How To Book A Great Cruise
For many vacationers, taking a cruise is a daunting prospect. Sadly many of them will not take a cruise because they are unsure what kind is best, of what destinations to see, and think that it will cost too much. Don't let these worries stop you from what could be the greatest vacation of your life or the beginning of a way of life.
Below you will be guided through the decision making process of choosing the right cruise and the right way to book that cruise.
Choosing The Right Cruise Line
Perhaps one of the most fun decisions in this process is choosing which cruise line is the best for your vacation. Each cruise line has certain set of strengths, and each a set of weaknesses. Knowing what aspects are most important to your vacation is of utmost importance.
First, who are you? Are you retired or are you planning a summer college getaway? Will you be traveling with children or trying to get away from them? And are you looking for luxury at every turn, a comfortable trip, a party at sea or a quiet retreat?
Below I have listed the top 5 cruise lines for each main type of cruise group:
Adults W/O Kids
1. Royal Caribbean
2. Royal Caribbean
2. Royal Caribbean
2. Holland America
4. Royal Caribbean
5. Holland America
While looking at cruise prices, you will notice that prices tend to be higher from late spring through early fall. Although there are some differences in peak cruise periods in different cruise markets (Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mediterranean), this will hold true to a large extent due to milder weather during those months along with warmer water and children being out of school.
Many people may be timid, for example, about booking a cruise to the Bahamas during hurricane season and prefer to not cruise during winter months for fear of colder water and weather. A simple understanding that the weather and water in the Caribbean is pretty warm throughout the year can help you feel comfortable booking a Christmas cruise or a cruise in January or February when cruise prices are at rock bottom.
Wait Till The Last Minute
Although you may want to plan ahead of time, sometimes waiting is the way to go. As cruise dates approach, cruise lines will discount their rooms over and over in order to fill their boat. You may not be able to get a suite that is the perfect distance from both the front or rear of the boat and the elevators, but you may be surprised. Some cruises will fill many of their interior and regular staterooms and need to discount their suites or offer free upgrades. Others will add free drink packages or hundreds of dollars in on board credits, both of which will save you money during the cruise that can be applied to the initial cost.
Most people can appreciate a simple discount or free upgrade, but cruises made within a month of the cruise date can often be 60-75% less than the original price. If you are going without the kids or other people, being patient can definitely pay off.
Although every cruise is a great vacation, there are definitely some ports of call that are more enjoyable than others. For the avid cruiser, seeing every destination is a great goal, but if it is your first or second cruise, you want the best bang for your buck. Knowing which ports are best in each cruising theater is a must.
The best choice for the cost conscious cruiser, especially in the Caribbean theater, would definitely be either a Bahamas cruise or a simple cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Both of these cruises offer cruise lengths from 3 to 5 nights and give you a destination with very cheap shopping, beautiful beaches, and some other minor sites to see.
The Bahamas cruise is fairly short distance and slower speeds mean smoother sailing. The islands offer great views from the ship and destinations such as Atlantis which can be visited from certain cruises. These ports also offer great beaches and local culture that will make you want to return.
The Cozumel and western Caribbean cruises are through much smoother waters, so these are smooth as well. Cozumel offers some of the best and most inexpensive shopping for cultural items and clothing for gifts to bring home. Along with great clubs and beaches, visitors can also experience Mayan ruins in the island's interior.
If you are looking for more pop-more wow, then consider an eastern Caribbean cruise that includes St. Maarten, St. Thomas and can include other stops such as Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica. These cruises are usually around 7 nights and are on larger, newer ships. You will have newer and more breathtaking amenities all while seeing some of the prettier sites in the Caribbean.
Yes, these cruises typically cost a bit more due to being on the newer ships and lasting longer than other cruises, but they will leave lasting memories. You will be able to visit more ports of call and be allowed longer on shore time on these cruises than others in the Caribbean theater.
The primary route of booking cruises for most is through a travel agent. Although there are definite benefits to working with a travel agency to set up your vacation, it is not always the best way to go. The travel agency has to make money somewhere and its generally in kick backs or commission from the cruise line. Sometimes you can work directly with the cruise line to gain discounts or get a better grasp of what types of room setups or amenities are available on a particular cruise.
One other avenue some cruisers use is an online booking or travel agency. Websites such as Vacations to Go or Last Minute Cruises will show you the discounts available on certain cruises and will set a cruise up for you at a lower rate than some brick and mortar travel agencies. These booking sites also will allow you to monitor multiple cruises for discounts on a daily and even hourly basis. This is definitely a great plus for those who are waiting to book at the best price.
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