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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 What’s included in the cost of my cruise?
 What’s not included in the cost of a cruise?
 How much are gratuities and how can I pay them?
 Which cruise lines are the best?
 Dress Codes - What should I wear to dinner?
 Dress Codes - What "daytime" wear is appropriate on a cruise ship?
 Is shipboard dining really as good as it sounds?
 What dining options are available onboard cruise ships?
 For traditional-style dining, which is better, early or late dining?
 With traditional-style dining, how are the tables assigned?
 What's a "specialty restaurant"?
 Isn’t my time at each port limited on a cruise?
 What about motion sickness?
 Do I have to make my own travel arrangements to get to the ship?
 Where can I get information (driving directions, parking fees) about my port of embarkation?
 Weather-wise, when is it a good time to cruise?
 Contacting the ship: How can someone reach me aboard the ship?
 Where can I get information about Shore Excursions on my cruise?
 Can I pre-reserve my Shore Excursions?
 Where can I find information about the Ports of Call I'll be visiting?
 I'm flying to my cruise port. How do I get from the airport to my ship?
 Should I make my own airline reservations or buy my air through the cruiseline?
 Are there "theme" cruises?
 What about gay & lesbian cruises?
 What's with all the incidents occurring aboard cruise ships these days?

 What’s included in the cost of my cruise?
      Herein lies the value of cruising. What's included?

  • Accommodations (your stateroom or suite)
  • Meals in main dining rooms and alternative restaurants
  • Most entertainment
  • Most onboard activiities
  • Transportation! Remember - your ship moves from port to port!

Unlike a hotel or a resort, your ship is moving, taking you from place to place, usually overnight. Not included in a cruise is the time and drudgery of packing and unpacking, checking-in and checking-out of hotels. (You’ll never miss that tedium!)

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 What’s not included in the cost of a cruise?
      Typically, those items and services that are of a personal nature cost extra.

  • Alcoholic beverages & soft drinks*
  • Gratuities*
  • Meals in some upscael, "specialty" restaurants*
  • Shipboard purchases at gift shops, etc.
  • Spa & beauty salon services
  • Shore excursions*
  • Casino gaming, Internet and telephone usage
  • Transportation from/to your home city and your cruise ship

*Aboard "ULTRA-LUXURY" cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas (effective January 2007), Seabourn and Silversea, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and gratuities are included in the cruise fare; specialty restaurant dining incurs no added cost. Many ultra-luxury cruise lines offer a complimentary shore excursion event, as well.

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 How much are gratuities and how can I pay them?
Pre-Paid Gratuity Program
Automatic Gratuity Program
Suggested Gratuities Per Person Per Day
Link to Cruise Line Policy
$11.00 *
(if requested)
Holland America
Included in
Cruise Fare
Royal Caribbean
Included in
Cruise Fare
Included in
Cruise Fare
Entirely at Guest Discretion
*Gratuities for guests in upper categories (Suites or Concierge Class, for example) may be higher.
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 Which cruise lines are the best?
      That's a tough question to answer because every guest who steps aboard a cruise ship has different interests, needs, expectations and budget concerns. But, as it is with a restaurant meal, a hotel room, or a car, the adage "you get what you pay for" generally holds true with the cruise lines.

So with that in mind, here's a list of the Top Ten Major Cruise Lines based on a 2005 survey of readers of the respected travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller. Next to each, we've included dollar signs ($) to indicate the relative per diem (price per person per day):

  • $ = competitive Mainstream prices ($80-160)
  • $$ = Premium prices ($200-250)
  • $$$ = Luxury prices ($275-350)
  • $$$$ = Ultra-luxury prices ($550-650+)

  1. $$$$ - Silversea Cruises
  2. $$$ - Crystal Cruises
  3. $$$$ - Seabourn Cruise Line
  4. $$$$ - Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  5. $$$$ - SeaDream Yacht Club
  6. $$$ - Windstar Cruises
  7. $ - Celebrity Cruises
  8. $ - Princess Cruises
  9. $$$ - Oceania Cruises
  10. $$ - Disney Cruise Line

Please keep in mind that the survey is not scientific nor endorsed by 7 Blue Seas Vacations. It's based on a variety of factors including cuisine, itineraries, service, accommodations, spas, entertainment and shore excursions - an average of factors which may hold variable importance on your cruise decisions.

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 Dress Codes - What should I wear to dinner?
      Clothes-wise, you probably have everything you'll need or want to wear on your cruise in your closet or dresser right now. Cruise line dress codes have loosened up considerably over the last few years and the days of rigid, "must-have-tuxedo" or "must-have-evening-gown" days are largely gone.

Evening Dress Codes fall into four main groupings:

  1. Casual. For women – a pants suit, skirt and blouse, or casual dress. For men – slacks and a sport shirt with collar. "Casual" never means shorts or flip flops, however. See "Cruise Note" below.
  2. Resort Casual. Same as above, but maybe just a bit "dressier." Women may prefer a slightly more "elegant" look to their "casual" wear choices. Men may wear a sports jacket to wear over their open-collar shirt, if they like. Some cruise lines use the "dress like you're going to a country club for dinner" analogy. Others call this "smart casual."
  3. Informal. For women – a nice pants suit or dress. As with Resort Casual, elegant but comfortable resort wear is fine. For men, a jacket, dress shirt - and usually a tie - is the norm.
  4. Formal. For women – dressy pants suit, cocktail dress or evening gown. For men – a dark suit and tie or a tuxedo.
On most cruise lines, the number of "Formal" nights is largely dependent on the length of the cruise. Typically, for cruises of 3 to 6 nights, expect one formal evening. For 7 to 11 nights, expect two. Almost without exception, the first and last nights of a cruise are designated as "Casual" or "Resort Casual." Note that many cruise lines offer formalwear rentals!
  • Carnival: Resort Casual and Formal. On most nights the Lido Restaurants offer an always-casual dress code. Formalwear rentals may be arranged prior to embarkation.
  • Costa: Casual, Informal and Formal. On Caribbean cruises, one evening is usually designated "Roman Bacchanal" night. "Toga attire" (you may use your bedsheets!) is the norm on those evenings.
  • Celebrity: Casual, Informal and Formal. Always-casual alternatives are offered most nights (usually in the Grills or Cafes) on all ships. Formalwear rentals may be arranged prior to embarkation.
  • Crystal: Casual, Informal and Formal. Always-casual, al fresco dining on deck is available most nights. Casual, Informal and Formal.
  • Cunard: Casual, Informal and Formal. Cunard tends to be a bit dressier than most lines, particularly on Formal attire nights. Casual attire is welcomed at any time in the Lido Cafe. Formalwear rentals may be arranged prior to embarkation and formalwear rental shops are available onboard, as well.
  • Disney: Casual, Informal and Formal (except on 3- and 4-night cruises). Most cruises have a "tropcial" or "pirate" night - Caribbean attire is fine for those evenings!
  • Holland America: Casual, Informal and Formal. Always-casual dining is available most evenings in the Lido Restaurant.
  • Norwegian: Casual, Resort Casual and Formal. Most cruises offer an optional "dress up" night for designated dining rooms. Otherwise, the dress code at most restaurants on most nights is Casual or Resort Casual. Houston departures permit blue jeans in all dining rooms. Other dress code exceptions apply to Bermuda and Hawaii sailings.
  • Oceania: Resort Casual every night. Men may prefer to wear a jacket but a tie or tuxedo is never required or expected.
  • Princess: Resort Casual and Formal. An always-casual option (Horizon Court or other buffet venue) is available most evenings. Formalwear rentals may be arranged prior to embarkation.
  • Regent Seven Seas: Casual, Informal and Formal. Evening attire dress code applies to all restaurants.
  • Royal Caribbean: Casual, Informal and Formal. An always-casual buffet-style dining alternate is available most evenings. Formalwear rentals may be arranged prior to embarkation.
  • Seabourn: Resort Casual, Informal and Formal. Seabourn uses the term "Elegant Casual" for Informal attire. The Vernada Cafe, when available for dinner, offers always-casual attire.
  • Silversea Casual, Informal and Formal. On "Formal" nights, the dress code at La Terrazza is Resort Casual.
  • Windstar: Resort Casual every night! No jackets or ties - ever!
Cruise Note: Most cruise lines will not permit jeans, shorts, or bathing attire in any restaurant during evening meal times.

Cruise Tip: On most cruise lines, particularly the more "formal" lines such as Cunard, Crystal, Radisson and Silversea (except in their "always-casual" dining alternatives) the evening's dress code is generally observed throughout most areas of the ship including bars, lounges and casinos.

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 Dress Codes - What "daytime" wear is appropriate on a cruise ship?
      Across the board, casual is the general rule. But within that guideline, weather is the biggest factor in determining daytime attire aboard cruise ships. If you're heading for Alaska, pack for cooler weather. If you're headed to the Caribbean, pack for heat and humidity! Here are some helpful tips:
  • Layers! If heading to cooler climes, leave the bulky sweaters and heavy-quilted jackets at home. Instead, pack light sweaters, light jackets, nylon windbreakers or parkas. Temperature swings from morning to mid-afternoon can be great; you'll want lightweight jackets or sweaters you can "peel off" or slip back on as the weather changes. These items are easier to pack, too! Even if you're headed to the Caribbean, bring along a light jacket or sweater. Evenings at sea can be surprisingly cool - not just out on deck but in the casinos, as well.
  • Think "Casual." Comfortable slacks, shorts, jeans, sport shirts, t-shirts, tank tops - all are fine for daytime wear on most cruise ships. Poolside attire is appropriate for the pool and most deck areas; bathing suits without coverups are not acceptable indoor daytime attire regardless of the cruise line.
  • Respect Local Norms. There are often local customs or regulations regarding head coverings, shorts, sandals, tank tops or similar attire. Shore excursions to places of worship or musuems often require head coverings or ask that you not wear shorts or tank tops.
  • Comfortable Shoes. A cruise vacation is NOT the time to break-in a new pair of shoes or sandals. You'll be doing a lot of walking - not just ashore but on the ship. Pack comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes are perfect for daytime wear) and sandals.
  • Cover-Ups. Bring along hats with broad brims, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen! Sunlight reflected off the water increases your exposure whether you're cruising the Caribbean or Alaska!
Cruise Note: Consider the company you're keeping. Some cruises - say, a Cunard transatlantic - tend towards the dressier side, both day and night. But aboard a weekend getaway cruise, casual is the word.

Cruise Tip: Check out our Destination pages (look in the "Weather" section under each region or sub-region) for temperature information or tips on what to wear.

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 Is shipboard dining really as good as it sounds?
      Yes. But unless you're dining aboard a luxury cruise line or perhaps enjoying dinner in an extra-cost, "specialty" restaurant aboard a mainstream cruise line, your cuisine can not fairly be labeled "5-star gourmet."

Choose a "Mainstream" or "Premium" cruise line and you'll have a variety of restaurants and menus to choose from. Main dining room food is tasty, plentiful (order more if you'd like!) and equal to what you'd enjoy in a good restaurant back home. "Themed Nights" are generally the rule whereby cuisine from one country or region are featured each night. The dining atmosphere is very comfortable, often elegant. No-extra-cost "Alternative" restaurants offer regional cuisine or an always-casual atmosphere (Italian, TexMex, Bistro/Buffet, etc.) for added onboard choice. Extra-cost "Specialty" restaurants may offer more cooked-to-order meals and usually feature distinct, regional cuisines with matching ambiance.

Choose a "Luxury" or "Ultra-Luxury" cruise line and your menus - typically crafted by renown master chefs - feature highly creative dishes prepared with superior quality ingredients served on elegant porcelain china and accompanied with crystal stemware and fine linens. A highly-trainined waitstaff ensure each meal throughout the ship is a "5-star" event. Specialty" restaurants aboard these lines are usually complimentary and most do not charge for house or standard wines and spirits in the dining rooms.

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 What dining options are available onboard cruise ships?
      All cruise lines have loosened up their evening dining arrangements to greater or lesser degrees. Here's what's out there:
  • Total Flexibility. Pioneered by Norwegian (and still the only line to go this route), this arrangement offers lots of restaurants - up to 10 on their largest ships - and totally open seating throughout those restaurants. If you plan to dine at the smaller, more intimate "alternative restaurants" (or any of the upscale, extra-cost "specialty" venues), then reservations are recommended. Of course, you may dine "traditional-style" simply by making reservations each night in the same restaurant at the same table and with the same wait staff.
  • Flexible and Traditional. Currently, Princess is the only line that embraces this approach. When you place your cruise reservation, you may opt for either the flexible plan or the traditional plan. Their ships generally offer up to 5 restaurants to choose from, including the main dining rooms and "alternative restaurants." "Specialty," upscale, extra-cost restaurants are available for all passengers.
  • Traditional with a Twist. Carnival and Holland America have chosen this route. Simply stated, instead of two seating times, there are four: two "early" seatings (typically at 5:45pm and 6:15pm) and two "later" seatings (typically at 7:45pm and 8:15pm). You choose between early and late; the cruise line takes it from there. Still, you dine at the same table each night with the same wait staff. Alternative and upscale, extra-cost "specialty" restaurants are available to all passengers, too.
  • Traditional. When making your cruise reservation you choose between two seating times (usually around 6pm or 8pm). You dine at an assigned table served by the same wait staff each night. Alternative and upscale, extra-cost "specialty" restaurants may also be available. Among the major lines, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard (standard stateroom passengers) and Royal Caribbean offer this arrangement.
  • Rotational. Leave it to Disney to come up with this novel program! As in Traditional Dining, you choose early or late seating. But you, your tablemates, your wait staff and everyone else in your dining time, rotate among three, totally different restaurants. There's also a "specialty," upscale, extra-cost restaurant. Aboard the Disney Wonder, they employ the "Rotational" program along with staggered dining times (similar to "Traditional with a Twist") with 5:45pm, 6:00pm or 6:15 Main Seating times; 8:00pm, 8:15pm or 8:30pm Second Seating times.
  • Open-Seating. Cunard (suite and penthouse passengers only), Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea and Windstar offer open-seating in their main restaurants. There are also alternative restaurants and no-cost "specialty restuarants" to choose from. This arrangement is offered only by luxury and ultra-luxury-level cruise lines.
Keep in mind that all cruise lines offer a casual, buffet or bistro-style, open-seating alternative restaurants. Most also offer pizza parlors, ice-cream parlors, pastry parlors, late-night buffets and room service!

Which one's best? Each have their advantages and disadvantages. It's all up to you and your cruising lifestyle!

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 For traditional-style dining, which is better, early or late dining?
      Early seating is usually scheduled between 5:45pm - 6:30pm, while late diners usually are seated between 7:45pm - 8:30pm. Request the seating that bests suits your eating habits and your preferences for dinner companions (see below). Keep in mind that these hours apply only to dinner; breakfast and lunch are typically open-seating.
  • Early Dining: If you are traveling with children, or you prefer to go to bed early, or want to be hungry for the midnight buffet (!), the first seating may suit you best. Another reason to choose early seating is if you plan on getting an early start on shore excursions at each of the ports on your itinerary.
  • Late Seating: If you’re semi-nocturnal, hate rushing, prefer fewer children in the dining room, enjoy late meals, love to hit the disco at night and sleep later the next morning, then maybe second seating suits you best.
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 With traditional-style dining, how are the tables assigned?
      Your cruise line will try to seat you with compatible guests, factoring in, where possible, age, marital status, and family size. For example, if you're traveling with children, there's a good chance you'll be seated at a table with another family with children. If you are traveling as a couple, you will most likely dine with other couples. However, some maitre d's like to "mix it up" a bit and, in fact, achieving that perfect mix of tablemates can be considered an art!

Most cruise lines accept requests for specific age groups or table locations. In most cases you will not receive a table number confirmation prior to embarkation date; table numbers are either available by notice in your stateroom, or upon arrival at dinner the first night of the cruise.

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 What's a "specialty restaurant"?
      “Specialty restaurants” are typically the upscale, reservation-required restaurants which provide a decidedly intimate, and often more sophisticated ambiance than those of the "main" dining rooms or "alternative" restaurants. Most often the cuisine is a regional fare, such as Italian, Southwest, Japanese, or "Steakhouse." Dishes are usually prepared to order and the dining pace is leisurely.

Among mainstream and premium cruise lines, there's usually a moderate, per person fee for these specialty restaurants, typically in the $10 to $30 range. Some offer a la carte menus, as well. Among the luxury-level cruise lines, there generally is no charge for dining in specialty restaurants.

Cruise Note: In general, the cruise industry (and 7 Blue Seas) defines "Specialty restaurants" as those offering distinctly upscale, cooked-to-order, top-quality (usually 5-star level) cuisine in a decidely intimate atmosphere. ("Alternative restaurants," though often exceptional, are more geared to offering a themed choice, such as Italian, TexMex, "Malt Shop," "English Pub," etc.; food quality is generally on par with the ship's main dining rooms. Alternative restaurants never incur an extra cost, regardless of the cruise line.)

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 Isn’t my time at each port limited on a cruise?
      Yes, of course it is. Typically, port visits are full day stops, usually from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But here's how that 8 or 9 hours of valuable time isn't spent:

  • You won't spend time waiting for your luggage on arrival at the airport.
  • You won't spend time waiting to pick up a rental car.
  • You won't spend time checking into a hotel.
  • You won't spend time checking out of a hotel.
  • You won't spend time returning your rental car.
  • You won't spend time checking in for your flight to your next destiation.
On a cruise your time in port is just that - your time. Your ship usually docks downtown or very close by (versus arrival at a distant airport). Your tour bus is waiting because you've had the option of pre-selecting your tour onboard. You just step off the ship and onto your bus and your visit begins! Your time in port is utilized more efficiently than on almost any other form of vacation travel.

If you fall in love with a destination - Excellent! Come back on another vacation and schedule all the time you can! Just remember that it was a cruise that introduced you with an overview of that city!

Travel Trend: Many cruise lines are now scheduling shipboard overnights in the most popular destinations, often providing two full day (or more) to explore the city in depth.

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 What about motion sickness?
      Most cruise ships avoid rough seas wherever possible. When rough seas are encountered, out go the stabilizers to help smooth the way. The operative word here is “help.” Even a 100,000-ton ship is subject to the motion of the seas just as a 747 jumbo jet often reminds you you’re still airborne.

Having said this, there are a number of readers out there who are probably feeling a bit queasy just reading these lines. If you’re one of them, know that there are plenty of medications out there! In most cases, these medications either eliminate or minimize motion sickness discomfort. Some are available over the counter (Dramamine, Bonine, the wristbands, for instance) and some require a doctor’s prescription (the “patch”). Keep in mind, most require intake or application before embarkation.

Bottom line? Thousands and thousands of passengers sensitive to motion sickness discomfort cruise every year with no problems whatsoever. If you're still not convinced, talk with friends who've cruised.

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 Do I have to make my own travel arrangements to get to the ship?
      No. All major cruise lines offer "air programs" which allow you to purchase air travel to and from your cruise through the cruise line. In most cases, the airlines featured are major carriers with whom you're familiar; occassionally, charter airlines may be utilized.

These programs are optional at extra cost. In many cases, the air programs include ground transfers between airports and the ship. Most cruise lines, for various added fees, will allow you to request specific carriers, routings, travel times, alternate dates of travel and upgrades.

Alternatively, you're welcomed to arrange independent travel to and from your cruise; in fact, most cruise passengers in most cruise regions do exactly that. However, be sure to consider the following suggestions:

  • Watch your arrival/departure flight times! If your ship departs Ft. Lauderdale at 5pm, don't schedule your flight arrival for 4pm. And even if your Alaska cruise arrives Vancouver at 6am, don't book your return flight at 8am. Cruise lines have minimumn connecting times between ship and airport; call us for those guidelines. Keep time zones in mind, too!
  • Mind the Weather! For example, if you're flying from the Midwest to Florida for your February cruise, why not schedule an overnight in Florida before your ship sails? Winter weather, in particular, can raise havoc with flight schedules. Always allow an extra cushion of travel time.
  • Purchase Trip/Travel Insurance! A variety of programs are available, with a variety of coverage options. Choose one that may help you best should you encounter delays or cancellations on route to or from your cruise.
The staff at 7 Blue Seas may assist you in choosing your airline or guide you in selecting the best travel times, but we cannot make reservations or issue tickets for airline travel.

So, which is better - making your own airline reservations or giving that responsibility to the cruise line? Read on for the "Pros and Cons" of each.

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 Where can I get information (driving directions, parking fees) about my port of embarkation?
see EAST COAST ports see WEST COAST ports
see FLORIDA ports see SAN JUAN port
see GULF OF MEXICO ports

Port of Baltimore Cruise Terminal
South Locust Point (adjacent to I-95)
Black Falcon Cruise Terminal
One Black Falcon Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts
Tel: (617) 330-1500
196 Concord Street
Charleston, SC
Port of Montreal Building
Wing No. 1, Cité du Havre
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3R5
Telephone: (514) 283-7011
New York City-Manhattan
New York City Passenger Ship Terminal
711 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 246-5450
Driving Directions -click here-
and click on "Directions and Transport"
to the left
Parking Info -click here-
and click on "Parking" to the left
New York City - Brooklyn
Brooklyn Cruise Terminal
Bowne Street
Brooklyn, New York
-more Specific Information not yet available-
Driving Directions -click here-
Parking Info -click here-
New York City/New Jersey
Cape Liberty Cruise Port
14 Port Terminal Boulevard
Bayonne, NJ 07002-5038
Tel: (201) 823-
Driving Directions -click here-
Parking Info -click here-
Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, Philadephia Naval Business Center
5100 South Broad Street, Building #3
Philadelphia, PA 19112
Tel: 856-968-2052 and 215-462-6790
Fort Lauderdale
9810 August Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32226
1015 N. America Way
Miami, Florida 33132
Port Canaveral
Tampa Port Autority International Headquarters
1101 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
Terminal 1: 2502 Harborside Drive
Terminal 2: 2702 Harborside Drive
Barbours Cut Terminal , Pier C-7
820 North L St.
Morgan's Point, Texas 77572
New Orleans
Port of Mobile
Alabama State Docks
Intersection of Beauregard Road and Water Street
Mobile, AL
Los Angeles - Long Beach
231 Windsor Way
Long Beach, California 90802
Los Angeles - San Pedro
World Cruise Center
Berth 91/92 and 93A/93B
San Pedro, CA 90731
San Diego
B Street Cruise Ship Terminal
San Diego
Port Info-click here-
San Francisco
Pier 35
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel: (415) 274-0528
Port Info -click here-
Terminal 30 Cruise Facility (for Holland America and Princess)
2431 East Marginal Way South
Seattle, WA 98121
Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal (for Celebrity & Norwegian Cruise Lines)
Pier 66
2225 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA 98121
Tel: (206) 615-3900
Terminal 30 -click here- Pier 66-click here-
Canada Place
999 Canada Place
655 Centennial Road
Old San Juan Pier Terminal
Paseo Gilberto Concepcion de Gracia
San Juan, PR
  • Exit the airport and take Baldorioty Avenue
  • Follow Baldorioty Avenue to Puentes Dos Hermanos (Condado Lagoon)
  • Stay in the left-hand lane and enter Puerta de Tierra
  • After three traffic lights you will see the waterfront
  • Stay on Concepcion de Gracias Avenue and you will see the pier
  • 12 miles to pier, approximate driving time 45 minutes
  • Note: There are no parking facilities at the Port of San Juan
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     Weather-wise, when is it a good time to cruise?
          Cruise ships are like birds - they migrate with the warm weather. You'll never see a cruise ship anywhere near Alaskan waters in January. Instead, you'll see the Caribbean, Panama Canal region and South America crowded with cruise ships that time of year. Come June, things are very different.

    But cruise lines do "push" the seasons in some corners of the world and there's also the "rainy season" precipitation to deal with. We recommend you check our "Destination Pages" for a weather summary of each major cruise region in the world. We'll give you the highs and lows to expect during the cruise season, and also some insight on rain, humidity and clothing suggestions, where applicable.

    Are you on this page because of hurricane concerns? Read on.

    Today's ships are like moving meteorological stations, what with all the weather tracking systems installed onboard. (Plan a Bridge visit during your cruise and check out those systems!) The Captain's #1 concern is passenger & crew safety and the ship will do whatever necessary to avoid a hurricane's path.

    This is not to say that if you're cruising the Caribbean during the "hurricane season" (June through November, but especially August & September) you'll always avoid the effects of distant storms. Winds and high seas can affect a cruise ship hundreds of miles from a storm center sometimes causing itinerary adjustments. Again - it's all about your safety.

    Cruise Myth: "Cruise prices are lower in the fall because it's "Hurricane Season" and nobody wants to cruise the Caribbean then." In fact, the "Hurricane Season" begins in June and therefore includes the higher-priced peak summer months of July and August. Prices drop in the fall primarily because school's back in session and fewer vacations are scheduled.

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     Contacting the ship: How can someone reach me aboard the ship?
          There are at least three methods of communication between you and the outside world:
    1. Telephone. Your stateroom has a telephone with international reception/dialing capability. You'll receive your final cruise documents about 2 - 3 weeks before your cruise departure and within those documents will be telephone contact numbers for your ship. Be sure your designated "emergency contact person" has these phone numbers, as well as your stateroom number. You also may wish to offer these contact numbers to selected friends, family or business associates.
    2. E-mail.. With only a few exceptions, cruise ships provide onboard Internet Centers whereby you may access your Internet provider and communicate with home, friends or office. Fees apply to these services and most cruise lines list these fees in the cruise "questions & anwsers" booklet provided with your final documents. Additionally, many cruise ships now provide in-room data ports and/or Wi-Fi zones (extra costs apply) for lap-top use. Some cruise lines offer lap-top rentals, as well.
    3. Additional Methods of Communication. FAX Transmittals may be sent/received while aboard most ships. In most cases, such transmittals may be arranged through the Front Office. Also, keep in mind that many ports of call offer Internet Centers; you'll often find one or more centers located near cruise piers or in major shopping or business districts - at fees often substantially below those aboard your ship.

    Anyone who wishes to contact you aboard your ship and lacks the ship's telephone numbers and/or your stateroom number, should contact the cruise line's reservations offices. Cruise line privacy policies vary, however. Some may require that the caller have your exact name and stateroom; others may only allow the caller to leave a message with the ship's Front Office. This message will be dispatched to your stateroom providing you the option of return communication.

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     Where can I get information about Shore Excursions on my cruise?
          All cruise lines offer a wealth of information about the shore excursions offered at each port of call. Understandably, this information is subject to change but you may get an excellent idea of the attractions, duration, cost and level of physical activity by visiting each cruise line's website.

    Additionally, 7 Blue Seas offers some general guidelines of the attractions available at each port. Just select Destinations from our Home Page menu and then narrow your selection to the cruise region you'd like to visit. A list of ports is shown on the right column; click on any port and you're there!

    Cruise Tip: Most cruise lines offer advance, online purchase of shore excursions, provided you have a made full payment on your cruise. In some cases, particularly in regions where Shore Excursion availability may be limited or very popular (St. Petersburg, Russia, for example) 7 Blue Seas suggests you consider advance purchase. See below for direct links to those cruise lines offering advance, online shore excursion reservations.

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     Can I pre-reserve my Shore Excursions?

    Many cruise lines now offer (and on some specific port visits, suggest) the pre-reservation of shore excursions on your cruise. In most cases, you can reserve shore excursions online, once you've booked the cruise and have secured your confirmation number. Most cruise lines provide pre-reservation of most shore excursions up to 4 -7 days prior to your cruise departure date.

    Keep in mind that you can change your mind! Specific cruise line policies vary but most allow you to change or cancel pre-booked shore excursions after you've boarded your cruise, as long as you provide adequate advance notice (usually 24 - 48 hours) before the shore excursion operates. A shipboard credit is generally offered instead of a monetary refund.

    Additionally, many cruise lines offer onboard "port talks," outlining upcoming port visits and summarizing available shore excursions. You may wish to hold off on booking your shore excursions until you've attended (or watched on your stateroom TV) these talks.

    Shore Excursion Pre-Reservation Links
    Carnival Oceania
    Celebrity Princess
    Costa Regent Seven Seas
    Crystal Royal Caribbean
    Cunard* Seabourn
    Disney Silversea
    Holland America Windstar

    * Cunard does not provide online pre-reservation of Shore Excursions at this time. However, Cunard's cruise documents included a Shore Excursion pre-reservation form enabling you to reserve excursions by mail. 7 Blue Seas will forward all applicable cruise documents to the passengers for completion and return to the cruise lines.

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     Where can I find information about the Ports of Call I'll be visiting?
          The first listing on our website's top menu bar is labeled: Destinations That's your page! Click on it and then narrow your selection based on the cruise region or sub-region that interests you. After you've narrowed your search, you'll see the selected region's Ports of Call.

    Most Ports of Call are sub-divided by:

    1. Around & About: History, weather, local customs, local delicacies...
    2. Sights and Attractions: Must-see attractions...
    3. Shore Excursions: Popular shore excursions offered by the cruise line...
    4. Shopping: Best shopping districts, local bargains...
    5. Sports & Activities: Water sports, golf, deep sea fishing...
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     I'm flying to my cruise port. How do I get from the airport to my ship?
          When purchasing your cruise, you usually have the option to purchase "ground transfers" between the airport and cruise port at your port of embarkation (and debarkation). Purchase of these transfers includes transfer of your luggage, as well. If you purchase the cruise line's optional Air Program these ground transfers are often included within the cost of the air program.

    You may prefer to make your own arrangements between airport and pier, utililizing taxis, shuttles, or private transportation services. For information about pier locations and driving directions, please see above under "Where can I get information (driving directions, parking fees) about my port of embarkation?).

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     Should I make my own airline reservations or buy my air through the cruiseline?
          It's your decision. But before making that decision, consider the pros and cons of each arrangement.

    Pros and Cons of making your own airline reservations:

    • Pro: Control. By making your own air travel plans, you'll have total control of the airline, routing, flight times, day of travel and airports. You're also free to arrange free travel or upgrades through airline frequent flyer award programs.
    • Pro: Price. You'll be able to find the price that fits your budget - a price that's often below the cruise line's offer. And, as noted above, you may be eligible to "cash in" on airline frequent flyer award programs. (Keep in mind,however, that some cruise lines include airport transfer fees in their air program fees.)
    • Pro: Advance Knowledge. You'll know your flight arrangements the moment you confirm them. Usually, cruise lines confirm air arrangements no earlier than 30 to 45 days before travel date, unless you choose to an pay extra for immediate confirmation.

    • Con: Refundabilty. Most low-cost airline tickets are non-refundable. If you cancel the cruise - even if outside the cruise line's penalty period - you may be left with a non-refundable airline ticket.
    • Con: Reservation error. By "error" we mean booking flights that do not allow sufficient time to get from the airport to the cruise ship (or ship to airport); booking flights that don't match the the cruise embarkation or debarkation date; booking flights that don't match with the cruise's port of embarkation or debarkation, etc.
    • Con: Flight interruptions. When the cruise line arranges your air travel they are more likely to be able to quickly make travel adjustments should your flights be delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical or operational reasons. When you make your own, independent arrangements - even if the cruise line is aware of your air itinerary - they are less likely to be able to make alternate travel arrangements should your flights be delayed or cancelled.

    Pros and Cons of purchasing your air travel through the cruise line:

    • Pro: Peace of Mind. As noted above, should there be a flight delay or cancellation, you're more likely to be moved to alternate flights or airlines if you've purchased your air arrangements through the cruise line. Also, the cruise line will provide air schedules that provide ample transfer time between the airport and pier, or pier and airport. Should subsequent airline schedule changes conflict with those transfer arrangements, the cruise line will rebook and reticket your airline travel without cost to you.
    • Pro: Availability. Often, especially if you're booking your cruise within 60 days of cruise departure, low-cost air may be unavailable. However, the cruise line may have pre-arranged "block space" remaining, assuring you airline seats that may not otherwise be available.

    • Con: Price. Typically, cruise line air travel arrangments are more expensive than those you may be able to secure independently - especially if you're making flight reservations well in advance of travel date. But be sure to factor in transfer fees between the airport and the pier (and pier and airport); often these costs are included with cruise line air programs.
    • Con: Itinerary. Cruise lines utilize pre-reserved "block space" and other contracted arrangements in securing air schedules for cruise passengers. These schedules may or may not be the most direct itineraries available. Additionally, air travel may include overnight flights, charter airlines, or travel on days that would require the guest to purchase hotel overnights at their own expense.
    • Con: Flexibility. Unless additional service charges are paid, guests have little or no input in the selection of air schedules arranged by the cruise line. Requests for specific airlines, travel times or routings, airports (JFK vs. LGA, for example), or class of service almost always incur additional costs.

    Cruise Myth: "Cruise line air always costs way more than if I did it myself!" Not necessarily. If you're booking between 60 and 30 days of the cruise departure, you may actually get a deal through the cruise line. And keep in mind that many cruise lines include transfers with their air programs. Additionally, cruise lines - particularly the "luxury" lines - often include air travel on selected sailings.

    Cruise Tip: "What!? How come I've got a 'red-eye' flight?" Always discuss the pros and cons of purchasing the cruise line's air program with your 7 Blue Seas' Cruise Consultant before confirming your cruise reservation.

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     Are there "theme" cruises?
          Yes, there are - but the days of "Chocolate Madness" cruises and "Big Band" cruises are dwindling. One reason is that the size of the average cruise ship has grown considerably over the past decade making it harder for cruise lines to fill the cabins with "niche-market" guests.

    But ironically, that increase in ship size brings with it a certain "critical mass" enabling the cruise line to cater to a broader variety of interests aboard the same cruise. So, Big Band dancing (and 50s Doo-Wop and 60s Twist parties and 70s Disco) is alive and well on large, mainstream cruise ships. And many larger ships offer classes in culinary tips, pottery making, computer skills, line-dancing, foreign languages - offerings seldom seen even a few short years ago.

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     What about gay & lesbian cruises?
          Virtually every major cruise line offers charter cruise arrangements which cater to gay and/or lesbian clientele. Several popular companies that arrange these charters include Atlantis, Olivia, RSVP, and Rfamily vacations. Contact a 7 Blue Seas Cruise Specialist for information regarding gay & lesbian cruise departures and rates.

    Typically, gay & lesbian cruises focus on Caribbean, Mexico, the South Pacific and European itineraries, but most companies feature cruise charters operating in just about every corner of the world. Cruise ship companies offering the most gay & lesbian cruise departures include Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Windstar.

    Apart from gay & lesbian cruise charters, cruising often offers a general appeal to gays and lesbians. Just as many mainstream cruise lines schedule "singles get-togethers" and other functions that cater to a specific demographic or lifestyle, many cruise lines offer gay & lesbian get-togethers - "Friends of Dorothy" ("FOD") events, for example. And broadly speaking, the friendly, easy-going ambiance aboard a cruise ship appeals to virtually all guests, including gays & lesbians.

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     What's with all the incidents occurring aboard cruise ships these days?
          Based on news reports, you'd think that shipboard incidents (guests falling overboard or lost at sea, fires, viruses, etc.) were at an epidemic stage. They're not. But several factors are probably at work, including:
    • A significant growth in the number of cruise passengers
    • A significant growth in the number of cruise ships
    • A significant growth in the number of first-time cruisers
    • A significant growth in the number of private balconies
    All of these factors will work to bump up the number of incidents, just by the very numbers of cruise passengers sailing out to sea every day. Big as cruise ships are, thousands of passengers, staff and crew are traveling in relatively close quarters. Colds, flus and viruses may spread quickly, if unchecked. And shipboard staff are not as likely to spot potentially dangerous behavior (careless cigarette smoking, for instance) taking place upon passengers' private balconies. To all this, a zealous media ("fire tragedy aboard luxury cruise! Film at Eleven!") and perhaps, a sometimes aloof or party-hearty clientele - can tend to spotlight, if not elevate these incidents.

    Know that the cruise industry CEOs, CFOs, Marketing, Sales, Safety and Security people watch the news - as well the bottom line. Perhaps more than any other travel industry component, the cruise industry reacts quickly and decisively to these incidents. Within days of a balcony fire aboard one of its ships, Princess Cruises established new rules and safety precautions alerting staff and passengers to the potential hazards of smoking on balconies. Within weeks, the company had begun the fleetwide installation of a balcony fire detection and sprinkler system.

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