Did you know that only 20% of North Americans are cruisers? If you are planning your first cruise, you will soon see why so many return to cruising time and time again.
Use a Travel Agent. I am not just saying this because I am a Travel Agent. There are so many aspects of the cruise vacation that you may not be aware of and it is our role to advise you during the whole process.
Book at least six months in advance. This will ensure the rate and options you desire. Cruise lines want to make sure that all of their departures are full and they are not scrambling at the last minute to fill their cabins, for this reason you will get the best value six months or more from the time of sailing.
Review all of the details of your reservation. Your cabin location and view can change your experience. Do you like to walk? You want to be as far forward or aft as possible. Do you get sea sick? You will want to be mid-ship. If you have an Ocean View or Balcony, do you have anything obstructing your view?
Plan ahead. Your planning is not finished when you make your deposit. Remember your ship is leaving on time whether you are there or not, and you want to be there at least two hours prior to departure. If you are more than a 90 minute drive from the port, consider staying the night before in a hotel close to the cruise port. In addition to saving you the headache and worries that go along with trying to get to the port on time, most cruises leave from cities like Miami, New York and New Orleans where there are many attractions.
Make sure to tell your Travel Agent about any special needs that you may have such as dietary or medical requirements so they can make the proper arrangements for you. Maybe you have medications which require refrigeration or you use a CPAP machine, the ship will need to make special accommodations for you and need to know, in most cases, at least 30 days prior to travel.
Book your excursions. The more popular excursions sell out quickly, so if you find one that you definitely want to do, book it.
Check in online. Like your flight, you can check in to the cruise at the cruises website. This will allow you to board quicker and with more convenience.
Pack a carry on. Your suitcases will be checked and delivered to your room about 1-2 hours after boarding, so bring all essentials with you on a separate carry on. In the carry on you may also want to include one spare change of clothes.
Review your daily newsletter. There will be a newsletter delivered nightly to cabin. Look through it and decide which activities you want to participate. Get out as soon as possible to explore the ship. The cruise ships are moving resorts, there is a spa, shopping, dinning, gambling and many other activities. To get the most out of your vacation, you will want to know where everything is located.
Be ready for the safety demonstration. There is a safety demonstration which is mandatory. The quicker everyone arrives, the quicker it is over and you can start your cruise.
Start planning your next cruise. What? If you are enjoying your cruise, you can book your next one on board before you leave the ship. Why do this? Incentives! You get discounts, upgrades, on board credits and much more. Can’t decide on which cruise to take next? Do an open booking. On most cruise ships they will make a $100 deposit for your next cruise which will be applied to the fare and you can still partake in the amenities offered.
Finally, when you get home follow up with your Travel Agent. Let them know what you liked about the cruise and what you would do differently next time. This helps us to find you the best vacation the next time you are ready to book.
Now get out there and cruise!