Cruising 101

As I mentioned, in addition to being a huge Disney fan, I also love to travel and take cruises. I love the idea of getting on a cruise in one port and waking up in different places that you can explore for the day. But cruises aren’t one size fits all vacations. There are many different factors you have to consider before sailing the seven seas.

First, You Should Prioritize…..

Since you can really find a cruise to fit whatever interest or need your looking for, you should prioritize what the most important part of the trip will be. Do you care more about the actual ship or the ports? Do you need a larger room or is it quick trip and you don’t really care about the room? Do you want to sail on a new state of the art ship? Once you prioritize these factors, you can make decisions for the following…. 

Departure Port

I feel like this is an important aspect of your cruise search. Do you want to cruise out of a local port or head to a different country? This will limit which itineraries, cruise lines and ships you should be looking at. For example, there are many more choices for cruises that leave out of different ports in Florida and New York. Depending on where you live, you must also decide if you want to travel far to reach the port or if you would rather it be just a drive away. Keep in mind that if you decide to leave out of a departure port that requires you to fly, there are additional expenses that need to be factored into your vacation price. 

Ports of Call/Destinations

The next step in your cruise planning process involves what ports you actually visit. Are you looking to sit on the beach and tan or visit some museums?  Most departure ports offer various destinations. For example, leaving from New York, you have the option of Canada/New England, Bermuda or the Caribbean. These are all very different and will create a different vacation experience based on what you choose. Also, certain ports will offer unique destinations that aren’t always visited. For example, if you leave from Long Beach, California, your itinerary might include the Mexican Riviera and Ensenada. In addition, some cruise lines have private islands of their own for guests to enjoy. One private island I recently visited was Labadee, which is owned by Royal Caribbean. 

Cruise Line/Ship

Now that you have decided where you wanted to leave from and where you want to visit, next up is which cruise line and ship you should sail on. Once again, these cruise lines and ships are not all the same. Each cruise line has their own highlights. Looking for a family friendly cruise line? I would consider Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean or Disney. If you’re looking for a more adult friendly atmosphere, I would consider Celebrity, Holland America or Princess. It is extremely important to do research into the cruise lines and see what they offer. I personally like to use Cruise Critic to see not only the guest reviews, but also the reviews posted by Cruise Critic themselves. They usually tell you the demographics of the passengers as well as attire, etc. This is helpful in seeing if a certain ship is right for you.

Cabin Type

Once you decide upon which cruise line you’d like to sail, next comes where you will be sleeping for the duration of your vacation. Most cruise lines follow the same standard for room categories: inside, ocean view, balcony and suites. Inside rooms are just that, inside without any windows, while ocean views have a picture window. Depending on budget and how many people are sharing a room, you can choose which option is most appealing to you. With that being said, do take a look at the actual rooms on each cruise line as some features an sizes vary slightly. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas features a Virtual Balcony Room which is essentially an inside room with a screen that has a feed of the ships camera outside.

On some Norwegian Ships, you can stay in the exclusive Haven area which features a section behind lock and key where guests have access to their own pool, sundeck, restaurant, concierge and butler among other perks.

Unique Experiences

Thanks to technology, new cruise ships feature some pretty amazing experiences onboard for guests to enjoy. Depending on the cruise line and ship, you can have a robot make your drink, fly 300 feet over sea level, drink at Margaritaville at Sea or even watch a Cirque performance as you dine. Be sure to check the cruise lines website to see what your ship has to offer.

Pre-Purchase Packages

Moderno & Cagney’s Entrance on Norwegian Escape

Once you decide what trip your taking and it’s all booked, then comes planning the details of your trip. Many cruise lines now allow you to log onto an account and book shore excursions, spa appointments, dinner reservations and beverage packages, among other things. Personally, I like booking these things ahead of time. For one, they are usually a bit cheaper prior to sailing, you are able to do some research and once everything is booked, it allows you to just sit back and enjoy your hard work.

There you have it, some of my tips for booking a cruise. Do you follow some of these steps when booking a trip? Let me know in the comments below.

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