Five Common (but good) Cruise Rookie Questions

by Chris Owen

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Cruise vacations have gained in popularity as an easy way to see the world. Many travelers have sailed multiple times on a variety of lines offering everything from a quick spin around the Bahamas to an Adventure sailing in Antarctica or Alaska. Some book online, others seek the advice of travel professionals who specialize in just cruise vacations. All have a bunch of logical questions and here are five of them.

1 What is the cancellation policy?

Unless you book a restricted fare that required a non-refundable deposit, you should be able to cancel at anytime before final payment is due and get back whatever you have paid on pretty much any line. The day the final payment is due, the cruise line charges a penalty for canceling.

The reason is that the cruise line might have sold that cabin to someone else but thought you were buying it. Preferring to sell cabins far in advance of sailing it is inconvenient for the cruise line to have to sell that cabin now. Most people plan and buy a cruise vacation way in advance so the cruise line will probably will have to discount that cabin and feel they should not suffer because someone canceled late.

That penalty increases over time to where if you cancel close to sailing, the penalty equals the total amount paid and you get back only port charges for the ports you will not now visit. If that thought bothers you, we need to talk a little about travel insurance at some point.

2. How soon would you recommend booking to get best availability and price?

6 months ago. Seriously. As far in advance as possible. That way you get the best selection of cabins and maybe some of the lowest pricing, depending on the line and the way the wind blows. It’s best to book into less restrictive fares if you think you might change your mind, just to keep options open. That’s not always the least expensive fare but it might be worth whatever the difference was in price compared to paying penalties for changes down the line.

3. With regard to rooms, which area is the best value for what you get?
Personally, the choice is easy. Either an inside or a balcony. I think Oceanviews are a waste of money. The window does not open and there is a deck cam where you can see what the weather is like outside. If the price is not a problem, the balcony is a great way to go and even moreso now…for non-smokers. Cruise lines are tightening up smoking regulations so there is a no smoking policy on balcony cabins. That’s either a really good thing for those who don’t smoke or something that will make smokers consider another mode of travel. Camping seems to be a popular smoking choice.

4. I don’t mind paying a bit more to be comfortable but I also wouldn’t expect to spend much time in the room?
Regardless of the room you pick, I bet you spend more time in there than you think you will right now, and rightfully so. Here you are in a wonderful, well-appointed space with a nice flat-screen tv, someone else making the bed (twice a day if you need it) and turning it down at night. If you want anything, most lines have 24-hour room service included in the price so you’ll want to be around (in your stateroom) for that. Also, if you select an inside cabin, odds are you may very well have the best sleep of your life what with the gentle rocking of the ship through the night and the fact that with the lights out, those inside cabins are pitch black.

5. What is the maximum number of people that can fit in a room on a cruise ship?
…like how many college students can fit in a phone booth? We actually have an answer for that version: 26 in an inside cabin on Caribbean Princess is the last record we heard/witnessed/OK we were there.

Better question: How many people can live comfortably in a cabin? Cruise line staterooms are equipped and rated for the number of guests they will accommodate (none of them hold 26). In standard staterooms on most cruise lines that’s up to four, generally speaking. Many are rated for two and may be the same square feet as a cabin for four but not have the beds to hold four.

Some lines have suites, family suites and other customized accommodations for larger parties.

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