I enjoy being on the ocean, not just on the beach near the sea. So, a cruise is one of my all-time favorite vacations.
One of the things that first-time cruisers don’t realize is that cruise lines plan itineraries years in advance. They often allow people to book two or more years ahead — so no matter the circumstances, there is ample opportunity to plan the perfect cruise.
If you’re new to cruises, it can feel like an overwhelming process. And, many things are unique to the cruising world that doesn’t show up in “regular” travel.
Here are five essential questions to answer before booking your cruise, so you don’t accidentally make a rookie mistake. (We’ll show you how to avoid these mistakes, as well!):
1. Which cruise line best fits my/our needs?
Cruise lines differ greatly. Some are perfect for romantic couples’ getaways. Others cater to seniors or to children. Some offer amenities that are precisely what you’re looking for; others might not.
It’s okay to take your time comparing cruise lines and seeing which ones will offer the most of what you want at a great value. Don’t be afraid to shop around!
2. Have I read ALL the fine print?
We know, we know. It’s not the most fun part of planning any trip. But cruises are a huge investment of both time and money. So it’s crucial to understand what you are signing up for. What are the additional fees? What is expected of you in terms of a payment schedule? How early should you arrive in your port city?
What is the refund or rescheduling policy? Which amenities are included, and which costs extra? Make sure you have the answers so there are no surprises and your trip can go smoothly.
3. How picky do I want to be about our cabin?
Again, consider your needs. And beyond that — think about what would be the most fun! If you’re uneasy in enclosed spaces, consider that an inside cabin might not be a good choice. Notice where the cabins are located on the ship — high traffic areas? Engine noise? Anchor drop? You don’t have to spring for a luxury suite unless you want to, but cabin choice is one area where a little extra can make a massive difference in the overall enjoyment and restfulness of your trip.
4. Have I solidified our meal plans and shore excursions within plenty of time before our departure?
This is a big one. Most cruise lines of a wide variety of dining options — fixed time in a dining area, non-fixed seating, buffets, casual, and upscale options. But the rules and expectations are different for each. Some require reservations; some don’t; some have dress codes; some don’t. So make sure you nail this down early, especially if you’re cruising with kids. The last thing you want is scrambling for a meal at the last minute.
Same goes with shore excursions: research well and book early. Find out what is required in terms of transport and physical exertion for each option. Read up so you know which activities are age-appropriate for your group members.
And, as Family Cruise Companion notes, you don’t have to limit your options to only those the cruise line offers. For example, independent shore excursions may be more affordable and involve smaller groups with more comfortable modes of transportation.
5. Do I have a plan for regular, thorough hand washing?
This one might seem strange, but it can make a difference. Cruise ships cater to thousands of people, all sharing the same space. It’s not common, but illnesses can spread quickly. With young children, make sure they’re washing their hands thoroughly, not just for things like before meals or after using the restroom, but at regular intervals throughout the day. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have easy access to warm soapy water, carry hand sanitizer with you.
Here’s the best news:
With a travel agent, you don’t have to answer these questions alone! We can help you pick the most suitable cruise line and go through ALL the details before you sign on the dotted line. We can give you all the inside info so you can choose the best cabin, help you figure out when and where you want to eat, what you want to see and do, and can help you create a packing list that will keep you safe and well-supplied.
If you’re ready to embark on your first or next cruise adventure, click the link below, and let’s get started!