Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Cruise – 13 Things to Know
Cruising has become increasingly popular, with modern ships offering a host of amenities and activities, as well as major port destinations around the world.
To a novice cruiser, all of the choices and options can seem somewhat overwhelming. Cruise lines provide a wealth of information, but it doesn’t hurt to get help from a travel agent (for free), especially for the first time.
Whether it’s deciding where to go, which cruise line, or which itinerary to choose, there are a few key things to plan for to get the most out of your first cruise vacation.
Here are 13 things to consider when planning a first cruise.
It’s always a good idea to create a budget when traveling. For the cruise, the fare and flights will often be the most important items in your budget.
Unlike hotels, cruise prices are quoted per person (assuming double occupancy), and children often pay the same as adults. A seven-day cruise can cost around $ 100 per day per person during peak season, but this can vary widely depending on the itinerary, cruise line, and cabin type.
Prices tend to be higher during major holidays and spring break, so booking out of season, such as in November, can save you money. There are also a number of 2-4 day Bahamas cruises that give customers a taste of the cruise at a lower price.
Many novice cruise passengers start with the popular Caribbean routes, served by many newer ships, especially for 7-day crossings. A southern destination can be a great option for an inaugural cruise, especially for those who can easily get to central cruise ports like Miami or Port Canaveral.
Others want to see the glaciers and wilderness of Alaska, learn about the history of Greece and the southern Mediterranean, or maybe a transatlantic trip. The options are endless with the cruise.
With a general budget and a destination in mind, choosing a cruise line and a specific itinerary is next on the bucket list, before finalizing a reservation.
Major cruise lines offer a number of similar activities and amenities on their new mega-ships, and cruise lines pay more for these bells and whistles. Water parks, tons of restaurants and bars, live musicals and shows attract multigenerational cruisers.
Some cruise lines are better suited for families like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Disney, while others like Celebrity and Virgin cater to adults. Port preferences, budget, ship, and schedule will help finalize the best option for you to choose.
Cabin types normally fall into four main categories: interior rooms (no view or window), ocean view (window), balcony, and suites. Cruise ship cabins may seem small, but most do a good job providing major equipment and storage.
For those who spend little time in their bedroom, an inside cabin can be a money saver. Some appreciate the extra space and peace of a balcony. One more step is a sequel, with even more floor space and perks, but a higher cost, which may not appeal to new cruisers.
Another major cost of the cruise is transportation before and after the cruise. Access to the cruise port, including flights, hotels, and before / after transfers, should all be included in the planning process.
Some hotels offer transportation to ports, while many choose to park at departure ports for convenience. If you are renting a car, book early. And, because air travel can be unpredictable, flying at least the day before is recommended to minimize stress.
Port tours are a fantastic part of the cruise, arriving at a new location every day or so. Cruises offer many excursions based on a variety of preferences. A day at the beach, snorkeling or sightseeing, there will be plenty to do.
Many people book their tours through the cruise line. This is peace of mind as they don’t have to worry about getting back to the ship on time, but it can be more expensive.
In some ports it’s easy to get off and do your own thing or book locally. If you are using a third-party provider, be sure to do your research and pay attention to tour times and costs.
Many restaurants are included in the price of the cruise. The iconic main dining rooms cater for a variety of meals, in addition to buffets, and casual restaurants that serve pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and ice cream. No one is hungry on a cruise.
There is a trend of upselling cruisers with specialty restaurants such as sushi or a steakhouse. It can be fun to try, but it comes at an additional cost. Also, keep in mind that you will have the opportunity to eat at the port and it might be more fun to try some authentic local cuisine.
Most cruise lines provide water, juice, tea, and coffee, but you can expect to pay extra for alcohol, soft drinks, specialty coffee, and water in bottle. There are different options for drink packages.
Take into account how much you normally drink and the cost of the packages. Soft drinks can be quite expensive, averaging around $ 3 per can, beer $ 6-9, wine and cocktails can easily cost $ 10.
Unfortunately, most of the time there is an extra charge (per person) for wi-fi. For some, this is not a problem, and they find free access in the ports, sufficient to check in with family or post a few photos on social networks.
But remember that even if your cell phone plan offers coverage in a foreign country like Mexico, you won’t have coverage in the middle of the ocean and more often than not you can’t buy wi-fi. per day.
Tips are added to the bill on board at a cost of approximately $ 15 per day per person, even more for suites. This is separate from any tip to an excellent room attendant or particularly attentive waiter.
Cruise lines also offer additional photo packages and spa services. Many of these can be booked in advance, but with the casino they can add up.
Requirements to navigate
Each cruise line will provide information on what is needed to navigate, along with acceptable identification. And while some cruise itineraries don’t require a passport, they’re required to fly if for some reason you miss a port departure.
Currently, there are covid-19 tests and vaccine requirements that can change quickly. Plan the best you can in advance, reserving what is needed and checking cruise policies often.
You never know when you’ll need insurance until you do. Whether it’s an accident abroad or a missed departure due to canceled flights, it’s good to have medical insurance, trip interruption, and cancellation.
Cruise lines as well as the main insurance companies offer several products.
Prepare to leave
When packing for a cruise, it’s a good idea to look at the cruise lines’ suggestions as well as their list of prohibited items. There are certain limits on the type and amount of alcohol and food that can be taken on board. Most carry a limited amount of wine and bottled water.
Make sure you take carry-on baggage along with your valuables and required transportation documents or whatever else you need until your baggage is delivered to your statement. Before setting sail, turn off cellular data to avoid unforeseen charges from your cell phone provider.
By the time of your cruise, most of your expenses will already be paid for, but it’s helpful to bring cash for tips and port visits.
And finally, enjoy your first cruise.