Getting to the Cruise

What should I pack?
Attire is dictated by occasion. In general, cruise vacations are casual by day whether you are on the ship or ashore. Evening attire varies, with some evenings being casual and some being formal. For the captain's gala, for example, you'll probably want to wear something more formal such as a dark suit or cocktail dress, perhaps even a tuxedo or gown. For a beach party theme night, you will fit right in with your Hawaiian shirt or sundress.

Don't forget your usual toiletries, as they are quite expensive to replace on the ship. If you are going to a sunny destination, pack sunscreen, a swimsuit, and a hat. If you're going on an Alaska cruise, don't forget a rain jacket and warm layers. Keep all prescription medicine with you in your carry-on bag while traveling. You may also want to stow a change of clothes and a bathing suit in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost or so you can more comfortably enjoy the ship's amenities while waiting for your bags to arrive in your stateroom.
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Will I need formalwear?
On some cruises, formal dinners or parties are part of the fun; however, you don't need to buy a tuxedo just for the trip. You can rent a tuxedo at home or on the ship, or wear a dark suit and tie, which are perfectly acceptable for the dressiest occasions. With today's more relaxed lifestyles, cruise lines such as Norwegian and Windstar only request resort casual attire (jacket and tie not required) for evening dress.
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What travel documents do I need?
What travel documents you need depends on the type of cruise and destination; and requirements are subject to change at any time. Under current passport law, all U.S. citizens traveling by air between the U.S. and a foreign country (including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda) will need a valid passport. Likewise, all foreign nationals flying into the U.S. will be required to show a passport and visa if applicable. The cruise lines highly recommend that all cruisers carry valid passports regardless of itinerary. Otherwise, for land or sea travel into a foreign North American nation, an original birth certificate or a certified copy combined with a government-issued photo I.D. will be accepted.

As early as January 1, 2008, all cruisers will need passports to travel by land or sea between countries. The only cruisers who wouldn't need passports would be U.S. citizens flying from the U.S. to Hawaii for an NCL America Hawaii cruise that does not leave U.S. waters.

Non-U.S. citizens who have previously been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence must carry their passport and Alien Registration Card ("Green Card"). Minors under 18 who are traveling with one parent are required to have a notarized consent letter from the other parent for admittance into Mexico. It's often a good idea to carry such a letter when traveling to other countries as well.
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What currency should I bring, and how much of it?
You can bring whatever currency you want (including U.S. dollars) because you'll be able to exchange money at the purser's desk or in port as necessary. You'll typically get the best exchange rate by paying for goods and services with a credit card and getting cash from an ATM machine. Check with your bank about any fees or surcharges on foreign purchases before you leave for your cruise.

Bring only the minimum amount of cash or traveler's checks that you feel is necessary. For convenience throughout the cruise, most cruise lines have a "cashless" credit program that allows guests to charge their onboard purchases directly to their personal account. Registration for this program will take place during the embarkation process or onboard at the purser's office. You must present the completed application form (included with your cruise documents) along with your preferred credit card.
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How do I get to the departing port from my city?
If you have purchased an air/sea package, a cruise-line representative will meet you at the airport of the port city, and shuttle you directly to the ship in a bus or minivan. Some cruise lines arrange to transport your luggage between the airport and the ship, so you don't have to struggle onto the bus with all of your bags. If you decide not to buy the air/sea package, but still plan to fly, ask your travel agent if you can use the ship's transfer bus anyway, although you may be required to purchase a round-trip transfer voucher.

If you are arriving by car, you will find parking (charged at a daily or weekly rate) conveniently located near the cruise terminal. Check with your cruise line for embarkation times—if you're late, you may not be allowed to board.
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What if I arrive at the departing port a day or so before my cruise?
If you purchased a pre-cruise package from the cruise line, you will have accommodations and transportation to the ship. If not, you will need to find a hotel and transportation to the ship on your own.
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How do I get to the ship?
If you purchased a transfer package from the cruise line, you will be advised on the time to meet your ride to the terminal. If you did not purchase a transfer package from the cruise line, you are responsible for getting to the terminal by whatever means necessary.
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What time do I board the ship?
Your cruise documents will advise you what time you should arrive at the terminal and when the embarkation process begins.
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What if I miss the ship?
If you booked an air/sea package through the cruise line, you have more protection than if you book your airfare separately. Cruise lines are more likely to make accommodations for you and work with the airline if it was their booking that did not get you to the ship on time. Also, they will be better able to track your late flight, and might even delay the ship if they know you will only be a little late. If they can't hold the ship, they might pay for you to stay in a hotel, or pay for flights so you can catch up with the ship at the next port. Depending on the circumstances, they might even rebate some of your cruise or give you a discount toward your next cruise with them.

However, remember that airlines are independent contractors. Most cruise conditions of carriage state that since airlines are independent contractors, the cruise line makes no warranty, and assumes no responsibility, for any failures or delays in their contractor's (the airline's) services. Therefore, purchasing a trip insurance package is strongly recommended.

If you booked the flight separately or used frequent flyer miles to pay for your airfare, the best thing to do is to arrive a day or more before the sailing date. Otherwise, if you miss the ship, it will be very expensive for you to catch the ship at the next port.
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