Choosing the Right Cruise Vacation

With all of the options in the cruise industry today, it can be overwhelming when it comes time to plan for your cruise. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I took my first cruise I did very little research and booked it on my own. I knew I loved The Love Boat, and the TV show featured the Princess Cruise Line, so that’s what I booked. Don’t get me wrong, my first cruise was magical, and Princess is a fine cruise line, but it wasn’t necessarily the right fit for what I was looking for. Here are some important factors to consider when researching your cruise: What Cruise Line and Ship? You may think that a cruise is a cruise is a cruise, right? Wrong! Each cruise line targets different demographics with offerings that cater to that group of cruisers. Here are the questions you should ask yourself when considering which cruise line and which ship is right for you:

Cruise Experience

  • Are you a family looking for a family-friendly ship?
  • Are you a retired couple looking for a relaxed vibe?
  • Are you a foodie looking for diverse culinary experiences?
  • Are you an adrenaline junky looking for onboard thrills?
  • Are you a solo traveler looking for a solo-friendly ship?
  • Are you traveling with a group of friends looking for a party atmosphere?
  • Do you want an over-the-top luxury experience?

Ship Type

  • Do you want to be on a huge, medium or more intimate sized ship?
  • Do you want a newly built ship or an older, more classic ship?
  • Do you want a more formal experience, where dress codes at dinner are required, or do you want a more relaxed vibe and don’t want to worry about packing dressy clothes?

Onboard Features/Activities

  • Are you interested in trying multiple dining venues that specialize in offering different cuisines?
  • Do you want to experience enrichment activities such as culinary classes, wine tastings, learning about the history/wildlife/local people of the destinations you will be visiting during your cruise?
  • Do you want onboard adventure activities such as waterparks, surf simulators, zip lining, go carts at sea, rock climbing, etc.?
  • Is theater and music important for your cruise experience?
  • Are you looking for a great kid’s program to enroll your children in onboard?
  • Are you a wine and/or beer connoisseur looking for wine and beer specialty lounges offering tastings?
  • Are there activities that allow for meeting other passengers such as lounges for solo travelers, passenger games and trivia?
  • Are you looking for a themed cruise (music, food and wine, Christian, Star Trek, etc.)?

What type of stateroom is best for you?

Each cruise ship offers several different types of staterooms, and you’ll need to think about what type of accommodation is right for you when planning your cruise. There are four main types of staterooms with various configurations and categories within each of these four types.

        1. Interior Staterooms. These are the smallest and most economical cabins that are good for those mindful of cost, and/or those who don’t plan to spend too much time in their stateroom other than sleeping.
        2. Ocean View Staterooms. These rooms are similar in size to interior staterooms, although some may be slightly larger, but as the name suggests, they feature a large window. This is a good option for those who do not want to shell out the extra cash for a balcony stateroom, but prefer to have some natural sunlight in their room
        3. Balcony/Verandah Staterooms. This is the most popular and available room type on most cruise ships. Prices are higher than interior staterooms. Having a private balcony (also called a verandah on some cruise lines) offers guests a place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the views and sounds of the ocean right from your own stateroom.
        4. Suite Staterooms. The most expensive cabin type on any ship, but for the additional cost you will get a larger stateroom with more square footage, and suites often come with additional perks that may include priority boarding, priority seating in dining and entertainment venues, and even free alcoholic beverages and WiFi, depending on the type of suite and/or individual cruise line offerings.

Ports of Call

One of the best parts of cruising is the opportunity to visit multiple destinations during your cruise. Are you a beach lover or do you enjoy visiting historical destinations with ancient architecture? When deciding where you want to go ask yourself what kind of vacation experience you’re looking for in terms of activities, as that can help you narrow down where you want to visit. You may already have an idea what part of the world you want to see during your cruise vacation (Alaska, Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, The Panama Canal, etc.). Let’s say you’re interested in cruising the Mediterranean…Did you know that there are several different itineraries to choose from in this region? It may be worth your time to invest in doing some research as to what itineraries are available that interest you the most. I know, there are a lot of considerations when choosing a cruise, but that’s half of the fun. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle, but the puzzle is your cruise, and you are piecing together all of the components to make it the most amazing cruise vacation of a lifetime. To make your first cruise, or any cruise for that matter, the very best experience it can be, do some research and find a good Travel Agent. The third and final blog in this series will focus on why Travel Agents should absolutely be a resource that you use to help plan, book and manage your cruise vacation.

 

 

Why Cruise? Why Not!?

Let me begin by telling you that I may be a bit biased writing this since I’ve been on several cruises on several different cruise lines. I’ll admit that ever since I was a wee young girl watching the 1970’s TV show “The Love Boat”, I’ve always wanted to take a cruise. At age 33 I finally took my first cruise and wow, was I hooked from then on. With that said, even if you didn’t grow up knowing that someday you would take a cruise, a cruise is a vacation that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Why you ask? Where do I begin…

Value

Let’s face it, we all want to get the best value out of any purchase that we make, and that most certainly includes our vacation. Cruising offers great value to travelers because of its all-inclusive cost. What does that all-inclusive cost provide? A lot! Let’s start with the obvious – your stateroom is included in the cost. Most meals are also included. Some basic non-alcoholic drinks are included, such as tap water, milk, tea, coffee, lemonade and iced tea (this may vary by cruise line, and there are several types of beverage packages you can purchase). A variety of entertainment is also included. I think one of the biggest values of a cruise is that for one price you get to see multiple destinations that if priced out separately, would cost a lot more to visit.

Onboard Activities

One of the things I love most about a cruise is that you can do as little or as much on a cruise as you desire. There are endless activities to keep anyone on the go on a cruise ship. You can enjoy nightly entertainment that may include Broadway-style shows, musical acts, comedians, magicians, and you can even get involved as a participant or just be a spectator in one of the game shows that several cruises feature (always a favorite of mine). When not in port, you can try your luck at the casino since most ships have full casinos with slot machines and table games. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge of random facts or music intel, you can participate in many different trivia games around the ship (also a great way to meet and mingle with other passengers). For those who like to stay in shape, you can visit the gym, take a run or a walk with a fantastic view on the upper deck, and on some cruise ships you may even be able to play some basketball or do some rock climbing. Want to just relax while you’re onboard? No problem. Spend a day getting pampered at the spa or just finding a lounge chair or hammock for the afternoon to read a good book, sunbathe, swim and enjoy a soak in one of the many hot tubs.

And parents, don’t worry, there’s a ton of stuff to do for kids of all ages as well. Some of the bigger cruise ships nowadays are like floating waterparks and amusement parks offering up activities such as swishing down waterslides, surfing, kiddy pools, zip lining, bumper cars and mini golf, just to name a few. There’s a new ship debuting in 2020 that will even have the world’s first rollercoaster at sea. Most cruise lines have a kid’s club onboard broken out by age group. This is a great way for kids to stay active and have fun while getting the chance to hang out with other kids their own age, giving mom and dad some alone time to enjoy.

The Food

This may arguably be one of the most popular parts of any cruise. Today’s cruise ships offer several tempting dining choices all across the ship. I promise that you will never go hungry during your cruise. Most ships have a main dining room with multiple dinner courses offering up a variety of delicious cuisines to choose from. There are also more casual dining options like the buffet serving up breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day. The main dining room and buffet are all included in the cost of your cruise, but if you want to try something different and pay a small upcharge, there are usually a handful of specialty dining restaurants where the menu and offerings are a bit higher quality with a theme such as a steak house, a French restaurant, an Italian Bistro or an Asian culinary experience.

 

Visit Different Ports of Call Stress Free

Traveling to multiple destinations during your vacation can be stressful, but another huge benefit to cruising is that you can visit several different countries while only having to unpack once and letting someone else do the “driving”. Imagine going to bed each night and waking up the next morning as your ship is quietly pulling into a new and beautiful port that is just waiting to be discovered. Each cruise line offers several different excursions in each port of call that you visit during your journey. How would you like to swim with dolphins in the Caribbean or take a cooking lesson in Sicily or learn and watch how crab fisherman catch crab on a real crab-fishing boat in Alaska? There is an excursion for virtually every level of interest ranging from relaxed, to educational, to high adventure.

 

Make New Friends & Lasting Memories

I don’t know what it is about a cruise, but without fail you always seem to meet interesting people that become friends well beyond your cruise vacation. On any given cruise you will meet interesting people from all parts of the globe. I love chatting with new people and learning about where they come from, what their cruise experience has been like and sharing laughs while making new memories together. There are people whom I’ve met on various cruises that I still connect with on Facebook and email.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture that cruising really does offer something for everyone. Cruising is all about options, so stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll dive into how to choose the right cruise for your vacation.

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