With included amenities like meals, activities, and room service, cruises can be much more cost-effective than land-based vacations. Plus, you can visit multiple destinations without extra transportation costs while only unpacking once.
Here’s what you'll typically find included in the rate of your cruise. Please note this varies by cruise line:
Included in Rate
Not Included in Rate
Most non-alcoholic drinks (including coffee and tea)
Onboard activities (pools, waterslides, rock-climbing, and more
Entertainment (onboard stage shows, comedy acts, trivia and more
Children’s activities and clubs
Specialty coffees, sodas and alcoholic beverages
Meals in alternative restaurants
Organized shore excursions
Spa or salon services
Special exercise classes
Cruise lines have been taking extra precautions to ensure your cruise experience is both enjoyable and safe. For information on vaccine requirements, testing, and refund policies implemented by each cruise line, check out our COVID-19 Cruise Guide for Travel.
There is also this handy search tool that can help you find out more about regulations for destinations, and safety and health guidelines.
Where do cruises go? All over the world! Check out some of the most popular cruise travel destinations below:
In just one European cruise, you can experience Nordic hospitality in Oslo, stroll around the Colosseum in Rome or take a shore excursion to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
1. Best Time to Book a Cruise: Wave Season (January–March) is when you'll score the year's top deals, including free perks (like upgrades & onboard credits) and discounted fares.
2. Avoid the Queasy Stomach: Sensitive to motion sickness? Choose a cabin on a lower deck, mid-ship.
3. Arrive Early at the Cruise Port: Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your ship's departure time. If possible, fly to your embarkation city the night before in case of flight delays.
4. Get Onboard Spa Specials: If you're a spa seeker, look for specials on days the ship is in port. You can save up to 25% - a great way to kick-start a vacation!
5. Ask for a Wakeup Call: Most cabins don't have alarm clocks, so plan to bring your own, or request a phone wakeup call.
6. Celebrate Special Occasions: Celebrating a birthday or anniversary onboard? Preorder flowers, cakes, champagne, and more on your cruise line's website.
7. Check the Daily Onboard Schedule: The ship newsletter is delivered nightly to your cabin. Here, you'll find the next day's entertainment schedule, special events, dinner themes and attire, and other helpful tips.
8. Pose for Pictures: If you don't like lugging your camera around, don't worry! A professional photographer will be onboard to capture special moments, and the photos will be available for purchase at the end of your cruise.
9. Keep Essentials with You on Embarkation Day: When you hand over your luggage at the dock, it may take a few hours to be delivered to your cabin. Make sure you keep essentials like prescriptions, swimsuits, and sunscreen with you in a separate tote bag or backpack.
10. Plan Ahead: Popular shore excursions, spa treatments, and tables at specialty restaurants tend to fill up fast, so check your cruise line’s website to see how far in advance these can be booked.
- Documents: Be sure to pack your passport and travel documents.
- Electronics: For items requiring electrical-outlet usage, such as hair dryers or cell phone chargers, note that most cabins are equipped with U.S. standard 110-volt outlets. Some cabins are also equipped with European standard 220-volt outlets.
- Clothing: Pack with both your destination's climate and the cruise ship's dress code in mind. For Alaska, bring protective rain coverings. For the Caribbean, bring plenty of light, airy clothing and sunscreen. Be sure to pack some formal attire if your ship has formal nights. If you forget anything, that's OK; most ships have casual dining venues, and some ships also have formal wear rental shops.
- Forbidden Items: The following items are not permitted onboard: firearms, weapons of any kind, irons, candles, explosives, or animals (except service animals with permission from the cruise line).
- Internet: Most ships have Internet access (for a fee), including Internet cafés, access from your cabin, or ship-wide wireless. Remember, Internet access at sea is not going to be as fast or reliable as land connections, and therefore may not be available at all times. For a faster connection, use the Internet at night or in port when other guests are ashore. For more details, check out the ship features on your cruise line's website.
- Telephone: Most cabins offer telephones. If your cabin does not have a telephone (which is rare), the ship's radio operator can connect you to a mainland number in case of an emergency. Please keep in mind that making a ship-to-shore telephone call can be quite expensive, and it may be worth waiting to use a pay phone at the next port stop.
- Mobile Devices: Some cruise lines offer onboard service, but reception may depend on your phone carrier. Watch out for expensive additional roaming or usage fees your cell phone provider may issue. To be safe, keep your cell phone off, or on airplane mode, to prevent charges from incoming text messages or roaming.
Embarkation begins when you start to board the ship. You can usually board the ship 3–4 hours before departure. All passengers must be onboard at least 60–90 minutes prior to departure. Check the individual cruise line's policies for final boarding times, and required documentation to board.
Disembarkation can take 2–3 hours. Please allow plenty of time to disembark the ship, go through customs, and get to the airport in time for check-in. We suggest you schedule your return flight to depart a minimum of 6 hours after you're scheduled to arrive in port.