit, and more. These promotions can be found when selecting a stateroom, or you can chat with a cruise vacation consultant to learn more.


5. Get Onboard Spa Specials: If you're a spa seeker, look for specials on days the ship is in port. You can save up to 25% - a great way to kick-start a vacation!


6. Celebrate special occasions: Celebrating a birthday or anniversary onboard? Preorder flowers, cakes, champagne, and more on your cruise line's website.


7. Check the daily onboard schedule: The ship newsletter is delivered nightly to your cabin. Here, you'll find the next day's entertainment schedule, special events, dinner themes and attire, and other helpful tips.


8. Keep essentials with you on embarkation day: When you hand over your luggage at the dock, it may take a few hours to be delivered to your cabin. Make sure you keep essentials like prescriptions, swimsuits, and sunscreen with you in a separate tote bag or backpack.


9. Plan ahead and make reservations: Popular shore excursions, spa treatments, and tables at specialty restaurants tend to fill up fast, so check your cruise line’s website to see how far in advance these can be booked.



Frequently Asked Questions

Booking your cruise

Life onboard



Booking your cruise

What is the cheapest time to book on a cruise?
Wave Season (January–March) is when you'll score the year's top deals, including free perks (like upgrades & onboard credits) and discounted fares.

Which cabin/stateroom should I book?

All passenger cabins are located above sea level and are classified as one of four categories:

  • Inside cabins are generally the smallest cabins onboard and have no windows, but are a good option if you are on a tight budget.
  • Oceanview cabins include windows or portholes and provide a view of ports visited.
  • Balcony cabins feature an ocean-facing balcony that offers a space to relax that is all your own.
  • Suites are the largest cabins onboard. They have windows and balconies, and offer the most amenities, often including exclusive butler or concierge service, and other special amenities.

What is a Guaranteed Cabin?
Booking a Guaranteed Cabin quickly and easily secures a cabin in your selected category, but your exact room will not be assigned until the time of ship check-in. (Final cabin location, including deck, are at the total discretion of the cruise line.)

What are the best cruise lines for families with kids?
Most ocean cruise lines offer special programs, facilities, and activities based on age, and can often travel at a substantially reduced rate. Keep in mind that some ships also have better facilities than others. Check out this Viewfinder blog to learn more about family-friendly cruises.

What are the best adults-only cruise lines?
River cruise lines such as Virgin Voyages and Viking River Cruises have age restrictions, allowing only guests 18 and older to board. In general, many of the luxury and river cruise lines typically discourage children under the age of 12 onboard. Visit the cruise line pages below to learn more..

Can I cruise alone?
Yes! More cruise lines are offering single-occupancy staterooms with a single bed, making it easier than ever to travel solo – without the extra costs! Visit the cruise line pages below to learn more.

How much are prepaid gratuities and tips?
Over the years cruise lines have adopted minimum service charges or gratuities per day. There are exceptions to this rule, for example special promotions or varying cruise line policies; however, gratuities or service charges are generally added to your shipboard account. Therefore, tipping is not mandatory but of course is appreciated, especially if a crew member has gone above and beyond to make your voyage special.

Do I need insurance?
Travel insurance can give you and your loved ones peace of mind that in the case of an emergency you'll be protected. Whether you're looking for medical coverage in a foreign country or want to protect your belongings, there is an insurance policy that is right for you. If you currently have travel insurance, be sure to understand what is covered and what limitations or exclusions may be listed.

What if I need to cancel my cruise?
Each cruise line has specific cancellation and booking policies. Consult the cruise line’s cancellation and rules pages which can be found here.

Are cruise ship beverage packages and add-ons worth it?
When booking a cruise, add-ons like shore excursions, internet access, spa treatments, and drink packages can save you lots of money. These add-ons are also sometimes included as part of a promotion which can be found selecting a stateroom during cruise booking, or you can chat with a cruise vacation consultant to learn more.
Keep in mind that most drinks besides basic tea, coffee and tap water are not included in the rate of your cruise, which is why a beverage package can be a good deal, and adds extra convenience to your cruise. You can choose between a variety of alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverage packages which vary in price depending on the cruise line.

How do I book shore excursions?
While doing your online registration with the cruise line, they will provide you with information about shore excursions (including photos, video clips, excursion difficulty, duration, and cost). If the cruise line does not allow you to book an excursion online ahead of time, or if you choose not to, you can book onboard at the ship's shore excursion desk. Book early for the best selection, as some excursions sell out quickly. If you're up for it, you can also plan and organize your own shore excursion. Check out our Do-It-Yourself Cruise Excursion Guide to learn more.

Will I get seasick or claustrophobic on the ship?
Today’s cruise ships are built to minimize the rolling feeling that passengers may experience due to waves or wind. However, if you experience motion sickness, choose a stateroom towards the center of the ship where ship movement is less pronounced. A balcony stateroom will also allow you to access fresh air when needed.
Check out this Viewfinder blog to learn about five common myths about cruising.

Life onboard

What should I pack?

  • Documents: Be sure to pack your passport and required travel documents.
  • Electronics: For items requiring electrical-outlet usage, such as hair dryers or cell phone chargers, note that most cabins are equipped with U.S. standard 110-volt outlets. Some cabins are also equipped with European standard 220-volt outlets. Check with your cruise line about which electronic devices are prohibited onboard.
  • Clothing: Pack with both your destination's climate and the cruise ship's dress code in mind. For Alaska, bring protective rain coverings. For the Caribbean, bring plenty of light, airy clothing and sunscreen. Be sure to pack some formal attire if your ship has formal nights. If you forget anything, that's OK; most ships have casual dining venues, and some ships also have formal wear rental shops.
  • Prohibited Items: The following items are not permitted onboard: firearms, weapons of any kind, irons, candles, explosives, or animals (except service animals with permission from the cruise line).

What is the embarkation and disembarkation process?
Embarkation begins when you start to board the ship. You can usually board the ship 3–4 hours before departure. All passengers must be onboard at least 60–90 minutes prior to departure. Check the individual cruise line's policies for final boarding times, and required documentation to board.
Disembarkation can take 2–3 hours. Please allow plenty of time to disembark the ship, go through customs, and get to the airport in time for check-in. We suggest you schedule your return flight to depart a minimum of 6 hours after you're scheduled to arrive in port.

How does onboard dining work?
Aboard most ships, guests will find a variety of dining choices available. Buffets are a popular casual dining option, and depending on the cruise line, are available 24 hours a day on your ship. Main Dining Rooms provide a more formal dining experience with rotating menus daily. This often includes set dining times such as "early dining", "late dining", or "anytime dining" which allows flexibility of dining preferences. For an added fee, you can also experience a variety of specialty restaurants and bars offering a variety of cruisines.

Is there WiFi and Internet onboard a cruise?
Most ships offer WiFi packages (for a fee) as well as Internet cafés onboard. Remember, Internet access at sea is not going to be as fast or reliable as land connections, and therefore may not be available at all times. For a faster connection, use the Internet at night or in port when other guests are ashore. For more details, check out the ship features on your cruise line's website.

Is laundry available onboard?
Laundry and dry-cleaning services are offered by most major cruise lines. Information about the service fees and procedures can be found in your cabin.

Can I smoke onboard?
In general, smoking is usually prohibited in exterior public spaces as well as indoors. You can check with your Cruise Consultant, cruise line or your specific cruise ship about their smoking policy, as well as the location of any designated smoking areas.

Can I bring alcohol onboard?
In general, most cruise lines do not allow you to bring alcohol onboard. If you buy alcohol as a souvenir at the ports of call, your cruise line may store them for you until the end of your vacation.

Cruise Articles

packing for a cruise


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passenger looking at Roatan from cruise ship balcony


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The Caribbean is calling! Find the answers to the most commonly asked questions before going on your next Caribbean cruise.

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cruise ship sailing away


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