The popularity of cruising is increasing every year, as evidenced by the numbers of new ships being released every year. Most new ships are bigger than the last ones, with the newest coming out in December holding over 6,000 passengers!
Cruising can be one of the least expensive vacations and is very carefree, but how do you choose which one is best for you?
First of all, I recommend using a travel agent! No surprise since I am a travel agent! Cruise lines set the prices and it is illegal for anyone to price lower than the cruise line fares. If you see a lower price, there is something missing – port taxes or government fees.
Some travel agents charge a booking fee so if you are not booking with Advance Travel be sure to ask if there is a booking fee. By booking with a travel agent, you can compare all the cruise lines and get advice on which cruise line and cruise ships are a good match for you.
There are three ways I like to use to pick a cruise.
- Itinerary – If there is a specific island in the Caribbean that you have always wanted to see for example, I would look at cruises that include that island. Alaska is a very destination-oriented cruise – we get a lot of non-cruisers who will finally agree to go on a cruise because they want to see the Alaska coastline. Europe is also destination-oriented, and easy to visit on a ship because you don’t have to change money, worry about language, find places to eat, etc. Hawaii cruising makes it easy to see all the major islands without packing and unpacking to change islands.
- Ship/ Cruise line – Do you want to go on the newest ship? The biggest ship? Are you looking for a small, all suite ship? Many people pick their cruise by what their favorite cruise line is doing. Some lines are best for families with children, or families with teens. Some ships are known for their spas or their chef. Are you looking for a ship with a lot of singles? What about a sailing ship or a river cruise? Each line has its strengths (and some weaknesses)and each ship has its own personality. I pride myself on matching ship to traveler. Be wary of any agency or website that pushes you to only one brand.
- Price – Any time, any ship, any itinerary? Just looking for the best price? We can look for the lowest price. Rule of thumb, if you can get $100 per person per day, it is a good price. When the price includes your accommodations, all your meals and transportation to different ports, and nightly entertainments, it is a hard vacation to beat. If you go to almost any city in the USA, stay at a decent hotel, eat out 3 meals a day and then go out to a show – you will spend more than that. Of course price really shouldn’t be your only factor – you may not be happy in an inside cabin going to ports that don’t interest you.