Planning the cruise of your dreams is a bit like speed dating. Because you can’t spend all day at these events getting to know someone, you need to know what qualities work best for you. In cruise parlance, this means having a pretty solid idea of what you want before hopping online to scope out options; after all, it pays to be prepared.
So, whether you’re a vacation veteran, a cruising virgin or somewhere in between, here are four tips to help ensure you experience smooth sailing on your getaway.
1. Choose the Right Ship for You
Although cruise lines often portray themselves as being all-things-to-all-people, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Arguably, the most important consideration when it comes to your trip is what cruise line you trust with your hard-earned money. Choosing the right one — like choosing the right partner — can be a tricky proposition.
Not sure which ship matches your personality and needs? Here are some questions to ask before making a decision:
- What types of programming does the cruise line offer?
- What childcare options are available?
- Are there adults-only facilities?
- Is there a schedule for dinners?
- What is the dress code at meals and for other events and activities?
- What activities are available for my family?
- Are the accommodations appropriate for my needs (wheelchair accessibility, vegetarian food options, lowered beds, etc)?
- What are the demographics this cruise line caters to ordinarily?
- Where will the ship sail, and how many days will I be at sea?
2. Plan Your Shore Excursions
While being on a cruise is a thrill and experience on its own, most travelers want to enjoy their time off the ship as well. Of course, this often takes some pre-planning. Whether your idea of fun is taking Alaskan cruises 2019, flinging yourself across zip lines through the lush forests of Puerto Rico, or going diving off the U.S. Virgin Islands, schedule your outings before getting your sea legs.
Doing so not only ensures you have an outing to enjoy, but also offers you the lowest price and helps you know what to pack in advance. Though cruise lines hawk their own shore excursions almost exclusively, rest assured, there are many reputable organizations willing to throw in a few extras for the more adventurous tourist.
3. Know the Difference Between ‘Free’ and ‘Fee’
Opting for an all-inclusive vacation may have you thinking about not having to pay any fees once on board. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality. When it comes to cruises, there are many hidden costs of which you may not be aware. Now, these fees will vary significantly depending on the type of cruise you select. Knowing this, look into things like drink packages, gratuity and alternative dining before you board so you aren’t surprised by sticker shock.
4. Consider Hiring a Vacation Planner
Finally, if the thought of deciding between port and starboard leaves you sweating, or if you’d rather only focus on the fun instead of the prep work, consider hiring a vacation planner. A vacation planner can help make sure you not only secure and enjoy the cruise of your dreams, but also the vacation of a lifetime. He or she will take into consideration all the amenities and perks you want in a cruise and help guide you toward making educated decisions regarding your many options.
From the on-board casinos to the all-you-can-eat buffets and exotic port stops, cruises offer a getaway unlike any other. If you follow these tips and do your own research, you can create memories that will live on happily for years.