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10 Tips For Choosing The Perfect Cruise

Joanna Hall

When it comes to the perfect holiday, there’s nothing quite like a cruise. Cruising offers a hassle-free way to visit several destinations in one trip, with no packing and unpacking, no checking into and out of hotels, and no flight connections in between. There’s also a sense of romance and adventure in taking to the water, whether you are navigating one of the world’s great oceans, or meandering down one of its majestic rivers. Choosing the right ship is essential to the enjoyment of your holiday,  however, so here’s 10 tips to help you to make the right decision.

Do Your Research

Things to check include the size of the vessel, the number of passengers it carries, the itinerary, and days in port versus days at sea if you are unsure of the state of your sea-legs. Also check the availability of facilities or services which are important to you, such as a gym, or alternative restaurants, and read recent reviews to get a clear idea of the type of on board experience you can expect. 

Work Out A Budget

Decide what you can afford to pay, and compare this with a cruise fare. Be aware that while some mass market cruises appear cheap at face value, on board you will have to pay for “extras” including surcharges to eat in alternative restaurants, alcohol, soft drinks and specialty coffees, so it will be worth checking all-inclusive fares, as many of these additional costs are covered. Some fares are cruise-only and do not include flights, and if a cruise starts and finishes in different destinations one-way flights may be more expensive. You will also have to cover the cost of visas if required.   

Shop Around

Shop around for the best price. Some operators are offering benefits including free flights, accommodation upgrades, and other incentives to lure new customers. Also some mass market cruise ships allow you to pre-purchase “packages” for a fixed fee which allow unlimited soft drinks, house beers and house wine. 

Cruising With Kids

Some ships are built specifically with families in mind, with on board facilities from kid pools and computer games rooms, to teen discos and child minding for toddlers. Also, if cruising with kids, you will need to factor in additional costs for soft drinks, treats such as ice cream or fresh juices, and some activities.  

Adults Only

If you want to be as far away from kids and teens as possible, consider an adults only ship, going five star, or choosing an expedition ship. Another option is to opt for a mass market cruise ship outside of school holidays, or one which has designated “adults-only” areas. Riverboats are also a good choice as they are generally don’t have kids, smaller ones especially, as they have no facilities catering to them. 

Repositioning Cruises

These are one-off voyages which move a ship from one region to another, and they can offer many benefits including a reduced fare, a longer itinerary with more sea days, and some unusual destinations en-route. The only snag is that one-way flights are usually involved as the cruise starts and ends in a different place, so you will need to add this to your budget. 

Consider Health Concerns 

If you need to follow a special diet or use a wheelchair, make sure that the ship or riverboat you’re thinking of can accommodate your needs. Also be aware that smaller ships and riverboats often do not have a doctor on board, and certain itineraries may involve visiting remote destinations or long stretches at sea, which could be a problem in the case of a health emergency.  

Be Accommodation Savvy  

Cruise ship accommodation can have an impact on seasickness, but the most stable spot is right in the middle - that’s top to bottom and side to side - so the best cabins for prone cruisers are in the middle towards the waterline with a window. If you are less mobile, ask for a cabin near the elevators or closer to the public decks. You can save money by booking an inside cabin (with no window), and those with multiple berths are good for groups of friends or small families.

Research Your Destinations

Shore excursions are usually extra, but if you do research the destinations you will cruise to you may find that some places can be easily explored on foot, or by using local transport or renting a car. Before booking anything independently, however, make sure you have enough time in port to go by yourself, and only do it in places which are safe and easy to navigate. 

Check The Dress Code 

Some cruises are more traditional than others, and may require black tie outfits for formal nights. If your idea of dressing smart is a pair of jeans and a polo shirt, however, pick a ship without a strict dress code, besides a polite request that you don’t wear shorts or bathers to dinner. 


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