Planning your first holiday especially on a cruise liner is always a challenge. You could get together with your family and friends and discuss your travel and vacation plans so as to get a better idea of what needs to be done. The best way is to book with a travel agent who will not only advice you on which cruise liner and destination you should be going to but also plan your entire itinerary including air travel to the port of embarkation. But before you proceed, let’s first answer some questions that are bound to pop up while planning your cruise.
What kind of cruise is suitable for your age group?
Typically, there are different kinds of cruises suitable for different age groups. You will find a cruise designed for all individuals, from the toddler to the teen to the retired. All you need to decide in who is going and then select the cruise best suited for you. There are fun-filled holiday cruises for the family, singles, newly-weds and even for the slightly older and matured.
What kind of budget are you on?
Typically, the minimum cost of per person per day is about $100 on an average cruise liner. Many ships charge extra for certain items and of course air-fare is not included in this. You can decrease the cost somewhat by sharing the cabin with another person, booking way in advance, like almost six months prior, or taking a risk and booking late, less than two months prior to departure.
How many days can you spend on your cruise?
If you have less than a week, then the options would be closer to home and restricted to Mexico, Bahamas or simply a weekend cruise to a port in the ocean and back. A complete week gives you more time and options range from the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Alaska and even the South Pacific, depending on of course your current residential location. Anything longer than that would be suitable for any kind of cruise vacation across the globe.
When would you be most likely to travel?
Obviously, cruise tickets are cheaper in leaner times like spring or fall and most expensive during the summer holidays. Winter is also considered high season when travelling to warmer locations like the Caribbean. Some locations like Alaska, Scandinavia and the Baltic have a shorter cruising season and will be open only between May and September. While Antarctic cruises are on between November and February, Mediterranean cruises can be taken all year round.
Where would you like to go?
With the earth being covered with 75% ocean, cruise ships today can reach any of the continents and traverse all across the globe. From the Americas to Austral-Asia, Africa to Antarctica, Bahamas to Bermuda, Europe to Canada, there are plenty of cruise destinations to choose from. Even land locked locations such as central Europe, Russia, or the Yangtze River in China can be reached on a river cruise. Always a challenge to decide your destination, it is important to keep all other factors like type of cruise, budget, length of vacation among others in mind.
What are your interests?
Although cruises provide all kinds of on board activities, your destination should be based on your interest. While European tours offer a good dose of culture for the history buffs, tropical destinations like the Caribbean and the South Pacific are for the beach lovers. Whether it is glacier watching in Alaska, deep sea diving in Australia or experiencing the fjords in Norway, you have to decide what you like to do best before you choose your cruise destination. Many cruises also offer a list of off-shore activities before you book, so make sure that you are well researched on that as well.
What kind of accommodation would you prefer?
Cabin selection typically depends on what your budget is. Sea view cabins are obviously more expensive than the lower deck ones. Also, if you are travelling to scenic places like Alaska or Scandinavia it would be preferable to have a view. Deck plans are available in hard copy, so make your decision after doing your homework and planning your budget.
What are your dress styles and eating habits?
In a move away from only formal wear, most cruise ships today are more relaxed and have only one or two nights of dress-up nights. The rest of the time, it is usually casual or country club style dressing. Typically there are two seating arrangements for dinner, one starting at 6:30pm and the other starting at 9:00pm. While early seating allows you plenty of time for late shows, it may rush your off shore excursions. Late seating on the other hand gives you time to relax but may hamper your late evening activities. Also, table seating is usually for four to eight persons and very rarely for two. If you do want a dinner for the twosome, you will have to make a prior request.
How do you get to the cruise ship?
Flying there or driving down if its close by are two of the most preferred options. Sometimes the cruise lines offer you a fly-cruise package, which is easier, but may be a trifle expensive than independent booking. These include transfers between the ship and the airport, which can again add up to the cost.
What are the documents needed?
Cruise vouchers and travel itineraries should typically reach you 2-3 weeks prior to your departure. Travel insurance is not mandatory but strongly advised as a carry along document in case of any mishaps. Passports are needed for all international destinations.