Cruising is an increasingly popular way to travel. Historically there have been certain stigma about going on cruises that cause people to have the wrong idea about this amazing way to vacation. Some of these things include, excessive alcohol, lack of internet, and motion sickness.
If you’re interested in cruising and want to learn more, or if you’re going on your first cruise soon, this is your ultimate guide for cruising.
Why Go on a Cruise
Cruising is a great option for traveling with groups of all sizes that include people of different interests! For example, my husband is very active and loves to “travel” rather than “vacation”. He enjoys activities and experiences whenever we travel. I on the other hand, love to relax and recharge when we travel. Cruising is perfect for us because there are countless activities and multiple designations for my husband while still leaving room for me to relax. Cruising provides different options for every interest and personality both on board the ship and while in port.
Cruising is one of the most cost-effective ways to travel. It allows you so many great experiences for one cost. A lot of people don’t understand the luxury experience that you get when cruising. The service, food, and amenities on cruise ships feel like a luxury resort! Depending on your cruise line and itinerary you can have all of your lodging, food, and activities included for less than $100 per day! If you add up the costs of hotels, restaurants and transportation while traveling you’ll find that you pay so much more!
Can’t decide which Caribbean island to visit or which European country to explore? Cruising allows you to experience and sample so many different locations on one trip! Your ship is always moving to the next stop even when you’re sleeping. This allows you to maximize your travel time by seeing more and wasting less time.
Booking a Cruise
There are dozens of different cruise lines sailing all over the world. It seems like anywhere there is water, you can find a cruise that sails! Most cruise lines are fairly similar as far as the experience but there are certain nuances with each specific cruise line. Generally cruises will cost anywhere from $50 per night to $1,500 per night. The main differences between cruise lines are the level of luxury, promotions, and size of the ship.
Level of Luxury
Cruise ships are often rated by stars (like a hotel) up to 6. The vast majority of ships will be between 3 and 6 stars. The high end premium luxury cruise lines offer things like larger rooms, finer foods, and luxury amenities on board.
Cruise lines offer different promotions and include different things in the cruise fare. Cruise fare typically includes your room, food, and a lot of entertainment. Cruise lines run different promotions on pricing and will often include extra incentives to book with them. There are many things on board like wifi, drinks, specialty dining, and certain entertainment activities that cost extra. Do some research into what certain cruise lines offer in the base cruise fare and what costs extra.
Size of the Ship
As a general rule of thumb the smaller the ship the more expensive it will be. River cruises on small ships with 500 guests or less will be generally more expensive (per night) than a Caribbean cruise on a giant 5,000 guest cruise ship. The factors that go into this price difference include things like crew to guest ratio and docking fees. On more expensive cruises you’ll find a crew ratio around 2 crew members for every 1 guest. This allows greater attention to service and your onboard experience. On larger cruise ships you’ll find a ratio closer to 5 crew members for every 1 guest. Docking fees are a fixed cost that the cruise line usually divides between all of the guests. On larger ships the fees might be higher but they can split it between more guests. On smaller ships, the cruise line charges guests more for these fees. When you’re booking a cruise make sure you get all the way to the bottom line price that includes all taxes and fees! Talk to your travel agent about fees and they can help you understand and interpret the different costs.
Here is an image that can help you understand a comparison of some of the main cruise lines. (This is a representation of our opinion and experience.)
When to Book a Cruise
Cruises are not like flights – book as far in advance as possible! Usually you can get the best deal on a cruise between 8 months and a year before sailing. That’s not to say there aren’t still great deals available as you get closer to your travel date but you will have more options further in advance. Keep in mind that cruises will be more expensive during peak seasons travel seasons and over holidays. Talk to your travel agent any time your thinking about booking a cruise and they can help you get the very best deal!
How to Book a Cruise
Once again, cruises are not like flights! It is hard to book directly on a website. Cruises have dozens of different pricing structures, promotions, and plans. It can get confusing. That is why travel agents exist! Cruise lines pay commissions to travel agents so they can help people navigate and understand the craziness that is cruise pricing. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to book a cruise with a travel agent and there really isn’t another way to book! Your best interest is their best interest and again, you don’t pay any extra to book with an agent. Fill out this form if you’re interested in booking a cruise!
Once you’ve booked your cruise and paid your deposit sit back, relax, and start counting down the days to your vacation! Once you are 90 days away from your trip there are a few things to start getting done and thinking about:
- Take care of your final payment
- Research and book excursions (we like to use viator.com instead of booking through the ship)
- Complete cruise onboarding (travel info, check-in time slot, and dining plans)
- Book travel and accommodation for departure and return
- Get cruise add-ons (wifi, drink packages, specialty dining, etc.)
Going on a Cruise
As you get closer to your cruise, it’s time to start packing! Make sure to give yourself enough time in case you need to order some things. Check our our top things to bring on a cruise here!
What to Expect/How to cruise
Once you are finally traveling, it can be overwhelming to know what to do once you get on board! Here is what you can expect on a cruise and some of our favorite tips!