Guide to Cruise Amenities
Cruises can be fairly luxurious trips, combining dryland and water travel to provide a superior and comfortable experience. And as getting from Point A to Point B isn’t the purpose of cruises so much as enjoying the experience, the types and range of amenities varies based on the cruise line, length of trip and type of ship. And because there can be so many, it’s best to organize amenities into categories.
Staterooms are the sleeping rooms available on board cruise ships, and fall into one of four basic categories based on design:
- Inside: These rooms are found in corridors that run inside the ship, and contain no windows
- Outside: As the name suggests, a window or porthole is available that lets guests see outside
- Balcony: Guests have their own private exit to the outside environment
- Suite: The most deluxe selection, these cabins are most often the largest and feature separate living and sleeping areas, much like a home apartment
The amenities available in staterooms vary based on cruise line, ship and length of travel, but the most common selections include:
- Clock radio and TV, with the latter offering select channels or movies and sometimes at an added cost
- USB-ready docks (and possibly stereos)
- WiFi access, with the cost or lack of depending on the cruise
- Telephone—charges vary based on geographical location of the ship and recipient of the call, and some telephones are restricted to direct dial only
- Safe for storing valuables
- Fridge or minibar for keeping food and beverages chilled, with a strong possibility of there being a cost for the latter
- Toiletries and personal items like shampoo/conditioner/hand soap, towels, bathrobes, shower caps, mouthwash, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, and extra blankets or pillows
- Coffee or tea maker with coffee or tea packets and sugar
While eating is a necessary part of any cruise, how it’s done reflects the character of the cruise ship and experience.
- Traditional: Meals are at a set time and location with the same tablemates, and feature waiters just as in a restaurant. This dining experience can be further subdivided into assigned or open seating, à la carte (or tapas) menus, or formal nights.
- Anytime: Opposite to traditional dining, guests dine when they want, sit where they want, and beside whomever they want. Formal nights don’t usually fall under this category, but the type of food can vary according to the style of the cruise ship and dining location.
- Speciality: Guests who prefer themed dining, such as regional foods or special occasion meals, may choose to eat here. Again, formal nights aren’t always included here, and seating tends to be open.
- Coffeehouse/Patisserie: For a quick bite or a morning coffee, this type of dining experience tends to offer limited seating, as the menu isn’t so extensive it offers fully-cooked or multi-course meals. On some cruise ships, this concept of dining can be extended to pizza shops, wine bars, gelatos, and cafés.
- 24-Hour Service:Anytime, day or night, the dining staff will prepare food for guests and either serve it in a central location or deliver it to the stateroom. Menus might not be as extensive as in traditional or anytime experiences, but the focus is on convenience.
There’s usually no shortage of sports and fitness options aboard cruise ships, and the only question is narrowing it down to a guest’s personal preferences.
- Sports: Just about any sport that a guest can think of, there’s usually a cruise ship that offers it. Popular choices include—basketball, volleyball, rock climbing, bowling, miniature golf, driving range, scuba and snorkel lessons, running track, tennis/squash/racquetball, soccer, and general sports courts or watersports areas.
- Fitness: For cruise guests who prefer to exercise at their own pace or by themselves, utilizing the ship’s fitness amenities may be a better choice. Depending on the size of the cruise ship, there may be more than one fitness center, but any of them will usually include aerobic and anaerobic equipment—treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals, weights, hang bars, exercise balls, mats, pool, sauna, and exercise classes/personal trainer.
The idea of a cruise is to totally unwind and luxuriate in a range of services all within very close range. Whether or not the following services are included in the price of the cruise varies—as do the types of services—but here is what to generally expect:
- Massages: Guests can either head to a spa or have a masseuse come to their stateroom and select the type of massage (e.g. Swedish, deep-tissue, etc.) they want.
- Manicure/Pedicure: There may be a central location that specializes in just manicures and pedicures, or a spa that offers these services in conjunction with others. Although there may be stateroom service, cruise ships may be hesitant to use this equipment in individual rooms.
- Steam Room: After a long and hard exercise session, guests can relax in a steam room and repair muscle aches. Steam rooms are usually found close to fitness centers, although their locations may vary.
- Whirlpool: Where there’s a swimming pool, there’s usually also a Jacuzzi close by. As with any whirlpool, the temperature and length of the jets being on can be adjusted to personal preference.
- Therapy Treatments: Guests can select mud therapy, aromatherapy, oxygen therapy, color therapy, light therapy, facials or reflexology to help them unwind. For treatment services like mud wraps or facials, guests might have to go to a spa or salon to take advantage of the, whereas color therapy or reflexology may take place in the guest’s stateroom.
- Hair Salon: Some cruises may carry guests away for a considerable amount of time, and for the more fastidious among, keeping a tidy hairstyle is key. For space and sanitation considerations, haircuts usually take place in a salon or barbershop, but guests in a suite stateroom may be able to have a hairstylist or barber come to them.
Under this category, guests can find amenities ranging from movies and TV shows to gaming centers, internet access, conference rooms and anything else that may be associated with technology.
- Internet: While WiFi access is almost always offered—either included in the total price or as an extra—and some cruise ships may also offer computer rooms with desktops or laptops, hard-wired internet, and printers.
- Movies and TV: Most staterooms will have a TV in them with the option of paying extra for speciality channels or movies, but there may also be TVs placed along the ship or in special viewing rooms.
- Meetings and Conferences: Work doesn’t always stop for every guest just because they’re on a cruise ship, and some liners accommodate them by providing conference rooms or general meeting spaces, catering, audiovisual equipment, and technicians to setup and dismantle everything.
In International Waters—the water that’s 24 miles or further away from the coastline—laws fall either under the United Nations convention or the laws of the flag state. For example, if an American cruise ship is sailing 12 miles away from British coast, it falls under British law. But if sails 25 miles away from the British coast, it reverts back to American law. As such, the nationality of the cruise ship will dictate if gambling is allowed on board, and what types of activities fall under the category.
Many cruise ships register their ships in countries with lax labor laws (“flags of convenience”) with the exception of Hawaii, where ships must register as American and belong to unions.
The types of service amenities offered on board a cruise ship correlate to how long the cruise is and the cost of it.
- Child-Minding: Drop off your son and daughter and know they’re in good hands while you enjoy one of the ship’s many activities.
- Pet-Sitting: If the cruise allows animals, there’s a good chance they’ll also have licenced professionals who can watch your pet, and possibly bathe or groom it, too.
- Banking: Because cruise ships frequently make dryland stops in different countries, it’s often necessary to exchange currency. But with ships not wanting to store large amounts of money on board and in International Waters, this amenity may not always be available.
Accessibility and Special Needs
Not every cruise guest will have perfect vision and hearing, as well as use of both arms and legs. For this reason, cruise ships try to accommodate to all guests as much as possible, and offer the following amenities:
- Visually Impaired: Braille signage on elevators, stairs, menus and anywhere else that requires reading or navigation, and audio descriptions for TV and movies.
- Hearing Impaired: Closed captioning for TV and movies, TTY or TTD for telephones, and assisted listening devices.
- Physically Impaired: Pool lifts, accessible bathrooms, accessible seating for events, dining and public areas, physical therapists, or personal support workers. There’s also usually medical staff available on board in case anything happens.