PASSPORT INFORMATION:

AIR TRAVEL

Implemented on January 23, 2007, ALL PERSONS traveling by air or car between the United States and any other worldwide country are required to have in their possession a valid passport

SEA TRAVEL

U.S. citizens on cruise voyages that begin and end at the same U.S. port (closed-loop itineraries) must show proof of citizenship* and government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license). A passport will not be required for passengers that fall into this category.

*Documents include: Original or certified copy of birth certificate; Naturalization papers; Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by Department of State

All other passengers and/or itineraries (such as cruises which begin in one U.S. port and return to a different U.S. port or any cruise that begins or ends in a foreign port) will require a passport or other recognized document. For a list of accepted documents, see Department of State

Shellback Cruises continues to encourage travelers to obtain passports to allow the broadest travel opportunities.

If you have a passport application currently processing - you can check on its status by clicking: Passport Status

If you need a passport application, either for a new passport or a renewal, please let me know and I would be happy to send you one.  Renewals can be done by mail, and new passports can be processed at many local post offices. I will let you know what the nearest facility is to your house when I send you the application.

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Some facts!

The cruise industry is continuing a rapid expansion through the building of new spectacular ships and the retiring of older ships which have served cruisers well. It has culminated with the addition of the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas - the largest ships to have ever been built. The expansion in cruise ship inventory is caused by the industry looking at the fact that approximately 70% of Americans have never been on a cruise. Usually the wife/girl friend wants to go on the first cruise, and the husband/boy friend wants to go on the second cruise. Additionally, emphasis has been placed on providing new exciting on-board activities such as cultural and intellectual enrichment programs, cooking and computer classes, rock climbing, ice skating, golf analysis, quality, alternative quiet romantic dining venues, and exciting kids programs with well supervised activities in separate, secure areas. Kids programs are usually offered for kids from 2 - 17 in 5 different age groups, and after hours group babysitting until ~2:00 AM is often available. The average age of cruisers is lowering to a little more than 50 years old, and the average length of cruises taken being 6.2 days. Cruises exist for all budgets. Just because a cruise costs less, doesn't mean the service, food, entertainment or destinations are substandard. They are not. I make every effort to match the ship/cruise to your vacation style and budget, not to what's trendy or "on special" unless that is what you desire.

General Booking Information. Cruises can be booked up to a year or more in advance when the schedules and fares are released. The early booking allows you a much larger selection in cabins as well as the best prices. A few cruise lines offer "single" cabins, but most charge from 110% - 200% for a "single cabin" with 150% the more prevalent charge. Port charges and government taxes will either be included or are extra. When I give you a quote, it will include all port charges and taxes unless I tell you otherwise. Most pricing on the internet does not include taxes, and if multiple voyage dates are listed with the pricing, the pricing is for the least expensive cruise.

Airfares from most major airports are available. My airfare quote will include government taxes on the air fare. Pre- and Post- tours and transfers can be arranged to fit your needs if we use independent air arrangements. One benefit of using the cruise line's air arrangements is that, if the airline causes you to miss the sailing of the ship, the airline usually has to get you to the next port of call at their expense and most cruise lines have a toll free trouble line to call during your trip for help. If you make your own arrangements, the airline/cruise line has no such responsibility, but your travel insurance may help out some. Most major cruise lines can arrange "custom air" which can include a specific airline, departure day and time, and upgrade to business or first class. The charge for this service is about $35 - $75 per person, plus any additional charges from the airline for your specific request.  We will also assist you in making 'frequent flyer' arrangements.

Periodically the cruise lines offer specials. In previous years, there were values available by waiting until the last minute to book a cruise.  This, for the most part is not the case currently.  The best value is now for tours and cruises that are booked far in advance taking advantage of "early booking" discounts.  There tend to be very few 'last minute specials', and they are almost non-existent during peak travel periods when schools are out.  Travel at the last minute will very likely be significantly more expensive, as demand for cruises and tours has rapidly increased in the past year!

You should usually put little credence in "brochure rates" as stated in cruise brochures (this is not true for tour company brochures). These are usually good only on the day the brochure was printed or during the very peak season cruises with very high demand. The best way is to call with a specific date and/or category, destination, idea etc. in mind and I will get you the current fares which are usually less than the brochure rates. These fares can usually be held for 24 hours to 7 days, cruise line and cruise dependent, without receipt of deposit.  Tour fares in brochures are much more accurate, though periodic specials are offered.

If you have a group of typically 8 cabins or more, you can arrange a "group booking". The rates for groups may be less, and you get special group amenities included. Group amenities can include on board credit, special receptions, special shore excursions, free berths, etc provided at no additional charge. These group fares are perfect for weddings, family reunions, church groups, reunions etc. What amenities are available depend on the cruise line, size of the group, and specific cruise.

The booking process: A cabin can be booked in two ways: You can book as a "guarantee" or by specific cabin number. The "guarantee" means that you book a specific cabin category and are guaranteed a cabin in that category. No specific cabin number is assigned until final processing. However, if space exists in a more expensive category at the time of final document processing, usually about a month prior to sailing, you will be upgraded to the next higher category at no additional charge. The good news: you get a higher category cabin for the same price; the bad news: you can go from the most desirable cabin in the lower category to the least desirable cabin in the higher category. Sometimes the fare for "guarantee" cabins is less. If you book a specific cabin by number, it's yours! Deposits for cabins range from $100 per person to ~$900 or more per person or more, the higher deposits being for longer cruises. Deposits are usually fully refundable until near the final payment date which will usually be 60 - 75 days prior to sailing for many cruises, or 90 days prior to sailing for special, high demand cruises. After final payment, progressive penalties exist if you decide to cancel your cruise, usually in increments of loss of deposit, then percentages of your total cruise fare, to loss of full fare if you cancel within ~8 to 15 days of sailing. Cancellation penalties depend on the cruise line and cruise.

Most cruise lines and tour operators offer travel protection insurance from about $40 per person to several hundred dollars per person for longer cruises. I do not recommend using supplier insurance, as it makes little business sense to purchase insurance through the company that you are insuring against. I offer insurance through two leading travel protection insurers in the country, Travel Guard International, and Travel Insured InternationalThese companies provide independent insurance that can be better coverage frequently at a lower cost. I will advise you as to the best coverage for your particular needs.

Included in your fare: All lodging, meals, including 24 hour room service and restaurants, pizza restaurants and cafe's (other than the specialty reservations only restaurants), entertainment, and use of shipboard facilities and most shipboard activities. Even many of the specialty activities such as miniature golf, rock climbing etc on some of the ships is included.

Your on board account: Money is infrequently used on board. When you check in you are issued a "charge card/boarding ID card" using cash or a credit card as collateral. You can place a high dollar limit on your account if desired. If you use cash, money not used by the end of the cruise is refunded. If you use your credit card, your account is billed what you spend. You receive an itemized statement the last day of the cruise.

For those not familiar with two seating dinner dining, one seating usually starts at 5:15 to 6:15 PM and the second seating starts at 7:45 to 8:45 PM depending on the cruise line. Special events that surround the dinners such as the Captain's cocktail party and the evening entertainment is repeated so that all passengers get the identical events. Some dinners may be "formal" where guests are encouraged to wear black tie/formal wear, but many chose to wear just a coat and tie and dresses. For those that don't have tuxes, you can often rent them from the cruise lines. Additionally most cruise lines offer "open seating" dining where you can enter a special part of the dining room anytime between 5:30pm and 9:30pm. Many cruise lines offer resesrvations for this open dining. Use of the dining room is not required! You can eat in a variety of venues on the ship for each meal!  Many ships now offer alternative "reservations only" specialty restaurants for that unique, special personal dining experience.  The service charge for these specialty restaurants is typically $5 - $40 per person.  The ultra luxury cruise lines frequently will have open seating dining each evening.

What's not included: Gratuities (on many cruise lines) for your cabin attendant, table waiter, waiter's assistant. Typical gratuity charges are $10 - $12 per person per day. Most cruise lines bill these gratuity charges directly to your on board account. Though gratuities are "optional", the people who serve you depend on this show of gratitude for a significant portion of their salary. They more often than not work hard enough during your cruise for you to consider giving them a little more! Special on board amenitiessuch as spa/hairdresser treatments, reservations only restaurant surcharges, on board purchases at the shops or photo gallery. Bar charges (on most premium cruise lines) which typically include beer/wine/drinks, Coke/Pepsi or other soft drinks. Coffee, Iced tea, milk, water, fruit punch are usually available in the cafes and other venues for no charge.  Additionally, most cruise lines offer unlimited fountain soft drink packages for a one time price. Shore excursions (Some shore excursions are included in some voyages).

Medical: Although we never expect to use the ship's medical expertise, it routinely gets visits. A typical ship has a doctor and several nurses on staff, and facilities include X-Ray, cardiac and stroke capabilities and even dialysis capability.  Most major problems involve cardiac or stroke problems, with the minor more serious injuries usually caused by too much alcohol consumption.  Important and true on most cruise lines: all medical treatment including major treatment is billed to your on board account.  Cruise ships do not process insurance claims, and you must file with your particular HMO when you return home.  This is of significant consequence in cases of major injury or illness, when you must be medically evacuated shore side.  Unless you are capable of moving around the ship, or have minor flu or other type illnesses, you will not be allowed to stay on board, as there is no round the clock inpatient facility.  The typical cost of this medivac is $25,000 - $60,000.  This is added to your on board bill!  Though your home medical insurance may cover this cost ex post facto, this is another reason to strongly consider travel protection insurance which can cover up to $250,000 of medical expenses.

Cruise Ship Security:  Security aboard cruise ships both on board and at the terminals and foreign ports is paramount. Guests of passengers are not allowed on board.  Passengers must show picture identification and proof of citizenship upon check-in.  All crew and passengers must show identification in order to board the ship and all carry-on baggage and people go through airport like security including passing through metal detectors.  Most cruise lines do not allow last minute changes in passenger names.  All cruise ships have security forces on board (whom you rarely recognize), and most on board security officers have a military background.  Many cruise lines now X-ray 100% of the passenger baggage that comes on board.  Cruise ships are exceptionally safe, and the companies commit significant assets to ensure that this is the case.

 

I hope this information is helpful! Please call if you have any other questions!!

All questions are exceptionally important to us!