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Preparing for a cruise can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you ask yourself a few basic questions.

How Much Do I Want to Spend?
Your Travel Leaders travel expert can help you compare the cost of cruises. An all-inclusive cruise may cover your drinks, meals in specialty restaurants, gratuities and shore excursions. On large mass-market ships, however, each of these might carry a separate fee. Depending on your lifestyle, the all-inclusive route, which at first seems more expensive, may actually be a better value.

What Amenities Do I Want?
If you love creature comforts, there's nothing like a suite with your own private balcony with front-row seats on the passing scenery. For personal pampering, the butler service on Regent, Crystal and Celebrity can't be beat. If computer connections are more essential, be sure to check out the large cruise lines' high-tech facilities ? from Internet cafés to in-cabin data ports. All offer a variety of shore excursions from High Renaissance art to high adventure. Your travel agent will have all the latest information.

What's Included and What’s Not?
What is usually not included in the fare you see in, say, the newspaper or on the web, are the applicable government taxes and fees, fuel surcharges, port charges and, if applicable, any airline taxes and fees. These extra fees will vary by the cruise/flight destination. We will take the time to explain these charges to you so you will have a firm idea of the cost of your cruise vacation.

Also, onboard extras such as mini-bar, spas, excursions, internet, casino gaming, drinks/liquor (on some cruise lines), laundry service, and babysitting, are not included in the cruise fare.

Will I Need Cash Onboard?
You have the option to settle your onboard account with cash, though most cruise lines have gone to a cashless system ? which is why they obtain your credit card number upon embarkation for you to charge all the "extras" to your onboard account. When it comes to tipping the staff, the practice of automatically charging your onboard account a daily flat service charge is becoming increasingly popular among most cruise lines.

For onshore purchases, using a credit card is the best policy. But for smaller purchases, cash is an easy alternative. Also, travelers' checks or rechargeable cash cards are a good idea to bring along in case your primary form of cash or credit is lost or stolen.

We will advise you of the tipping policies and need of monetary funds based on the cruise line and itinerary.

When Should I Book My Cruise?
Plenty of deals are available throughout the year offering a range of incentives, including reduced rates, airfare discounts, additional onboard credit, or a combination of added-values. However, to secure the itinerary, ship, stateroom and any shore excursions you prefer, plan on booking at least four to six months prior to departure.

What If I Have Special Medical or Dietary Needs?
Notify the cruise line at the time of booking or immediately thereafter of any medical or dietary requirements you have. Most cruise lines require at least thirty to sixty days to plan accordingly.

How Will I Get to My Cruise Ship?
Whether you choose to drive, fly or take advantage of your cruise line's air & cruise package (which could save you money and usually includes transfers to/from the airport and pier) to get to the ships point of departure, we highly advise to arrive at least a day prior to the cruise departure to avoid any unforeseen delays that might cause you to miss the ships departure. Discuss with us the many pre- or post-cruise options available to give yourself a little more time to discover another city and alleviate the chance of missing the ship's departure.

Will I Need to Buy Travel Insurance?
Most vacations go off without a hitch, but mishaps do occur, and with the right type of travel insurance you are likely to have more control over the outcome.

Travel insurance offers numerous levels of coverage ranging from simple plans, such as insuring an airline ticket, to comprehensive plans, which cover you in the event of baggage loss, damage to personal effects, delays, medical, dental, emergency evacuation or assistance and trip cancellation. At Travel Leaders we can help you determine what coverage will be suitable for your vacation.

What Are The Cancellation Penalties?
Cancellation and change penalties vary by cruise line. These fees can differ based on cruise line and time of year. Due to the complex nature of change/cancellation fees and potential transaction fees, any changes or cancellations should be made with the assistance of an agent.

To view cancelation/change fees for reservations made via this web site, view the Cruise Frequently Asked Questions.

Is a Passport or Visa Required?
Passport and visa requirements will depend on your itinerary. We can advise you of the specific entry requirements.

If you will require a passport; all that's needed to apply are: proof of citizenship (birth certificate); and a valid form of identification such as a driver's license. Visa applications are through the government of the country you're requesting entrance; the process varies by country. We can guide you on how and where to apply, and the fees.

Please note that we can only advise you as to how to obtain a passport or visa, but it's your responsibility to apply, purchase and make sure you receive the passport and/or visa prior to your departure.

Also, if you're traveling to destinations which require a vaccination certificate, it's your responsibility to get the required vaccinations prior to departure.

What should I Pack for a Cruise?
It's a vacation, so feel free to pack like it. But do be aware of the seasonal temperatures and weather of the destination(s) you'll be exploring and pack accordingly. For example, Alaska in the summer will still require a warm jacket. Ask about the voltage requirements on the ship if you plan to bring electrical, plug-in items.

Also, you will need to adhere to the cruise line's dress code; some are more formal than others. Many cruise lines maintain the tradition of dressing up for dinner and designate some evenings for "casual", "informal" and "formal" dress. What these code words mean varies a bit from one cruise line to another, but in general, here's what to expect (and pack):

Casual dress means open-necked sport shirts and slacks for men; and sundresses, slacks or capri pants with coordinating tops for women. In general, jeans, shorts and baseball caps are not allowed. On luxury cruise lines, casual may take one more step toward formal, with jackets (but not ties) required for men and women expected to wear dresses or skirts.

Informal (or "smart casual" or "resort casual") dress means slacks, button-down shirts, ties and jackets for men; dresses, dinner suits or pantsuits for women.

Formal dress means dark suits, dinner jackets or tuxedos for men; evening dresses for women. On luxury cruise lines, it's not unusual to see women in full-length gowns on formal nights.

Note that some cruise lines require the specified form of evening dress not only in the dining rooms, but everywhere on the ship. If you really want to be flexible with your attire, consider a cruise line that has no dress code.



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