Written By: Stacey Hafner
Deciding to take a cruise for the first time can be both exhilarating and intimidating. With all the choices available how are travelers supposed to know where to start? Here’s a list of eight things everyone should find out before finalizing those booking arrangements.
1. The type of cruise
The first and most obvious decision is where to go on this voyage. While most people initially associate cruises with beach vacations, cruises travel through the glaciers of Alaska, visit ancient ruins in Greece, travel along rivers in Europe, even dock in exotic locations like Thailand.
2. The type of ship
One obvious choice is a large ship or a smaller ship, but there are other things to take into account before a future passenger makes a final decision. Even within the same cruise line multiple ships may visit the same parts of the world and each ship has slightly different amenities. Passengers traveling with kids may be far more interested in having a waterslide on board or the option to watch movies under the stars.
3. The type of staterooms
Typically cruise passengers have four choices of staterooms,
interior (no windows), exterior (there is a window), exterior with a balcony, or a full suite. On some small ships almost all of the rooms have balconies and there are no interior rooms. Some have staterooms with a third bed, some have adjoining staterooms. Future passengers should consider costs, how much time they plan to spend in their staterooms (think about the number of days at sea involved in the itinerary), and how much space they will need to enjoy their adventure.
4. Dining options
While all cruises provide passengers with more than enough food, how that food is delivered varies ship to ship. Do they only have formal dining options or is the ship entirely open anytime dining? Are there additional restaurants specializing in sushi or steak? Is there 24 hour room service? Does that even matter?
5. On board entertainment
Dance lessons, rock climbing walls, Broadway shows, cooking demos, lecture series, book clubs, cruise passengers can enjoy all these options and more. But not all ships have every option, so for people who have their heart set on attending an art auction, make sure to shop around and find the right cruise line and ship.
6. Shore excursions
First thing to consider is cost, most shore excursions cost additional money. But again, some luxury cruise lines have free, unlimited shore excursions. While many cruise lines participate in similar iconic activities and events in port, they will also develop exclusive relationships with some vendors so customers should glance through the options at each port and see if there is anything they simply can’t pass up.
7. What’s included and what’s not
What is included in that ‘all inclusive’ varies by cruise line. Is that sushi restaurant included or does it cost extra? What beverages are free and which aren’t? Are transfers from the airport covered? Sometimes, cruise lines offer specials for onboard credit. If so, that can help cover some of these extra items but if alcohol and specialty restaurants are already included then the credit is primarily for shopping in the ship boutiques – for some passengers that’s quite a deal but not for others.
8. Options for any special needs
Dietary needs, mobility requirements, child care – passengers should make sure their cruise line can accommodate any special needs they may have. A lot of this information can be found on their website if not contact the cruise line directly.
Cruising, like any vacation, starts with travelers knowing themselves. Vacations aren’t the time for night-owls to try to become morning people or introverts to force themselves to mingle with thousands of strangers. Travelers who know their priorities and personal style will have the best experiences. The good thing is that cruising really does have something for everyone so there’s no reason people shouldn’t be able to create their perfect vacation.