With the cruise industry being popular for 2021, I thought an article about booking the perfect cruise would be appropriate.
Cruising can seem like a minefield. There are hundreds of ships and many more waterways from which to choose. You may have read or heard about cruises on Europe’s rivers, sailings around the Mediterranean coast or trips to a far-flung destination such as Alaska. Indeed, the breadth and scope of cruising itineraries is mind-boggling.
A cruise is an ideal way to explore the cities of Europe, whether your goal is to marvel at ancient architecture, delve into art museums, meet with locals, or indulge in the food and wines of the countries you visit.
Where do you want to go? If you’ve not been on a cruise before, how do you know it’s for you? Truthfully, it’s one of those things you’ll never know until you try. Many people become hooked for life after their first cruise.
In Europe ocean cruises can take you north to the Baltic; to the fjords or the Arctic’s North Cape, both in Norway or to Iceland. If you head south, you can cruise the Mediterranean or the Black Sea. There are also voyages around the UK.
In North America ocean cruises can take you up the East Coast, usually from New York, and along the St Lawrence in Canada; from Florida to the Caribbean; up the West Coast to Alaska from San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver, and south to Mexico.
Navigable rivers in the US include the Mississippi, the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest and the St Lawrence. In South and Central America, ocean cruises can take you along the east or west coast (or both) via the Panama Canal and around Cape Horn. Some itineraries include the Chilean fjords and Falkland Islands.
Basically, the world’s your oyster!
When is the best time to go? Summer is the most popular time, but if your schedule is flexible you may want to travel in spring or autumn when you’ll see fewer travellers and generally more attractive prices. The answer to this question also depends on your destinations, whether Northern Europe or Mediterranean countries. It’s handy if you can check the weather in your destination cities and be prepared for chilly or rainy days.
How many days should I go for? A typical cruise lasts from a couple of days, to a couple of weeks. It all depends on how brave are you willing to be for your first cruise?
For families, one-week cruises are ideal. Consider vacation time, time away from school and extracurricular activities for kids, pet care and household concerns in your decision. I think a week is about the perfect amount of time, but you might want to plan a three, four or five-day trip if you aren’t sure you’ll like it. You don’t want to be trapped aboard ship for two weeks after finding out you hate cruising on day one!
Which cruise line should you choose? If you’re looking for something special and budget is not an issue, here are some suggestions.
For multi-generation family groups, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are good places to start. For luxury at sea, try Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd (for Europa 1 and 2), Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea and Seabourn. There is a new kid on the block known as Viking Ocean Cruises, which offers offers “grown-up” cruising and stylish, minimalist decor.
British lines Saga, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and P&O Cruises offer year-round sailings from the UK while Royal Caribbean (with Navigator and Independence of the Seas), Celebrity Cruises (Celebrity Eclipse), Azamara and MSC Cruises offer seasonal departures. Fred Olsen sails from several key UK ports. For the northern lights, consider Hurtigruten, which plies the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes.
What type of cabin should you choose? Inside cabins have no window or balcony – although a few newer ships feature a “virtual” version. But you may not miss having your own outside space in colder seasons or on northerly routes.
Upgrading to a suite could give you a separate sitting room, a second bathroom, possibly a bathtub as well as a shower, and a larger balcony. Check brochures or compare floor plans online.
What should I pack for my cruise trip? Pack comfortable shoes, rain gear, sweaters, sunglasses, and hats. Check your medical insurance policy regarding coverage overseas and obtain travel medical insurance if necessary.
Be sure to have required medications and non-prescription drugs that might be needed during the cruise. Extra chargers and adapters for electronics are suggested as well as camera batteries and a portable battery to recharge phones on the run after a full day of taking photos or sending emails. Some travelers enjoy having a book or an e-reader for quiet relaxation while cruising.
For most days in port, comfort is key for lots of walking, often on cobblestone streets. On board, you’ll want to have nicer outfits for daytime, and dinners are generally casual unless there is a special event. On most cruise lines, the days of formal dress and tuxedos are in the past. It’s best to check with your cruise line and review your itinerary as you plan your clothing. A swimsuit and workout gear are recommended as most ships offer exercise classes, pools, and spas.
My Final Thought After you’ve planned your cruise and scheduled it you still have a lot of work ahead of you. Among other things, you need to consider which clothes and other items to pack, you need to make sure your passports are up to date, you have to start thinking about shore excursions and other expenses, and preparing for household issues like pet care, mail and paper delivery.
But don’t let one of the best parts of cruising pass you by. Because after you’ve chosen your cruise line, picked your destination and booked your cabin, stop for a minute and take a deep breath.
Because you’re going on a cruise!
During the months and weeks leading up to a cruise, everyday life seems a whole lot better. It might be a little stressful, but don’t forget to get excited! That’s part of the fun! Good luck planning your cruise vacation!