If sailing across the ocean on a luxury cruise ship is something you dream of, make sure you’re prepared. Believe it or not, there’s a lot involved in taking world cruises.
Which cruise should you take? What itinerary is best? Promos, perks, pricing, cabin choices, and so much more makes the whole thing very confusing.
To help you plan your first cruise, here is a list of some key factors to consider.
If you’re not worried about keeping to a budget, you might as well move on to the next factor on the list.
However, if you’ve got to stick to a budget, there are some things to keep in mind.
Book a cruise on a newer ship, voyage to a bucket-list destination, sail for a long period, or book high-end cabins and you’ll end up paying more.
When you’re working out the numbers, you’ve got to take in more than just the cruise fare. Allow some wiggle room for taxes and fees, onboard extras, excursions, dining and drink packages, gratuities, and transportation to and from embarkation points.
One of the first steps in planning a cruise is deciding where you’d like to go. Maybe you’ve always wanted to check out the Galapagos or Alaska. Perhaps you’d prefer to soak up some Caribbean sun and sand or have an enriching trip around the Mediterranean.
When working out your itinerary, keep your budget in mind along with how much vacation time you’ll need.
Length of Your Cruise
If you’re retired and being away from home isn’t an issue you won’t have to make concessions for the length of your cruise. Shorter cruises of less than a week are available for people who are gainfully employed or those who can’t be away from home for too long. A shorter cruise is also the best option if you’ve never sailed before and aren’t sure if you’ll like it.
There are several cruise lines that offer voyages ranging from two to five days, visiting areas in the Bahamas, Mexico, the Caribbean, and more. Most depart from homeports in California and Florida. You might have to pay to fly to your ship on embarkation day.
Line and Ship
Cruise lines have their own niches, but individual vessels within a line’s fleet can vary widely in terms of onboard amenities and ambiance.
Think about whether you want to take things easy and lounge by the pool with a drink in hand or read a book while soaking up the ocean views. Would you prefer constant action of dance parties, laser tag, and surfing? Whatever you prefer, you need to do your research and choose wisely.
Your cabin will be your base camp during the sailing. It’s where you’ll shower, sleep, and store your personal belongings. Spend extra and it will be so much more. For example, it could be your dining room, relaxation area, hot tub, sauna, and personal private deck space.
Interior rooms will have no natural light, but they are usually much cheaper and perfect if you don’t plan to spend much time in your cabin.
Outside or ocean-view staterooms feature either a porthole or a picture window. It’s not a window you can open, but it does allow for exterior views and natural light.
Balcony or veranda cabins are another option. Most often, they provide floor-to-ceiling windows with a door leading to a small personal outdoor deck space.
The largest and most expensive option is a suite. This usually has a balcony and includes perks such as a butler or concierge service, and access to exclusive bars, restaurants, lounges, and pool areas.
Dining and Drinks
Cruise fares include complimentary meals in select restaurants such as the main dining room or buffet. You might also find the cruise line offers complimentary late-night pizza, poolside eateries, and lots of soft serve.
There might also be house alternative eateries, some of which might be free to passengers while others require additional payment.
It’s important to note that many drinks won’t be free. Most often, those that will be covered include tap water, tea, drip coffee, lemonade, and sometimes juice. Any other drinks you require such as soda, specialty coffee beverages, milkshakes, juice, energy drinks, or alcohol will cost extra. You can reduce these fees by purchasing a beverage package.
When comparing ships and lines, consider the types of onboard activities that are featured. There is rarely a shortage of things to do on a cruise ranging from poolside games, cooking demonstrations, and exercise classes to musical performances, trivia, rock climbing, and theater shows.
When you’re looking into different cruise options, don’t forget to draft a pre-cruise checklist of things you’ll need to do before leaving home.
There are travel-related arrangements such as transportation to embarkation ports, parking reservations, and pre-or post-cruise hotel stays. In addition, there are other odds and ends to account for.
For example, what about your pets? Do you need to add an appropriate data plan from your cell phone service provider? Do you need to apply for or renew your passport? Have you got to obtain a visa and receive vaccinations for travel?
While planning a cruise might seem like a massive undertaking, there is an option if you want to lighten the load. A travel agent will be able to do everything for you and ensure you find the best price.