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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.