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Frequently Asked Questions

Our clients save an enormous amount of time just knowing that they have someone that they can call who has ALL the answers. Okay, okay, so we don't know ALL of the answers. But what we don't know individually, someone on our team almost surely does, and if they don't, we have the resources to find the answers.

It's too bad that our agents are such a wealth of knowledge that we could never hope to capture everything that they know in one web page. But since we can't here is a list of our top most Frequently Asked Questions. Anything else you can think of, give us a call and we'll do our best!

Cruise FAQ

Other FAQ

Cruise FAQ

Will I need a passport?

For cruises that begin and end in the same United States port a passport is not currently required. In order to board, you will be required to show a certified copy of your birth certificate and a driver license. However, passports are required for open-ended cruises. (i.e. cruise beginning in California and ending in Florida) and when visiting some specific destinations. Springdale Travel would like for you to know, however, that while a passport is not always required for travel we always highly recommend the use of one. Please contact your agent directly or visit www.travel.state.gov for more information on passport requirements prior to your cruise.

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How much is it going to cost?

Cruising is overall an excellent value - frequently 20-30% less than a comparable vacation on land. That said, cruises are priced differently than other types of travel. These are the things that you will need to be aware of before booking your cruise vacation.

  • Double occupancy: When you see advertised fares these are typically per person, based on double occupancy. That means they expect you to have two people in the cabin. If you cruise alone you generally have to pay the full price of the cabin (i.e., x2). If you cruise with a third person or even fourth person in the cabin (usually kids on a fold-out couch our rolling bed), you only add a little more than if you had just two.
  • Taxes / fees: This amount is usually not more than 5%, but may not be included in the advertised price.
  • Fuel surcharge: Many cruise lines are now charging an additional $5 to $12 per person, per day to cover the increased cost of fuel.

Just be aware that what you see as the cruise line's advertised price may not always be the full cost of the cruise. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples when deciding based on price or you will end up paying a lot more in the end.

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What is included in the price of the cruise?

One of the charms of cruising is that many of your costs are included in your ticket price

  • Accommodations: Virtually all cabins come with a King sized bed that can be converted to two twin beds; many also have space for a third person on a couch or pull-down bed; a few have room for a fourth. Size and grandeur varies depending on what category you choose. Even so, most cruise line accommodations are comfortable, if relatively compact. All staterooms will have a shower, some will have a bathtub.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included, as is room service. Most cruise lines will also provide special dining events like high tea and midnight buffets.
  • Entertainment: Production shows,  comedians, dancing in the nightclubs are all included.
  • Most onboard facilities: You can always use the pool, sauna, hot tubs, and tennis and basketball courts free of charge. Some facilities, such as the bowling lanes on NCL, may have a nominal fee.

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What is not included with my cruise?

There are few things not included for your cruise but on most major cruise lines these include alcoholic beverages and sodas, spa treatments, excursions, gratuities and "Specialty Dining" which is available only on select ships.

There are exceptions to this rule. On many of the luxury cruise lines some of these things may be included. Just be sure to get the details from your travel agent on what is or is not included.

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Do I have to participate in scheduled activities or can I just relax?

The beauty of cruising is that you can do whatever you want. There are plenty of planned activities all throughout the day and night but you are free to do whatever you want. Most cruise ships now have put in place such a wide variety of activities and amenities that there is something for everyone from zip-lining to reading in the library to singing in the Karaoke contest! There is something for everyone on these floating resorts!

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Will I get bored?

Definitely not! See the question above about planned activities versus relaxation.

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What about sightseeing while in port?

While in any of the ports of call you can feel free to explore on your own, go shopping or enjoy a guided excursion to participate in one of many activities available. Excursions can be booked a number of ways. You can book them during your registration/check-in process directly through the cruise line, you can book them once you get on board with the purser's desk or you can book them through our recommended supplier, ShoreTrips.

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Do I need to tip? If so, how much?

While tipping, as always, is entirely at your discretion, in general a budget of $10-$15 per person, per day for gratuities for your waiters, cabin stewards, etc is acceptable. You won't need to leave this on the dinner table each night; it's usually handled on the last night of the cruise. Or, in most cases now, you can pre-pay your gratuities prior to departure or have them added to your Sail and Sign account on board.

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What about alcohol consumption and wine corkage?

Passengers must be 21 years of age or older to purchase or consume alcohol on board the cruise ship.

All guests are prohibited from bringing alcohol on board the ship. Some cruise lines will allow you to bring one bottle of wine or champagne on board but others will not. Just be sure to check with your agent prior to departure for the policies of your cruise line.

If you purchase any alcohol at one of the ports-of-call or in the onboard shops, they will safely store your purchase(s) and on the final night of the cruise it will be available for pick up in a designated area or delivered to your stateroom.

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Can I bring alcohol on board?

If you plan to bring a bottle of Wine or Champagne on board, be sure to check with your agent for the policies of your cruise line. Some do not allow for you to bring any alcoholic beverages on board at all. Other cruise lines will let you even bring liquor on board at your own discretion. Just be sure to check with your agent on the policies of your cruise line.

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Can I smoke on board the ship?

Yes, in designated areas. While some cruise lines still allow smoking in your stateroom, in designated bars and other public spaces and out on deck, many cruise lines are cracking down on the locations that guests are allowed to smoke on board. All of the Carnival brands, Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, have recently sent out an update regarding smoking on board. These lines are no longer allowing smoking in the staterooms, as of a certain sailing date, and have restricted the smoking allowed areas on board and on the open air decks. Please check with your agent to find out the exact restrictions for your cruise.

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Do I receive documents prior to sailing?

Most cruise lines have discontinued sending printed documents. While some of the very luxury lines still deliver cruise documents to our office, most of the major cruise lines ask that you check-in online and print your boarding passes and luggage tags yourself. If you need to check-in for your cruise, please follow this link and be sure to contact us if you have any questions or run into any issues.

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Are there activities for children on a cruise?

Absolutely! All of the major cruise lines have great activities and amenities for kids of all ages. You have the option to hang out with them doing kids' stuff all day or to enroll your kids in a variety of great kids' programs where they will be entertained and watched after by a dedicated staff of cruise personnel. Some cruise lines even offer "date night" programs that give you some time away to yourself up to a certain hour of the night. We find that most of the kids on board would rather spend time here playing with other kids than just hanging around with mom and dad.

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Do children have to pay to cruise?

Yes. Most cruise lines do not differentiate between children and adults for pricing purposes. Though for a cabin for four, the third and fourth passenger rates are usually significantly less than the rate for the first two passengers. But this applies whether it's four adults or two adults and two children.

On occasion a cruise line will run a "kids sail free" promotion. Just be sure to ask your agent if any are available when you are looking to cruise.

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Do children have to pay gratuities?

On most major cruise lines, yes, children are charged the same amount for gratuities as the adults. As always, you can adjust the amount of your gratuities based on the level of service that you feel that you received. Also, some cruise lines have different tipping policies based on the age of the child. Be sure to confirm the tipping policy of your cruise line with your agent when you are booking your cruise.

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Can I cruise if I'm pregnant?

In short, yes. However, so long as you are not more than 24 weeks into your pregnancy, you just must submit a statement from your physician confirming that he feels that it is safe for you and the baby to travel. If you are 24 weeks or more into your pregnancy, you will not be allowed to cruise, so please keep this in mind when you book.

This is for your own safety and the baby's. The ships are not staffed with adequate medical personnel to deal with an emergency situation should one arise.

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Will I get seasick?

Since a cruise ship is so much larger and more stable than a normal ship, most people do not get seasick on board. However, that does not mean it's unheard of. You may find that you get seasick while on board, especially in particularly rough seas. One recommendation that we make to passengers who are prone to seasickness is to book a room near the center of the ship. These areas tend to experience the least motion while at sea. There are also a number of other good, medical options for those who are prone to seasickness. We find that packing an anti-nausea patch, wristband or a little Dramamine-type over-the-counter drug is never a bad idea.

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Are medical services available on board?

Yes, all cruise ships have a dedicated medical staff on board who is on call 24 hours a day. Usually they will charge a nominal fee for visiting the doctor on board. If you've purchased travel insurance you can usually be reimbursed for this fee.

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Can I call home from the ship?

Yes, you can call anywhere in the world from your stateroom phone. However, ship to shore rates will apply and will be billed directly to your on board account. These can be quite expensive.

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Can I get my e-mail while on board the ship? Will I have Internet access?

Nearly all cruise lines now offer some kind of Internet access. Most offer Internet cafes or wireless hot spots on board and many destinations also offer Internet cafes near the cruise port. Be sure to check in on Internet rates before leaving home. They vary by cruise line and can often be quite expensive. Usually the most affordable option is to purchase a bundle of minutes in advance.

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What are the customs allowances?

United States residents must declare all articles acquired abroad and in their possession when they return to the U.S. This includes items purchased in "duty-free" shops. The duty-free exemption allowed for purchases or gifts for returning U.S. residents varies, depending on how long they have been out of the U.S. and which countries they have visited. The standard exemption for U.S. residents who have been abroad more than 48 hours is $600 - $800, which may include one liter of alcohol (if you are at least 21), 100 cigars and 200 cigarettes.

Residents returning to the U.S. from the U.S. Virgin Islands may bring $1,200 worth of goods duty-free. The duty-free exemption for U.S. residents doesn't need to include items that are mailed back to the U.S.; those will be assessed for duty when they arrive. The duty-free exemption for a package mailed as a gift is $100; the exemption for a package marked for personal use is $200. Non-U.S. citizens should check with their local authorities for customs allowance information. For more specific customs information, be sure to attend the briefing by the Cruise Director before your ship reaches home port. (Check the daily onboard newsletter for time and place.) You can also obtain information before you sail by contacting the nearest U.S. Customs office (look under United States Government, Department of Treasury in your local phone book). You can also visit the U.S. Customs website - http://www.cbp.gov/ - or call 1.202.927.6724 and ask for the brochure "Know Before You Go." Note: Bottles of liquor you purchase on board or ashore will be held in a secure area and delivered to your stateroom at the conclusion of the cruise.

U.S. Citizens and residents are not allowed to bring more than 200 cigarettes into the U.S. if they are produced in the U.S., whether made for export or not.

These laws are subject to change at any time. Be sure to check http://www.cbp.gov/ for details.

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How many suitcases can I bring? What sizes?

The luggage restrictions vary by cruise line. While some say that each passenger may bring a "reasonable amount" of luggage, others specify two bags per passenger, not to exceed 50 pounds each. Most cruise lines simply urge that you comply with the luggage restrictions for the various airlines and transfers that you may have booked in conjunction with your cruise. And keep in mind that most cruise line staterooms are not terribly spacious. So the less space you take up with your luggage, the more space you will have to move around.

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What should I pack?

It depends by cruise line, as some are more relaxed and more are more formal, but essentially "resort-wear" is what is suggested for cruise ship attire. While during the day casual attire and swimsuits are allowed, in the evening, the dining room often requires slacks and dress shirts for men and cocktail suits or dresses for women. There is also usually at least one formal night and attire for this can range from tuxedos and ball gowns to blazers and cocktail dresses.

Also, for certain destinations, like Alaska, you will want to be sure that you pack for a variety of conditions and environments. Weather in some locations can vary wildly and can often be inhospitable if one is not prepared.

Be sure to check with your agent regarding your cruise to be sure that you pack correctly.

What can't I bring on board?

These policies vary by cruise line but can include a number of things like: firearms or any type of weapon; alcoholic beverages, though some lines allow one bottle of wine per person; drugs, without a prescription; animals, with the exception of service animals; explosives, fireworks and other flammable items; skateboards, rollerblades, bicycles and other wheeled devices, with the exception of wheelchairs and scooters; and more.

Always be sure to check with your cruise line prior to packing for specifics on what is and isn't allowed.

What time is dinner?

Most major cruise lines list their dinner time options as "Early Dining", "Late Dining" and "Anytime Dining". While it does vary slightly from cruise line to cruise line, this usually means

  • Early Dining - 6:00 PM
  • Late Dining - 8:15 PM
  • Anytime Dining - You may arrive in the dining room any time you wish between 5:30 and 9:30
  • These times vary depending on cruise line and sailing but give you an approximate time to expect.

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How can I make sure I sit with who I want for dinner?

Dining times cannot be confirmed until your full deposit has been paid. Once we have confirmed your dining time, you may request to be seated with another passenger on board based on availability and at the discretion of the cruise line.

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What does it mean if my dining time is waitlisted?

If your dining time is waitlisted, this means that the dining time that you have requested was already full at the time of full deposit. If the wait list does not clear, you will be seated at the next available dining time. Usually the cruise line clears the wait list within the week prior to cruising and your agent will be notified.

If you arrive on board and do not have the dining time that you requested, simply make a stop by the maitre'd and ask to be moved to another dining time. It's not always a sure thing but they will do what they can to make you happy.

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Do the cruise lines offer meal options for those with special dietary needs?

Yes. You will just need to let your agent know and they will make a note on your booking. But it is always a good practice to double check with your waiter when you arrive the first night.

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What is the fuel supplement?

Nearly every cruise line in the world includes the tiny disclaimer on all of their cruise information that states that they "reserve the right to reinstate a fuel surcharge" if the NYMEX oil price exceeds a certain amount. The amount of the fuel supplement varies by cruise line but usually is in the neighborhood of $10 per person per day. What is important to keep in mind for you is that even if you have made final payment on your cruise, the cruise line can reinstate this charge and require you to pay it.

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What time do I need to arrive at the cruise terminal?

For ease of check in at the terminal, we STRONGLY recommend guests complete their Online Check-In prior to sailing. Once your Online Check-In is completed, there will be arrival time details on your boarding pass.

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Can I prepay tips?

Currently Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines will allow you to pre-pay tips before boarding the ship.

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Can I pre-purchase a soda/beverage card?

Currently Royal Caribbean International is the only cruise line that allows you to pre-purchase beverage cards before you arrive on the ship.

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How many formal nights are there?

The number of formal nights usually depends on the length of the cruise. It also varies slightly by cruise line so be sure to confirm with your agent before packing your bags. But here is a basic guideline.

  • 1-night cruise - No formal nights
  • 2 - 5/6 night cruise - One formal night
  • 5/6 night cruises or longer - At least 2 formal nights
  • Some of the cruise lines that offer much longer cruises will host 5 or more formal nights depending on the length of the cruise

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What is the dress on board?

The right clothing can make a big difference in the enjoyment of your cruise. First and foremost, dress for comfort. Daily life aboard ship and in ports of call is relaxed and casual. Warmer climates call for clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics. For cooler climates, we suggest casual clothes that can be layered easily and possibly a raincoat and waterproof hat or umbrella and gloves. Certain shore excursions may require particular attention to clothing. For example, certain churches or other places of worship may not allow tank tops or short pants. Bring a swimsuit if you plan to make use of the pools and whirlpools. You may wish to bring more than one outfit for the water. Be sure to bring shoes and a cover-up to wear over a bathing suit when walking through the interior of the ship. If you would like to jog on the sports deck or work out in the fitness center, bring workout gear. Footwear should include comfortable walking shoes for visits ashore and sandals or rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck.

Evening dress falls into two distinct categories: Formal or Smart Casual. Smart Casual can be defined as slacks and collared shirts for men and casual dresses, slacks and informal evening wear for women. On Formal evenings, ladies usually wear a suit, cocktail dress or gown and gentlemen wear a jacket and tie, dark suit or tuxedo. To dine in the main dining rooms Smart Casual is required on all evenings with the exception of the Formal night. If you do not wish to dress up, you are permitted to dine in one of the many other eatery options on board.

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What happens if there is a hurricane?

Not much really. The vast majority of the time, the cruise line simply reroutes and goes around it. You may end up returning home to a different port, losing a destination or two or sailing on an entirely different itinerary but most of the time the cruise still sails.

Regarding your decision to still sail given a hurricane is on the way, each cruise line puts in place a different policy depending on the situation. Most of the time penalties are still in place if you decide to cancel. If you are concerned about hurricanes during your cruise, be sure to ask your agent about Cancel For Any Reason Travel Insurance.

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What happens if I have to cancel?

It depends on how long before departure you must cancel. Each cruise line has their own penalty restrictions but usually beginning around 75-90 days out you will only receive 75% of your cruise fare back. The closer in you are to the sailing date, the greater penalty you incur until just prior to the cruise when you completely forfeit the cruise fare when cancelling. In addition to these rules, certain fare types incur additional penalties, i.e. Carnival's Early Saver rate is immediately non-refundable once it has been booked.

That is why we strongly recommend travel insurance. Travel insurance can protect you in the event that you have to cancel unexpectedly. Visit our recommended travel insurance provider for more information.

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Other FAQ

Are Walt Disney World dining reservations required?

Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Disney Table-Service restaurants, character dining and dinner shows book quickly and the restaurant and seating of your choice may be limited or may not be available during your visit. Please call your travel agent to make dining reservations up to 180 days prior to your visit for the best options. Reservations are accepted at most Walt Disney World® Table-Service restaurants, Signature Restaurants, and Character Dining locations. Advance reservations are required for Dinner Shows and Grand Gathering Experiences.

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Why should I use a travel agent? What are the advantages?

There are numerous reasons why you should use a travel agent over trying to "go it alone". Here are just a few.

Save Money! - Strong working relationships with travel suppliers and the latest in computer reservations technology enable travel agents to access the most up-to-date information on how to get you the best value.

Traveler Advocates - Your best interests are the priority. Springdale Travel has a long-standing record of fighting for consumer rights and Springdale Travel agents are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

Convenience - Springdale Travel offers a branch in Mobile, AL and one in Pensacola, FL which means there is a branch near you and your agent is never farther than a phone call away.

Service - Travel agents are knowledgeable and active in the industry. We strive to stay current by providing our agents education, training and resource materials to equip them with the tools to offer the highest quality of service.

Agents Will Go the Extra Mile - Agents work for you and will do everything they can to meet your travel needs. Most agents always go that extra mile to help their clients.

Do I pay more to book with a travel agent?

Contrary to popular belief, no. The cruise lines and tour suppliers pay us a commission that they would be paying to their internal reservations agents if you booked direct. So for all cruise lines and tour operators, the cost is exactly the same.

To book airline, hotel and rental car reservations, Springdale Travel does charge a nominal service fee since these suppliers no longer pay commissions. However, you will be surprised to learn that in most cases, when you book with the big online travel guy, you will pay this same fee, it's just more cleverly disguised.

If you ever find yourself comparing a rate online to something that your agent provide, be sure that you are comparing apples to apples. And if you feel that you are, or if you aren't sure, call your agent and let them know what you have found. In most cases our suppliers will price match and we will be able to provide the same great rate but with Springdale Travel's second-to-none service.

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