Monday, July 04, 2016

Cruise Ship Vacation FAQs

Going on a cruise is deemed ultimate way of having a vacation. Cruises are expensive but can give experience of a lifetime, hence sits on top of everyone’s wishlist. There are many cruise companies in the world- Royal Caribbean which focuses on Europe and America mostly and Star Cruise which focuses on Asia region and many more. I had never been on a cruise so far, until recently when I booked and experienced an overnight cruise from Hong Kong with Star Cruises. Before experiencing the cruise, I had many questions and concerns on how it will turn out to be. Based on my experience and observations, I have listed a series of FAQs which will come handy to anyone evaluating a cruise holiday.
1. How much does a cruise vacation cost?
Varies on below key factors
-Duration of the cruise (how many days)
-Cabin type (inside room, room with ocean view/deck, suites etc)
-Season and How early you book (obvious)
-Cruise company and country specific promotions that may be running from time to time

Factor about Rs 10000 per person per night as an approximate cost for cheapest option. You can always check cruise company website for prevailing rates.

2. What is typically included in ticket price and what other costs we should be worrying about?
Ticket cost includes accommodation, basic meals and access to few entertainment activities, pool etc on the ship. Specialty restaurants, beverages, Casino, internet, various shows, Visa cost, travel cost till the boarding point and return etc to be factored extra. It is thus possible to enter and come out without spending a dollar extra, if you can control temptations or willing to skip additional experiences.

3. Do we get Indian veg Food on board cruise ship?

Yes. We were served Indian Veg food on board and almost all popular cruises serve various world cuisines to ensure that their guests get their preferred type of food.

4. What should be the ideal duration of Cruise holiday?
The one day (actually 17 hours) overnight cruise we did was ok, but not long enough. Before we could get hang of things the cruise was over. If you have time and money, there are cruises that takes months and costs several lakhs. I met a Danish couple in Macau who had done a 51 day cruise from Royal Caribbean (a combination of 5 different cruises covering Europe, Middle East and Asia) But in my opinion after 3-4 days, once you’ve explored whatever ship has to officer, boredom will begin to creep in. So for those who are tight on time and budget and want to experience cruise, my suggestion would be to try with a 3-4 days one. 7 days is more than enough. But if you wish to experience world's biggest cruise ships, then you may have to plan longer, as they may not operate on short distances.

There are many point to point services- such as Copenhagen to Oslo etc which are cheaper but are usually much smaller ships and short duration trips that won't give you full experience of a mega cruise ship.

5. Are there any good cruises beginning from India?
As per my knowledge NO, but some cruise ships touch Kochi, so you can try that. Else Singapore/Malaysia gives multiple options.

6. Is the cheapest cabin (inside room) adequate or should we spend more on one with ocean view?
Cheapest cabin will not have any window and may even have a bunker bed. It is not spacious either. Of course everyone is free to enjoy the ocean by sitting in public areas or open deck etc, so inside room doesn’t mean that you can never see ocean. If you can afford, next higher category with slightly spacious room and may be a window to the ocean is recommended. If there are unused superior rooms, you will be offered an upgrade- most of the time for a nominal fee.

7. Can I book a cruise for 1 person?
No. From what I understand, bookings are always in multiples of 2 persons. Even if you are alone, you need to pay for 2 beds (one room). Of course you can take a friend along. Check with respective cruise liners for specific rules

8. How to kill time on board the cruise ship?
There will be many options
-    Enjoy the view
-    Play Casino
-    Attend various shows/activities conducted from time to time (A schedule will be given)
-    Enjoy the pool/spa/gym/other watersports/attractions etc
-    Shop duty free
-    Eat/drink
-    Sleep in your room/read/watch TV
-    Buy WiFi and kill time on internet
-    Larger the ship more the options to kill time

9. Will there be internet on cruise ships?
Yes. But almost always it will be chargeable (in Star Cruise Pisces it was HKD 40 for 3 hours, HKD 60 for 6 hours)

10. What happens in case of an emergency?
-    For minor emergencies there will be doctor on board and enough firefighting/emergency trained staff. Every passenger should know the spot where he/she is supposed to go in case of emergency (Muster Stations). Do keep your medicines with you.
-    Major incidents that endanger entire ship shouldn’t happen, but if an "Abandon Ship" command is given (identified by continuous alarm beep), there will be enough life vests for every adult. Life boats are few in number- I guess mostly premium cabin guests will be given preference. Unless your ship is in some remote place, there will always be some other commercial ship around which may come in for rescue on seeing distress call/signal. One should be fit enough to survive in cold water (with a life jacket) for a few hours at least, till help comes.

11. What if I need to return half way through the journey?
There is no way. Almost all cruise ships will have a helipad, so if you can afford one, may be they can arrange for a helicopter to come and take you back. Else you need to wait till next port of call, at which you can terminate your trip and return on your own to wherever you have to go. Don’t expect any refund.

12. Was there too much crowd?
No. During our sail there wasn’t much crowd for anything. May be ship wasn’t booked to the max. Cruise ships can house between 2000-6000 guests- if all of them head to one particular venue/attraction/show at the same time then there will definitely be a crowd. As long as guests spread evenly around various attractions in the ship, usually crowd won’t be much.

13. How to figure out what is where on a cruise ship?
A tour of this ship will usually be arranged in group, but that was mostly focused on explaining where we can shop what. With some sense of direction and by referring to maps and displays, it is possible to get your ways around the ship. Not a big deal.

14. What else we should be aware of?
-They took our passport away upon boarding and returned only during disembarkation (with immigration pre-cleared) - I guess this is done to ensure that guests settle all pending bills without dispute before leaving.
-Do web check-in, saves lots of time
-Prices may vary based on your nationality for same sailing, date and cabin type.
-Like airlines, booking early helps. When I booked 2 weeks prior, I had to pay 24200 for 2 people for one night cruise, weekend sailing. The cheapest I have seen for the same is Rs 15000+ (weekday sailing, when booked 4 weeks in advance)
-Do check age of the ship. Ships that are too old (30 years plus) are usually risky and won’t have best of the facilities.
-Penalty may apply if you damage property, cause blockade of toilets etc. Be careful.
-Ship liner's interest lies in making you spend more n more on ship. You might be offered generous discounts on Spa etc, but understand that they offer it to every passenger and there is nothing unique about it. Similarly duty free shops claim to sell stuff cheaper, which may or may not be true. Be careful.
- Dress code may apply for use of pool. (no dress code or dress required for visiting Casino as long as you have money)

Happy holiday!

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in cruise holiday. All above points are from my recent overnight cruise experience, which is not the best example of cruise. Please use your discretion and cross check other reviews or with cruise operator.

Indian Bloggers Our Star cruise experience and photos will be shared soon in a separate post, now live here.


ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

How to book a cruise journey? I mean most of the cruises offer internet bookings?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

All of them offer internet booking. But cancellation/change of date may not be permitted.
Travel agents can also help

Sims said...

Wow, this helps a lot..

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Sims

nehali jain said...

Nice write up, Look forward to your next story on Star Cruises experience:)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Sure Nehali Jain. Should be live in couple of days. Standby

Pradeep Bhatt said...

This gives good idea about what cruise is like. Food is plentiful and available 24x7. Usually one cant take own Alcohol Bottle on Cruise,so have to use Bar. But Drinks are not costly and Bartenders are good so Cocktails are fun. Destinations like Alaska are Best for Cruise (7 Days) or Caribbean (3-4 Days).

Recently I was asked by my friend to Join 15 Days Trans Atlantic Cruise, from Bilbao in Spain to Panama City via Lisbon and Two Other island Ports in Atlantic @ $ 275+ Taxes per Person. It seems that many Cruise Liners in West do Europe Cruises, Turkey,Greece,Italy Spain,Norway etc in Summer. End Seprtember they travel to Central and South America and do Cruise there. In Feb-march they return to Europe for Cruise again. So such Low Price for Outside Cabin. Crise Line is not Top Class like Princess,Great Carribbean.--- P.K.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for your valuable inputs PB

divsi said...

This was absolutely informative. Have never been on a cruise ship! (Though my father was in the merchant Navy!) :( And now my parents are so fed up of the sea that they wouldn't accompany me on a cruise ever :p

Thanks for the info! :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

You're welcome. May be you can plan a cruise with special someone! when the time comes