Cruising 101

By Beth A. Allen, Attorney at Law
and Kerry N. Lear

Why Plan

If your partner ends up in a hospital while the two of you are in Greece, will you be allowed to be in her room with her? If you get ill in Mexico and are not well enough to make your own medical decisions, will your partner be allowed to make decisions for you?

It is important for everyone to plan for incapacity and death, but it is often even more important for lesbians and gay men to make sure their documents are in order as the default laws and policies often do not adequately protect our families. You can increase the chances that you could answer “yes” to questions similar to the ones posed above by having the appropriate documents in place before you travel and taking copies with you when you go.

Before You Leave

Perhaps the most important document to have in place before you travel is an Advance Directive. In this document you can appoint a health care representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. You can also give explicit instructions to health care providers about what kind of care you do and do not want in certain situations.

It is also a good idea to make sure that your finances would be taken care of should you become incapacitated or die. A Durable Power of Attorney will allow you to appoint someone to control your finances should you become incapacitated. This person would be able to access bank accounts, pay bills, and send you additional money, if necessary. Often, people who travel with their partner will draft the Durable Power of Attorney so that someone in the States could act if both you and your partner are incapacitated.

It is unlikely that you will die while traveling, but nonetheless, you should have a Will (and possibly a Trust) to ensure that in the event of your death, your property goes to the people that you choose as opposed to the people that the State says are your closest relatives. Additionally, you should make sure that you have chosen beneficiaries for any accounts that allow you to do so. To provide yourself more reassurance, consider having a Disposal of Remains drafted. This document sets out who controls post-death decisions concerning issues such as burial or cremation, specifies your wishes concerning your remains, and can go a long way towards avoiding a family battle while coping with your grief in a foreign country.

It can be helpful to hire an attorney to assist you in preparing these documents as often there are specific requirements of what the documents must contain and how they should be phrased. It is a good idea to seek out an attorney who is familiar with the special planning needs of lesbians and gay men.

What to Take With You

Some of the documents you create may not be of much use to you if you do not have them with you. You should definitely take copies of your Advance Directive and your Durable Power of Attorney with you when you travel. We recommend that you keep a copy of these documents on your person, as well as a copy at your hotel, at all times. Some travelers have these documents printed on small plastic coated cards for ease of carrying them.

If your relationship is recognized by your home state and you have a certificate of your Domestic Partnership/ Marriage/ Civil Union you should also consider taking a copy of that with you. Even if the place to which you are traveling will not specifically honor that recognition, it can only improve your chances of successfully arguing that you should be treated as a legitimate couple. In the same vein, if you have a contractual Domestic Partnership Agreement, it would be a good idea to take a copy of that. Last but not least, you should take the phone number of your attorney with you so that you can easily contact her should any sort of problem arise.

If You Have Children

If you have children, there are some additional documents that you will need to think about. If possible, you should make sure that you have completed the adoption of any children before you travel so that the child is legally related to both parents. You should also make sure that you have guardianships set up for your children. If your children are traveling with you, it will be necessary to take a certified copy of the judgment of adoption with you so that you will have proof of your legal relationship should anyone call it into question. Additionally, consider taking copies of your child’s health records if your child is traveling with you.

The Bottom Line

While it may not be very much fun to plan for the worst, it could end up saving you a lot of heartache in the event something does go wrong while you are traveling. So remember to plan appropriately before you leave and to travel with the necessary documents. Then put up your feet, sip a cool drink and watch the porpoises dance by the side of the ship, secure in the knowledge that you are prepared for you and your family’s future.

About the Authors

Beth Allen is a Partner and Kerry Lear is a Law Clerk at Allen² Law, LLC in Portland, Oregon. Allen² Law provides legal counsel in the family law and estate planning fields in Oregon and Washington. Whether it is drafting partnership agreements, wills, or any of the documents needed to provide long term security; assisting in adoption, surrogacy, sperm donor, or unique custody agreements; or being a strong and reasonable advocate when relationships dissolve, the attorneys of Allen² Law can provide the knowledgeable, supportive, and compassionate services that are right for you and your family.

Cruises advertise themselves as all-inclusive but they rarely are. All I knew about cruising before our first sailing was what I saw on The Love Boat, and I was surprised when we began our research to learn that all those drinks Isaac poured weren’t just part of the cruise fare.

Most people don’t expect “free” alcohol with their cruise, but many people are surprised to learn that soft drinks, bottled water, and juice are usually not included. Some people also don’t know that they are expected to tip at the end of a cruise. Following is a very general run-down of what’s included and what’s not. This varies from cruise line to cruise line (we’ll get into that a little later).

  • Your cruise fare includes your room, your meals in certain restaurants, and the use of certain areas of the ship
  • Juice is included with breakfast, and coffee,tea and tap water are available 24 hours. Often iced tea and some sort of fruit punch are available as well.
  • Soft drinks, bottled water, and juice other than at breakfast are not included. On some cruise lines you can buy a soft drink card that allows you a certain number of soft drinks or unlimited soft drinks. Usually this is limited to fountain soft drinks, so if you want a can of soda you’ll still have to pay for it.
  • Specialty coffee drinks and fancy teas are usually not included. If you want just a regular “cup of coffee” you don’t pay, but if you want a “tall skinny latte” you’ll have to fork over.
  • Certain restaurants and eating venues are not included. Most ships have “specialty restaurants” and there is usually a fee for eating there. Eating in the main dining room is included in your cruise fare.
  • Use of the gym is usually free. Many fitness classes are not.
  • Use of the main pools and Jacuzzis is usually free. However, many ships also have a thassalotherapy pool and to use that you pay either a daily or weekly fee.
  • The rock-climbing wall on Royal Caribbean is free. The golf simulator is not. I’ve read there is a charge to use the bowling alley on NCL’s new Pearl.
  • Most cruiselines have some sort of theater for showing movies and these are usually free. (In- room movies sometimes have a charge.) The evening entertainment – usually Broadway style shows or comedians – is always included in your cruise fare. We once saw an amazing husband-wife aerial entertainment act on the Celebrity Mercury.
  • Spa treatments are not free
  • Shore excursions are not free

Now, most everything above is a generalization and it varies from cruise line to cruise line. Most of what I’ve written above is about the mass-market cruise lines which include Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess and many more.

When you move up to a luxury cruise line, much more is included. On most luxury lines, including Regent, Seabourn, and Silverseas, alcohol and tipping are also included. On these lines you won’t pay for exercise classes and some of them throw in a complimentary shore excursion. You also won’t pay for in-room movies. Seabourn even has what they call “complimentary on desk Massage Moments”. Crystal is alone among the luxury lines in that alcohol is not included in your fare and neither are tips. However, you can have soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffee drinks, anything non-alcoholic to your heart’s content.

We’ve started a forum on our web site where we can share information about costs on the various cruise lines. We’ve posted information about the lines we’ve been on, but we’re limited by our own experience, so if you have any information you’d like to share, please post it at our What’s Extra and What it Costs forum.

Some of you may have already read this in our newsletter, but I’m putting it in the blog also after reading a thread on CruiseCritic about formal night. Seems like we’re not the only ones who worried, worried, worried about it!

The statistics we gather when you register on our web site tell us that many of you have never cruised before. So we thought it might be helpful to run a series of articles addressing the questions we had the first time we cruised. Our biggest worry? Formal night. Some people love to dress up, and do it well. We’re learning to enjoy it actually, but I kind of doubt that we do it well. However, we’ve learned how to fit in on a cruise ship. Now, not all cruise ships have a formal night, or even a dress code, but many do and here’s how we handled it our first couple of cruises: Cruise 1 – order room service on Formal Night. Do not venture out of the room under any circumstances. Cruise 2 – Eat in the alternative restaurant. Look at all the ladies and think, “Hmmm. All it takes is something sparkly. I MIGHT be able to do that.” Cruise 3 – Buy an outfit for formal night!!!

Let me backup a little, though. For those first 2 cruises we still had to dress up, certainly more than the pajamas we sometimes wear to dinner at home. (The other night, we almost went to a restaurant with Mary still in her pajamas – luckily we noticed just as she was getting in to the car.) What we did was buy a few skirts. The best were the reversible skirts we got at Nordstrom. We each bought one, so between the two of us we had four skirts. I also bought a black skirt and black pants and a black top at Chico’s. If you haven’t discovered Chico’s and you are not a hot young thing, you really should check it out. Their clothes are extremely comfortable and surprisingly flattering for someone whose weight is no longer what it was when she was a cross-country runner. Also the sizes are 1,2, and 3, so you can pretend you are really tiny. A couple black and white v-neck t-shirts and a black sweater for me and I was set. Certainly not the most creative or stylish dresser on the ship but as far as I know no one pointed at me and said, “Look at THAT inappropriate clothing!”

In anticipation of formal night, we went to that bastion of high fashion, Sears, and bought REALLY CHEAP sparkly clothing. Mary bought a dress and I bought a top to go along with my black skirt. My top was not just REALLY CHEAP, but REALLY REALLY CHEAP. The sparkles rained down onto my body and the floor every time I took the scratchy blouse off and I had to shower before climbing into bed after formal night was done. But, dressed up with some nice inexpensive jewelry loaned to us by a friend who has more fashion sense than us, we fit in just fine on formal night. And it was totally worth going to the dining room for the amazing chateaubriand.

We have a special section in our closet for cruise clothes, and we really don’t wear them any other time, but we’ve come to love packing our cruise clothes, unpacking them on the ship and picking out what combination we will wear each evening. It’s so easy now, it’s practically GarAnimals!