So you are planning a cruise, what do you need to know? Cruising has become one of the most popular ways to take a family on vacation. In days past cruising was the thought of as a way for retirees to travel and relax. Today cruising is popular with all demographics, not just the senior travelers. Many couples choose a cruise for their honeymoon because one of the best things about cruising is that you can disconnect and completely relax. Families love cruising for the variety of activities and experiences available on a cruise. Cruise lines now have options for childcare and activities for every age group. Both children and teens have a great time with specially trained youth cruise directors.
So now that you have decided on a cruise, what should you know when you start planning a cruise?
What do you need to know about planning? I suggest you plan ahead and determine when and where you want to go. I can’t stress this enough. Cruising is getting very popular so waiting for those last minute deals is a thing of the past. Most cruise lines have itineraries available up to two years in advance, which tells you that the demand for cruising is very high.
In the U.S. the Caribbean is a popular destination and the best the place to go if you are looking for sun and surf. There are several itineraries to choose from, leaving from ports in Florida, Texas and California.
What do you need to know about payments? Take advantage of the payment option cruises offer. You can put a deposit down, usually 10 to 20% and then you have several months to save for the balance. Most cruise lines require that payment in full be made 180 days before the sail date. There are also options to add travel insurance and even airfare.
What do you need to know about passports? Passports are required for every member of the family. Even if you don’t plan any excursions in the Ports of Call, you are still technically out of the country.
What do you need to know about cruise lines in general? Learn a little about the cruise lines available. There are more and more cruise lines on the market and knowing a little about the ones that are most popular is helpful. Most of the cruise lines have sailings all around the world, and leave from most major ports in the U.S. Here are a few of my favorites, but there are plenty more to choose from.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines offers sailings to the Caribbean from Florida and Texas as well as, sailings from Los Angelos to Mexico. Royal is a great option for families. They offer lots of great excursions, and fun activities aboard ship along with both family friendly and adult entertainment. Royal is part of a family of cruise lines that include Celebrity and Azamura.
Disney Cruise Lines is the most family friendly option available. It brings the magic of Walt Disney World to sea. They offer everything have the best in live family friendly, broadway-styled, Disney-themed shows, live character meetings, and fun for the whole family and even fireworks at sea. This is my personal favorite cruise line, since I am a huge Disney fan. I think everyone should take at least one Disney cruise. They are a little more pricey, but pretty much everything is included in that price.
Princess Cruise Line offers slightly smaller ships with more cabins that are on the outer side of the ships. They are what is considered a “experiencial” cruise line because they want their guests to have experience-based cruising, offering excursions that draw guests into really understand the culture of the places they visit. Another great family option.
What do you need to know about what is included in your payment? No matter which cruise line you choose there will be different options included in the price of the cruise. Prices for cruises are on a per person basis, and usually include the basics, like meals, drinks (non alcoholic) and accommodation. Most cruise lines offer packages that include extras like alcohol, coffee cards, internet service etc. Knowing the cost of these before you go can ensure the best experience possible on the ship and off. Another thing to remember about the pricing is that it is based on double occupancy, meaning if you book a room as a single person you will pay as much or almost as much as a couple. This is true of hotels also.
Ask for help. As you can see there is a lot to know about cruising and I have just touched on the most common questions I get. Planning can be daunting if you have never done a cruise before. It can be a lot to navigate on your own, so don’t be afraid to work with a travel agent. Picking the “best deal” may not be the right option for your family so reaching out to a professional can save you both time and money.