Travel Smarter: What to Expect on a Cruise

What’s life like on the high seas? Here’s what to expect on a cruise ship.

what to expect on a cruise The countdown is over and your cruise vacation is about to begin. We sat down with four AAA Travel Counselors—Tara Moncur of Draper, Utah; Bernadette Orosco of Turlock, California; Bonnie Aiello of Antioch, California; and Kenn Walton of Clover, California—to get some advice on what to expect on a cruise ship.

Vacation Now: How do I pay for things on board a cruise ship?
Kenn: Your room keycard generally doubles as an onboard charge card since cash and credit cards are not accepted. You can expect on a cruise ship that onboard purchases will be added on to your shipboard account using your key card. This account will be settled at the end of your cruise.

VN: Do I have to pay for entertainment on board?
Tara: Cruises are full of fun activities—entertainment, music, and games. You will never run out of fun things to experience and do. Occasionally there may be a special guest such as a celebrity comedian, celebrity chef or speaker that may host a performance or seminar for an additional fee, but the vast majority of entertainment on board is complimentary.

VN: Will I be able to get in touch with friends and family using phones on board?
Kenn: Most major cruise lines offer internet and phone plans. You’ll want to talk to your cell phone carrier to see how your plan is affected at sea and in port. Your family will also be able to contact the ship from home in case of an emergency. Just make sure to give your family the name of the ship and your sailing information.

what to expect on a cruise - room serviceVN: Is tipping expected, or is it included?
Bernadette: Cruise lines typically have recommended amounts per person per day to cover the gratuities for housekeeping staff, dining room staff, etc. You can choose to prepay gratuities; ask the cruise line to add them to your onboard account. Or pay individuals in person at the end of the cruise. Guidelines for tipping are included in the documents you’ll receive from your cruise line.

VN: What if I have special dietary needs?
Bonnie: Your AAA Travel Counselor can communicate these needs to your cruise line in advance to ensure your servers will be able to accommodate you. Check in with the maître d’ on the day of embarkation to reconfirm those requirements.

VN: Can I bring snacks, drinks or alcoholic beverages with me on board?
Kenn: Generally speaking, most cruise lines allow snacks to be brought on board, but with food available practically 24 hours a day, you’ll never go hungry on a cruise ship. As for alcohol and other drinks, some cruise lines permit guests to bring limited amounts on board. Check with your AAA Travel Counselor to learn about the policies in place on your cruise. If you are allowed to bring drinks and alcohol on board, be sure to inquire about corkage fees.

Inset photos: courtesy of Cunard; Crystal Cruises
Once you have booked your cruise take a look at these pre-cruise planning tips from our experts.

Browse our selection of cruises to destinations worldwide and book online. Or call 877-396-7159 to speak to a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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