PICKING A CRUISE THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU
The 3-day weekend, 4-day midweek, week long, 10 day are all popular, but you can also find cruises that are several months in length. You can find 2-day cruises and even some lasting only a few hours just to gamble in international waters. In other words, any combination of time from hours to months are offered to attract your vacation dollars.
Just about anywhere in the world. The Caribbean, Pacific coast of California, Mexico and Alaska are popular among tourists from the United States. But, cruising is basically found where ever you find water.
Once you pick a region, arenít many of the cruises offered within that region the same?
Since the cabins are built for two or more people, can I go on a Cruise if Iím by myself?
You can also consider a "single share" program that some Cruise Lines offer. The Cruise Line will find a roommate for you, so you can cruise at the lower double occupancy rate. If they canít find you a partner you usually still get the cabin at the cheaper rate. With partner programs, you might find a lifelong friend. However, you are also taking the risk of being stuck in a room with someone whom youíre not comfortable.
Yes, the Cruise Ship is your hotel, restaurant and entertainment for your whole vacation. It is a package deal that is different from a traditional vacation. Youíll want to spend some time and do some research to make sure you pick the right cruise for you. The perfect cruise for some might be a miserable one for others. Make sure you find the best match. Youíll want to find the best rate on the right cruise for you, not just the cheapest rate. Cruise Lines cater to certain groups and their whole ship is meant to entertain and please that crowd.
Some cater to certain age groups, singles or families.
Some are calm, elegant and feature haute cuisine.
Some have lots of loud, exciting activities to attract the active crowds.
Others have lots of family activities planned, so the ship will be filled with kids.
You will find some that have shore excursions just for you, while others look boring.
Do some research, it will be worth it.
Check out the Cruise Lineís web pages and brochures for information. Look at the pictures and see what types of activities they have planned. Have they planned a cruise to make someone like you happy?
Make some decisions early. Are you looking for a quiet relaxed cruise, a romantic getaway or a party atmosphere? Once you have an idea of what you want out of your vacation, you can judge the different cruises on how well they meet your expectations.
Ask your friends, but remember that you are looking for the best cruise for you. Make sure you ask them what they were looking to get out of their vacation. Your friends may have loved the cruise because it was exactly what they wanted. Make sure you have similar expectations before you book the same cruise.
Ask lots of questions of your booking agent.
The amount you have budgeted and the overall cost of the cruise.
Any special price breaks or deals.
The Cruise Lineís reputation for the quality of its cuisine and its menu.
The Cruise Lineís reputation for customer service.
The Cruise Lineís previous ship safety and cleanliness record.
The overall atmosphere the cruise conveys. Whether it is family fun, party time, quite elegant sophistication or romantic getaway.
The length of the Cruise.
The Shipís own facilities.
On ship activities planned.
Any theme attached to the cruise.
The ports you will be visiting.
The shore excursions that the Cruise Line offers.
Check out the ports of call. Since these will also be a major part of your cruise, you want to know where youíll be going and what you can do there. Youíll want to ask about the types of the shore excursions available. What do you enjoy: shopping, nature, sports, historical sites or exotic culture? Youíll want to pick ports of call that have activities that interest you.
Youíll want to know the cost of the available shore excursions. There are generally fees for ship sponsored shore excursions. They can cost range from only twenty dollars to several hundred. Youíll want to know the costs of shore excursions in advance so you can compare complete cruise packages. There can be a large range in costs for shore excursions.
Many are listed on the Cruise Lineís web page and some can be booked in advance before you reach the ship. There should also be information in your ticket packet for you to read. Once on board, most will have a lecture about the port of call with a description of the available shore excursions and have someone available to answer your questions about the packages.
Youíll want to know the general game plan to see if you are interested.
Youíll also want to know how guided youíll be, is this just transportation or a tour?
Can you take the tour and still have some freedom to wander?
How much walking or physical activity will there be on the shore excursion?
What about food, will any be included or are you fending for yourselves?
Are admission and fees included when we get there, or will there be extra charges to participate once we arrive?
No, you shouldnít. You should be able to walk or cab if you are docked at port or be able to take one of the shipís scheduled tenders to the dock. The ship might also have a free shuttle to take you into the most popular areas. You can wander on your own if you like. Your time at port is your own.
What do I need to know about the ship before I book my cruise?
Youíll want to know the size of the ship; they can give it to you in tonnage such as 60,000 tons and/or number of passenger. You also want to know when the ship was launched and when it was last refurbished.
Youíll also want to know the square footage. Or at least the range of square footage of the cabin classes you are interested in. This will give you some information for comparison. You may find a particular ship has bigger cabins at a certain class than another ship.
If your cabin has a veranda, make sure the size of the veranda is not included in your cabin square footage, so that you are comparing cabin size to cabin size.
You might want to investigate the shipís sanitation record. See our Cruise Safety section for information on how to investigate a shipís sanitation record.
Some Cruise Lines do have sister ships, which are ships that were built to very similar specifications.
The Cruise Lines will have other similarities in their ships.
They will tend to recruit their officers and crews from a certain area of the world.
The same Entertainment Company may provide much of their entertainment or shows.
Their activities will be designed for a certain type of cruiser.
The types of dťcor will often have a certain feel.
The menus can be similar or even identical.
However, Cruise Lines also will have some differences in their ships.
Most Cruise Lines have a variety of ships in different sizes that will offer different amenities.
The age and condition of ships within a certain line will also vary.
Even in an identical sister-ship you will have two different crews so itís best to do research on both the Cruise Line and your particular ship.
Not necessarily, the bigger the better wonít be everyoneís idea of a perfect cruise. Knowing the size of the ship will help you decide which cruise will provide the better match for your personal tastes.
The Cruise Lines have been building some huge ships lately and the bigger ships have room for every imaginable activity.
The bigger ships can provide more options, but they will also have more people on board to pay for all that size.
Bigger doesnít automatically mean less crowded. In fact, some can seem more crowded.
The smaller ships can also have plenty of activity in a more intimate setting.
This will help you to judge the overall condition of the ship. You may see pictures of the ship on the Cruise Lineís web site, but those pictures were probably taken when the ship was new or just redecorated. You want to have some idea of the age of those pictures. Inaugural cruises and sailing just after refurbishment can be exciting since everything is new and fresh, but you might be the one to discover that the new toilet in your cabin doesnít work.
Yes, most have smoke free dining sections and many have smoke free dining rooms.
If you do go on a nonsmoking cruise, donít break the rules. The rules of these cruises usually state that you can be put off the ship if you smoke or even possess tobacco products. You do not receive any reimbursement for your lost cruise and must make your own way home. You may even be subject to a fine for smoking on the ship. If you think they are kidding when they say nonsmoking only, know that people have already been put off the ship for breaking the rules.
No, almost every ship has common areas. Youíll eat the same food in the same dining rooms and sit together at the same shows.
Itís the cabins. Your cabinís size, bed arrangement, view and location will determine your rate. The small lower, inside cabins are the least expensive. As you move to the outside and/or move up decks, your rates will increase. The upper deck suites with the outside verandas are the most expensive.
Not everyone will be happy in those cabins and a little extra cost could make for a much better vacation. You will spend some time in your cabin and it will be your home for the entire cruise, so space is an important consideration. Youíll have to decide if the price difference is worth it to you. The Cruise Lines price in gradients so you might spend a little more to get a porthole or a more convenient location to save some steps. If you always stay in the suite at the nicest hotels, donít expect the smallest cabin to make you happy.
Most of the ships that have been built since 1985 have more standard size cabins, so it is a little easier to compare cabins. In the pre-1985 ships, you can find a great deal of difference in the cabin sizes. You canít always tell by just looking at a shipís layout so youíll want to know the square footage of the cabins.
The location and the view, porthole or veranda of your cabin will also make up price differences in your cruise. The layout of the cabin beds can also make a difference. You may have bunk beds, two side by side or one big bed.
Youíll want to know what is near, next to, above or below your cabin.
Cleaning closets can also be noisy.
Being directly above or below common areas of the ship, such as the kitchen, dining room, work out area, walking/jogging track or bars can also keep you from sleeping.
The lower rear cabins will suffer most from engine noise and vibrations.
Cabins at the front and rear of the ship will suffer more motion than mid-ship cabins.
Cabins at the front of the ship will sometimes get a wakeup call when the anchor is lowered.
Lower mid-ship cabins provide the smoothest ride for those suffering from seasickness. If you book these cabins with a view, it might be of a sloshing ocean so you might consider an inside cabin if you fear seasickness.
There are things to remember when upgrading into a room with a view. If you are paying for it, you want to know what kind of a view you are getting. Not all views are equal. You probably donít want to pay the extra just so you'll have a lovely view of the lifeboats. You also might not want to look out on the busiest walking and jogging deck and get a view of everyone walking by. Look at the ship's layout to evaluate your view and decide if itís worth it to you to pay the extra money.
You might consider the use youíll get out of the veranda. Are you sailing in an area of the world with temperatures that would encourage use of the veranda? How big is the veranda? Could you sunbathe if you wanted to or is it covered? Is it private? This will depend on the ship's layout; many are not private with other verandas easily looking into them. The sliding glass doors will certainly make your cabin seem less confined, but you might be able to get an even bigger cabin for the same or an even lower price without the veranda. Again, it will be a personal choice whether the veranda is worth the extra money.
The Cruise Line buys its tickets in bulk from the Airlines. They find out where you are coming from and book you passage from a nearby airport to one close to the shipís home port. Each Cruise Line has its own policy on how they deal with the sale of Airline tickets so youíll want to ask some important questions.
They take care of the Airline reservation.
Since Cruise Lines buy in bulk and usually provide a discount package rate, the ticket price is generally low.
The transfer of luggage can be easier. A free shuttle from the airport to the docks is often included.
The Cruise Line will have your flight information and will be able to track your flight in case of a delay. Others on the cruise might be on the same flight and they might just hold the ship.
You might be able to find a better deal on your own.
Every Cruise Line has its own policy, but they all usually reserve the right to advance, cancel or postpone a scheduled departure. They also reserve the right to change the itinerary, ships or ports of call.
Cruising during the hurricane season does increase the chance that your vacation plans will be modified, but it doesnít necessarily increase any risk to your personal safety.
For safety reasons, they might need to change itineraries to be able to sail into safer waters.
Cruise ships have sophisticated weather-tracking systems, and they use them to stay in calm waters to avoid the storms.
If you plan a cruise during hurricane season, keep track of the weather in the area you are planning to sail. If it begins to turn nasty, keep in touch with the Cruise Line for updates in case they do need to change your cruiseís itinerary.
Cruise ships might also have to change ports of call to avoid local political upheavals that would risk the safety of their passengers.
Canceling is an option, but it would be the last resort of the Cruise Line.
Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance coverage to protect your vacation dollars.
This is also often referred to trip cancellation insurance, but most policies do more than protect you if your vacation is cancelled.
Policies are sold that will refund your losses if you have to cancel your cruise beyond the time you could get a full refund from the Cruise Line.
They can also offer protection if a delay causes you to miss the ship.
They may extend coverage to protect your luggage or other personal belongings. Many offer a very important extension of medical coverage to protect you if you become ill or are injured while on your vacation.
As with any insurance, each policy will vary in its cost, deductible, protections and exemptions. Youíll need to read the individual policy yourself to find the best coverage for you.
It is certainly worth your strong consideration.
With most cruises, you book far in advance and although we donít like to think about it, many things can happen in a yearís time that would cause you to miss your cruise.
Youíll need a list of the names of the passengers that will be going on the cruise.
The credit card type, number and expiration date of the card to be billed.
You will need to have selected a ship and cruise date.
Any pre or post-cruise activities that you are booking through the Cruise Line.
Youíll need to have decided how you are getting to the port so you can book an air/sea package, check on shuttle services or parking policies.
Youíll need to have your cabin choice made.
Youíll need to have selected your meal seating and the names of any other passengers you wish to have join you at your table.
Youíll need to make any special requests, such as those for smoking/nonsmoking or special dietary needs.
This is also the time to book any shore excursions, if you are already sure you plan on going on a particular one.
Youíll need to have decided if you are purchasing trip cancellation insurance through the Cruise Line.
Any discount or coupon information you are planning on using.
Youíll want to verify when final payment on the cruise is due.
Absolutely, it is filled with information that you need to know.
Forms will be included that you should fill out in advance, so you donít keep us all waiting in line.
It should also have a section on the travel documentation you'll need to go on the cruise.
There should be tags for your luggage inside the packet. Instructions on how, when and where you will meet the ship.
Youíll want to get the shipís satellite communications telephone number so you can leave it in case of an emergency.
You should also check your booking to reconfirm all your plans.
Yes, it never hurts to confirm your reservation directly with the Cruise Line, especially if you depended on someone else to book your cruise for you. Be sure to verify all your booking information and make sure that the Cruise Line has the correct contact information in case they need to contact you before the cruise. Also, make sure that any special requests you have made are listed in your booking information.
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