Ahhhh. Dreams of sun on your skin, wind in your hair and water as far as the eye can see. Food and plenty of beverages while at sea; souvenir shopping and excursions at the ports. That’s what cruising is all about, right? Pretty much. We previously provided tips on 10 Things to Pack for a Cruise and 10 Things to Make the Most of a Cruise and received a great response.
Then it got me thinking… what comes before that? Booking a cruise!
There are many cruise lines available, each with different target markets, features and destinations. Before you jump into booking a cruise, make sure you know what you want to achieve.
10 things to consider before booking a cruise
Who is traveling? – First and foremost, consider who will be accompanying you on the cruise. It makes a tremendous difference. If you’ll be traveling alone, with children (of various ages) or even a group, it may impact what type of cruise you want to go on and even which cruise line.
When and how long do you want to travel? – Time frame is a huge factor in figuring out which cruise line to take. As an example, if you want to travel during the winter months, then an Alaskan cruise isn’t going to be an option. Weather conditions (snow, rain, hurricanes) are the biggest thing to consider when discussing the time frame. If you’ll be traveling during peak season, you’ll need to plan much further in advance to secure the routes, dates and accommodations you prefer.
Where do you want to go? – This goes hand-in-hand with the when and how long. Some destinations are only available on longer routes so if you have a specific location in mind, you’ll need to factor that in. While others are only available during certain seasons.
Where do you want to depart from? – Depending on where you live, the departure location may make a difference in your travel plans. Unless you live near close to the coast then this can make or break your ability to take a particular cruise. If you only have a week available, you’ll need to factor in travel days just to get TO the departure port. A seven-day cruise actually requires a day on either side of that to travel to/from where the cruise ship is based. Also to consider when choosing a departure location is that most cruise packages don’t include airfare.
Amenities – If this is your first cruise, then you might not even realize the variety of options available. Some cruises offer golfing or obstacle courses or miniature water parks, including slides. Others focus on entertainment with various types of shows, musicals and comedians. There are a variety of “kid club” options with some offering baby-sitting services and others providing tweens and teens with their own spaces equipped with activities and events fine-tuned to their age demographic.
Accommodations – Although you don’t end up spending much time in your room, if the size and location of your room is a deal-breaker then you’ll want to pay attention to that while planning. Do you need a balcony or large window? Do you care if it’s an inside state room or a lower deck with no window? Some cruise lines now offer special digital screens that simulate seeing outside – even from an inside state room.
What is your focus? – Whether you are interested in entertainment, excursions, food, parties or entertaining the kids, it all plays into the big picture of which cruise line to select. If you don’t care about excursions, find a cruise that spends more time at sea. If you are looking for full-family entertainment, a cruise ship that is family-focused is your best option. If you just want to spend time on a deck sunning yourself then I encourage you to revisit the option of “when” mentioned above.
Worried about luggage restrictions? – I guess the better way to phrase this would be “Do you want to bring on my own alcohol or other beverages?” If you’re looking to pack yourself a cooler to save money on on-board beverages then you’ll want to do your research before booking. Some ships allow this, some don’t. Some allow but with limits.
What is your budget? – All the above items factor into the overall cost.
What is your priority? – Before you book a cruise, make note of the above questions then prioritize them. There are many cruise lines with multiple options available. It will make the booking process easier if you find some ways to narrow it down. As an example, if budget is your priority and you have a flexible schedule, then getting a better room at a cheaper rate is as easy as booking an off-peak cruise.
Save travels no matter what you decide to do and where you go. Once you decide, don’t forget to double check our other cruise tips!
What do you picture as your dream cruise?