Putting together a cruise holiday is an incredibly exciting experience. However without the right plan of action, things can quickly get stressful. To help ensure you encounter as much smooth sailing as possible we’ve put together this handy guide to planning the perfect getaway in 8 easy steps.
Think about what type of cruise holiday you want
Choosing a cruise is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ venture. Itineraries vary greatly from line to line and while some people may be on the search for a sun kissed Caribbean getaway, others may lean towards a chilly traverse down the Norwegian fjords. You should also consider how you want your holiday to pan out. Do you want a destination rich itinerary with plenty of opportunities for exploring? Or would you rather a cruise that focusses on at-sea fun?
When do you want to cruise?
Most cruise lines sail year-round, and tailor their itineraries to suit the weather. For example, October to April is high season in the Caribbean which means you’ll have much more choice. In Europe April to December is the busiest period while in South America, December to March draws in the crowds. Of course, cruising in off season is still possible. The weather may not be perfect but you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and better deals!
Draw up a budget
Avoid nasty bank account surprises and draw up a budget well in advance. Cruise 1st offers great online deals across a huge range of itineraries. Don’t forget to factor in on-board expenses such as drinks, spas and shopping, as well as any shore excursions you may wish to sign up for. If you plan on indulging in daily wines, cocktails and soft drinks pre-purchasing a drinks package could be a good idea.
The on-board experience
The type of ship you choose will have a huge impact on your overall experience. Do you want the razzle and dazzle of a big ship with Broadway style shows, Vegas-esque casinos, spacious public areas and sumptuous buffets? Or do you prefer the intimate feel, personalised service, meticulous attention to detail and artisan cuisine of small scale lines?
Choose your room wisely
For families, booking spacious suites can make the entire cruise far more relaxing. Honeymooners and couples cruising for a special occasion generally love to splurge on balcony staterooms while those with cash to splash will fall head over heels for the marble bathrooms, private patios, whirlpool spas and private butler service of mini-suites. If you plan on sending very little time in your room it could be a god idea to choose a less expensive inside cabin.
Are the kids coming along?
Are you travelling with the little ones in tow? If so, it’s a good idea to do a little research into what sorts of child-friendly services are on offer. Are there kids clubs, youth programmes, movie theatres, sports courts and swimming pools? What about a babysitting service? Some lines will also refuse to take passengers under 18 so it always pays to do a bit of research before setting your heart on an itinerary.
Are there other expenses/plans involved?
If you’re not departing from your home town you may need to look at organising other elements of your holiday. These include flights to and from the port (if they’re not included), airport transfers and hotels.
Have the right documents
If you’re travelling overseas or calling at foreign ports you’ll need to ensure you have all the right documentation. As well as a passport with a minimum of six months validity you’ll also need to inquire about visas, vaccines and other travel essentials.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: allannah, Sacha Fernandez