What to know before you go
When can I expect to receive my final documents?
Cruise vouchers will be sent to you via mail or email 2-3 weeks prior to departure.
When will my airline itinerary be made available?
Air arrangements purchased through the cruise line are generally made available about 3 weeks prior to departure. Please note that air schedules are booked at the discretion of the cruise line and cannot be changed. Anyone requiring special itineraries/air carriers must arrange for custom air prior to final payment. The minimum charge for custom air itineraries is $35-$50 per person and additional charges may apply. Custom air should be booked as early as possible to insure flight availability. It is the traveler's responsibility to confirm seat assignments and other special services, such as special meals or wheelchair assistance directly with the airline.
Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be purchased through the cruise line or Travelex prior to final payment with PWcruises.com. The price will vary depending on the cost and length of your cruise. It is strongly suggested that you purchase travel insurance. Once you are within the final payment period the cruise lines will impose strict cancellation penalties as outlined in their brochures. These penalties will not be waived even for medical reasons. Please contact PWcruises.com for further details.
What should I pack?
First and foremost, dress for comfort. Daily life aboard ship and in ports of call is laid-back and casual. You are encouraged to wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable: sportswear, shorts, slacks, sundresses and so on. Warmer temperatures call for clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics. For cooler temperatures we suggest casual clothes that can be layered easily. On some days you may need a raincoat and waterproof hat or umbrella. Gloves are a good idea as well. Footwear should include comfortable walking shoes for visits ashore and sandals or rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck.
In the evening, ships vary as to dress. There are three types of "evenings" on board - casual, smart casual and formal. On casual nights, sport shirts and slacks are suggested for men; sundresses or pants for women. On smart casual nights, dresses and pantsuits for women; jackets and ties for men. For formal nights, women should wear cocktail dresses; men should wear suits and ties or tuxedos (optional). But don't buy a tuxedo just for the trip. If you do want to dress to the nines, many ships offer tuxedo rental services. Even on the most formal of ships, a dark suit and tie are fine for the dressiest occasions. Generally, three and four-night cruises consist of one formal night and two or three casual nights. Seven-night cruises include two formal nights, one smart casual night and four casual nights. Ten, 11 and 12-night cruises consist of two formal nights, three smart casual; all other nights are casual. 14 & 15 night cruises usually have three formal nights, four semi-formal nights and the remainder are casual. Again, these are guidelines and your evenings attire is left up to your discretion. In addition, most cruise lines offer alternative casual dining for anyone who may prefer not to dine in the main restaurant.
Should I reconfirm my airline reservations?
Since arrival and departure times are subject to last-minute changes by the airlines, we recommend that you call your airline(s) 24 hours before your initial flight departure to verify all the flight numbers, departure and arrival times shown on your ticket. (Reconfirm international flights 72 hours prior to your departure from home.) Plan to be at the airline counter at least 1-1/2 hours before flight time for domestic flights and 2-1/2 hours before flight time for international flights.
Is parking available at the pier?
Parking is available at most of the piers, for a minimal fee (usually about $10/day). At some piers only cash is accepted.
How do transfers work?
Most cruise lines include transfers between the airport and the pier on embarkation/disembarkation day if you have purchased an air/sea package directly with them. Passengers providing their own air must get their own transportation to/from the pier. Prepaid transfers can be purchased separately from most cruise lines. Flight information must be provided to the cruise line with final payment if separate transfers have been purchased.
What are the boarding procedures?
Generally, you will be allowed to board two or three hours before the ship sails. Keep in mind that you must be on the ship at least one hour before departure, and the gangway will be pulled thirty minutes before sailing.
Upon completion of check-in, you will receive a guest identification card. This card will serve as your identification on-board. It will also serve as your identification for security procedures when embarking and disembarking the ship and when making purchases on board.
As you walk up the gangway, a member of the cruise staff will welcome you aboard. Your luggage will be delivered to your cabin shortly after it arrives at the ship. You carry nothing but your hand luggage. Once you are on board you are free to explore the ship. Refreshments are available during embarkation and most cruise lines offer a nice buffet lunch (depending on the departure time).
What is the visitor policy?
For security reasons most cruise lines have implemented a "no visitor" policy aboard their vessels.
During Your Cruise
Can I use my hair dryer or shaver?
Most ships have 110-volt outlets in the staterooms. Many ships even feature hair-dryers in your cabin.
Can we stay in touch with the outside?
Quite easily. Most ships have a daily newsletter with news, headlines, selected stock quotes and sports scores. Staterooms on many ships are even equipped with televisions. While most ships now have telephones in passenger cabins, you can also call someone on shore through the ship's radio operator while at sea. And, you can make phone calls from most ports. In addition, many ships have fax capabilities and internet access.
What about tipping?
Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $2.50 to $3.00 per person per day each for your room steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your busboy. (A few cruise lines include tipping in the price and will so inform you.) Gratuities are customarily given on the last evening of your cruise. On many cruise lines it is now possible to prepay the above gratuities. Other personnel such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is rendered. On most cruise lines a 15% gratuity is automatically added to your on board account for beverage purchases which you may adjust according to services rendered.
Are there laundry services aboard?
Almost all cruise ships have laundry facilities and a great many provide dry-cleaning services. There is, however, an additional charge for professional laundry and dry-cleaning services. Some ships also have self-service launderettes.
Can we celebrate a "special" day?
All cruise lines will make your "special" day special. Most will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of Happy Whatever to honor the occasion.
Are there medical services onboard?
Virtually every cruise ship (except for some smaller vessels operating in coastal waters) has a fully-equipped medical facility and staff to handle almost any emergency.
Your prescription medication should be kept close at hand in your purse or carry-on bag rather than in your checked luggage. Be sure to bring a sufficient supply of medication and transport it in the original container. It is also a good idea to carry a written list of your medications in case they are lost. The list should include the name of the drug, dosage, and times taken.
Will I have a shipboard account?
Most cruise lines have set up a "cashless" system designed to make your life on board as simple as possible. You simply sign a receipt for each of your on-board purchases and then settle your shipboard account at the end of the cruise. Cash, VISA, American Express, MasterCard, Discover, and personal or traveler's checks are accepted as payment on most cruise lines.
What is the shipboard check cashing policy?
Most cruise lines will cash traveler's checks. Personal checks cannot be cashed and cash cannot be drawn from your shipboard account. Most ships also have an ATM on board.
Do the cruiselines offer shore excursions?
All cruise lines offer extensive shore excursion programs designed to enhance your cruise experience. Shore excursions will help you make the most of your time in port and provide you with the best transportation and guide services available. For certain destinations, such as Europe, tours can be pre-requested by completing the form found in the shore excursion brochure sent to you 4-6 weeks prior to departure. On other cruises you can book your tours through the shore excursion office once you are on-board.