Cruises and cruise ships have their own terminology. Here's a primer to get you up to speed on some of the things you might hear and read from fellow guests, travel agents and the crew.
The Cruise App WILL work without an internet package. You do not need to purchase an internet package simply to use the cruise ship app. You will be able to connect to the ship’s WiFi to use the app generally from the cruise terminal. That is the ONLY thing on your mobile device that will work on the ship’s WiFi without an internet package.
Muster Drill. A mandatory safety drill that every guest MUST complete before the ship is allowed to sail. This now consists of watching a video either through your app, your stateroom television, or at an assigned station. You must then report to your Muster Station, this will be a letter/number combination on your Ship Card, such as D3. If you’re unsure where to go, simply ask any crew member on the ship. Your Muster Station is also noted on the back of your stateroom door. A Muster Station is where you will gather in the case of an emergency onboard the ship.
Set all phones to Airplane Mode on the ship. Cruise ships have maritime cellular service. If you do not switch to airplane mode, mobile phones will connect to that maritime service and you can incur fees as high as $14 per MB of data. We have heard reports of passengers being charged $500 and more by their cellular carrier for one week cruises by not switching to airplane mode.
Smoking is prohibited on cruise ship balconies. Smoking is only permitted in approved areas on the ship, usually specific areas on the top decks and other outdoor areas. Smoking on a balcony can lead to a fine and removal from the ship at the next port of call.
Bottled Water in your cabin is NOT free unless it is listed as a perk in your confirmation. You will most likely find at least two large bottles of water in your cabin upon arrival. You will be charged if you use them. Same rules apply if your mini-fridge is stocked with water and/or soda.
Complimentary Food and Beverages: Anything listed as “Complimentary” or “Included” on the ship on the cruise line website is basically unlimited. You can eat as much as you please at the buffet, main dining room, pizza and burger joints, and any other included eatery throughout the ship. For instance in the main dining room you can order multiple appetizers, entrees and desserts. You can also ask the servers to bring you appetizer portions of the entrees if you’d like to try multiple entrees.
You’ll find drink stations in the buffet and sometimes at some of the quick eats areas. This always includes water, it may include iced tea and usually some punch or juices. Soda is not included as a complimentary item on most cruise ships.
Specialty and ala-carte dining: Specialty restaurants that require a fee generally will allow you to order multiple appetizers and desserts, but just one entree. Fixed priced dining is a set price per guest while ala-carte dining is exactly the same as dining in a land-based restaurant with a fee per item.
Prepaid Specialty Dining Packages: If you purchased a prepaid specialty dining package, the host or hostess at the restaurant will ask if you’d like to use the dining package for that particular meal. Use the package for the most expensive restaurants you intend to try, that will give you the most value.
Buffet “Strategy”: The buffet generally has some unique items and different food stations each day. Moreso for lunch and dinner than breakfast. Our advice is to walk the entire buffet before you grab a plate. See what’s available so you don’t have your meal and THEN realize there was something you would have really liked to try. And don’t overload your plate, you can always go back for more, pacing yourself is a good way to go. :)
Soda, Refreshment, and Alcohol Packages: Cruise lines have a variety of different levels of drink packages from Soda Only, to Refreshment Packages that include mocktails and specialty coffees, to full alcoholic packages. You can add these directly to your account via the website.
We advise that you carefully read the terms and conditions of any drink package you intend to order, in particular the price limit for alcoholic drinks. Lower level alcohol packages will have a dollar limit to the drinks included, such as all drinks up to $12. If you order a drink over $12, some cruise lines require you to pay the difference while others will charge you the full price of the drink.
Casinos and the ship shops are closed in port: This is due to tax reasons primarily although there are some ships that will keep their Casinos open in Bermuda through special arrangements. It’s important to note that if you need anything from the shops, you will need to get it while the ship is out at sea. Or you can shop for the item in port.
Dress Code onboard the ship: During the day the ship will be casual. However they do not allow bathing suits in the buffet area or any other indoor eating area unless they are dry and covered up. In the evenings the dress code is business casual though gym shorts and T-Shirts are discouraged at the main dining room and restaurants. Dress shorts and a polo shirt will generally work, we usually wear nice jeans and a button down or polo shirt to dinner. You can up to date dress code information about your specific cruise line in their FAQ page.
Washy Washy: Wash and sanitize your hands often while onboard a ship. You will often find a ‘washy washy’ crew member stationed at the entrances to the buffet encouraging you to wash your hands and they may spritz sanitizer on your hands. This has been common on cruise ships for many years now.
What To Know For Your First Cruise, main category
Your First Cruise Part 1: Getting A Cabin
First Cruise Guide: Tips for Booking Your First Cruise
First Cruise Guide: Excursions, Dining & Drink Packages
First Cruise Guide: Selecting Your Cruise Ship Cabin
Cruise Critic: (membership is free, sign up to participate in the cruise boards)