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What must you know about cruises

Cruise insurance

Cruise insurance is an important element that should not be ignored. One never knows when illness, an accident or an unforeseen incident can occur. One of the aforementioned situations can force you to shorten or even cancel your cruise. The majority of cruise lines impose penalties in case of cancellation up to and including the entire cost of your cruise. Insurance prices vary between carriers, as do the limits, coverage and exclusions clauses.

Contact your Vasco Travel agent to for more information on available insurance packages.

Dress code

When on your cruise, it’s important to know that on the majority of ships, there is a dress code. During the day, things are fairly casual with shorts and t-shirts permitted, even in the in the dining room. For dinner, the dress code varies by day, according to the following categories:

Casual: Trousers and sport shirts for gentlemen (no jeans); pants/skirt with blouse or summer dress for the ladies.

Business casual : Jacket with or without tie for gentlemen ; dresses for ladies.

Formal: Tuxedo for gentlemen; evening gown / cocktail dress for ladies.

Most 3 or 4 night cruises have one formal evening. Most 7 night cruises have two formal evenings and most 10 day (or longer) cruises will have 3 formal evenings. In general, on formal nights a shirt, tie and jacket is perfectly acceptable for gentlemen – there is no need to rush out to purchase a tuxedo for a single cruise, if you don’t have one already hanging in your closet.

Meals & beverages

Dining on a cruise ship is an embarrassment of riches. You can opt for the refined atmosphere of the dining room as well as one of the many themed restaurants they have on board while casual diners can sample the fare at the buffet where shorts and t-shirt are the usual haberdashery. The choices are plentiful and are all yours to make. Rest assured that you will have an almost limitless amount of plates and fare to choose from, including those with a desire for a healthier or vegetarian outlook. No one goes hungry on a cruise ship!

There is no limit to the amount of food you can order on a cruise ship. Those wishing to use their cruise to springboard into a low calorie lifestyle will also be offered a plethora of dishes suit their tastes. Burning calories has never been so easy!

Almost all of the cruise lines’ restaurants and their sumptuous cuisine allow their guests to choose when they wish to dine. Freestyle Dining by Norwegian Cruise Lines has been well received by diners who wish to choose when they eat. Six star ranked cruise lines Regent & Silversea allow their cruisers the freedom of dining choice, along with Princess (Personal Choice Dining), Holland America (As You Wish Dining) and Royal Caribbean (My Time Dining). Dining has also evolved to the point of the elimination of the traditional evening dress code, in favour of a more casual approach, on certain lines.

All the same, if you enjoy the elegance of formal dining, with the same wait staff and table companions in the evening (a favourite of new cruisers), formal dining will not completely disappear.

Is taking a cruise affordable?

If you have the means to vacation in a hotel or resort, you are also able to travel by cruise ship. There are cruises for every budget, from economy to opulent luxury, all offering you the best quality for price, for your vacation budget.

What is included in the price of my cruise?

The price of your cruise covers your cabin, all of your meals, the entertainment and of course – the transfers between the different ports of your itinerary. On most cruise lines, drinks and excursions are an additional charge, however there are package deals which can be purchased which can cover desired amenities (wine packages, soft drink packages, alcoholic beverages etc)

Will I find cruising long?

Never! A cruise ship is like a floating Vegas mega-hotel (including a casino) that takes you to a different location almost every night. Onboard activities start in the morning and continue late on into the night. The entertainment changes continuously and each port you stop in offers you different sights and marvellous attractions to visit. Never a dull day aboard a cruise ship!

What is there to do on a cruise ship?

Like so many things in life, this depends on the choices you make. There are very large cruise ships with everything imaginable onboard and there are smaller, more intimate cruise ships with specific amenities tailored to travellers desires. Feel like learning to surf? You can do that. Zip line your thing? You can do that, as well. Scuba dive? Learn to skate on ice? Roller coasters, water slides, go cart racing, rock wall climbing, workout in an ocean view gym? That too. Then for the less active there are a host of activities geared towards those who just want to relax and let the stress bleed out of them. Full service spas, wine bars, organized card games, casino gaming, Broadway shows, dancing classes, mixology and cooking courses by certified chefs, art auctions, shopping...and on and on – the really tough part is trying to select one thing to do, if by chance two activities are timed to run at the same time!

How long of a cruise can I take?

Vasco Travel sells cruises from 3 to 110 nights – and some even longer. Most people choose a week long trip with a good balance between ports and days at sea.

Is airfare included in the price?

It would be difficult for cruise lines to price their voyages with air, if they had customers coming from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Therefore, the air portion of the vacation is left to the travel agent to arrange for the client, so that departure times, class of travel and any potential stopovers can be reserved. There are occasionally AIR/SEA package specials that are sold together, for specific dates, so if that is your cup of tea, check out our website to see what’s available.

What is an ‘excursion’?

When a cruise ship pulls into a port of call, you are free to debark and explore the destination to your hearts content (just don’t be late for sailing time)! However, there are some travellers who prefer to embark on arranged tours of the area. These are certified agents of the cruise line, who will take you to whatever your choice of excursion is and return you safely back to the ship. Fancy swimming with the dolphins? How about feeding some stingrays (safely, of course)? Perhaps a tour of a rum distillery? Trip to the waterfalls? Ancient ruins? We’ve got you covered and the choices are endless. Check with your travel agent to see what’s available for the cruise you have selected.

Do I need a passport?

Yes. A passport is required.

Are children allowed on cruises?

What would a family vacation be, without the kids? There are family geared cruises that cater specifically to those travelling with little ones and are perfect for entertaining children of all ages with certified monitors who supervise them at all times. Think of it as a daytime child care service, complete with activities for all ages, while mom and dad can get a break and grab some ‘couple time’ for themselves. There is even a nighttime babysitting service available on most ships. As with anything else, selection is the key – as there are cruise lines and ships which cater to a more adult crowd. Check with your Vasco Travel travel agent to determine which ships and itineraries are best suited to your family vacation.

Are there single people on cruises?

Cruises are very popular with the single crowd, as it is a great way to get out and meet people. Certain cruise lines offer single fare cabins but most lines quote a double occupancy rate when quoting fares. There are specialty cruises available that are designed for singles which are hosted by staff that organize activities geared towards getting you out and mingling. Cocktail parties, social outings, games, group excursions, dinners to meet others, theme nights at the clubs onboard and a host of other things to do. You’ll never feel alone one of these cruises, as long as that is what you’re looking for!

Are cruises really that popular?

Absolutely. Over ten million people will cruise next year and across all the different cruise lines with all their unique ships – cruises have the highest satisfaction rating, amongst travellers. Almost each year a new cruise ship is launched by a cruise line, with amenities attempting to top the previously inaugurated ships out sailing. If people weren’t out cruising, there wouldn’t be new ships out there to try, would there?

How do you spend a day at sea?

A sea day, as it is known, is a day spent travelling between two ports of call. Most cruises will have at least one sea day, to allow you to explore the ship. There are just too many options to describe, among too many different cruise lines, to do any justice to the many things that you can spend your time on. You will run out of time before you run out of things to do! The possibilities are further multiplied when you take into account the different types of ships within the fleet of a single company. An experienced travel agent can be invaluable with matching you and your particular tastes, to the appropriate ship and cruise line.

Payment

All cruise reservations require a deposit to guarantee the reservation. After that, you will be required to pay the balance owing by the date indicated to you. This final payment date can vary between 45 to 120 days out, depending on when you make your reservation. If you have reserved during the final payment period, you will have to make complete payment to guarantee your space. Your travel agent can walk you though the details.

For all cancellations or refunds, the service fees rise as your departure date draws closer. You must absolutely inform your Vasco Travel agent about any changes or cancellations. It is strongly recommended to cover your vacation with travel insurance to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances. Ask your travel agent about the ins and outs of insuring your trip.

Deposits, payments and cancellations can vary on group reservations, which are normally a reservation for a minimum of eight (8) cabins (16 passengers). Please consult with your Vasco Travel agent to understand the terms and conditions involved. Name changes and sailing date changes may be considered a reservation cancellation and the start of a new reservation (with penalties) so please inform yourself as to all the details.

Passports

All passengers must possess and be able to present a valid passport.

Photocopies of official documents are not acceptable.

Without exception, all travellers must be in possession of a valid passport, which is a requirement to enter a foreign country. You will simply be unable to travel without one.

Passports are required for all international travel, regardless of the means of transportation. All passports must be valid for a minimum of six months after the return date of your trip.

For all information regarding the issuance or renewal of a passport, please visit www.passportcanada.gc.ca

Visas: All passengers are responsible to obtain any necessary visas to enter any country of their reservation, if required. This includes countries used as a connection point. You can do so through the consulate offices of said nations, prior to departure. Please leave ample time to process any visa requests.

Always verify what official documents you will need with your Vasco Travel travel agent, when making your reservation.

Tips

An often asked question regarding cruises, concerns the way in which staff are tipped – especially how much and when!

The recommended tipping etiquette varies by cruise line and you can consult the individual website of each company to see their suggestions (links are available from the Vasco website), however the general guidelines are $4.50-500 per person, per day for your cabin attendant and your table server, while bus staff is about half of that rate.

You can leave a gratuity for the maitre d or room captain, if you ask for special services. Bar staff and sommeliers can receive between 10 and 15% of the amount ordered, but most often this amount is already included on your bill. All other tips are at your discretion and subject to the level and quality of service that you have received.

Gratuities are habitually left in the envelopes that are placed in your cabin, for this purpose. Tipping on cruises of 10 days or less are generally left until the end of your voyage, however on longer cruises a weekly schedule is sometimes greatly appreciated.

Many cruise lines can automatically add in gratuities to your onboard bill, leaving you the ability to adjust said tips in either direction; adding or subtracting as you see fit. Arrangements can be made for this at the end of your trip.

There are also certain cruise lines which do not encourage tipping: Azamara, Orion Expedition Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea and Swan Hellenic. In general, the crew on these ships are better compensated, hence their salary is not dependant on gratuities. However, there is nothing stopping you from recognizing them financially, for exceptional service.

Fuel surcharge

Due to the high cost of oil, certain cruise lines add a fuel tax surcharge. This surcharge is added to the cost of the cruise along with all government taxes. For clarification your Vasco Travel agent can provide details concerning the fuel tax surcharge on your cruise. The surcharge is applied to each passenger.

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