Can you tour a cruise ship while its docked?
September 19, 2010 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know if it is possible to tour a cruise ship while it's in port without having to actually purchase a cruise trip ticket?

My boyfriend and I are considering booking a cruise, but we're wondering if there is a way to take a tour of a docked ship in Montreal or Quebec City, or even New York City before we book. He's a bit concerned about motion sickness (which I know we won't be able to tell about if the ship is docked, and I've read all the past questions on minimizing motion sickness on boats and such) but also how claustrophobic the cabins and the ship itself might be - anxiety about being cooped up tends to make that kind of thing worse. We thought if there was a way to check one out in port, it might make it easier to decide if being on a cruise ship is going to be enjoyable or stressful. None of the cruise line websites list this as an option so I wonder if it's just a no go because of security concerns or what?
Also, if anyone has experience with a cruise along the New England routes (Montreal/Quebec --> New York) that they'd be willing to share, that would be great also.
posted by Cyrie to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
I've seen a few shows on Discovery Channel about cruise ships and one thing that normally sticks out is how tightly they control access to the ship when ships are in port so they might not, but I'd contact a few of the cruise lines and see if someone can give a guided tour.
posted by barc0001 at 1:36 PM on September 19, 2010

The turn around time between cruises (the time it takes to clean the boat and prepare it for new guests) is always very, very tight. Even when you get on the boat as a passenger you won't have access to your luggage or room for a couple hours! So I imagine they wouldn't have time for tours.

As far as the staterooms go... they are tiny, tiny, tiny. However, if you spend much time in your stateroom then you're Doing It Wrong. I was only in mine for two reasons: to sleep, and to change into more formal clothes for dinner.
posted by sbutler at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2010

It used to be possible to get on board the ships if you knew someone who was sailing on the ship, to visit friends as they came through your port or see them off or whatever, but these days, even that's not done anymore.

If anyone will know, however, it will be somebody at CruiseCritic, so I'd suggest re-asking that question there.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2010

I used to work for a cruise travel agent who did a large quantity of business with Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean (RCI). The only tours we were ever offered were ones solely for agents. We were even told in the paperwork that potential paying customers could not attend, and RCI specifically required an IATA (International Air Transport Association) or CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) number before a pass would be issued. CCL would let agents bring a guest, such as a spouse or family member, but no one else.

Now, the sales pitch: If you want to minimize motion sickness, book on a lower deck as close to the middle of the ship as possible. On Carnival's Conquest-class (i.e. the eponysterical Carnival Conquest, or Valor, Liberty, Freedom, etc), I would recommend the Riviera or Main decks in cabin type 4B (interior) or 6B (ocean view) and above. If you want a balcony, which I guarantee will help with claustrophobia, look at deck 6 (Upper) in cabin type 8B.

The cabins are small. An interior cabin is too small for any more than 2 adults and a child, and even then it gets cramped if you're all trying to move around doing things (like getting ready for sit-down dinner or changing to swim). For two people, an interior cabin is fine, but small. If you're worried about feeling shut in because there's no artificial light, get an ocean view cabin, which has a window (that does not open), or the least expensive balcony cabin available. As sbutler says, you won't be spending a lot of time in your cabin, but there's no reason it has to feel like a coffin while you're in it.
posted by fireoyster at 2:11 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doubtful but you could call a cruise company and ask. Everyone who enters or leaves the cruise ship needs to scan themselves in and out with their crew or passenger ID card so just wandering on, even with friends who are on the cruise, would not be possible.
posted by MsKim at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2010

Yes. If you have friends who work on board, it is possible at least on Disney Cruise Lines as recently as this summer. There has to be pre-planning and appropriateness (for example, guests touring the ship are expected to dress more nicely than the average guest on vacation, and you need to take great care to stay out of the way of the hardworking crew that are racing to get the ship ready for the next guests)
posted by arnicae at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2010

Some of the cruise lines have 1 day cruises to nowhere that you could try. But my impression is those one day things are full of drunks. But I've never been on one that is just the impression I got talking to the cruise ship crew.

I've taken several cruises, including NY, new england, canada and while the cabins are small, I have had 3 adults in one cabin and it wasn't that crowded. The 3 person cabin I had, the steward folded the upper bunk up into the wall during the day. The bathrooms, esp. the shower can be very small. But you don't hang around in the cabin, you just sleep and get changed in it. The rest of the ship was not at all claustrophobic. If you are really worried about claustrophobia be sure to get an outside cabin with a window. I'm slightly claustrophobic myself and I always feel fine with an outside cabin.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:12 PM on September 19, 2010

In Vancouver the layovers are often longer than a couple of hours. The ships still dock near the They (Carnival Cruise Lines) let us go on an unguided walkaround of the Love Boat (Pacific Princess I think) in the mid-90s; I don't know if that's changed but if I wanted to find out I would contact the Port Authority. Montreal's Port Authority has an email address at the bottom of this page.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2010

I forgot to mention that the Director of Communications is the email I was mentioniong. He is the person most likely to know about this sort of thing or put you in touch with the cruise line staff who can tell you.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:39 PM on September 19, 2010

The Queen Mary in Long Beach is now permanently docked and set up as a hotel. I have no idea to what extent this recreates the experience of sleeping on a cruise ship though. And obviously it's not terribly convenient for Montreal!
posted by caek at 6:01 AM on September 20, 2010

It used to be that passengers could bring guests on board the day of sailing to see them off and that it was possible to arrange a visit through the port agent or cruise line. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Both the ports and the cruise ships have very tight security and can be very bureaucratic, so that it can make it extremely difficult to arrange a visit, especially in NYC. While it's not impossible, it might require a lot of work to make the arrangements.
posted by andrewraff at 11:08 AM on September 20, 2010

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