With 16 new ships expected to enter the market over the next two years and 35 cruise lines offering hundreds of itineraries around the globe - to the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Asia, Africa and Antarctica - there have never been so many choices for cruise passengers.
But so many choices can also make it confusing for consumers to pinpoint their ideal cruise. Here are some tips for first-time or novice cruisers:
Lifestyle. Do a lifestyle check before you decide on a cruise - certain lines attract people with specific travel styles and interest.
Do you want to meet and mingle with new people, or would you prefer an intimate environment?
Are you content with lounging in a deck chair reading a novel, or would you rather explore new sights or listen to an educational lecture series? Do you prefer to dress in black tie, or is casual dress more your style?
Do you like vacations that have planned activities, or are you a spur-of-the-moment traveler?
Is first-rate cuisine important?
(Based on your answers, only consider a cruise offering activities and amenities that fit your lifestyle and expectations.)
Itinerary. When considering an itinerary, ask yourself this: Are you an experienced traveler interested in visiting more unique, less-visited ports, or will you be visiting a particular area for the first time, and aiming to see many different destinations on one trip?
Also consider the pace of the itinerary by comparing the number of days at sea to the number of days at ports.
(Your answers should serve as a guide for choosing an itinerary as well as determine the size of ship right for you.)
Total cost. Research the per diem costs of your cruise before booking. Look out for hidden charges. Be sure you are comparing “apples to apples” when narrowing down your choices, and don’t decide on a cruise based on price alone.
Very often, the package price doesn’t tell the entire story; if price is your only guide, you risk ending up on the wrong cruise.
Travel agent. Seek out a travel consultant experienced in cruises, who can meet your specific travel needs and has the backing of a national organization specializing in luxury travel.
A good consultant looks for the best value while securing cabin upgrades and special amenities and perks. Some signs that you’ve picked the right consultant:
The consultant asks questions about your likes and dislikes. Think about what you envision your experience to be and find a consultant who can meet your needs and goals.
He/she offers firsthand knowledge of the ship(s) and can provide information on cabins, layout, service, etc.
He/she goes the “extra mile” to ensure that all your vacation details are planned.
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