Almost everyone I talk with who has taken a cruise has absolutely loved it! In fact, cruise vacations have the highest satisfaction rate of any type of vacation! Once in awhile though, I come across someone who says “I guess we just aren’t cruise people.” Generally after asking them a few questions about why they feel that way, the reality is that they were on the wrong cruise for them. So, how do you know that YOU are on the RIGHT cruise?
- Destination – there are literally hundreds of ports of call for cruise ships around the world. Most people think of the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Hawaii and the Mediterranean. Within these destinations there are probably 100 or more ports of call. There are cruises to Asia, Australia, South America and the South Pacific. What about River Cruises – in Europe, China, Russia and the US. Picking the right Itinerary with the right Ports of Call is very important.
- Cruise Line – Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has 23 cruise lines as members. I know of several others, such as Cruise West, which offer wonderful experiences and itineraries even though they are not members of CLIA. Does the cruise line you choose really make a difference? If you crave quiet spaces where you can relax with your book and end up on a cruise line with non stop action all over the ship, or vice versa – the answer is YES, the line you choose can have a big impact on your vacation experience.
- Ship – OK, you’ve found the destination you would like to visit, you’ve chosen the cruise line – does the ship really make any difference? In some cases you won’t have a choice – if you want to go to Aruba on Royal Caribbean there may only be one ship that goes there. But if you want to go to the Eastern Caribbean on Royal Caribbean, and you don’t really care which islands you visit, you may be able to choose between a ship that carries 1900 passengers and one that carries 3400. Or, you may only want to sail on small ships with around 500 passengers (or fewer). In this case you may choose your destination after researching which cruise lines offer smaller ships.
- Cabin Selection – you say your cabin selection doesn’t really matter because you won’t be in there that much? Well, you may not spend a lot of time in there, but while you’re waiting for your spouse to shower and dress for dinner would you rather be sitting on your bed in an inside cabin with no window or sitting on a lounge chair on your balcony sipping a glass of wine and watching the sunset? Besides the decision of whether to get an Interior, Oceanview, Verandah or Suite – should you be in the front of the ship, the back, the middle?
- Timing – the time of year you go can impact your enjoyment of the trip quite a lot as well. If you really want to go to Alaska, but hate the cold, you probably don’t want to go at the beginning of May. If your cruise is a once in a lifetime vacation and you have a specific Caribbean island you don’t want to miss, you don’t want to go during Hurricane season when your itinerary could be changed due to storm activity. Number of nights is important as well – as a first time cruiser a shorter cruise may be best to be sure you are “a cruise person”.
These are all important things to take into account when planning your cruise vacation. There are many more, such as what is the occasion for the cruise? Is it a family reunion with a large age range of passengers; your Honeymoon; a girlfriend getaway; an affinity club? Where is the ship sailing from? How much time do you have for your vacation? Do you want a themed cruise? Do you want a lot of cultural activities that tie into the destination?
These are all decisions that a qualified travel agent can help you make.
And now is a great time to book your cruise vacation! There are lots of specials going on – lowered deposits, special amenities, special pricing and more. This makes for a wonderful family or group vacation. And the best thing is that there is no risk! I know the economy is a little scary right now. With a cruise vacation your deposit is fully refundable up until the time you make your final payment (usually 60 days prior to cruising). You can protect yourself even more by taking out travel insurance – some policies cover you for job loss or allow you to cancel for any reason almost up until the day you sail!