The 5 Questions You Need to Ask to Avoid These Cruise-Planning Mistakes
Even with COVID-19 related restrictions, cruise lines are beginning to open for business again, just like hotels and all-inclusive resorts worldwide, and now is a great time to start planning that fantastic cruise you’ve always wanted to take.
One of the things those first-time cruisers don’t realize is that cruise lines plan itineraries for years, and they often allow people to book two or more years ahead. So, no matter the circumstances, there is ample opportunity to plan the perfect cruise.
If you’re new to cruises, it can feel like an overwhelming process. Many things are unique to the cruising world that doesn’t show up in “regular” travel.
Here are five essential questions you need to answer before booking your cruise so you don’t wind up accidentally making a rookie mistake. (we’ll show you how to avoid these mistakes, as well!):
1. Which cruise line is the best fit for your/our needs? Cruise lines differ significantly. Some are perfect for romantic couples’ getaways. Others cater to seniors or children. Some offer amenities that are precisely what you’re looking for; others might not. It’s okay to take your time comparing cruise lines and seeing which ones will offer the most of what you want at a great value. Don’t be afraid to shop around!
2. Have you read ALL the fine print? We know, we know. It’s not the most fun part about planning a trip of any kind. But cruises are a significant investment of both time and money. It’s essential to understand what you are signing up for. Are there additional fees? What is expected of you in terms of a payment schedule? How early do you need to arrive? What is the refund or rescheduling policy? Which amenities are included, and which cost extra? Make sure you’ve got it dialed so there are no surprises and your trip can go smoothly.
3. How picky do you want to be about your cabin? Again, consider your needs. And beyond that — think about what would be the most fun! If you’re uneasy in enclosed spaces, consider that an inside cabin might not be a good choice. Notice where the staterooms are located on the ship—high traffic areas? Engine noise? Do anchors drop? You don’t have to spring for a luxury suite unless you want to, but cabin choice is one area where a little extra can make a massive difference in the overall enjoyment and restfulness of your trip.
4. Have you solidified your meal plans and shore excursions within plenty of time before your departure? This is a big one. Most cruise lines offer a wide variety of dining options — fixed time in a dining area, non-fixed seating, buffets, casual and upscale options. But the rules and expectations are different for each. Some require reservations; some don’t; some have dress codes; some don’t. Make sure you nail this down early. Especially if you’re cruising with kids, the last thing you want is to be scrambling for a meal at the last minute. The same goes with shore excursions: research well and book early. Find out what is required in terms of transport and physical exertion for each option. Read up, so you know which activities are age-appropriate for the members of your group. And, as Family Cruise Companion notes, you don’t have to limit your options to only those offered by the cruise line. Independent shore excursions may be more affordable and might involve smaller groups with more comfortable modes of transportation.
5. Do you have a plan for regular, thorough hand washing? This one might seem strange, but it can make a HUGE difference. Cruise ships cater to thousands of people, all sharing the same space. It’s not common, but illnesses can spread quickly. Especially with little kids, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly, not just for things like before meals or after using the restroom but also at regular intervals. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have easy access to warm soapy water, carry hand sanitizer with you.
Here’s the best news of all: With a travel agent (that’s us), you don’t have to answer these questions alone! We can help you pick the most suitable cruise line and go through ALL the details before signing on the dotted line. We can give you all the inside info so you can choose the best cabin, help you figure out when and where you want to eat, what you want to see and do, and we can help you create a packing list that will keep you safe and well-supplied.
If you’re ready to embark on your first or next cruise adventure, click HERE, and let’s get started! If you’re trying to decide between a river cruise and an ocean cruise option, check out our BLOG that gives you an apples-to-apples comparison.