There are no real secrets when it comes to booking a great cruise vacation – all the available information is there at your fingertips with the help of the Internet; you only have to sift through the details to find the right cruise for you.
If you are certain that a cruise is the type of vacation you desire, there are still many things you need to consider to ensure you pick the right one. Never before has there been such a wide choice available when it comes to cruising.
Be creative; don’t view the planning of your cruise as a necessary chore but see it as a recipe for a successful vacation. Decide on your budget and look for the best possible deal.
If you have never been on a cruise before it would be wise to sign up for free email newsletters from reputable online sites well before your intended date of departure so you will learn as much as you can about sample cruise itineraries, weather patterns for your preferred ports of call, the type of ship and what kind of passengers you are likely to be sailing with. There is nothing worse than finding yourself on a cruise with the wrong sort of people and a programme of entertainments that is not to your liking.
When searching online, key in your main requirements so that a near enough tailor-made cruise can be found. It’s wise to always bear in mind that if you were taking a vacation at a hotel and discovered you didn’t like it for whatever reason, you could always use the grounds and facilities of another hotel but choose the wrong cruise ship and you’d just have to put up with it for the duration of the voyage.
For most, a cruise is a once in a lifetime event, perhaps to celebrate a milestone like retirement or enjoy a honeymoon so you don’t want it to be a hit and miss affair; it has to be successful.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself and a few possible answers to consider:
What is the age group of the people I prefer to be with?
You don’t want to experience the delights of Disney’s ‘Dream’ if you are a senior who dislikes kids and discovers they can find no tranquillity anywhere on board.
What is my expectation of other passengers?
A gay couple wouldn’t want a booking on a honeymoon package with a love boat full of straight folk, so you must do your research into the sort of people you will find on certain ships. Young and lively cruises which have a party atmosphere are not going to appeal to those seeking peace and relaxation. For instance Carnival Cruise lines cater for the party crowd which is not appealing to those who do not want to party well into the night.
Will I have to dress for dinner?
Nowadays many eminent cruise lines have adopted a more relaxed approach to dress codes and this is a refreshing thought to people who perceived cruising as a rather stuffy and upper crust pastime. So leave your tiaras and tuxedos at home and nobody will mind. Norwegian cruise lines have their very own flexible anytime dining and entertainments programme named ‘Freestyle Cruising,’ which is of obvious appeal to those who hate routine.
What about the food itself?
Cruise liners nowadays all offer the option buffet style menus and there is endless choice so there is no need to worry that you will not be catered for if you are a fussy eater or have medical dietary requirements. Many ships have more restaurants to choose from than a typical hotel.
What size of ship do I prefer?
Some cruise ships are massive and are more like floating islands; if you like tranquillity and solitude forget it – you won’t find either on ships this huge and you may discover that certain ports of call are inaccessible to larger vessels. The infrastructure of smaller ports of call is sometimes pushed to the very limits with literally thousands of people descending on a tiny island all at once.
How old is the ship?
If you love all things bright and beautiful you will be disappointed to find yourself on a ship that needs a refit however good the on-shore excursions.
What sort of cabin should I choose?
There are many types of cabin to choose from and the location is almost as important as the accommodation itself. Cabins next to noisy places like stairwells and lift shafts or those directly below the main deck can spoil a good night’s sleep however salubrious the surroundings. Study a detailed plan of the ship before deciding on your choice cabin.
What is more important to me the activities available on board or the itinerary and excursions?
Many cruises pack in several ports of call into a week for instance in the Caribbean where islands are ubiquitous and in proximity to each other but if your cruise ship is covering vast distances between ports you will spend a large potion of your vacation at sea. You must check there are enough on-board activities that will appeal to you and keep you occupied if this is the case.
What about a themed cruise – would I become bored aboard?
Don’t be so exclusive to the point where you might spend your entire vacation taken up with just one interest.
Am I a non-smoker?
This is a clash of interest just about everywhere regarding smoking and some cruise ships have a more lenient smoking policy than others. If you are one of those people who wave their arms around and can smell a cigarette a mile away then be sure you book a cruise on a ship that has clearly defined designated smoking areas.
It’s a lot to consider isn’t it? But you could always enlist the help of a friend who has cruised before or visit a reputable cruise consultant at a travel agency if you are still unsure about anything.
If this will be your first time on a cruise it’s a good idea to book a short one of less than seven day’s duration to see if cruising is the ideal vacation for you. You could always arrange a cruise-and-stay holiday so that you get the best of both worlds.
Never pick a cruise just because the ports of call appeal to you; be confident in your choice of cruise based on all your expectations and know beforehand that the individual cruise line’s on-board style will suit you and not become tedious on days at sea when there is no land in sight.
Happy sailings – whichever cruise you choose!