Planning a Cruise

Planning to go on a cruise?

Whether you are planning your first cruise or if you have cruised before, there are some helpful tips to plan the best cruise for you. First there are some questions you must answer for yourself.

1. Who is going on the cruise?

There are cruise lines that are more suitable for specific age groups than others. For example, there are cruise lines like Disney that attract primarily families with children, a cruise line like Carnival portrays an image as a ‘fun’ ship, Cunard is known for ‘traditional’ and elegant cruising and Seabourn represents the luxury segment. There are cruise lines that have a mixture of the both and yet others that are more focussed on certain country like Aida for example. Picking the right cruise line is the start. Ask yourself, who are you traveling with and what do you want of even expect to receive on a cruise? Take further into account other aspects like service, quality of food, price, size of the ship, activities, itinerary and on board age demography.

2. When and where do you want to cruise?

Do you have a certain date in mind or are you flexible? Also in the cruise industry there are times when it is busier than others. The busiest times are usually the same for land based vacations (eg holidays) and is thus reflected in the pricing. However, the seasons also influence ship positioning. You will not find a cruise to Alaska in October through March, availability of Caribbean cruises is higher in the months November until April, Mediterranean cruises are more popular in the months May until September. South America, Australia and New Zealand again in the months October until March. Basically, cruise lines position their fleet according to seasonal influences to give it’s guests optimum conditions to travel. 

So basically you will be confronted with a particular range of cruises to choose from if your date is set. If you are more flexible, the world of cruising is yours to choose from. 

3. What is your budget, how much do you want to spend?

If you look on message boards, read reviews or look on websites giving cruise advice, 100 USD per person per day is what is costs to cruise. A rule of thumb, yes; but what will you get for your 100 USD. If you average out lots of vacations, various ships, various destinations you will come to this figure. Do note, airfare not included in the calculations. Is the 100 USD per day a good approach? I would tend to say no. It is much more complex and also personal preference comes into play. I always like to know the total cost from the moment I leave the house until I return. Don’t fool yourself! At the same time I want to know what I will get for my money (quality, service, comfort). What will I see and do, taste and experience. Bottom line, will I feel good, will I be happy and satisfied? This package will have a price tag. It’s like going shopping, you fill the grocery cart, you know the price of each individual item but do not know the total price until check out. The best you can do is try to estimate the total price as good as you can and ask yourself, is this what I expected? Do I get value for money and does this fit my budget? The same goes for a cruise vacation, try to estimate the total cost, try to estimate what you will get in return and then decide if this is worth it to you or not. If you have never cruised before, I understand it can be difficult to do but I can assure you that by far most people go home with a smile. To help you out we have created a list of costs you can come across before, during or after your cruise.

Tips in getting a cheaper deal

  • More than 2 people in a cabin. Frequently cruise lines give discounts to a 3rd or 4th person in the cabin. This can reduce costs by 20-40%.
  • Book either very early (<1 year in advance) or take a risk and book last minute (<2 months before departure). There are frequently some amazing last minute deals out there. Please do realize that you can also be disappointed if you are fixed on a certain cruise and the price goes up or even if the cruise is sold out.
  • Cruise prices usually hardly differ between travel agents but on occasion you might see a deal come by better than the rest. If you have time and patience, shopping around can be rewarded.
  • Always consider the total package. If you must fly to the point of embarkation, also calculate airfare. Even though cruise fares can drop in the last months prior to departure, if can cost you more if you have to purchase an expensive plane ticket and hotel room.

If you would like to estimate what the total price will be, click here for a few pointers.

4. How long do you plan to cruise?

Cruises can be found anywhere from 2 days to world voyages lasting up to 130 days. To get a good first impression we recommend to cruise 7 or 8 days in which you visit 4 to 5 ports of call. After this you will have a good idea of what to expect. Frequently you will see different ships in port, talk to other people and just get a sense of things happening on board. This will contribute to any future decision making when booking another cruise.

5. Activities on and off the ship. What do you want to do during your vacation?

On board activities, games, casino, wine tasting, shopping, culinary sessions, shore excursions, Broadway shows, beach, spa and spa treatments, relaxing, sports, fitness, bridge, reading, high tea, music, comedians....  and the list goes on. Different ships, different people, different activities. How to choose the right one for you? Books can be written about this, so much information that you still will not know what to choose. A good thing to realize here is that the bigger the ship, the more there is to do. Choosing a main stream cruise line like Royal Caribbean or Princess will offer a wide range of activities to choose from. Each directed to a different audience. The newer the ship (or refurbishment), the newer and more innovative the activities. Carnival is updating to Fun 2.0, some Royal Caribbean ships have a Flowrider and ice skating rinks, Disney has water slides you would never expect on board a ship. Some ships have theatres seating more than a thousand people, casino’s Vegas can be jealous of, golf simulators and much much more. It’s all out there and much more is being built as we speak. Cruise lines really focus on keeping its guests happy.

Then there is also the question, what will you do when in port? It is important to study the ship’s itinerary closely and see what you can do off the ship. Go to a beach? Sightseeing? Museums, culture, shopping and many other things. The cruise lines are very helpful and offer its guests a variety of shore excursions to get a good impression of the port of call. Everything will be taken care of from the minute you get off the ship, buses will be waiting and the day is planned. However, some people also opt to explore on their own. This is all personal preference, but before booking, it can be handy to have a bit of an idea of what to expect. Our motto is, start preparing before you actually go on the cruise, start preparing before you actually book!

To get an idea of what the ports around the world have to offer, please also look at our port pages by clicking here.

6. What type of cabin/room do you want?

More choices. Upon booking you have to let the travel agent/cruise line know what type of cabin you want. The cabin you will stay in during your cruise is usually assigned to you at the moment of booking. Generally speaking, there are 4 types of cabin categories 1) Suites, 2) Cabins with a balcony, 3) Cabins with ocean view and 4) Inside cabins with no window. Depending on the type of cruise ship, further sub categories can be defined. In your decision making, also consider the location of the cabin on the ship. Which deck is the cabin, is the cabin more to the front or back of the ship, is the cabin close to the elevators (more people passing by). There are cabins with obstructed view (a window yes, but there is a life boat hanging right outside), there are cabins tucked away in a corner, cabins with connecting doors and cabins with butler service. All things to take into thought as each category will have a different price tag.

Take into consideration your budget, the level of service you want and of course try to estimate how much time you will be spending in your cabin. A cruise with lots of ports of call, you might just use your cabin to sleep, shower and change; spending relatively little time there. An inside cabin might be sufficient for you. However, a cruise with many sea days, unique scenery, or if you like to escape the crowd, a room with a balcony might just suit you best.

7. Other things to consider when booking a cruise.

In the section above we gave you a summary of various aspects to consider when planning to book a cruise. The list can go on and on but to keep it simple I will just mention some other points by bullets. In the end, it is all personal preference and after 1 or 2 cruises you will be an expert yourself. Book that cruise and relax! Enjoy the thought of going, enjoy the cruise and enjoy the everlasting memories!

  • Where will the cruise depart and arrive? Do you have to go a day early to avoid stress of missing the ship?
  • From the airport, are there good transfer options to and from the ship?
  • Do you like formal nights, formal activities on a ship
  • Do you prefer fixed seating or do you want to dine when and with whom you want?
  • Do you like many people around you with lots of activities or do you prefer peace and quiet
  • Do you want a mainstream cruise or ultra luxury?
  • Do you prefer touristic ports of call or untouched secluded places?
  • Do you want to be with children around or do you want to escape them?
  • Do you prefer certain type of fellow passengers, eg Americans/Canadians, British, German, Asian?
  • Do you want good food or do you want to spoil your taste buds with every meal?
  • Do you want to be on a huge ship with thousands of other guests or do you want an intimate ship?
  • Are there specific things you want to see or do during your vacation?



How much does it cost to go on a cruise?

The perception is often that cruising is expensive. Is this true? Well, yes and no. It depends on many aspects starting with personal preference such as level of luxury, cruising region with respect to your home town and of course the length of the cruise.

When planning for a cruise always try to make an estimation of costs, all the costs from the moment you leave the house to when you return home. Then divide the total price by the number of days you are away from home. Then subtract the average price per day from costs you will not incure because of being away from home (groceries, energy, travel etc). You will then have a reasonable estimation of how much a cruise vacation will cost. This way you can also compare easily the price with other types of vacations like resorts, city trips or road trips.

Let’s make a calculation:

You head out the front door, then what? First you have to get to the ship. Do you live close to the port of embarkation or do you have to fly there? To be more relaxed and less stressful, many people choose to go one day before and stay in a hotel.
1. Transportation from home (car, taxi etc)
  a. Airport
     -Parking (if applicable)
     -Plane ticket (fare incl all taxes and fees)
     -Airport expenditures (meals etc)

2. Arrival at destination
     -Transfer to port or hotel
  c. Hotel
  d. Expenditures before cruise (meals etc)
  e. Transfer to port

3. Cruise (take into consideration the length of the cruise)
  a. Cruise fare including all taxes and port charges
  b. Drinks (if applicable)
  c. Shore excursions
  d. On board activities like spa, salon etc
  e. Casino
  f. Internet
  g. Expenses in ports of call (x nr of ports)
     -Taxi - transportation
     -Excursions (if not bought onboard)
     -Food and drinks
  h. Specialty dining
  i. Souvenirs (shops, photographs etc)
  j. Tipping (if applicable)
4. End of the cruise
  a. Transfer from ship to hotel or airport
     -Expenses for meals etc
     -Transfer to airport
  b. Going back home
     -Airport expenses (if applicable)
     -Transportation airport – home

5. Overall expenses
  a. Phone usage (especially international use and use of cellular at sea)
  b. Additional insurance (travel, medical)

This list is a general guideline of expenses. Not all are applicable and maybe other costs can be incurred that are not listed.
From this list you can subtract things like:
  1. Average amount you spend on meals at home (per person) - savings
  2. Savings in energy use  due to being away from home (heating, electricity, water etc)
  3. Transportation cost savings
      a. Car (gasoline)
      b. Public transportation
  4. Other expenses you will not incure

Optional to include
  1. buying new clothes for the cruise
  2. buying a camera or other cruise related items you would otherwise not buy

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