Seeing the world by way of a cruise ship is extremely popular. About a third of the travelers who insure trips through InsureMyTrip take a cruise every year. Some of those are domestic cruises that don’t travel to international ports. Are domestic cruises different from international? For the most part, your experience will be the same with some key differences you’ll want to be aware of.
Beware of the itinerary.
Most cruises, even when departing from a United States city, will include an international stop. Whether it’s one stop to Nassau, BS; Vancouver, BC; or Nova Scotia, CA, an international port means you need to bring a passport (or a passport card) for entry back into the United States and into the international destination. This requires time and preparation on your part prior to departure. You cannot expect to order a passport or passport card only a few weeks before your trip and receive it in time to travel.
Pure domestic cruises will not have an international port on the itinerary. They will not require a passport to board the ship. No planning is required when it comes to identification. However, if you are traveling with a minor, you may need a birth certificate or an identification card for them - check with the cruise line.
Understand the water trends in the region.
While inland and river cruises are typically smooth sailing, the water can change depending on the season. Rivers run faster early in the spring, while inland waterways can still be choppy depending on local weather patterns.
Cruises to nowhere or through open water will most likely be choppy at times. If you are prone to seasickness, you’ll want to prepare accordingly for your trip. Remember, even if a storm is in another region of the same ocean, it can affect the water under your cruise ship. Traveling during hurricane season, no matter what region, can mean your cruise ship will be tossed around in the waves.
Know which excursions are available.
Are their excursions included in the price of the cruise? Are they non-refundable? Do you have to schedule and save a spot in advance? These are all questions we recommend you ask prior to embarking on your trip. River cruise lines often include excursions in the itinerary at no additional cost to the traveler, but this depends on the cruise line and the itinerary. If the cruise doesn’t include excursions, look into activities available at the ports prior to leaving. You may be able to skip an excursion and rent a small car or bike to see the sights.
Ocean cruises don’t usually include excursions and will need to be scheduled and paid for in advance. If these excursions are pre-paid and non-refundable, they can be added to a comprehensive travel insurance plan. Sometimes large storms can adjust itinerary or cancel cruises altogether; that’s when a travel insurance plan can come in handy.
Give yourself a buffer with any flights.
Even if you aren’t traveling internationally, a flight to your port of call can be delayed for various reasons. Recently, bad weather isn’t the only delaying factor for travelers. Airlines are experiencing technical difficulties and the TSA wait times are holding up travelers. These are all reasons to book extra time into your cruise plans.
Our best advice is to book an extra day between your flight and your cruise launch date. This gives you an extra 24 hours to make sure you board your cruise. While some travel insurance plans will cover a missed connection due to a covered travel delay, your best bet is to aim for enough cushion between your flight and cruise launch.
Alert your credit card company or bank before you leave.
If you are hopping down the coast of the United States, spending money as you travel, you are going to appear as though you stole a credit card. Your best bet is to reach out to your credit card company or your bank prior to leaving on your trip to alert them to your expected destinations. They will mark this in your file and limit the risk of your card being frozen.
It’s happened to many of us - you call to alert your bank and they still freeze your card. Unfortunately, some of the best-laid plans are smudged. But we recommend you do the best you can before you leave so you aren’t up a creek without a paddle on your trip.