Choosing your first cruise can be a very daunting task as there are so many available. Cruise vacations are great value for money, but they are not only for budget conscious travelers. There are cruises to suit every budget. And the days of cruises being the vacation of choice for retirees are long gone.
1. Price. The first thing you need to decide is how much you want to spend, including getting to and from the port and possible overnighting. Remember that everything is not included in your up front cost – on board “extras” include alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, on board shopping, some dining options, and port taxes. When you see a cruise advertised for $99, that is the basic cost only. These “extras” are automatically charged to your credit card – look out for special deals offering “on board credit”.
2. Length of Cruise. How long do you want to spend on your cruise vacation, including travel time to and from the port. Cruises are available all year long worldwide in anything from 3-day breaks to multi-week adventures.
3. Type of Cruise. Having got those decisions out of the way, now you can think about the type of cruise vacation you’re looking for – a great party time, a family focus, an intimate/romantic cruise, a themed cruise or something with a little bit of everything. All the cruise lines offer many different forms of onboard entertainment, including separate entertainment areas for kids, teenagers and adults. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the ship the more on board activities available to passengers.
4. Destinations. Some people take cruises because they enjoy the cruise experience, however, for some people the ports of call are important. Cruises are available all over the world and remember, they are not limited to the oceans – fabulous river and lake cruises are also available throughout Europe, Asia and South America.
5. Size of Ship. The size of the ship and therefore the number of fellow passengers may be of significance. If a more intimate cruise sounds like your cup of tea, then a smaller ship would be your best bet. Bear in mind that the smaller ships also tend to be more expensive but offer a greater crew to guest ratio, and the cost usually includes more “extras”.
6. Which Cabin. Most ships, particularly the larger ones, offer interior and exterior cabins, plus cabins with balconies and spacious suites. This decision may be based entirely on price. Basic amenities are similar in each cabin with a balcony or suite providing more space. Most ships have cabins that are handicapped outfitted, so remember to check that out if it is a requirement for you.
7. What to Pack. Most ships/cruise lines do not have a dress code for regular daytime wear, but there will be at least one formal/semi-formal dinner. Restaurants that are “extras” and some of the more expensive cruises require more elegant attire for dinner. Dress requirements are included in the welcome pack that you will receive at the time of booking.
8. Medical/Seasickness. With stabilizers on modern ships, seasickness is not usually a problem, however, if you aren’t sure or are very sensitive, you should pick up something from your pharmacist beforehand, as most remedies must be started before your cruise. All cruise ships have basic on board medical care, but emergencies and more serious issues are usually dealt with at the next port of call.
9. Fine Print. Remember to read the fine print when booking your cruise as it will details inclusions and exclusions, plus cancellation terms and other relevant information. You don’t want to get home and find a huge credit card bill waiting for you with unexpected charges.