You have thought long and hard about what type of vacation you want and have decided to try a cruise. You have also decided where you want to cruise. Wondering what to do now? Generally I look at the itineraries of each ship going to the location that I want to go to and try to ascertain what are the differences. Do some ships spend more time at port or more sea days? Do some include more of the places you want to go to? Narrow your list down to 2 or 3 and then compare prices.
Once I have decided which cruise I want to go on I need to determine how I want to book this cruise. If you have cruised before and don’t need any help then you might want to consider getting quotes from online travel agents as well as the brick and mortar travel agents and also through the cruise lines. When I ask for a quote I also inquire what type of On Board Credit (OBC) they will give me. OBC is a credit on your shipboard account – anything you buy on the ship goes on your shipboard account. The other question I ask is if the price goes down, will they adjust it and will that affect my OBC. I found last year that one travel agency quoted me “book price” but their OBC was huge. Another one had a discounted cruise but a small OBC. I basically had to figure out what the bottom line was for each quote. Another question is what is their cancellation fee? Are there any fees for changes (like a stateroom change). All of these factors will help you decide who to book with.
I generally pick out what cabin I want from previous experience – I like mid – ship and close to elevators or stairs. Holland America has three sets of elevator banks so being mid-ship will always put me near an elevator bank. The other cruise lines, to the best of my knowledge, only have two sets of elevators banks. Always look at the deck plans that are on the cruise line’s website. Look at what would be over your room. You may not want to be under the pool deck or under a cafe as they move the chairs early and late in the day. Also see what is across from your room. You may not want to be across from a utility room where your cabin stewart will be in and out all the time or a utility elevator for staff only.
You also need to decide what type of cabin you want. The interiors are less expensive and you have no idea if it is morning or night without a window but they may fit your budget. Some rooms have port holes, others have windows, some have obstructed views (lifeboat in front of your window), some have balconies, some have larger balconies and some have wrap around balconies (those in aft suites). I personally like the balconies but have been in all the others except the fancy schmanzy suites. You, your needs and your budget will dictate what type of stateroom you will have.
Another option is a guarantee stateroom and those are least expensive in their own category than choosing a particular room in the category of your choosing. You are guaranteed a room at that category or higher. I have tried that only once and I was not pleased (had second cabin from the bow and a long walk whenever we wanted to go somewhere or to return to the cabin). Others have been very pleased with the rooms that were given to them. You must be willing to accept the worse cabin at your category or higher and some of the higher ones are not that good based on location. It’s a gamble and you must be prepared to win or lose.
After I book a cruise I want to make sure that I know when and if he price has dropped so I can get an adjustment from my travel agent. Most travel agents are not pro-active so you have to let them know if there has been a price reduction. I go to this site and purchase a subscription for $5. They will send me an email when the price has gone down.
Lastly, one of the best resources I have found is Cruise Critic. Register, get a screen name and you are good to go. Find the cruise line you want to cruise on and go to their board. You might want to start a new thread with your stateroom number and ask if anyone has stayed in this stateroom before and what was their experience. If you have any questions about anything, you can ask it here. Like many boards you’ll always find some snarkly posters….just ignore them. Most people are happy to share their experiences and help those who are new to cruising. They also have a Roll Call section and here is where you begin to meet people who will be on your cruise. Fine your cruise line, your ship and your sailing date. Go on and introduce yourself. We have met so many great people and have done so many activities with people we have met through the Roll Call.
I hope you are enjoying this series on cruising. if so, please consider becoming a follower by signing up to your right. Please feel free to pass this site on to your friends and family. if you have any comments or questions, feel free to ask them and I will answer to the best of my ability.
Next up – what to do on shore.