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What to Expect From Your Cruise
Throughout my experience working as a purser and shore excursions manager, I have dealt with a wide assortment of passenger problems which can be attributed to misleading infor-mation, or the lack of information, supplied by travel agents. Below, I have identified some important areas of cruising that potential passengers should investigate before making reservations.
Once you have made the decision to take a cruise, the next step is to locate a qualified travel agent to help you select the type of cruise that is right for you and your pocketbook. It is important to find an agent knowledgeable about the cruise industry, who has a good reputation for booking successful cruises.
One of the best places to find specialty travel agencies is the travel section of any major city newspaper or in the phone book. Friends or family members who have recently taken a cruise are even better sources. Speak with the agent in person, rather than only over the phone. A personal visit to the agent's office will also help you judge the professional quality of the establishment.
First, decide where you want to go. Next, select the appropriate cruise line. It is important to read the fine print in the back of the brochures, which offers information on things such as luggage insurance, cashing personal checks on board and liability limitations of the cruise line. You should evaluate your budget as well as your stateroom needs, including layout and amenities.
When choosing a stateroom from the ship's plans, remember that the rooms vary in many ways, even though they may appear the same on the plan.Cabins contain either two twin beds (that may or may not convert into one) or one standard queen- or king-sized bed. The age of the ship can also contribute to the comfort of the rooms, type of beds available and the overall condition of the cabins. Specialized cruise lines, such as Seabourn and Renaissance, tend to offer larger staterooms with queen-sized beds, but you have to be willing to pay for them. Newer ships have far fewer problems with their rooms, although older ships have a certain style that is lacking in the modern megaships. Fortunately, cruise lines have learned from their design mistakes over the years and standard cabins in the majority of newer ships have two twin beds that convert into one. The older ships, with a smaller percentage of cabins offering queen-sized beds or twin beds that convert, may visit more ports of call to encourage bookings.
The cabin layout is different with every ship and individual cabin category. Once you have selected a cruise ship, you should study the cabin arrangements in the brochure. If you are concerned about specific needs, a good travel agent will make the necessary arrangements. You should consider the following in order to avoid disappointment:
Some "veranda" categories or outside cabins may have obstructed views due to the ships lifeboat locations.
Cabins below the main entertainment deck or lounges may be subject to sound from above.
* To avoid seasickness, choose a cabin midship, which will reduce the motion of the ocean.
* Passengers who suffer from claustrophobia should select a cabin with an outside window. Be sure to tell the travel agent to specify the medical problem when making the reservation.
* Honeymooners or anniversary couples should be aware that most cabins have twin beds that convert into one. As mentioned above, on many older ships the beds may not convert at all. Ask your travel agent to request a specific cabin number with beds that suit your needs.
If the cabin selection is important, have your travel agent request at least three specific cabin numbers when making the reservation and get confirmation of the cabin number. When your tickets arrive, check the cabin number you have been assigned. If it is unsatisfactory, have the travel agent call the cruise line and make the necessary adjustment. If your travel agent cannot secure the cabin reassignment, cancel the reservation! This may sound extreme but, in most cases, the cruise will be fully booked and cabin reassignment will not be an option.
If you are not particularly concerned with the category of the room, its size, or the type of beds, take full advantage of last-minute bookings that can save money. The downside is that upgrades are not guaranteed.
NOTE: Travel agents are not employees of the cruise lines and cannot make promises regarding your trip. There are no guarantees in the cruise industry, and requests for all cabin specifics, such as beds and cabin layouts, are just that--requests.
You must decide what is the most important element of your vacation. If the concern is for a cabin type or bed configuration, select them with care. If lower prices or special deals are most important, be satisfied with the cabin assigned. Once you have made the cruise and cabin selection, the travel agent should submit all the specific requests to the cruise line in writing.
Life Aboard Ship
What time is the midnight buffet?
All too often cruise passengers ask ship personnel some of the silliest questions. Fortunately, these passengers help to entertain the staff and provide material for ship comedians like Lewis Nixon, who uses these questions in his comedy act. The most often asked question directed to crew members is, "Do you actually live on the ship?" Yes, all of the crew members have to live on board to work and serve cruise passengers.
I have collected a few of the funniest questions so that new cruisers reading this book can avoid becoming the latest joke among crew staff members.
* Shore excursion personnel have reported cruisers asking, "If I go snorkeling, will I get wet?"
* Never ask a ship's engineer, "Does this ship run on generators?" Cruise ships have turbine steam engines (TSS) or large motor engines (MS).
* "Do these stairs go up or down?" No comment.
* A dining room waiter will die laughing if you ask, "What do you do with the ice carvings after they have melted?"
* If you cruise to the port of Nassau in the Bahamas, think of this lady's story. When a female passenger arrived in Nassau, she asked a crew member on the dock, "Where are all the missiles?" The crew member looked at her strangely and said, "What missiles?" The lady responded, "The missiles. I thought we were going to visit N.A.S.A."
* If you get the opportunity to meet the captain, refrain from asking him, "If you are here, who is driving the ship?" The captain is asked that question at least 20 times every cruise. The deck officers are the ones who steer the ship (not drive it), and the captain oversees the docking procedures when arriving or departing each port.
* Please refrain from asking the beauty salon, "How long does a 30-minute massage take?"
* The most amusing question was asked at sea, while the ship was moving, "What altitude do you think we're at?" Sea level might be a good guess!
Not all questions are ridiculous, so if you have one, don't hesitate to ask a crew staff member. They are there to assist you.