Cruise FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Cabin | Dress Code | Cruise Lingo | Medical | Tipping | Alcohol | Shore Excursions | Dining | Entertainment | Other

1. Cabin

Q: Is there a hairdryer in the cabin?

A: Yes, every cabin comes equipped with a hairdryer. Ask your room steward if you can’t find one in your cabin. Remember that most hair dryers are lower wattage and may not be as powerful as the one you have at home. Also, they are typically just one speed and heat level, so if you need varying options or have thick hair, consider bringing one from home.

Q: Can I bring my hairdryer and curling/flat iron?

A: Yes, you are welcome to bring your own. All cruise ship cabins have at least one (if not more) 110v outlet where you can use your hairdryer, curling iron, flat iron, or any other compatible and approved appliance.

Q: What is the drawstring line in the shower?

A: The mystery for many is the round metal end on the shower wall with a string that pulls out. That is a clothesline. Simply pull the line out and attach it to the opposite side of the shower wall to create a line for drying bathing suits or other apparel.

Q: How do we iron clothes?

A: Cruise ships typically do not allow travel irons or steamers onboard. Some ships may have an iron set up in an onboard laundry room, but typically that is only on ships that sail longer voyages.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser works well with a few quick sprays when unpacking to remove light wrinkles and freshen clothes. Try a curling or hair flat iron for tougher wrinkles if you have one, or hang it on the back of the bathroom door while showering to let the steam work its magic.

Q: How many electrical outlets are in a cabin and bathroom?

A: Depends on the ship’s age - newer ships will have at least two if not 3 or 4 110v outlets in a cabin and a few USB charging ports - typically one on the desk/vanity area in the cabin and each side of the bed.

Older ships may only have one or two 110v and one or two 220v outlets in a cabin and no USB ports. In that case, you may need a power strip, which you can ask your room steward for one of you can purchase a non-surge to take with you, so you have one for future travel.

Tip: We suggest this non-surge power strip with USB ports.

Q: Is the “shaver only” outlet in the bathroom just for electric shavers?

A: Yes! Please do not use a hairdryer or other devices in this outlet, as you risk causing a breaker to fail/blow. Shavers only require minimal power, whereas hair dryers are much more powerful and use more electricity.

2. Dress Code

Q. How dressy is “Dress to Impress” or “Dress Your Best,” and what do they mean exactly?

A: Dress code suggestion is always subjective, but dressy/formal nights are typically called Dress to Impress or Dress Your Best. Depending on the cruise line, length of cruise, and destination, you will see a large variety of passengers dressed in anything from tuxedos and gowns to sport shirts with khakis and capris with a blouse. Typically these designated nights, most passengers put in extra effort to look nicer and wear their best outfits.

On luxury and more upscale cruise lines, you will see more tuxedos, dark suits for men and gowns, or nice dresses for ladies. More contemporary cruise lines will have a broader spectrum, but typically men in a sport coat or nice collared shirt with dress pants and ladies in a dress or dressy pantsuit.

Remember that this dress code is for the main dining room and specialty restaurants. Almost every cruise line will offer casual dining for those looking to stay in their ready-to-wear. Be sure to consult their daily onboard program for casual dining options available.

Q: Can I wear shorts at night?

A: Yes, but you may be restricted to certain areas of the ship that institute a dress code for the evening. For example, the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants do not allow shorts for dinner. However, casual dining is available at the buffet, and sometimes the pool grill will be open for burgers and pizza in the evening. Be sure to consult the onboarded program for casual dining options available.

Q: Can I wear flip-flops/sandals to dinner?

A: This falls under the same category as the question above on shorts at night. The main dining room and specialty restaurant advise men to wear closed-toe shoes, and ladies should wear evening sandals or shoes. So basically, if you wear it to the beach or pool, it’s probably inappropriate to wear it in the evening unless you opt for a casual dining venue.

3. Cruise Lingo

Q: What do the terms forward, aft, port, and starboard mean?

A: These terms refer to a portion of the ship based on the bow being the reference point.

Forward - Front of the ship
Aft - Rear or back of the ship
Port - Left side of the ship when looking forward or the direction of the bow
Starboard - Right side of the ship when looking forward or the direction of the bow
Tip: Easy way to remember port = left is that each word has four letters<

Q: What are some other standard cruise terms I need to know?

A: There are quite a few nautical and cruise terms to be familiar with, such as

Cabin - also known as a room; all cabins include a private bathroom (aka ensuite)
Dock - where the ship ties up in a port
Galley - the ship’s kitchen where all the meals are prepared; there may be one main galley and several smaller ones for the specialty restaurants and buffets
MDR - Main Dining Room where breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served
Verandah cabin - refers to a cabin that includes a private balcony, aka verandah!

4. Medical

Q: Will I get seasick on a cruise?

A: Maybe. You may get seasick if you are sensitive to motion in a car or other vehicles. Before you leave, purchase over-the-counter remedies such as Bonine, Dramamine, motion sickness patches, or pressure-point wristbands.

If you get seasick unexpectedly and don’t have any of the above remedies on hand, try eating anything with ginger in it, as it’s a natural way to settle an unhappy stomach. Drinking ginger ale or eating pickled ginger are two easy sources of ginger to find on a cruise ship. Also, crackers may help, and eating small meals more often will lessen the effects of seasickness.

For more severe cases, a medical facility is on board where you can get anti-nausea medication. This can be a pricey option but well worth it for anyone suffering from seasickness.

Q: What happens if I have a medical emergency?

A: Every ship has an onboard fully equipped medical facility and a doctor and nurses. While they can treat most minor injuries and illnesses, there are occasions when passengers will need to be moved to a shoreside hospital as quickly as possible. If the ship is docked in port, an ambulance or taxi may be summoned for the transfer. While at sea, a helicopter is most commonly used, airlifting the passenger.

No matter the extent of the illness or injury, it’s advisable always to have travel insurance that includes trip interruption, delay, and medical evacuation. Not only will insurance reimburse the cost of the transfer and most, if not all, of the medical bills, but it will also refund the unused portion of your vacation. Additionally, most insurance will cover the cost of hotels, transfers, and meals for your traveling companion should they leave the ship with you and stay shoreside. Travel insurance will also coordinate with your medical provider to arrange transportation back to your home city.

5. Tipping

Q: Do we have to tip?

A: Tipping is suggested and highly encouraged as that is how the crew makes their money. Most cruise lines have gone to a daily recommended gratuity that is automatically charged to onboard accounts. Gratuities can be adjusted at the customer service desk as needed based on the service experience. If anyone offers exceptional service, such as a cabin steward, bartender, or other onboard personnel, you should show your appreciation via cash directly to that individual.

Q: When do we tip?

A: Tipping can be done at any time you deem appropriate. For example, many will tip their room steward or bartender at the beginning of the cruise as an incentive or thank you for requests made early in the voyage. Others prefer to tip at the end of the cruise as a thank you for the overall experience. If anyone goes above and beyond during the cruise, showing appreciation at that time would be appropriate. For example, a Matre D confirms your reservation when the restaurant is otherwise booked.

Q: Who do we tip?

A: Most cruise lines have taken the guesswork out of it by including a charge to your shipboard account or including it in your cruise fare. In those cases, you don’t need to tip anyone unless you want to show appreciation for those that have gone above and beyond to serve you during the cruise. As mentioned above, this could be your cabin steward, particularly if you are messy. Gratuities could also be considered for the bartender you frequently visited or other onboard personnel who provided outstanding service making your vacation even more enjoyable.


6. Alcohol

Q: Can I take alcohol onboard?

A: NO! The cruise lines do not allow any alcohol to be brought onto the ship except wine (see question below). If you purchase alcohol at a store in a port of call, you will have to check it in with security when you re-board the ship, and it will be delivered to your cabin the night before disembarkation.

Ok, now that we’ve told you the cruise lines rule, the real answer is definitely maybe, sort of yes. We have heard from some cruisers that they could get their preferred spirits onboard using fake shampoo bottles. While we don’t endorse this, and there is still a risk that security may open the bottles to check them, we have it on good authority that these have a pretty high success rate.

Q: Can I take wine onboard?

A: In most cases, you can bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom. Be sure to check with your cruise line to verify their policy and if there is a charge for a corkage fee. Typically, if consumed in the cabin, there is no charge, but if you take the bottle to the dining room or specialty restaurant, expect to pay a fee.

Q: How much is the beverage package?

A: The beverage package cost varies by cruise line, destination, and length of sailing, but on average, expect to pay about $60 per person per day for a standard package. Most cruise lines offer an upgraded package with more brands, specialty drinks, or higher per-drink costs allowed. The typical upgrade package is around $75 per person per day.

Some cruise lines such as Carnival, Holland America, and Princess limit their drink packages to 15 max daily. Anything beyond the covered 15 is charged a la carte. If all 15 drinks are not used in a day, there is no rollover of the balance to the next’s drink it or lose it.

7. Shore Excursions

Q: What can I do in port?

A: Most ports offer a variety of experiences, from shopping to a city tour, hiking, biking, beaches, snorkeling/scuba diving, exploring historical sites, and much more. Cruise lines offer a variety of shore excursions for each port of call, so it should be relatively easy to find something of interest. Additionally, third-party companies such as Shore Excursion Group offer shore excursions and often are less expensive than the cruise lines directly or include additional services.

We recommend reviewing the tips from members who have previously visited the ports your sailing stops in. Also, check out reviews from ports around the world.

Q: What happens if I’m late back to the ship?

A: If you are on your own or purchased an excursion directly from a vendor at the port, make sure you are back at the ship with plenty of time to spare. If you are late, the ship won’t wait for you, and you don’t want to end up a pier runner.

However, the ship will wait if you purchase your excursion through the cruise line or a reputable third party that guarantees your return to the ship, such as Shore Excursion Group. In extreme cases where the excursion is delayed beyond a reasonable time (weather, landslide, flood, etc.), the excursion company will work with the cruise line to get you to the next port of call. While this extreme measure can happen, it’s very rare. If bad weather is forecasted and/or there is any danger, shore excursions will cancel rather than take a risk.

The bottom line is to leave plenty of extra time to get back to the ship, as you never know what can happen. Also, purchase your excursions from the cruise line or third party that guarantees a return to the ship.

8. Dining

Q: What dining is included, and what is an extra charge?

A: All ships include a seemingly endless array of included options from the main dining room to the buffet, poolside burgers, pizza, and more. Each ship will publish (on paper or via an app) their daily activities and dining schedule. With all the options available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there will surely be an option to please even the pickiest eaters.

Venues that charge additional fees are noted, and these specialty restaurants are typically sushi, a steakhouse, a French bistro, or any other upscale dining experience. Watch for the available promotions when you book your cruise, as free specialty dining is often included. Additionally, certain cabin categories may come with specialty dining as a perk. For example, the Neptune and Pinnacle suites onboard Holland America can dine at The Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind, or Canaletto once during the voyage.

Luxury lines such as Seabourn, Crystal, and others include specialty dining in the cost of the cruise and ask that you only dine once per seven days in each specialty restaurant to give all passengers onboard the opportunity to experience it as well.

9. Entertainment

Q: Is there a charge for the shows?

A: Typically, there is no additional charge for the shows and entertainment onboard a cruise. All of the entertainment options are included in your cruise fare. Should there be a charge, the cruise line will advise of the cost before the show.

With some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, you may need to make a reservation in advance, but there is no charge to attend the show.

Q: What do I have to pay extra for?

A: It depends on the cruise line and the activity. If there is a charge, it will be noted in the onboard program. Expect to pay extra for things like the FlowRider and Rock Climbing onboard Royal Caribbean and the Speedway go-cart track on Norwegian Cruise Line. For some cruise lines, the new water slides have a nominal charge as well, or in some cases, you can buy a day or cruise pass that will give you unlimited access.

Also, the spa onboard all ships is an extra charge, and some fitness classes in the gym are a small fee to attend. Again, these are all noted in the onboard program or app. In addition, the spa will provide a menu of services offered and the fee for each.

Rule of thumb, when in doubt, check with the Customer Service desk onboard the ship.

10. Other

Q: Do I need a passport to cruise?

A: Not necessarily, but it depends on your homeport and itinerary. For example, most ships sailing roundtrips from the U.S. only require a certified copy of your birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license. This would apply to Alaska sailings roundtrip from Seattle, San Francisco, or any West Coast U.S. port. Same for Caribbean and Bahamas sailings from Florida, Texas, or the East and Gulf Coast.

We always recommend getting a passport as that is the best way to travel and allows you to re-enter the country easily. You may have difficulty gaining re-entry if you miss the ship in port and do not have a passport.

Q: What happens if my luggage gets lost?

A: Unfortunately, every once in a while, a bag is lost, either by the airline in transit or by the cruise line. If your bag is lost, report it to the airline and cruise line as soon as possible. If an airline has lost your bag, they will route it (once located) to your next port of call.

Side Note: We recommend flying in at least one day before your cruise departure. Another reason to fly in early, you have time to go shopping for a few essentials to get you through until you can be reunited with your luggage. In most cases, travel insurance will reimburse you for the items you purchased while your luggage was lost - check your policy for specific coverage.

If you are on board without luggage, notify the front desk immediately. In many cases, the front desk will offer a t-shirt or two or a credit to be used at the onboard shops to help get through until the luggage is found. If you must come out of pocket for any toiletries or clothing, keep all your receipts to submit to travel insurance.

Q: Can I carry my luggage onboard myself?

A: Depends. Most cruise terminals are not equipped to X-ray larger suitcases before entering the passenger check-in area. Check with the cruise line personnel at the pier to ask if your suitcase will fit through the machine.

Remember that the cabins won’t be ready for several hours from the time you board on most ships, so you must always keep your luggage with you.

Q: Are there laundry facilities?

A: Yes, all ships offer laundry service (for a charge), and based on your past passenger status, you may get a discount or special offer to fill a bag at a flat rate rather than a per-item charge. Some lines do offer self-service laundry such as Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, etc. Typically there is a charge for the self-service, and detergent can be purchased onboard. Usually, the ships that sail longer itineraries offer a self-service laundry so you can pack for fewer days. Be sure to check the deck map of the ship you are considering, as the laundry area is marked but may be located on another deck.

Tip: When packing, put dryer sheets between every few layers of clean clothes to keep them smelling fresh upon arrival, and then save the dryer sheets to use in the laundry.

Q: What is the muster drill?

A: Each cruise line is required under Maritime Law to hold a safety briefing prior to the cruise departing, which is called a ‘muster drill.’ It gets its name as muster means the act of assembling, which is essentially what is being done with passengers and crew. This drill ensures that everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.

Pre-covid, these drills were done on deck and in public areas around the ship. In most cases, you need to get the life jacket from your cabin and proceed to a designated area where you learn the proper way to don a life jacket and meet your neighbors. After about 15-20 minutes of instructions and information, the drill was dismissed so cruisers could return to their favorite bar or lounge chair.

Post-covid and one of the most exciting changes made onboard is that most cruise lines conduct this drill via TV in passenger cabins and on screens throughout the ship.

Are you ready to set sail on an unparalleled adventure, where the boundless beauty of the sea meets the comfort of luxury travel? Welcome to the world of cruise vacations, where every moment is a memory in the making. Discover breathtaking destinations, indulge in world-class amenities, and create cherished moments that will stay with you forever.