The temperatures are dipping and you’re ready to escape the bitter cold. You’ve heard friends and family rave about their cruise vacations and now you want to experience sailing on the open seas. But with 314 cruise ships in the world carrying 26 million passengers, selecting a cruise can be more difficult than you might imagine. To help you plan the perfect cruise this guide features the best tips, advice, and resources for first-time cruisers.
You’ll have to decide where do you want to go. You literally have the entire world to explore with cruises. There are cruises to the Arctic and to Alaska where you can see real glaciers.
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There are cruises for coastal cities in Europe and in the Mediterranean.
Or the interior of Europe with a river cruise from Viking Cruises.
You can visit the Caribbean by leaving from several ports in Florida, Texas, New Orleans, Charleston, Baltimore, and New York City. You’ll be visiting picturesque tropical paradises such as Belize, Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Cayman Island, and Turks & Caicos. Not every island is the same and you’ll need to figure out what kind of vacation you want. If you want to go sightseeing, barhopping downtown, go on a rainforest adventure or lounge at the beach. When departing from the Northeast in the winter, keep in mind that you will be in the cold for a few days. So you’ll have more convenience and save on airfare, but you’ll get less island time.
Cruises can be polarizing for many — people who love cruises fall in love with cruising and subsequently only go on vacations for the next 50 years. You’ll need to decide on how many days you want to go away, whether it be two days, five days, seven days, or even a 245-day world cruise that visits 59 countries. If this is your first cruise and you’re not 100% sold on cruises, your best bet might be to go on a short cruise to see if the experience is up your alley.
For a quick and inexpensive cruise, you might want to consider Bahamas Paradise Cruises. They offer 2-night cruises to Grand Bahama Island that set sail every single day of the week from Palm Beach, Florida, so you have a ton of flexibility. There is a variety of food from the buffet and there is also themed nights of Greek and Mexican food. They also offer specialty restaurants for an additional fee such as the Rock Grill, which has a delicious tenderloin medallion that you cook yourself on a hot lava rock. The cruise boasts top-of-the-line spirits and very impressive handcrafted cocktails. The cruise line features entertainment that is fantastic, especially the musicians. Bahamas Paradise Cruises is an excellent value and perfect for a weekend getaway.
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There are several factors that can make a cruise way more expensive than another cruise. As with any other product, supply and demand can cause a cruise price to skyrocket. So for instance, cruises are the most expensive during Christmas week because everyone is off from work and wanting to go somewhere warm to celebrate the holidays. During this week you can expect to pay double the price than just a week or two weeks earlier.
Another factor that can determine the price of the getaway is how old or new the cruise ship is. A sparkling new ship will be more expensive than an older vessel. So if you want to vaca on a new ship that launched in 2018 such as Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Carnival’s Horizon, Norwegian’s Bliss, MSC’s Seaview, Viking’s Orion, Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam, and Celebrity’s Edge, you can expect to pay a premium for all that novelty and new attractions such as a go-kart track.
For Guy Fieri fanatics, Carnival Cruises has a partnership with the spikey blonde-haired prince with a BBQ and burger joint on their ships.
For Disney addicts you can go on a Disney Cruise, which has Mickey Mouse (But expect to pay a high price to vacation with Stormtroopers).
Some methods to book your cruise is to visit the cruise’s website such as MSC Cruises or Bahamas Paradise Cruise. You can also deal directly with a travel agent who can help you narrow down your choices and help you book a cheap cruise.
As far as looking for deals and discounted packages, I personally like to utilize cruise-dedicated websites such as Cruise Direct, Expedia, TripAdvisor, CruCon, and keep an eye on TravelZoo‘s weekly top 20 travel deals.
When it comes to shore excursions you can book with the cruise line in advance or on the ship. You also have the option of booking a shore excursion with companies such as Viator and TripAdvisor, but you will need to coordinate the times with your ship’s arrival and departure. Booking with the cruise line means that they boat won’t leave port without you.
There are extra fees such as tipping your housekeeping and waitstaff. Other fees are tax and port charges. Another piece of advice is that you should fly into the city of your cruise departure at least a day before your cruise embarks. You never know how the weather or other unexpected issues could affect your flight. The cruise does not wait around for you. Plus you get an extra day of vacation.
If on a week-long cruise, prepare to gain 10 pounds or more. With unlimited food at your disposal at all hours, you’re sure to pack on the pounds. All of the ships have gyms and you might want to utilize these in an attempt to keep the weight gain at a minimum. Also, it would be wise to force yourself to walk the stairs to and from your room.
If you’ve never been a cruise you should definitely go on one, you just might get hooked.