Believe it or not, I have had about 10 different people ask me questions about cruising within the past week. Although there are different types of cruising (ocean cruising, river cruising, barge cruising, etc) the questions were asked of the big cruise lines which ply the waters of the Caribbean, Alaska and the Mediterranean.
I was first asked how how to choose a cruise line and this may be the most difficult. Each cruise line, in my mind, has a different reputation and yet that is somewhat subjective and there are always exceptions primarily because of itineraries. I feel that Carnival has a much younger crowd, particularly when sailing in the Caribbean. The twenty, and thirty year olds tend to hang out around the pool all day long and it can be difficult getting a chair. Drinks flow freely and they are all having a good time. Royal Caribbean, again in my opinion, tends to be more thirty and forty year olds, and again for Caribbean sailing, all the action will be around the pool. However, for both of these lines, when not sailing around the Caribbean, it can be very different, a little older and not quite as lively as the what you would come to expect on the Caribbean.
Celebrity and Princess, again in my opinion, tends to be more of a middle age/young seniors cruising with them. Princess made a name for itself on the Love Boat television show and that one show probably is responsible for sparking the interest in cruising among the younger than senior generation. I am also of the opinion that Princess is the cruise line that developed Alaska for cruising. They have wonderful lodges if you opt in for their pre or post cruise land portion . We cruised with Celebrity on our Eastern Med cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed it – not sure if it was the 100 plus people that we met through Cruise Critic Roll Call and we very very tight or because of all the on board lectures that we could attend to hear about our upcoming ports. They also had, on the Equinox, a glass blowing demonstration every day from Corning Glassworks.
Finally, Holland America which in many reasons is my favorite cruise line as well as being known as the geriatric cruise lines. Yes, there are lots of seniors in wheelchairs, scooters, etc but there are also many younger people in their40’s, 50’s and 60’s. They have an on board kitchen where you can sign up for small classes cooking instructions and demonstrations. We do enjoy that. They are also know for the large, and at times rowdy Team Trivia where you will have about 200 very competitive trivia experts vying to win little Holland America pins, trinkets and bragging rights.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, then I highly recommend putting your trip out to bid. Contact an online travel agency, a brick and mortar travel agency and the cruise line. See what they offer you for the fare, the On Board credit, whether their On Board credit will go down if the price ofd your cruise goes down. Do they print out your documents or do you need to do it. Do you want to pick out your stateroom (which I highly recommend looking at deck plans – what is next to you, across from you, above you and below you) or do you want them to do it for you. Another tip: once you decide on your stateroom, google it and see if there are any reviews on it. For those who cruise and are very familiar, you may not need a lot of personal attention but for those who are unsure and need their hands held, you might want a travel agent at a brick and mortar.
Once you book your cruise you still need to do work. Your travel agent most likely will not check to see if the price has dropped – you need to do that and you can by signing up with Cruise Fish (which I use) or Cruise Fare Monitor.
Look at the ships you are interested in, do they have an indoor pool or an outdoor pool that has a retractable roof (like Holland America)? Are you interested in computer classes – some cruise lines have it. Do you need a rock climbing wall, enhanced pool activities? What are your needs – knowing that you’ll be more confident in choosing your line.
If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comment section then come back to read the response.