As simple as it sounds, there are many who have not yet taken a leap of faith with a cruise vacation.
People have heard of horror stories with seasickness and claustrophobia, which stops them in their track of planning such a vacation. And those who have done it, cannot stop raving about it.
Whatever situation you find yourself in today, and if you have already crossed the threshold of decision making, it is time to plan the trip out. Do not underestimate planning for such a vacation, understand that whatever you carry is what you will have for most of your time on and off the ship, and there will be fewer chances to just buy what you forgot at home.
With that, let us help you with a few tips that will ease the process for you.
Have a dedicated cruise agent for you and the family.
■ These days, who hires an agent? We do everything ourselves, online...right? You can definitely go ahead and book a cruise yourselves. No problem. However, especially for a cruise vacation and for first-timers, it is a good idea to hire one.
■ There are so many cruises out there, with so many locations and prices. A good agent will consider your preferences, priorities, budget, places of interest and suggest the one that works best for you and your family.
■ It is a unique experience, you are going to be on one ship for the period of the full vacation, and so, it becomes absolutely necessary to take your perfect cruise idea into consideration. Your agent will learn all your preferences, and make great recommendations.
■ Costco Travel is another resource, but there is no dedicated personnel assigned to you. You will have to use whoever is available at the time. They have an onboard credit incentive which is neat.
Pick the right cruise. Now, again, you can either use your agent, or you can do all the research by yourself.
■ Start with checking what's out there. Check with friends who have gone on a cruise, and ask if they have recommendations. Ask for details, what was the cruise line they used? How long was it? How was the service, activities, shows, the planning, the hygiene, the crowd, any other issues… whatever you can think of.
■ Visit those websites and review some itineraries you find interesting. Look with an open mind, keep your options open, analyze everything, like the number of days on sea, the ports of call, and the onboarding activities the cruise line provides.
■ If you are open to any line, look at brands and itineraries. Check out these websites - cruiseline.com or cruisecritic.com. Look at reviews and tips about the brands, and also specific excursions, itineraries and boats. All of this can be done by your agent too, if you have one.
■ Know the high-season and low-season. Depending on your dates of travel, many more options will open up within the budget constraints, and the planning gets more exciting.
Choose the perfect room.
■ Have you thought of the type of room you want on this ship? Would you want two rooms if you're traveling as, say a family of four, or would you prefer a suite? How about oceanview? One with a balcony? Determine the type first. Understand that the posted price on the website will be the price for the lowest priced option in a category. For example, every stateroom with a balcony, is neither the same size, nor the same price.
■ Where do you want your room to be, orientation-wise? Front of the ship? Do you want to have rooms in the middle body of the ship, or the back portion? Why is this a factor, you ask? Because the movement of the ship will impact parts of the ship differently. Prices will differ accordingly as well. If it is all the same for you, then pick whatever works for you in terms of budget, size, comfort or fancy. But, if you are prone to medical issues, like seasickness or claustrophobia, then it is a good idea to be diligent upfront.
■ There are other factors, maybe you have mobility issues, and you would like rooms closer to the elevators. Maye you are a light sleeper, then being at the back of the ship is a better option for you.
■ If you communicate all your preferences with your agent, they will be able to work with them and get you the best option. You could also review the ship layout yourself, and figure out what works best for you.
Make cruise reservations as early as possible.
■ This will offer you the greatest probability of a best rate. Book early, and then set up a fare alert, you can generally adjust your charge, until the date you have fully paid. Additionally, an early booking also affords you the advantage of greater time to pay off your remaining balance.
■ As the rooms begin to fill up, the rate starts going up as well.
■ Reserving early will also get you ample time to buy, and pay off for the extras, like specialty dining, drink packages, shows etc.
Packing your luggage.
■ This is dependent on the season, and the weather of the location you are traveling to. You will usually need a few mix-and-match clothes, dress and comfort shoes, hats and swimsuits.
■ Just because you are traveling on a ship, we would recommend you visit your local pharmacy, and ask for an over-the-counter medication for seasickness. Spending more time on the deck, versus your rooms, will also help.
■ Don't forget your camera for those gorgeous pictures along the way, that will make the trip even more valuable and memorable.
DO NOT MISS THE SHIP !
■ Plan the packing, your interim hotel stay, and conveyance to the cruise.
■ Make sure you arrive in the city of the cruise embarkation, at least a day in advance. Especially if you are flying, do not risk doing it on the same day. For whatever reason, if your flight gets delayed, the whole thing will fall flat. Check nearby airports for cheaper flights.
■ Buy a night at a hotel, and any transportation or conveyance service, (check with your hotel, many will provide shuttles) you need for the next day to the cruise ship location. Hotels can get expensive, but you can find a good and cheap stay for the night on the outskirts of the city.
■ If you are driving in, find a place to stay, maybe an hour out of the city.
■ Reach the ship early on the next day, so you can start enjoying this unique vacation, as soon as possible.
Organize your checklist.
■ Keep a copy of the cruise contract.
■ Check for ID/ passport requirements, depending on domestic/ international cruise travels.
■ Have your local flight, hotel and travel details handy.
■ Keep order receipts of any pre-ordered shows, activities or dinner.
Dont stress! Just chill!
■ Recognize the thin line before you go overboard with planning and stress out.
■ A cruise ship is designed to provide an awesome experience to all aboard, so you do not feel bored, you are kept busy, while also having a lot of fun. There are tons and tons of activities, so much to do, that if you try to cover all, you will be overwhelmed and exhausted. Realize this is meant to be a relaxing getaway. Plan a couple of big ticket items, and then leave the rest of the time open to exploring, having fun and relaxing.
■ Plan an activity for each port of call. It could be as simple as taking a ferry to a beach, or a day filled with adventurous zip-lining. It could just be a trip to a local shopping area or a park, a dolphin experience in the Carribean, or whale watching in Alaska.
Make prior reservations for activities as needed.
■ The larger ships usually require that you reserve show tickets beforehand, or make dinner reservations prior to boarding. They also entice you with discounts to do so. This is done mainly so they can manage guests comfortably, and smoothly. But, it is a good thing for you as well, so take advantage of this; you can always make changes later.
■ TIP: Grab that drink package while the 30% discounts last!
Use online check-in.
■ Online check-in is preferred and even expected on ships now, just like at the airports. It also makes life easy for you.
■ Use the luggage tags provided by the cruise, when you board the ship.
So, dear Wanderers, that's what goes into planning a cruise vacation. Hope you choose a fantastic cruise, enjoy your travel locations, enjoy the ample and delicious food and activities aboard the ship. Have a blast of a lifetime, and make the most beautiful memories.
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