Before You Go!!This aticle is the second part in a six part series “Cruise Mini Camp” of informational offerings
Deposit Required to Confirm Accommodations – All Cruise Lines require certain financial deposits be made in order to confirm your accommodations. These fees vary between carriers, and usually are governed by duration, destination, and/or time of year sailed. Sometimes, the further out you book from your sailing date, the smaller the deposit amount required. Periodic and Final Payment Due Dates – Final payments are normally due no later than 75 days from departure date. Periodic Payments may also be required on certain Ships/Itineraries, Group Sailings, or due to contracts with/between various Cruise Service Providers. Most cruise lines reserve the right to withdraw/rescind special fare pricing and offers, unless payment in full has been made.
Cancellation/Refund Policies – Should you need to cancel a confirmed Booking, Cancellation Charges are necessary to carry out the Administrative Processing required with various Cruise Service Providers. These charges include those imposed by the various cruise lines as well as those by various Cruise Service Providers. They generally vary according to cruise line, length of cruise, time of year, and the numbers of days from departure date you cancel your reservation(s).
Travel Documents – All Guests (age 16+) will be required to have a valid passport (official government issued photo id) in order to cruise on most cruise lines. Additionally, as a parent or legal guardian you must have an official birth certificate for each child age 15 and under who is traveling with you as well. If you are not their parent or legal guardian you should also have a written letter of permission signed by the parent or legal guardian giving permission for that minor to accompany you out of the country. Some destinations may require travel visas, which require advance application in order to obtain. Hint: Many times if you are intending to take a shore excursion in a country which requires a visa, inquire with the Cruise Ship Line as often the price and process of applying for a visa may be included in the cost of the excursion. Generally it is recommended that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond your completion of travel. You are responsible to ensuring that the spelling in your booking information matches exactly to that stated on your passport. Otherwise you could face denied boarding. For more information or to obtain passport applications, visit www.travel.state.gov.
Denied Boarding Policies – Guests are responsible for their arrival for embarkation on time, (delayed/cancelled air, land, or sea transportation does not relieve or excuse you from this requirement). You are also responsible for being physically and mentally fit for travel, (which like the airlines, includes sobriety). Additionally ALL of your boarding/sailing documentation names (spelling) must match exactly to those shown on your government photo identification. Anyone who fails to meet these minimal requirements can be denied boarding, without any further responsibility or liability on the part of the Cruise Service Lines, nor refund of any Fares/Fees you previously paid.
Insurance/Waiver Requirements – We cannot emphasize strongly enough, all of the needs (you most likely cannot even begin to think of), that can affect your travel success. Many people think “we never cancel a cruise so why insurance”. Many years ago that’s all travel insurance covered. However, over the past decade cruising has drastically changed. With that, so have the habits and lifestyles of those who cruise. Vacation insurance has also changed. There are many situations which often can and do arise (unpredictable factors), that not only can interrupt or halt your vacation, but make for a very emotional and financially draining situation. First is Medical Insurance. An accident or illness while cruising may require you being taken to shore, while your medical insurance may be fine while in the states, how is your coverage say in Mexico, Canada, (or even worse) third world countries? What if you should want or need to be transported back to the states for treatment(s)? Have any idea as to how much that could cost? Not to mention getting loved ones back with you too! Medical transports/evacuations run upwards of $50k. Most cruisers can secure Trip Cancellation, Medical Coverage, Evacuation, Repatriation, Lost-Delayed Luggage, and even Death Benefit coverage for less than 10% of their total trip costs. To ensure that clients have been informed of these needs many agencies require that all customers who decline/refuse insurance coverage to sign a refusal of insurance coverage affidavit.
Health/Medical Requirements – Guests are requested to inform the Cruise Lines of any physical, mental, or other disability that may require special attention or services rendered. (See Special Needs Guests information below). Due to government requirements generally all guests will be required to submit in writing prior to boarding the ship as to their state of medical fitness to sail. Guests are responsible to be sure they have adequate supplies of all medications that they take with them. Additionally, pregnant guests typically must be 24 weeks or less at time of disembarkation (end of cruise) in order to sail, and generally must provide a letter from their physician stating that both mother and baby are in good health, fit to travel, and that they are not considered a high risk pregnancy.
On Board Medical Services – All cruise ships have 24hour medical and infirmary staff available. But most do not realize that there are fees for any services which are rendered. These fees are added to your on-board ship account, which must be settled prior to your final disembarkation from the ship (at the end of your cruise). Most physicians and nurses on board ships are independent contractors, not employees of the cruise lines. Therefore their charges are not governed by the cruise lines, while limiting the cruise line’s malpractice liability exposure as well. It should be noted that having vacation travel coverage will reimburse you for any such services that are required. Often times, if notified immediately they can even have the cruise lines forward billings to them directly, in serious type situations.
Special Needs Guests – All Cruise Service providers desire to accommodate guests with special needs. Anyone having such needs is encouraged to discuss their specific needs with your Cruise Planner. These concerns, needs, and issues should be forwarded to the Cruise Ship’s appropriate department/personnel well in advance of the departure date, to insure proper accommodations are in place upon the guests ‘arrival. Your agent can assist with contracting for any special needs equipment, (such as wheel chairs, electric carts, portable oxygen, etc.) by reserving same, so that it is on board ship (or at the port terminal) when you arrive. Upon ending your cruise it can simply be left on board, or also at the port terminal.
Repatriation of Remains – While it’s not something we care to think about, deaths routinely occur on cruise ships. (Often times more than one per cruise). Most clients are unaware of what happens when a death occurs at sea. They think there is a morgue on board. Yes there is, but the remains are removed from the ship (in accordance with Maritime Law Requirements) at the next port of call. It is then the responsibility of next of kin, to make arrangements with that country for the remains to be returned here to the states. An already emotional situation even more complicated by money, language, paperwork, and time. Sometimes many days are needed to complete the entire process. We strongly recommend that you purchase coverage for this. Not only for the remains, but our travel policies take care of the paperwork, financial commitments, translators, and local accommodations for those traveling as well. Also in making arrangements for everyone’s return home. Piece of mind is one thing, while the ability of having things taken care of with just one call is completely another.
Baggage/Luggage & Personal Effects Liabilities – We strongly recommend that guests purchase comprehensive vacation protection, as Cruise Lines do not accept responsibility for your Baggage/Luggage/Personal Belongings. Our Travel Guard Insurance Policies provide you not only with monetary compensation for lost/delayed baggage, but provides a 24hr service desk that will track down where your luggage is located, so that you can stay focused on enjoying your cruise vacation (not on hold waiting for someone to get back to you). While most cruise ships offer in room safes, they do not assume responsibility, nor insure your personal property should it be lost or stolen. So be sure to protect your personal belongings and yourself.
Service Charges – Many times Cruise lines impose service charges for items such as, prepaid airline tickets or any changes made to same, cruise vacation package changes, & Any On Board Services such as Check Cashing, Credit Card Advances, Currency Exchange, Medical Services, as well as Per Day, Per Person Service Charges (generally if there is a fuel supplement charge being imposed). Oh yeah, and any purchases you make while on board ship.(Alcoholic Beverages, Sodas (Soft Drinks), Bottled Water, etc.) If you don’t want to pay, consider drinking juice, lemonade or tea which is generally free aboard all cruise ships. Or, you might wish to purchase soda/bottled water cards on board. These are special discounted punch type/electronic cards you or your kids can use to pay for sodas etc, rather than having to pay per drink at the on board going rate for these items. The pre purchased drink cards are generally a better deal (especially for those who drink a lot of sodas). Please know that your Agent has no ability to limit, control, or govern such service charges. Guests are strongly encouraged to carefully review their Passenger Contract and Ticket Agreements, and be mindful of your purchases you make while on board.
Service Gratuities – All Cruise Lines want you to experience the best cruise vacation possible, and strive to meet your level of expectations. Stateroom and Dining Room Personnel are directly involved in this endeavor. As with any service industry provider, tips are earned and appreciated. To this end, each carrier will have recommended amounts for each level of staff that (provides such services) you interact with. Some carriers may even automatically charge these amounts to your on-board account. If you do not wish them to do so, or you wish to amend the amount charged, you can do so by simply going to Guest Services while on board. You should be sure to do so prior to your last sea day.
Minor Guests – Typically, guests under the age of 21 must be accompanied by a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian who is at least 25 years of age staying in the same room, or in some instances adjoining staterooms are sufficient. Any minor guest not travelling with their parent or legal guardian may be required to furnish written permission from same prior to embarkation. No matter what the legal age for consumption of alcohol may be in some ports, while on board ship, 21 is the legal age for consumption of alcohol. Infants normally must be at least 6 months of age to cruise.
Celebrations or Special Occasions – If you will be celebrating, commemorating, or are cruising for any type of special occasion, such as Birthdays, Anniversaries (of any kind), Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Graduations or the like, please be sure to let your cruise planner know, so that you will be sure that the cruise lines are aware, and have made adequate plans to mark such special occasion(s) while you are on board, for a day/night for such celebration of your choosing.
Situations that arise – Unfortunately problems can arise while cruising. We urge you to make every reasonable effort to contact your agent immediately(if possible), so that they can offer you the best advice and assistance possible at resolving the issues/concerns while you are aboard the cruise ship, as writing the cruise line or informing your agent upon your return WILL NOT RESOLVE YOUR SITUATION. You should know that Cruise lines as a practice do little or nothing to act on complaints or experiences POST CRUISE. Simply put, Guest Services, Guest Relations Desk or Manager, Front Desk Manager or Assistant, and ultimately the Hotel Director/Manager (not Cruise Director) are key individuals at resolving most issues. If you are cruising in a suite, there may also be assistance through your concierge desk personnel. That’s really Good to know, before you Go! Ok now you are ready for the next module, Cruise Day One, Embarkation Day . See ya there!
For more information on things you need to know before you go, contact Mike via email firstname.lastname@example.org . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike . To “Join” our Travel Club go to http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/ Mikes web site can be found at www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com . Follow Mike’s blog (or subscribe to it) at http://www.cruisewithmike.com (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cruisewithmike/ . Mike also edits his own twice daily e-newspaper called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at http://paper.li/CruisewithMike
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