Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned cruiser, you’re sure to have a question or two… Our expert, Sue Bryant – veteran of more than 50 cruises and author of three books on cruising – supplies the answers.
Q: Are there any cruises that spend more than just a few hours in port? I don’t like the idea of only having one day in each place.
A: Most one-week cruises normally call at six ports in seven days and as such will spend from around 7am to 6pm in each port. EasyCruise however spends most evenings in port on its Greece and Turkey itineraries, departing in the small hours of the morning, although this means the ship often doesn’t arrive at its destination until lunchtime.
EasyCruise is great for people who like eating out and for night owls, but less so for those who want a whole day to explore.
At the opposite end of the scale entirely, Silversea‘s ultra-luxury ships offer quite a few overnights.
Ports with a night stop for next summer include Venice, Istanbul, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Sorrento, St Petersburg, Stockholm, Reykjavik and more. Further afield, there are overnights in Muscat, Cochin, Cape Town, Dubai, Safaga (for Luxor), Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney.
Q: What plug adaptors do I need? I am looking at sailing with P&O Cruises or one of the American lines.
A: Ships mainly offer 110 or 220-volt sockets (some have both) but only a handful of vessels, those built for P&O Cruises, for example, take UK-style plugs.
It’s a good idea to take an adaptor that will fit US or European-style sockets.
Q: What happens if there is a medical emergency on board a cruise ship? My parents are very elderly and I’m a little concerned.
A: The hospitals on large cruise ships are extremely well-equipped and most have the facility to stabilise a very sick passenger, but in the case of a serious emergency a passenger can be taken ashore by helicopter, provided the ship is within range of the coast, or admitted to a local hospital if the ship is in port and the medical officer on board recommends it. You should always have adequate medical insurance for a cruise; getting treatment can be expensive.
It’s worth noting that ships carrying fewer than 12 passengers – freighters with fare-paying guests, for example – are not obliged to carry a doctor, only a medical kit, so you’ll need to be in reasonable health to go on a cargo voyage.
Q: Can I extend my cruise vacation if I feel like it?
A: Yes, provided your return airline ticket can be changed. Most cruise lines offer cruise-and-stay packages, whereby they’ll book a hotel and car hire for you as part of your overall holiday. Or you can book a cruise-only trip and make your own hotel arrangements. If you decide while on board that you want to stay another week on the ship, ask for a deal; there are often significant discounts for spontaneous bookings like this!
Q: Is there a maximum amount of luggage that I can bring on a cruise? What about carry-on items?
A: On a cruise which involves a flight, your luggage will be restricted by the allowances set by the airline. But on a cruise departing from a port to which you make your way overland, the only limit is how much you can fit in your cabin! All cruise ships provide storage space for suitcases, but bear in mind that unless you have booked a suite, space may be fairly tight – perhaps a double wardrobe and some drawers between two in a standard double cabin. There are no limits for carry-on items but all hand luggage will be screened every time you board the ship. Some cruise lines do ask that, for handling purposes, each piece of luggage is limited to 23kg in weight.
Cunard Line permits you to send your luggage in advance – particularly handy if you’re taking a very long voyage. The company offers a White Star Luggage Service whereby your luggage is collected from your home and is waiting in your stateroom when you board the ship.
Q: How late on in a pregnancy can you go on a cruise?
A: Cruise lines are quite strict regarding pregnant women. Most set the limit at 24 weeks but each has its own policy, so check with your individual line. A doctor’s letter may be required to certify that the mum-to-be is in good health.
Q: Can you get prescription drugs on board a cruise ship?
A: If the ship’s doctor needs to prescribe prescription drugs in an emergency, he or she will, but you should really carry drugs for ongoing medical conditions yourself, in your hand luggage, with enough to last for the duration of the cruise. There is always a charge to use the ship’s medical centre.
Q: My husband and I are always disappointed with the vegetarian choices at sea. even in the queens grill on Queen Mary 2 we felt it was no more than we’d get in a pub. do any lines incorporate vegetarian fine dining options?
A: You have my sympathy, as a veteran of many years of vegetarian cruising! It sounds as though you’ve been on some upmarket cruises, but the mid-range lines may suit you better because of the variety they offer.
Princess Cruises is particularly impressive; there’s a proper vegetarian menu every day, and Holland America Line also makes a point of putting veggie dishes on its main menus.
Crystal Cruises is exceptionally good if you’re looking for a five-star experience. When I was on board, the chef listened to my (polite) requests, which brings me to my main point – you have to ask.
My other advice is to check the discussion forums on sites like www.cruisecritic.com, where you can exchange views with other vegetarian cruisers.
Q: Can I make phone calls or get Wi-Fi access on board?
A: All ships have satellite phones in the cabins but these are extremely expensive and are best kept for emergencies. Many vessels – those of NCL and Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity, for example – can route mobile phone calls through their system, so your mobile will work even when at sea. Again, be warned, as these call charges can be enormous.
Pretty well all modern ships offer e-mail access to passengers in their computer centres and an increasing number have Wi-Fi hotspots in all the public areas, should you want to bring your laptop. Do remember that there will be a charge for the service, though, whether you use the internet cafe or your own computer in a public area.
River cruise vessels tend to place a lot less importance on computers due to lack of space and as a result hardly any have an internet centre. You should, however, almost always have a mobile phone signal on a river cruise.
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