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Archive for July, 2006

Feeling woozy? No cruise for you

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 31 - 2006

Last summer, Carol and Arnie Rudoff booked a seven-day cruise aboard Princess Cruises‘ Grand Princess, sailing from Galveston, Texas. The Rudoffs thought the cruise looked great: It was on their favorite cruise line, and it offered great destinations for all members of their family, who were coming to celebrate the Rudoffs’ 40th wedding anniversary. It would be the Rudoffs’ 12th Princess cruise.

The trip started badly when, after a turbulent flight from Phoenix to Houston, Carol became air sick. Fortunately, the Rudoffs had booked a pre-cruise hotel package through the cruise line, so Carol was able to rest and recover overnight. Feeling better the next morning, Carol was astonished to learn that Princess would not let her board the ship. Why not? The cruise line had heard of her illness and thought she might have contracted a norovirus.

Just say no to noroviruses

Formerly called the “Norwalk virus,” the group of intestinal pathogens now called “noroviruses” has become a big problem for cruise lines in the past decade. According to records kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vessel Sanitation Program, 2,032 passengers and crew aboard 13 ships operated by five different cruise lines were infected with noroviruses during the first six months of this year. The viruses are highly contagious, and while they seldom do any lasting harm, they can cause some very unpleasant symptoms.

In order to keep their ships healthy, some cruise lines take a no-holds-barred approach to the viruses. Princess, for example, screens all its embarking passengers, asking whether they have experienced vomiting or diarrhea in the two days before sailing. Anyone checking “Yes” on the health questionnaire is subject to further assessment by the ship’s medical staff.

It happens that Carol Rudoff checked “No.” She knew why she’d been sick, and she was feeling fine now, so she decided to just let it go. Unfortunately for Carol, a Princess agent had witnessed her air sickness at the Houston airport and had flagged her for an embarkation check.

Carol was surprised to be confronted by Princess officials in Galveston. “I was no longer sick, I had no diarrhea, no fever, no abdominal pain, and no headache,” she says.

According to the Rudoffs, there was no examination by the ship’s doctor, either.

“He simply entered the cruise terminal, asked where Carol was and informed her she was sick,” Arnie says.

The only way to confirm a norovirus infection is through medical testing, which can take a long time. Not wanting to risk having the virus aboard, Princess denied the Rudoffs boarding. The rest of the family could sail. In fact, if they didn’t sail, they would lose their entire cruise fare.

Princess was within its rights. Located deep in its ticket contract are statements that the cruise line can deny boarding to anyone the cruise line deems to be ill and without any refund of fare. Because the Rudoffs were such good customers, Princess did offer them the option of boarding the ship in Belize, after a three-day quarantine. Princess also offered to reimburse the couple for expenses incurred to stay in Houston and travel to Belize, including hotel charges, air tickets, meals and transfers.

The check’s in the mail

The Rudoffs did catch up to the ship in Belize and enjoyed what was left of their family cruise. Upon returning home to Arizona, they submitted a bill to Princess for expenses totaling $3,100.30. After more than three months of what Arnie calls being “stonewalled” by the cruise line, the Rudoffs asked Tripso to help get their money.

I contacted Princess Cruises’ Manager of Media Relations Karen Tetherow to see what was going on with the Rudoffs’ claim. Several weeks later, the Rudoffs received a three-page letter from Princess standing by its decision to keep Carol from boarding the ship and promising that a check for their expenses would be mailed soon.

Asked why it took so long to resolve the claim, Tetherow said: “We sincerely apologize that our response was delayed. It was a regrettable oversight on our end.”

Protect your cruise

Princess did the right thing in the end. But what if something like this happens to you? How do you protect yourself?

First, get travel insurance and know how it works. Under the Rudoffs’ policy, if Princess had not offered reimbursement, Carol would have had to seek medical assistance immediately and obtain a doctor’s note documenting her air sickness. Travel insurance will not kick in without medical documentation of this kind. Of course, if you have in fact contracted a norovirus, stay off the ship. If you don’t have a norovirus infection, but have some symptoms that mimic the illness, make sure your doctor specifies your diagnosis in writing.

Norovirus is no joke, but you don’t have to fall victim to a false alarm. Know your rights and you’ll set sail with the rest of the passengers.

Filled Under Ombudsman

Alaskans vote: Tax the tourist?

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 24 - 2006

The scenes are breathtaking: blue glaciers, gigantic snow-capped mountains and soaring bald eagles. They are picture-perfect images of Alaska, and tourists love them. But are cruise visitors willing to pay more taxes for the experience? Some political and environmental activists in Alaska say, “Yes.”

On August 22, Alaska voters will go to the polls to vote on Ballot Measure 2, more commonly referred to as the “cruise ship tax,” a proposal to significantly increase taxes on cruise lines and their passengers vacationing in the state. If the measure passes, it could add hundreds of dollars to every passenger’s cruise bill. The measure has divided the electorate and is being closely watched by cruise lines, tour operators and their employees, who vehemently oppose it.

Thank you for visiting, now pay up

Ballot Measure 2 qualified for the August 22 ballot when California-based environmental group Bluewater Network gathered the necessary number of signatures from Alaska voters. The measure is also sponsored by Responsible Cruising in Alaska, a Juneau-based group; the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters, an Alaska-based project of the Earth Island Institute; and Karen Jettmar, director of Equinox Wilderness Expeditions.

The goal of the initiative, sponsors say, is to protect Alaska’s water quality, fisheries, port communities, and maritime infrastructure and to establish what they call a “fair taxation policy.” At the core of Ballot Measure 2 is a group of four tax measures:

* The first measure would impose a $46 tax on every cruise passenger to improve port and harbor facilities and to support commerce and regional tourism.
* The second measure would impose an additional $4 tax on every cruise passenger to cover the cost of an “Ocean Ranger” on each ship to monitor emissions.
* The third measure would impose Alaska’s 33 percent gambling tax on cruise ships’ gambling operations while in state waters.
* The fourth measure would subject cruise lines to state corporate income tax.

The head tax has been proposed before, most recently in 2002 when former governor Tony Knowles unsuccessfully called for a $30 head tax to help balance the state’s budget. According to the North West CruiseShip Association, if the head tax passes this time, Alaska will become the only state in the union to charge people for visiting.

“Trojan horse” provisions

“This measure is nothing more than a special interest effort to attack Alaska’s economy,” says Robert Scherer, owner of the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan. Scherer points out that Alaska businesses have thrived since the cruise industry expanded its operations in the state.

Scott McMurren, publisher of the Alaska Travelgram and “The Great Alaskan TourSaver” and a weekly travel columnist at the Anchorage Daily News, says the initiative is a classic case of taxing the other guy, and he disputes the suggestion that the cruise lines neglect the environment. “When it comes to environmental standards, cruise ships have higher wastewater standards than the state’s ferries and many coastal communities in southeast Alaska,” McMurren says. He calls the bill a “Trojan horse” full of provisions that create more government bureaucracy and a lot of collateral damage.

Indeed, the “Ocean Rangers” provision would create a new state jobs program, a program that would be redundant since it would duplicate the work of the Commercial Passenger Vessel Compliance Program, a state environmental initiative that is already funded by the cruise lines. And it is true that Ballot Measure 2 contains some very odd provisions. One would require the cruise lines to disclose any markups or commissions they receive when passengers book a shore excursion through the cruise line. McMurren sees this as an attempt to encourage passengers to book excursions direct from the local tour operator, and he worries that this practice could result in visitors unwittingly hiring tour operators who do not carry the mandated liability insurance.

Scherer is equally perplexed by the disclosure provision. “It goes against basic free-market principles,” he says. “This would be similar to walking into a store and seeing the price the store paid and the price you as the consumer pays.”

Another disturbing section of the bill would allow Alaskans to report violations of the law and receive up to 50 percent of any fines collected. Worse, when citizens succeed in collecting the money, they would have to split it 50-50 with the lawyers who file the suit. “Clearly, this is an incentive for frivolous lawsuits against cruise lines,” McMurren says. “There’s something in the bill for everyone to hate — except lawyers, who authored the bill.”

Organized opposition

Ballot Measure 2 is opposed by hundreds of Alaska’s town and city governments, chambers of commerce, civic organizations, visitors bureaus, tour operators, tourist associations, small businesses and large business from airlines to cruise lines. Some of these groups have financed a campaign to defeat the measure through the North West CruiseShip Association; their Web site, called Protect our Economy, summarizes many of the arguments against the measure.

Scherer sums it up this way: “Alaskans have a tremendous history in this [cruise tourism] industry and it epitomizes our frontier spirit. It is an industry that cares about our pristine environment and creates revenue from that exact resource. We self-regulate and have nothing but success stories.”

Love and hate tourists

Others disagree. In a statement of support for the measure filed with the Alaska Division of Elections, Gershon Cohen and Joe Geldhof, of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, wrote, “The cruise lines are ‘selling’ Alaska while impacting our docks, roads, public facilities, wildlife, and the quality of our lives. This initiative will do nothing to turn visitors away; it will help keep our tourism industry sustainable while protecting the needs of all Alaskans.”

I dispute this assertion. It is the cruise tourists who will bear the burden of the ballot measure, and they will not bear it lightly. They will pay head taxes directly, and they will pay the casino taxes and the corporate taxes indirectly, because the cruise lines will pass these costs on to the customer. As a recent cruise tourist to Alaska, I can tell you that Alaska is by no means a budget vacation. I spent thousands of dollars in the state on top of the cruise fare and port taxes. Cruise travelers are very cost-conscious consumers, and the more they pay in taxes, the less they will spend in port. That is the core argument for many who oppose the bill.

If the bill passes, it won’t kill Alaska cruising, but it will hurt both the cruise industry and Alaska tourism. Cruise tourism currently accounts for 70 percent of all Alaska tourism, so any burden placed on the cruise lines will have far-reaching consequences.

Alaska voters need to think long and hard. Alaska is a beautiful state, but it isn’t the only place in the world where you can get up close to glaciers and wildlife. Ships are moveable objects, and if the cruise lines can find a better value for the consumer elsewhere, the ships will set sail for the horizon.

Filled Under Advice

Cruise lines get chatty

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 17 - 2006

On a recent Monday in June, Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Cruise Talk” bulletin board had 11 posts about dining aboard the Carnival Glory, all debating the question whether to eat early or late. Meanwhile, over on the Cruise West “Journey Blog,” readers were gushing over photos taken during a recent Alaska cruise aboard the Spirit of Endeavour. Over on the SeaDream Yacht Club blog, cruise officials were had posted a provocative question: “How big is big enough?”

These company bulletin boards aren’t just places where readers can share personal memories. They’re places where potential passengers can get valuable information to help them decide on a ship or an itinerary. Will they change the way cruisers get their cruise information?

Valuable communications tool

Three cruise lines have become more “online-accessible” to their customers recently. Taking its cue from popular online cruise communities like Cruise Critic, which has dozens of bulletin boards, Carnival Cruise Lines has created CarnivalConnections.com, a separate customer Web site that offers bulletin boards dedicated to each Carnival ship as well as to the line’s many destinations. Meanwhile, two small-ship operators, Cruise West and SeaDream Yacht Club, have created blog spaces that allow customers to post their shipboard experiences or respond to queries and comments from a cruise line administrator. So far, each cruise line’s little corner of the Web has proven to be quite popular with users.

“The message boards have been the most-used sections of the Web site,” says Carnival spokesman Vance Gullicksen. What’s in it for Carnival? Word-of-mouth marketing. Carnival hopes all that happy chat on the boards will result in new bookings that are both enthusiastic and well-informed.

At Cruise West, it’s more about making personal connections between the company and its passengers. “Through the blog, we are able to share real-time experiences with our future guests and those who are contemplating a trip,” says Leigh Strinsky, Cruise West’s manager of online initiatives. “It’s really a way for us to share our style with the public in a very noncommercial, sincere way.”

Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive officer of SeaDream Yacht Club, says, “Our blog features items of interest about the company along with news and commentary about travel and tourism and just about anything else that comes to mind.”

Customers get heard

The new online communities are teaching the cruise lines a lot about their own businesses.

“The message boards help us see what consumers really value as part of their vacation experience,” says Gullicksen, the Carnival spokesman. Preferences and complaints about particular Carnival products quickly become evident, and this helps with quality control. “When we find a consistent thread on one of the boards relating to a particular aspect of our product, we forward it to the appropriate department for review,” he says.

Strinsky sees an additional benefit. In the past, she says, Cruise West would get amazing real-time stories from passengers or crew about weddings, wildlife sightings or other shipboard experiences, but the cruise line couldn’t share them with readers until they were printed in brochures — some six to 12 months later. “Now, with the blog, we can share these stories quickly with everyone,” she says.

SeaDream hopes to use its recently launched online space to track customer thinking. “The blog openly seeks opinions and gives us an opportunity to find out what various segments of the public think we are doing right and, on occasion, what the respondent thinks we are doing wrong,” Pimental says. “Both are important and can help us to provide a better product.”

What about the independents?

Will the company boards and blogs spell the end of independent online cruise communities? Maybe.

Alan Wilson, editor of Cruise News Daily, sees company bulletin boards as a potential threat to large cruise forums like Cruise Critic and Cruise Addicts. Cruise-line Web sites already have high traffic and visibility and they provide users with accurate information, Wilson points out. With that draw already in place, there is incentive for passengers to visit the new company boards – and maybe use them exclusively. The clincher, Wilson suggests, would be online participation by a cruise-line staffer who can provide authoritative answers to consumers’ questions (the independent boards don’t do this). Another key ingredient for success: unedited passenger comment, good and bad.

“Once cruise lines do those things, their bulletin boards will decimate the traffic regarding their product on the generic boards,” Wilson says.

“If you believe in your product, as we do, the consumer’s voice can serve as a virtual sales tool to a consumer segment which demands unbiased product information,” Gullicksen says. “The Internet has proven to be the perfect medium for this.”

Carnival’s success in its online endeavor can only lead to speculation that other cruise lines will follow.

Filled Under Advice

Princess’s Crown achievement

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 10 - 2006

The brand-new, 113,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Crown Princess introduces several innovations to the Princess Cruises fleet, including a three-story atrium, new casual dining venues, a “Serenity” area, passenger reality shows and an expansion of some shipboard favorites. It’s all part of Princess’s new company motto: “Escape Completely,” which I did last month, on a nine-day round-trip cruise to the Caribbean from New York City.

Something old, something new

While the ship is new, its name is not. Named for one of Princess’s most popular ships of the recent past, the all-new Crown Princess is a big ship with a small-ship feel. Even with 3,000 passengers on board, everyone can find a place to call his own, and there is something for everyone.

In fact, Princess’s passenger demographic has changed over the past few years. The explosion of family travel has meant there are fewer old men playing shuffleboard than in the past, although I’m glad to say some still do. You can usually find them sequestered in the aft, adults-only Terrace Pool area. Drinks and party games draw lots of young couples and groups of friends to the Neptune’s Reef pool area, while families head to the Calypso Reef pool area, where they can splash and dog paddle while watching movies on the giant screen above.

Two new features offer completely different takes on the “Escape Completely” theme. In the dramatic, three-story Piazza Atrium, passengers can eat, drink, be entertained and shop till they drop. Exhausted? Then head for the new, adults-only “Serenity” area where, for a $15 half-day pass, you can lounge on luxury chaises and receive Evian water spritzes and cold towels. As the ship’s official godmother, Martha Stewart, would say: “It’s a good thing.”

Food, food and more food

After observing the feeding frenzy on board this ship, I came to realize that people are, basically, no different from dogs. Remember when you left the bag of Alpo out and Fido tried to eat himself to death? Well, it’s the same here, and many passengers seem to prize this big ship primarily for its ability to dispense mass quantities of munchies at all hours. Happily, the food is great, and there are plenty of excellent dining options. There are 13 places to eat meals, plus free 24-hour room service (with 55 items on the menu) and constant snacks on offer.

A great way to start a New York sailing is with a “Brooklyn Balcony Nosh” on your balcony. The Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty make the perfect backdrop for this typical New York meal: a Nathan’s hot dog, Junior’s cheesecake and a bottle of Brooklyn Lager ($7; available only on embarkation day).

Princess’s flexible dining plan allows passengers to choose assigned tables or open seating in any of the three dining rooms: Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Buffet-style dining is offered in the Horizon Court and Café Caribe; both have excellent breakfast and lunch entrees, and Café Caribe offers themed dinner menus.

Looking for something special? Check out the two pay-as-you-go restaurants: The Crown Grill, an upscale New York-style steak-and-seafood restaurant ($25), and Sabatini’s, on scenic Deck 16, where you can dine on terrific regional Italian cuisine ($20). Tip: Go hungry to Sabatini’s; it’s a continuous feeding frenzy.

There are two casual dining venues in the Piazza Atrium: The International Cafe, offering pastries and sandwiches along with coffee drinks (some for a fee) and Vines Wine & Seafood Bar, where for a nominal charge you can indulge in sushi and cocktail-style shellfish along with premium wines.

Without question, Princess has the best pizza at sea (more than 12,000 slices were served on this cruise alone). For a taste, hit the poolside venues of Prego, Trident Grill and Scoops, which also serve hot dogs and ice cream. If you want a cocktail before or after dinner, you have a choice of a dozen bars (but the view from Skywalkers Nightclub on Deck 18 can’t be beat).

The in-room “Ultimate Balcony Dinner” is a wonderfully intimate dining experience. For $50 per person, you’ll get your own waiter and a table beautifully decked out in crisp linens, flowers, silver, crystal and china. My companions and I dined on lobster and filet mignon (the best steak on the ship) and were delighted with the food – and with the sunset in the background. The “Ultimate Balcony Breakfast” ($25), on the other hand, isn’t nearly so ultimate. While the entrees are lovely, there is no setup; room service staff just drops off trays full of food.


The focus on the Crown Princess is on balcony staterooms, which account for about 60 percent of the cabins. Standard balcony cabins range from 233 to 285 square feet; more spacious digs can be had the ship’s suites, which range up to 1,279 square feet. Mini-suites (a good size at 324 square feet) have a private sitting area, two TVs, a tub in the bathroom, luxury mattresses and a choice of pillows (feather or nonallergenic). The 28 full-size suites (including two family suites) offer such extras as a walk-in closet, whirlpool tub in the bathroom, DVD player, one-time free bar setup, fresh flowers and plush bathrobes and slippers. All balconies are outfitted with reclining loungers and a small metal bistro set.

The smaller, ocean-view and inside cabins range from 158 to 182 square feet, and 25 cabins (in several categories) are handicap-accessible. All cabins are outfitted with twin beds that convert to a queen, a telephone, hair dryer, safe, mini-fridge, closet, bathroom with shower, and television. The décor is in tasteful colors of gold, peach, blue and green.

I truly enjoyed the comfy confines of my mini-suite on Deck 9, but there was no privacy on my balcony. All balconies on this deck are uncovered, which means that everyone above can look down on you. Princess designed the balconies this way because customers wanted more sun. Since I like my skin cancer-free, I ventured out only during sunless hours, which, unfortunately, were few. Tip: Want the best of both worlds? The standard balcony cabins on Deck 10 offer bigger balconies than do the mini-suites, and they are half covered, allowing for both sun and shade.


The “Escape Completely” theme really finds its mark in the ship’s entertainment offerings, which are many and varied. Lavish, high-tech production shows play throughout the cruise in the Princess Theater. Smaller productions are mounted in the various lounge venues. The Piazza hosts all kinds of acts all day, including a pianist, an opera singer, a string quartet, 50s-style quartet singers, jugglers, clowns, people who pretend to be statues and one very odd mime who, as my daughter found out, likes to stick participants’ fingers up his nose for a good laugh. (Tip: There’s a bathroom close by where you can wash off the mime snot.) The casino was always jam-packed, despite the smoke-filled rooms.

Taking its cue from TV reality shows, Princess has developed a new series of passenger competitions, and these were a huge hit on my cruise. In “Princess Pop Star,” you can croon your way to the top; in “Ballroom Blitz,” you can shake your booty to the top; in “The Bee@Sea,” you can S-P-E-L-L your way to the top. For those who can’t sing, dance or spell, there are “edu-tainment” options such as guest lectures and Princess’s “ScholarShip@Sea” program, which offers learning courses from culinary to computer arts. Internet access on board is a bit slow and, unfortunately for those with laptops, Wi-Fi is available only in the Piazza area. An excellent photography department offers both formal and informal portrait opportunities — great for those hard-to-get family pictures.

Another highlight: “Movies Under the Stars.” The giant 300-square-foot screen lights up with a variety of programs throughout the day and night, including first-run movies. I have to confess the most fun was the midnight showing of “Titanic”; there is nothing quite like watching a sinking cruise ship on a cruise ship.

In keeping with Princess’s romantic history as “The Love Boat,” the big screen is also used for live video proposals. I was lucky to witness one of these live “Engagement Under the Stars,” when Jonathan from Canada made his proposal to Esther, who, thank goodness, said “Yes!” The couple has already set a date and they plan to take their honeymoon on — you guessed it — the Crown Princess.

Sportier pursuits include mini-golf, basketball, tennis, jogging and golf practice (with a swing simulator or with the onboard golf pro; there is a fee). There is also a huge gym with weights and every cardiovascular machine you can think of. Aerobics classes are free, while yoga, meditation, Spinning and Pilates classes cost $10 each.

The Asian-inspired Lotus Spa, operated by Steiner Leisure, offers a tranquil environment and many exotic therapies. I had several excellent massages along with a facial and tooth whitening. To my surprise, I ended the whitening treatment seven shades whiter. The spa also has a small pool with an adjustable current for a workout that can equal many laps in a traditional pool.

For kids and teens

So parents can “Escape Completely,” the Crown Princess offers a strong children’s program arranged by age, each group with its own facility and counselors.

“Princess Pelicans” (ages 3-8) offers a mini rock-climbing wall, beanbag chairs and a crafts area. The 8- to 12-year-olds program, formerly known as “Princess Pirateers,” is now named the much cooler “Shockwaves” and offers an air hockey table, PlayStation 2 and lots of space for sitting and chatting. My kids raved about the Junior Chefs@Sea program that takes Shockwaves participants to the ship’s galley to learn cooking from the executive chef and staff.

Princess has reconfigured its programs to appeal to its finickiest cruisers. The “Remix” area for teens (previously called “Off Limits”) is now a mature living room setting similar to a coffee shop. It comes equipped with air hockey tables, foosball and PlayStation2 consoles. Teens also have their own outside whirlpool (no adults allowed) and a small arcade room across the hall. A bonus is the teen makeover program, run by youth counselors and boutique staff in conjunction with Clinique, which teaches skin care to girls and boys, and makeup techniques to the girls.

Another innovation, which Princess has quietly rolled out over the last 18 months, is the “Youth Security Program,” in which staff in their early 20s watch over the teenagers. These highly trained personnel continually monitor the hallways and public areas to make sure kids don’t drink or get out of hand. Captain Andy Proctor noted that this program has substantially cut down on the number of complaints from adults about teens’ shipboard behavior. It should also give parents an added measure of reassurance about the safety of the ship for younger passengers.

Crown achievement

Princess has a winner with the Crown Princess, and it is definitely a hit with passengers. There are some “teething issues” (mainly slow elevators and long immigration lines for customs clearance in San Juan), and the cost for “extras” on board do add up. But in the end, if you’re going to cruise with the masses, I cannot think of a ship that does it with more style and elegance than the new Crown Princess.

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How to pack for a cruise

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 3 - 2006

Cruise packing can easily go wrong, and the biggest mistake is overpacking. I, personally, have sat despairing atop an overstuffed suitcase battling to zip it closed. And, more recently, I’ve been vigilant to ensure my suitcase does not weigh over 50 pounds — the new airline limit. What I’ve learned from experience and misery is that there’s no one-size-fits-all when packing for a cruise. How you dress often depends less on your taste than your cruise line. But after dozens of cruises I finally figured out some packing basics.

Customs are changing

For many passengers, dressing up in the evening is one of the big attractions of a cruise; others truly dread it. But these days you don’t have to fashion yourself after the latest issue of Vogue to enjoy cruising. Dress codes have loosened up along with dining options, all in response to the changing tastes of the many passengers who prefer a more relaxed shipboard atmosphere. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Freestyle Cruising” policy calls for “resort casual” attire; Windstar Cruises has also gone resort casual.

However, formal dress standards are enforced on such luxury cruise lines as Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises. On Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 trans-Atlantic crossings, formal attire is expected on three of the six evenings at sea. Some luxury lines do waive formal dress requirements for some itineraries. On my recent Alaska sailing with Regent Seven Seas, for example, there were no formal nights, only “country club casual” evenings. Conversely, some passengers on casual cruises like to indulge in swanky attire on occasion. Attend formal night on a Carnival ship, and you’ll see passengers decked out in ball gowns and diamonds alongside those wearing T-shirts and spandex.

What to pack

With attire running the gamut from L.L. Bean to Neiman Marcus, it can be hard to know what to pack. But don’t fret. Your cruise line will send you information spelling out its dress policy for your cruise. The one thing you really need to keep in mind is that cruise cabins are very small, so you have to pack smart.

Here are some packing tips that will keep you looking fresh — and keep you out of the ship’s Laundromat, too.

Day wear

For warm-weather cruises, bring quality swimwear, as you’re likely to spend a lot of time in or around the pool. For women, sarongs, coverups and sundresses are necessary, since most cruise lines require that you wear more than a swimsuit in the dining rooms.

If the ship holds an event requiring “smart casual” wear, you’ll be fine in dress shorts, a skirt, or trousers with a short-sleeved shirt or polo shirt. The rest of the time you can dress pretty much as you like. Useful accessories include flat shoes with a good grip for wet decks, sunglasses and a sun hat.

If you are going on an Alaska cruise or other outdoor adventure, bring hiking shoes and rugged clothes for the shore excursions. The key to an Alaska cruise is to dress in layers since the temperature can go from cold to hot very quickly.

Evening wear

Most cruises will have one or two formal evenings a week. Men are expected to wear a dark suit or tuxedo; women should wear an evening dress (long or short) or a dressy pantsuit. Men can often rent tuxedos on board. For evenings that are less dressy, women can get away with silky tops and trousers. Be sure to pack a dressy sweater or jacket, especially for the newer cruise ships, whose air conditioning can be quite powerful. I always bring my pashmina wrap; it’s versatile and provides an extra layer in the evening, and it does double duty as an airplane blanket.

Remember to pack some loose-fitting clothes. Most passengers find they put on few pounds during a cruise.

Trial and error

I am a big advocate of wearing outfits more than once. If it looks good and is appropriate, who cares how many times you wear it?

Linda Coffman, editor of Cruise Diva, a cruise Web site, and author of “Fodor’s Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises” agrees. She says to concentrate on dressing from the waist up and to wear the same slacks, skirts or shorts throughout the trip.

“A simple scarf and jewelry can change the look of a basic outfit,” Coffman says. She’s also a big fan of reversible women’s clothes, which give many different looks for minimum packing.

If you’re concerned about running out of clean clothes, don’t worry. Most vessels have self-service Laundromats along with valet laundry service for a fee. And remember, if you forget to pack something or don’t want to do laundry, most ships offer a good selection of clothing, swimwear and accessories in their onboard shops. What you can’t get on board, you can easily find in any port of call.

How to pack

When I was a flight attendant, I lived out of a suitcase 165 days a year, and I learned a few packing tricks. If you follow these basic, common-sense tips, you can pack just what you need, safeguard expensive items and keep track of important paperwork.

* Pack your airline tickets, cruise documents, jewelry, medication, eyeglasses, makeup, camera and computer in your carry-on luggage, not in your checked baggage. Also, bring photocopies of your passport and prescriptions in case these items become lost.

* Also put a swimsuit and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. It sometimes takes hours for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom, and you don’t want to miss any ship time stuck in your traveling clothes.

* Pack heavy items like shoes and toiletry kits before packing the more delicate ones.

* Use shoe covers to pack shoes, and stuff socks, belts and other little items inside shoes to save space.

* Turn jackets inside out and fold them in half, then put them in dry cleaning bags. The plastic bags minimize wrinkles, which is why dry cleaners use them.

* Pack the bottom of your suitcase with trousers, letting the legs hang over the edge of the bag. Then pack the rest of your clothes, with lighter materials on top. In the end, fold the trouser legs back over the pile; they’ll keep their crease.

* Mark your luggage with bright colored yarn or tags to make them easier to spot and less likely to be picked up by someone else by mistake.

* Bring an empty soft bag for souvenirs, but don’t forget to claim it when you get off the ship. I recently did this; fortunately, I remembered it before I left the pier.

* Watch the weight of your luggage; airlines have a 50-pound limit on bags. If you go over, be prepared to pay a hefty surcharge.

Packing is a chore, but if you pay attention to the details, you can pack your cares away.

Bon voyage!

Filled Under Advice