9 Chapters
Medium 9781628872286

3 CHOOSING & BOOKING YOUR CRUISE

Aaron Saunders FrommerMedia ePub

3

Choosing & Booking Your Cruise

Cruise lines have detailed websites and brochures, or sometimes many different brochures—including e-brochures—full of beautiful glossy photos of beautiful glossy people enjoying fabulous vacations. They’re colorful! They’re gorgeous! They’re enticing! They’re also confusing in that they all blur together very quickly. Sadly, while the lines themselves are very different from one another, their marketing strategies are not.

This chapter is about comparing and contrasting, so you can pick the cruise that’s right for you. And about not getting taken, so you can feel good about your vacation costs.

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that picking the right cruise is a lot like buying a car: Any one will get you where you want to go, but there are some that will make you happier than others.

Questions to Ask Before You Book

When you look at the attributes of the various ships and itineraries to make your choice, some determining factors will be no-brainers. For instance, if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want a ship with a good kids’ program. If you’re a foodie, you’ll want a ship with gourmet cuisine. If you usually stay at B&Bs when you travel, you’ll probably prefer one of the small ships.

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5 PREPPING FOR THE CRUISE

Aaron Saunders FrommerMedia ePub

5

Prepping for the Cruise

Packing, budgeting, embarkation…oh my! There are a number of tasks you’ll need to accomplish before you can board the boat and start to relax. Here’s a quick rundown with our (hopefully) helpful tips, plus some info on shipboard customs, fees and scheduling that you’ll want to know well before your trip.

Packing for Your Cruise

The must-haves on any cruise include a raincoat, an umbrella, and comfortable walking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. A swimsuit is also a must if your ship has a pool or hot. You’ll also want to pack enough outfits for daytime sightseeing and dinners in the evening.

Packing for Formal, Informal & Casual Events

Some people agonize over what to pack for a cruise, but there’s no reason to fret. Except for the addition of a formal night or two, a cruise vacation is really no different from any resort vacation. And in some cases, it’s much more casual so don’t feel you have to go out and buy “cruise wear.” Sweatshirts, jeans, and jogging outfits are the norm during the day. Dinner is dress-up time on most ships, but certainly not on all (and except on smaller vessels, there’s always somewhere you can just pick up a quick bite in shorts and a t-shirt). The small adventure-type ships are all casual, all the time.

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6 THE MAINSTREAM LINES

Aaron Saunders FrommerMedia ePub

6

THE Mainstream Lines

Here’s where the rudder hits the road: It’s time to choose the ship that will be your home away from home on vacation. We’ll start with the cruise lines you know even if you’ve never set foot on one. They’re the ones with the catchy TV spots, glossy magazine spreads, and omnipresent website banner ads that make cruises seem like sheer paradise—and for many people, they really are.

Today’s mainstream ships are part theme park, part shopping mall, and part faux downtown entertainment and dining district, all packaged in a sleek hull with an oceanview resort perched on top. The biggest are really big: 14 stories tall, 1,000 feet long, with cabin space for between 2,000 and 5,000-plus passengers and a couple of thousand crewmembers. Most of the mainstream lines have spent the past 15 years pumping billions into ever-newer, bigger, and fancier ships. The newer the ship, the more whoopee you can expect: open-air boardwalk districts, bowling alleys, water parks, ice-skating rinks, outdoor movie theaters, surfing machines, giant spas, rock-climbing walls, full-size basketball courts, and virtual-reality golf, plus classics like hot tubs, theaters, water slides, and bars, bars, bars.

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2 DIFFERENT TYPES OF CRUISERS

Aaron Saunders FrommerMedia ePub

2

Different Types of Cruisers

Choosing the ship that’s right for you has as much to do with whom you’re cruising with than anything else (and that includes traveling alone). This chapter covers the best options for families, romance-seekers, solos, groups, and travelers with disabilities. Read on.

Family Travel

Many parents take their kids with them on cruise vacations. The big ship lines have responded with youth counselors and supervised programs, fancy playrooms, teen centers, and even video-game rooms to keep kids entertained while their parents relax. Some lines even go so far as to offer special shore excursions and spa treatments for children and teens, and most ships provide additional evening activities and in-cabin babysitting (for an extra charge). You may even find reduced cruise fares for kids; MSC Cruises is famous for offering “kids-sail-free” promotions at certain times of the year.

And children certainly enjoy cruising. The largest ships have splash parks, water slides, game show-style activities, and character meet and greets as well as sea day brunches with costumed favorites. On land, there are often family-friendly activities (sometimes at ships’ private islands) such as beachcombing, trampoline parks, splash parks, water slides, zip-lines, and kid-friendly barbecues. Cruise vacations can be a hybrid of a resort, an amusement park, and a shopping mall, meaning plenty of entertainment for kids of all ages.

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1 CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHIP

Aaron Saunders FrommerMedia ePub

1

choosIng the right ship

Choosing a cruise is a complicated decision. You have to decide where in the world you want to go. Then, you have to figure out which line suits your taste as well as your budget, and then which of the ships within the line is the right fit for you (since they can vary greatly, even within the same cruise line).

So why is it such a hard decision? While you may think that the moment you decide to take a cruise is when you define your vacation, it’s really the moment when you pick your ship that determines the fate of your holiday. People tend to lump cruising together as one type of vacation, but cruise lines are as different from one another as hotel chains—usually even more so. Some lines are young and fun and loud and even a little messy; some are older and sophisticated with intellectual leanings or a posh and refined atmosphere; others are full of energy and designed for families with children of multiple ages. Choose the wrong ship and you’ve chosen the wrong vacation.

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