Cruising can be a great way to see new places, meet new people and find new experiences. I remember being so excited before my first cruise. We researched as much as we could to find the best cruise line and itineraries. After all, we were going on an adventure of a lifetime!
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Is cruising right for you
So is cruising right for you? Many elements go into picking the best cruise line that suits your needs. As not all cruise lines are created equal, it makes sense to do your research first. There are several elements that should be taken into account when choosing the perfect sailing journey. Let’s take a look.
Points to consider when choosing a cruise
Cruising itineraries can vary quite extensively from one cruise line to the next, although the ports they stop in can be the same. Sometimes you will be docked for a few hours, a day, or even overnight. Depending on the type of cruise you’re doing, you could stay even up to a few days in the same port.
Cruise lines are definitely vying to attract passengers with creative destinations and things to do. There is always plenty to choose from visiting old cities, exploring various natural surroundings, beaches, and organized adventure trips.
How long the cruise lasts is also a consideration. Some are as short as three days, while others can be in the 7-10 days range. Some range from weeks and even months! If a cruise around the world is your thing, you’ll definitely be going to find yourself on a ship for a long time.
Being on a boat for an extended amount of time can be a fun adventure. Unless, like me, you suffer from seasickness. I was really unsure about going on a cruise because of that reason. I ended up bringing some anti-nausea pills and one of those wrist bands with a pressure ball to deal with the sickness.
There were only a handful of times when I had actually to take the meds. Being ready, helped me deal with the issue and I found that it didn’t affect my overall experience. Seasickness shouldn’t stop you from cruising, but make sure you are ready when you go.
Depending on the cruise line and the type of cruise you’ll look at, additional costs should be kept in mind. Most cruises won’t include the flight to and from the port your ship will depart and return to. Some ships include alcohol, while others don’t. Depending on the cruise line, you might be allowed to bring your own (type and amount vary). Some would argue that the best cruise line includes all the drinks, but that also comes with a price. Or you could try to sneak some of your own.
Excursions are another item that should be considered. While some of the ship activities are included, others have an extra charge. There will also be opportunities to buy souvenirs, professional photos and various other items in the shops onboard the ship. These costs can add up quite fast, so it’s important to keep that in mind. Sometimes it is customary to leave a tip at the end of your stay, but that again varies by company.
Picking the best cruise type
No matter your lifestyle or stage in life, there is a cruise line out there for you.
Cruises can be a great option for a family vacation. They usually offer lots of activities and shows aimed to keep both kids and parents entertained. The Disney Cruise Line offers sailing options for kids and the kid-at-heart passengers with themed staterooms, ships and excursions.
There are various other lines with kid-friendly options for all ages. While there are many activities and shows for children, these cruise lines also cater to the adults so everyone in the family can have a great time. Bring along the grandparents, cousins and the like, and you have yourself a family reunion.
If a family setting is not your thing, you can choose adult-focused cruising with that special someone in your life. From a romantic sail to celebrate a special moment in your life, to the more naughty options, these cruises cater to the adults who just want to have fun.
For those that don’t have a special someone in their life, you have nothing to fear. There is a cruise just for you. These voyages bring fun-loving people together with an opportunity for a great adventure and a chance to meet that special someone. After all, not having a partner shouldn’t get in the way of vacationing and visiting new destinations.
Whether you grab your single friends or go alone, you’ll have an opportunity to discover great destinations and have fun. I assume it would beat any other singles events where you’re forced to sit through awkward speed-dating type evenings. Most cruise lines will even help match roommates, so all you have to do is show up and be open-minded.
Specialty cruises can fall into any of the above categories. From gay, nude, culinary, or Harry Potter party, there are plenty of themed cruises. They can be for singles, couples, or families, depending on the theme. The cruise lines are getting creative in finding a way to appeal to everyone.
A friend of mine did a cruise where they would ride a bike for a set amount of kilometres each day. They would be picked up by the boat at the end of the route and start the next day. These days, you can pick a cruise based on your favourite pastime from running, yoga and meditations to poker, Star Trek, or even Walking Dead cruises with other like-minded individuals.
Best cruise line destinations
It almost seems that if there is a body of water, there is a cruise option available. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular destinations.
The Caribbean cruises are very popular, especially among the North American crowd. During the winter, this type of vacation provides an opportunity to escape the cold while doing some island hopping in the sun. Duration and itineraries are similar between the cruise lines, and many offer great deals. You’re not likely to be stopping in a new destination every day and might have some days on the ship.
When we went on our Caribbean cruise, our itinerary was changed because of the weather. It still turned out to be a great trip. As many of the islands tend to be cruise stops, changing itineraries isn’t difficult. Be ready for this, especially when you’re travelling during the hurricane season.
Unlike the laid back island hopping Caribbean version, the Mediterranean cruises stop at some of Europe’s most popular playgrounds. Here you’ll be docking in ports of cities steeped in history, culture and sun-soaked beaches. Excursions are always interesting, and there is a lot to see in each port.
This is also a great way to see Europe, which might be very expensive to see outside a cruise. Most of these routes focus on specific areas, with more stops in fewer countries. This makes Mediterranean cruising very popular.
You definitely won’t be experiencing any beaches on an Alaskan cruise. Be ready for raw and untouched natural beauty with glaciers, ocean and rugged terrain. You are also likely to step back in time to the days of the gold rush and imagine what life was like in those days. Alaskan cruise is a bucket list item of mine, and I hope to experience this shortly.
Alaska is a very popular destination for cruising with several reasons for that. The ships tend to be smaller and offer access to otherwise inaccessible places. Very similar to what you see in Norway, the glaciers are a lot easier to get to by most Americans and Canadians. After all, Alaska is part of the U.S., which makes it a closer destination than Norway. Pretty strong incentive.
River cruises are in a class of their own. While most popular ones are on Europe’s rivers, you can find river cruises in other parts of the world. These ships are smaller, both in size and in the number of passengers. They tend to be a bit more pricey, but often include a lot more in that cost.
The stops are generally in larger European cities and offer a more intimate opportunity to explore. There are a number of them that I have my eye on at the moment. What a great way to see so much of the continent.
Asia, Australia and South America
Not to be outdone, there are fabulous cruise options around Asia, Australia and South America. Some tend to be long in duration and offer longer stays in port. Whether you want to sail the Panama Canal, check out the outback or take an excursion to the Taj Mahal, there is an option for you.
Custom cruises are ones that interest me the most. Cruises around the world and smaller, custom ones are where it’s at. Not too long ago, I wrote about a show that I became addicted to watching. Discovery’s Mighty Cruise Ships is about extraordinary voyages and the behind the scenes that go into putting them together. A mere $20,000 takes you on a 50-day journey. Sign me up!
The pros and cons of cruising
Some love cruising and others don’t. It’s often a personal decision and can vary based on the type of cruise that served as the experience.
- Scope out a destination – Cruises are a great opportunity to check out places you want to visit but are not sure about. A quick stop in the port can help you decide whether you like the place or not.
- Multiple destinations – Simply, more destinations in a shorter time. Not all people are interested in planning multi-destination trips on their own and on a cruise, someone else does the job.
- Cost-effectiveness – Cruises actually are not bad when it comes to cost. Your meals and beverages (depending on the cruise line) are included, which means you don’t have to spend extra money on food. Unless you want to off the ship. It’s also cheaper to visit multiple destinations on a cruise instead of travelling to each one on your own.
- The social element – You can make new friends while cruising. Not only are you on a ship together, but you might also share experiences and excursions with potential new besties.
- Entertainment – Cruise lines do a great job of keeping you entertained. There are activities and shows planned through the day and night to keep guests busy. You are not likely to be bored on a cruise.
- Quality of food – Food on a cruise is guaranteed to be good. Often, that means outstanding. All restaurants, including buffets and snack bars, offer varied options.
- Amenities – Cruise ships have great amenities. Whether you’re looking for a gym, a pool, or a sauna, you can bet the ship will have one.
- Not enough time – While it’s great to see multiple destinations, sometimes you don’t have enough time to check out the stop. This is especially common if you’re doing an organized tour. On our stop in Cozumel, we did a dune buggy tour. It was great, but it didn’t leave us any time to check out the area by the port.
- People everywhere – You are surrounded by people. Always. Depending on the cruise, finding alone time might be difficult. Unlike a resort or being on land, you can’t really get away from the crowds unless you stay in your own cabin.
- Always on schedule – Usually, when you travel, you are scheduling your own time. On a cruise, everything is scheduled for you. Arrivals and departures, tours starts and ends are also on the schedule. Your meals are served at certain times, and so is the entertainment.
- Much onboard time – Depending on the type of cruise, you will find yourself on board for longer than you like.
- The weather – As with any vacation, the weather can make your trip a bust. Best laid plans, trips and activities can be undone by crappy weather. Cruising is no different. There is nothing worse than weather ruining your fun.
- Extras – Often, once on the ship, you get a card assigned to your account and your credit card. You use that card to buy anything you want on the ship. As you can imagine, that could be dangerous.
- Environmental impact – Cruise ships generate a lot of garbage and leave a large carbon footprint. Some cruise lines focus their efforts on being environmentally conscious, and I hope that becomes the norm across the industry.
Bringing it all together for choosing the best cruise line for you
So the question remains – is cruising for you? There are many options for everyone, so you’re likely to find the best cruise line option for you. I think everyone should experience a cruise at least once in their life. Once you do, you’ll know if it’s for you or not.
I know people who love cruising and go regularly. I also know others who hate it and will not set foot on a ship. Choosing the right cruise line, itinerary, and cruise type will make your experience a more enjoyable one.