Booking a cruise is very personal – there’s a lot to consider. But don’t be alarmed, it’s still very easy to book a cruise. It’s booking the right cruise that takes a little more effort and consideration. Most people have very few precious vacation days a year, and often, finances are just as tight. That’s why cruising is the perfect vacation.
But when it comes to cruising, I don’t always want the same type of vacation. Sometimes, I’m looking for an adventure to blow off some steam, while others, I just want to sleep on a deck chair and get lost in a book. On the rare occasion, I’m in the mood to experience new cultures and destinations. Whatever my current desire is, there’s a vacation waiting to happen!
I’m all about gleaning all the information I can before booking a cruise, but I also know that not everyone has the time or desire to search for different options. With my helpful tips, you’ll be well on your way to finding that perfect cruise.
1. Selecting your type of cruise
Before booking a cruise, consider the atmosphere you’re looking for, demographics of the cruise, activities offered, etc. The good news is that there are so many resources to help you find the one you’re looking for. I know from experience that if you don’t like cruising, you probably haven’t found the right one. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Ship size: Consider the size of the ship you choose—there are positives and negatives for both small and large ships. Also, the ratio of crew to passengers will give you an idea of service. While every cruise line strives to provide excellent service, the better crew-to-cruiser ratio you have, the more staff there is to serve you. On smaller ships, you might give up a few activities, but you’ll have more of a secluded space. While large ships have fantastic activities, there are more people to compete with for the time and amenities.
- Level of luxury: Are you looking for a smaller, more intimate ship? With more luxurious amenities and dining on a Michelin-star level, the fares might be more, but they’re worth every penny with everything included. Cruise lines like Crystal, Seabourn, and Regent are sure to have you cruising in luxury.
- Age range: Want to participate in activities suited to your age? Fortunately, there are cruises suited to every age category, and themed cruises are tailored to groups and people of the same interests.
- Multiple destinations: Is it the destinations you’ll be visiting that you’re interested in? Travelling to different countries and experiencing different cultures on one trip makes an unforgettable vacation.
- Activities onboard: Maybe you’re scared of being bored onboard? Make sure your ship has the latest and greatest ship amenities to ensure you’ll have plenty to do as you cruise to your destinations.
- Time of year: If you go on a 4-night cruise to the Caribbean during spring break, expect a party atmosphere with collage kids on board. If you choose a time when kids are out of school, you’ll see more families, and if you plan a cruise in the Caribbean during hurricane season, don’t be disappointed when plans and ports change due to hurricanes.
Popular cruise lines to take note of
- Carnival Cruise Lines – Known as the fun ship, they’re the most affordable of all the cruise lines.
- Norwegian Cruise Lines – Known for their freestyle cruising, they make cruising your own.
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines – Known for their large ships full of activities/amenities that will blow your mind.
- Princess Cruise Lines – The original cruise line for the classic cruise experience.
- Holland America – This line is a traditional style cruise catered to more mature cruisers.
- Celebrity Cruise Lines – This cruise line is a step-up in class, so expect a more distinguished style of cruising.
- MSC Cruise Lines – This line has a European feel to their cruises.
- Costa Cruises – Italian style at its finest. This line offers a holiday geared toward discovering local cultures.
- Virgin Voyages – Virgin is changing cruising mold with its 18+ only rules, free wifi, gratuities included, no buffets, and more.
Luxury cruise lines to keep on your list
- Oceania Cruises
- Windstar Cruises
- Paul Gauguin Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Viking Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
- Seabourn Cruises
- Azamara Club Cruises
2. Look out for cruise deals
There are more and more ships being introduced, and there are always deals to be found. If you’re booking a cruise yourself, look for websites like cruise-capt.com, Vacations To Go, and CruiseDirect for deals, contests, and information.
If you’re concerned about budget, you can book a cruise up to two years in advance with a small deposit, then pay it off over time. This also makes your dream cruise a possibility!
3. Self-booking vs using a travel agent
If you don’t have time to plan (or maybe you just don’t like researching), contact a travel agent to help you book your cruise. Let them know what type of cruise your looking for, answer their questions, and they’ll set you up with a great vacation. They’ll also tell you what you need for documentation, what alerts are in each country, etc.
You might even want to do the research, find your desired cruise, and then let an agent book it for you. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’ll have a professional handling everything, should something happen.
If you prefer to look at itineraries, ships, and ports you’re visiting, start with cruise line websites, and book on the cruise line websites themselves.
4. Documentation, immunization and travel insurance
Does the country you’re travelling to require you to have a travel visa? Are you traveling somewhere exotic where you need certain immunizations? Maybe the cruise is going somewhere there are viruses. These are things you should research before you book your destinations.
Travel insurance is very important for cruising and shouldn’t be overlooked. When you’re spending hard earned money on something, you should protect it. Trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage and emergency medical insurance are worth paying a few dollars for. Insurance is one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever need, but I can assure you that there are millions of people who are thankful they had it when the unexpected happened.
5. Extra spending
While everything you need is typically included in the original cost of your cruise (food, basic beverages, cabin, and some activities), cruise lines know how to tempt you into opening up that wallet a little further. There are drink packages, activities/classes, shore excursions, spa services, specialty restaurants, photography packages, casinos, and shopping, all at an added expense.
What you choose to add on is optional and completely up to you, so don’t feel pressured to take the extras if you’re on a budget. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself either way! It’s up to you to make the most of your vacation no matter what you spend.
With cruising, you get the best of both land and sea. Spend time with your whole family, visit the spa, relax on deck, partake in adventurous activities, watch Broadway style shows and have a date night every night with your significant other–all this and more in between experiencing exotic ports, cultures and beaches.
You might be the person who’s able to take cruise life in any form and sail with it, to pick a cruise out of a hat and go no matter what type of cabin is available or where your destination is. But if you’re not that person, consider these five things when booking a cruise before booking your next cruise vacation.