Cruise Tip #1: Do Your Homework
No one likes homework -- especially our kids. But a when it comes to a cruise vacation, our first of ten cruise tips is that a little research goes a long way. Put this cruise tip into action by deciding what type of destinations you'd like to visit on your cruise. Do you want tropical destinations? A European cruise? Want to sightsee in Alaska? There are enough cruise destinations to keep you busy for a long time -- you just have to figure out where to go first! A great place to start your research on destinations is none other than the websites of popular cruise lines. There, you'll be able to see what destination ports are offered, and what excursions are available at those ports. You may also want to search the web for port reviews to gain extra insight into the amenities at various cruise destinations.
Once you've settled on what types of ports you'd like to visit, the next phase of this cruise tip involves deciding what cruise line you'd like to sail with. Again, visiting the websites of the numerous cruise lines, or speaking with a travel agent, will help you determine exactly which line you'd like to use, based on various things such as ticket prices, amenities, and location of cruise terminals. Another good way to get a feel for different cruise lines and ships is to check out the many cruise reviews available around the web. These give you an unbiased report, from your fellow cruisers, on what to expect from cruise lines.
Cruise Tip #2: Consider an Interior Room
There's nothing wrong with getting a room with a view. But that having been said, we often go for the interior rooms when we cruise. Why? Because the rates for these rooms are often half or less of what you'd pay for some of the more upscale rooms. Think about it: there is so much available on a cruise ship that you'll probably spend very little time in your room. If you're reasonably healthy and active, about the only time you're going to be in your room is to sleep, shower, and change clothes, so why pay double for a room you'll hardly see?
There are a few exceptions to this cruise tip, however. For example, if you're cruising to Alaska, it would be nice to be able to sit on your balcony and watch the landscape go by. Or, if you're physically handicapped to the point that you'll spend much of your time in your stateroom, then an ocean view or balcony room would be a great option. Otherwise, our second cruise tip is that you consider an interior room. This is one cruise tip that could have you on a good start towards paying for your next cruise vacation with the money you save!
Cruise Tip #3: Be Sure You're Getting the Best Deal
Price isn't everything, but our third cruise tip is to be sure that you're getting a great deal for the money. Often, just the timing of when you book can make a huge difference in the price of your cruise. For instance, all other things being equal, the cost of a cruise in the fall can often be about half the cost of that same cruise in the summer. And, you have to bear in mind that, when you cruise to a tropical destination, it's always 'summer', even if you're paying 'off-season' prices!
It is often said that you should 'book early or book late.' What this means is that, early on, cruise lines are eager to get bookings rolling, so there are great deals to be had when you book your cruise many months in advance. As ticket sales pile up for a particular cruise week, the prices will often rise as demand picks up and the supply of rooms dwindles. Then, in the final days before the trip, the cruise lines are frantically trying to fill the remaining vacant rooms, and so the good deals come again -- it's just that, this late in the game, you're going to be limited in your choices of available rooms.
Once you book and pay for your cruise, it's still not a bad idea to keep an eye on the cruise line websites for price drops. On at least one occasion, we have booked a cruise through the cruise line, then a couple weeks later saw the price drop on their website, called back in, and got our price lowered to the new price! I guess it's easier for them to give you the new cheaper price than have you cancel your trip, then turn around and re-book at the lower price. As you can see, a large part of this cruise tip involves the timing of your booking.
Another big part of putting this cruise tip into action involves keeping your eyes peeled for any types of discounts offered. On occasion, you may find that a cruise line offers discounts to certain groups of people, such as military personnel, seniors, or those who belong to certain types of associations.
Cruise Tip #4: Consider Buying Cruise Insurance
You've worked hard to save for your cruise vacation. You've invested thousands of dollars. Now, at the last minute, some unavoidable circumstance has caused you to miss your cruise. The only thing worse than knowing that the ship has sailed without you, is knowing you've just lost thousands of dollars with no hope of recovering it. Not only have you missed your vacation, but the money you would've used to reschedule it is now sailing off into the sunset. Quite the sinking feeling. But it doesn't have to be this way.
For as little as $30, travel insurance is available that can end this stress. But be aware that travel insurance comes in two flavors: Primary and Secondary.
Primary travel insurance is just that... it's meant to be your primary means of reimbursement all by itself. Confused? Well, the explanation of Secondary Insurance should fix that. Secondary Insurance picks up after wherever your other insurance policies (eg. homeowner's) leaves off. Of course, the question then becomes, "But even if my homeowner's insurance will cover some of my travel losses, won't that raise my rates?" For this reason, we recommend Primary Travel Insurance. It's a little more expensive, but it won't affect (or depend upon) any other insurance policies you may have.
Cruise Tip #5: Check your Documents
Our fifth cruise tip is to ensure, ahead of time, that you have all the necessary (and accurate) documentation, including Passports, another form of Photo I.D., Credit Cards, Airline Tickets, Cruise Tickets, Hotel Confirmation and Rental Car Confirmations. Bear in mind that getting passports may take a few weeks, so you don't want to be caught at the last minute without your passport in hand.
Cruise Tip #6: Use a Cruise Packing List
None of us ever forget anything, right? When you're as forgetful as I am, about the only surefire way to be prepared is to use a checklist. Packing lists can be a handy tool for getting most any trip off on the right foot. The difference is, when you're traveling by car to your vacation destination, it's easy to swing by Wal-Mart on the way to pick up items you forgot at home. But on a cruise vacation, once that ship leaves port, it may be difficult or impossible to obtain certain items you need aboard the ship. So our sixth cruise tip is to remind you that, even much more than on other types of vacations, a cruise packing list is vital to ensuring those important items don't get left behind.
Cruise Tip #7: Be At The Airport Early
It's never a joy to deal with the hustle and bustle of getting to and through airports. Airport parking, ticket counters, and metal detectors are just not my idea of fun. But in this day and age, with increased security threats, the bottleneck at the airport has gotten even greater -- and more time-consuming. So, with that in mind, number seven on our cruise tips list is to remind you to get to the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time. Doing so will give you the time to get through all the hurdles without beginning your vacation stressed out.
Cruise Tip #8: Keep Important Items With You When Checking In
It's nice to be able to just drop all your baggage with the guys in the hula shirts at the the cruise terminal, and then have it just show up outside your room. But that having been said, our eighth cruise tip is to not forget that there are some items that you don't want to get wheeled off with your checked luggage. We bring our laptop computer aboard, so we have a laptop bag with a shoulder strap that comes in handy for this. It has lots of pockets, so it's also great for carrying all the items that we need to carry aboard ourselves, such as our cruise tickets, passports, photo I.D.'s, credit cards, cash, jewelry, medications and more. If you don't carry a laptop computer, any similar type of small bag will serve the same purpose.
Cruise Tip #9: Be Patient
Mushing through the cruise terminal, it's easy to feel like you're part of a huge herd of cattle. There's just no easy way to get 3,000 people, with carry-on luggage, through one or two doors when boarding a ship. But you can be assured that the cruise line wants your business, so they will be sure to get you aboard. Our ninth cruise tip is to remind you to be patient: everyone will get aboard before the ship leaves, so there's no sense in ruffling anyone's feathers, or ruffling your own. You may find that your cruise line has provided refreshments for you to enjoy while waiting in the terminal. Take advantage of them, or just use the waiting time to gather your thoughts and slow down, before you start an amazing vacation.
Cruise Tip #10: Check Your Stateroom & Dining Table
Once aboard, resist the urge to explore the entire ship right away -- you've got several days to do that. Instead, our next cruise tip is to find your stateroom and give it a looking over. For instance, you may find that your room has not been prepared properly, such as beds being made seperate when they should have been pushed together. Following this cruise tip to catch these types of problems now will give your stateroom attendant time to correct them before the end of the day. Who knows, you may even find that someone has sent a gift to your stateroom!
Drop whatever luggage you carried aboard while in your stateroom. There will likely be a safe in the room for your valuables. If you brought neck lanyards for your 'sail and sign' cards, now is a good time to attach your card to the lanyard. Be sure to check that your card will open your room before you leave.
Afterwards, we suggest that you head straight for the main dining room to check your dining table. The Maitre d' should be able to assist you with locating your table, and should be able to make any necessary changes, such as if your table is not large enough for your party.
Bonus Cruise Tip (And maybe the most important): Don't Sweat It!
We've said it before -- one of the greatest things about a cruise vacation is that, once you're aboard, pretty much everything is taken care of for you. You don't have to worry about where to go for dinner, where to go for entertainment, hunting for hotels, etc. -- which is probably why it is such a stress-free vacation option. If you make it aboard with a couple changes of clothes and a toothbrush, you're pretty well set for the week! So our final cruise tip is don't sweat the small stuff.
We hope that the cruise tips presented here will help cut through some of the questions about the specifics of cruising. It's true that preparing for a cruise vacation holds a different set of requirements, but the payoff is that you won't have to want for a thing over the course of your trip. Do a reasonable amount of research and preparation, and put these cruise tips into action -- but then just relax and let it happen!
You'll find even more cruise tips sprinkled around this entire website. We also strongly suggest you take a look at our new e-book, CruiseGuide 2012 , shown on the left side of this page, at the top. It is an instant download...no waiting for the book to arrive. It is loaded with cruise tips and ways to save big with cruising. The cost is $9, but it could save you hundreds - if not thousands - of dollars on your next cruise vacation.
Cruising Insider Magazine