By Simon & Susan Veness
Whenever we delve into what we laughingly call our Mailbag these days (when we really mean our email, blog Comments and random queries that are directed towards us on various discussion forums), we invariably have to raise a smile at some of the questions that many people continue to have about cruising.
And it’s not the old chestnuts about “What do they do with the ice carvings after they melt?” and “Do the elevators go to the front of the ship?” Mind you, some of those old cruise director jokes are still pretty funny. We still like the one that has the CD announcing, “For the passenger who lost their new watch in Civitavecchia yesterday…the time is now 9.30.”
But, even though it is now 2019, common cruise enquiries remain to be answered, especially for the many first-timers who have yet to set foot aboard a modern cruise ship. With that in mind, here are the 10 most common queries we still see:
1. Will I Get Seasick?
For some people, their only idea of being at sea is a cross-channel ferry trip back in the 90s when the wind kicked up and they bounced all the way to Calais. That isn’t happening on a typical cruise. To start with, cruise lines generally seek out calm, tranquil (and warm) waters, namely the Caribbean in winter and Mediterranean in summer and autumn. They also go a LONG way to avoid major storms as they know social media can produce a far worse storm of disapproval. Ships are also fitted with stabilisers to help keep things on an even keel and, after the first day or two, you’re unlikely to notice even the gentle motion of being at sea. The adventuring kind of cruises do travel to more challenging areas, but even then, serious bad weather is the exception rather than the norm. Dramamine is also a great friend for any nervous cruisers.
So the answer is – It’s possible. Yes, it can happen. But probably not.
2. How can I stay in touch?
This is now one of the most common questions for anyone looking to take a cruise. Why it is so important just baffles us. We can happily spend two weeks at sea with no iPhone, internet or mobile gadgets at all. We tend to go on holiday to leave those connections to the real world behind. But, for those worried about getting Facebook withdrawal symptoms or not being able to text the kids for a few hours, it’s reassuring to know ship internet technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent times. It used to be the case even just a few years ago that getting online was like the bad old days of slow (like, glacially slow) dial-up speeds, but the latest satellite systems can keep even the most iGadget-dependent folks in constant touch with the ‘outside world.’ Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Oceania and MSC have all invested heavily in the latest technology, while Silversea, Crystal and the forthcoming new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection have all declared their vessels to be ‘free Wi-Fi zones.’
So the answer is – Pretty easily these days. But some lines will make you pay for it.
3. Will I be bored on a cruise?
Ugh. We HATE this question. We can’t even believe people are still asking it when the likes of Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, MSC and Carnival all feature adverts with some of the most heavily gimmick-laden ships we’ve ever seen. Just about the ONLY thing you can’t now do at sea is avoid the rock-climbing walls, go-kart tracks, sky-dive simulators, ice-skating rinks and elaborate water slides. Carnival has even announced plans for the first roller-coaster at sea. Double ugh.
So the answer is – No. Not on your Nelly. Never. It’s not possible. Unless you want to be.
4. Do I have to dress up at dinner-time?
Now, this is a more realistic concern for those who hate the idea of having to pack DJs, ball-gowns and the other accoutrements of formal evenings. Some lines, notably Cunard, Princess, Seabourn, Regent and Silversea, still have at least one ‘formal’ night per cruise where a suit or cocktail dress is required in the main dining rooms, but there is usually still an informal option. Most lines now veer towards ‘smart casual’ as their only dress-up stipulation, while the likes of Windstar, Oceania, Norwegian, MSC, Costa and Azamara all insist there is no official code as such, other than avoiding jeans or shorts in the dining rooms.
So the answer is – No, not if you don’t want to.
5. Can we stand on the prow of the ship like Leo and Kate?
What? You seriously want to create that godawful (and impossible) moment from the film Titanic?
So the answer is – what part of ‘impossible’ is hard to understand?
6. Do we have to tip the staff?
This is possibly the biggest bugbear among passengers worldwide, as it feels like a sneaky extra ‘tax’ on your cruise. But it isn’t. Tipping is simply part of cruise culture, a genuine reward for consistently good service. If you don’t get good service, you should mention it, and have those ‘automatic’ add-ons removed from your bill. But, unless you’re not in the habit of tipping whenever you go to a restaurant, bar or hotel, it really shouldn’t irk you. If it really, really does, then look for lines such as Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent and SeaDream, who insist gratuities are neither required nor expected.
So the answer is – Yes. Unless you really, really don’t want to.
7. Will I put on weight?
You bet. Next question.
So the answer is – Yes, but exactly how much is entirely up to you.
8. Should I do the ship-organised excursions?
Ship excursions can be expensive, and the cost adds up quickly on voyages of more than seven days. Therefore you need to do some pre-cruise homework before you book anything. Check if those ship tours are available from operators ashore, or if they are experiences you are unlikely to get otherwise.
So the answer is – For the ultimate in safety (and making sure you don’t miss the ship), take the ship’s tours. But be savvy and price things up first.
9. Isn’t cruising for the ‘newly-wed’ and ‘nearly-dead’?
Did you happen to notice No.3 above? Cruising now offers something for absolutely everyone, regardless of age. The profile of cruising has dropped from the 60s to the 40s in the last 20 years and there is definitely a young, active demographic on most sailings.
So the answer is – Only if you take a long voyage outside of main holiday periods.
10. Will we hit an iceberg?
OK, here’s another Titanic reference, and it’s equally out of date. Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, speed was all-important on transatlantic crossings and meant a more northerly course to and from New York. That brought shipping into the iceberg ‘lanes’ in the spring, hence vessels going full speed, at night, and paying no attention to radio messages, risked hitting large pieces of solid ice with tragic results.
So the answer is – Not today you won’t.
So, that addresses all the main reasons for not taking a cruise. Now, what’s stopping you?
What is your most pressing question or concern about taking a cruise? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.