Calling all travelers! If you have not been on a cruise, please allow me five minutes to tell you why you should. If you have, you can already relate to my shared enthusiasm in saying that it is the most bang for your buck and a vacation that you do not have to work yourself into a frenzy going on. There is something for everyone and it is perfect for family, a group of friends, singles, multiple generations, holidays, or just a quick getaway. Allow me to share with you my guide to booking a cruise!
I have cruised twenty times so you could say I am a bit of a cruise junkie. To me, cruising is not about “the more money you spend, the better it is”, but simply a vacation that offers the things that make YOU happy, personally. For me, that means a cruise on Princess Cruise Lines, destination anywhere. I have sailed with other cruise lines in the past, but Princess Cruise Lines is my GO-TO cruise lines as I know I will recognize the deck plans and activities, enjoy the itinerary, get the best pricing and perks for frequent travels, and feel safe in the choices they have provided me.
Let me answer your “Booking a Cruise” questions!
So, how does one go about choosing a cruise? What is your dream destination? Do you desire to play in the blue waters of the mysterious Caribbean, or sail through the wondrous Panama Canal? Do you appreciate history and wish to see the great Pyramids of Egypt or the ancient ruins in Rome? Have you always fantasized about being face to face with the glaciers in the Alaskan wilderness or exploring autumn’s changing colors in New England? Whatever destination you may be desiring, there is an itinerary already planned for you.
You can book a cruise just as easily yourself as you can by using a travel agent. The cruise list price, or the online price, will tell you the cost for the room and the trip itself. You can either book online or by calling the cruise line by phone. At first, you will only need to pay a deposit for your cruise, and the balance is payable per the ships terms, which is usually in full within 6 weeks of the cruise date. The deposit is typically $250, which is fully refundable within a certain period of time. Select the type of room you want and you will need passport and credit card information at the time of booking. It is possible to link rooms together if you are traveling with friends or a group.
How do you determine which room to choose? This is a matter of personal opinion. If your wish is to be pampered, you desire maximum space, and your budget is immense, then a suite is the choice for you. If you need an escape by having windows, then a balcony room is an option, as it offers your own personal space outside with table and chairs. However, if you want to save money and having no windows does not bother you, then an inside room is for you. Inside cabins are much cheaper, plus they are pitch black at night so you can get a great nights sleep. You should consider how much time you plan on spending in your room when deciding. For me, I like to explore the boat, use the common areas, and take part in the cruise offerings, so I am only in my room to shower and sleep; thus making the inside room perfect for me.
You will also need to consider the deck and location on the boat for your stateroom, as the prices get more expensive the higher up you are. The lower decks are the cheapest and offer mostly inside or ocean view cabins only. I tend to like the lower decks because they are easier for disembarking on excursions and you do not feel the waves much at all. The higher up, and the further on the ends you are, the more rocking you feel. This may not bother you at all, as it never has my family, and if you do get motion sickness, you can purchase sea-sickness bracelets in the gift shop or from the ship’s doctor.
Now that you have your room confirmed, you can start looking at the deck plan and layout of the boat to familiarize yourself with the places you will be using most. These will most likely be the shore excursions desk, guest relations, the main dining room, the pool, or whatever your fancy is. Should you choose to visit the pay restaurants aboard, you can also go ahead and make reservations in advance. The pay restaurants offer a high quality, fine dining meal, not the mainstream cruise food, for an additional fee, usually $15-25.
What is there to do on the boat? I will discuss that in depth in a future blog post, but basically, most anything you want. A quick list of activities would include: gambling, spa treatments, swimming, sunbathing (depending on location), playing bingo, food presentations, live music/dj/piano bars, dancing, contests, trivia, cooking demos, blackjack, jogging track, wine tasting, bridge, kids club, teen lounges, computer labs, movies under the stars, towel animal folding, exercise classes, stage shows, drinking, library services, sports, mixology seminars, galley tours, dancing lessons, karaoke, and state of the art gym. Some ships might also include climbing walls, ice-skating, scavenger hunts, computer classes, surf simulators, ceramics at sea, zip lining, and captains table dining. Was there anything on the list that you did not know cruises offered? That is all without the main point of the cruise: the ports and excursions!
Depending on the booking time, your excursions will be available for you to start planning what you want to do when you are at the ports. Use that information to comparatively shop with outside tour companies to get the best deals. Pay attention to the details offered and also read up on cruise reviews to see what other cruisers, like you are saying. These reviews may save you time and money, steering you away from things that were bad for others. Keep in mind, everybody is not going to be happy all the time, so there could be underlying issues that bring people to write bad things.
Make your travel arrangements as to how you will get to and from the ship. On disembarkation day, you are typically off the ship between the hours of 7 and 10 am. It is best to book your flight after noon on that day, or even consider coming a day early in the event of flight disturbances. The cruise line has contracts with nearby hotels that offer deep discounts for cruise passengers. Notify the ship with your flight details once they are confirmed. There will be many options to get you to the ship and airport, via the cruise line, if you should choose that option rather than personal vehicle or taxi.
Lastly, when cruise time rolls around, you will need to double check your packing list, print off your boarding pass, and print your luggage tags, unless you have opted to have them mailed to you. I always bring tape to attach the luggage tags right before getting on the ship (do not attach before going through the airport as they may get damaged). Porters will take your bags when you arrive at the cruise terminal and they will be glad to help you attach the luggage tags should you need tape or a stapler. Welcome aboard!
FYI: Your cruise price will include your cabin (double occupancy), taxes, fees, port expenses, all meals, cruise activities, and entertainment. Tips are additional fees, typically $11-12 per day, per person, which can be prepaid before your cruise date. Other things that will cost you include: fountain soda package, alcoholic beverages (though there are a few opportunities to partake on the ship’s dime), internet, professional photographs, cruise video, shopping arcades, pay restaurants, spa services, casino games, arcade games, specialty coffee bars, excursions, and some classes, which will be notated. Other than tips, you do not have to purchase any of these things. It is your vacation so make it fit your budget, but there are plenty of free choices if you are not lured into the selling antics that the cruise lines often use. Pretty soon, you will be booking a cruise like the pros!
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I will be glad to help. Check out my upcoming articles on cruise basics, packing for your trip, as well as many cruise port excursion reviews and ideas. Thanks for reading and I hope I have convinced you to give it a try.
Check out these cruise ship posts:
Check out these cruise port posts: