When it comes to cruising, there is no all-encompassing product that fits every person. Each cruise line is different, just like every cruiser. If you’re interested in taking a cruise, there are a variety of factors to consider. Do I want a big ship or small ship? An all-inclusive or a la carte package? Ocean or river itinerary? And then there’s the destination to consider. Cruise companies have sailings all over the world, giving you plenty of options to choose from and making it harder to decide where to go.
AAA Travel has some helpful tips for planning your cruise, as well as some interesting trends you should keep in mind when choosing a cruise.
There are a lot of changes going on in cruising, and many of those will have an impact on what kind of cruise you want to take. Right now, many cruise companies are making the move toward a more inclusive cruise experience. Luxury cruise lines started this trend a few years ago by including everything from staff gratuities to specialty dining and shore excursions in the cost of the cruise, but larger cruise lines have also started incorporating some of these amenities as part of promotions. AAA Travel Agents are well informed on these deals, and can help you navigate the “ocean” of possibilities.
As society becomes more tech-driven, cruise lines are responding with new ships that offer unprecedented technology advancements. Cruise lines are starting to offer Wi-Fi speeds on some ships that rival what guests experience at home, however, there are many instances where at sea Wi-Fi can be slow. Some cruise lines offer unlimited Internet for a daily fee. Keep in mind though that onboard Wi-Fi can still be costly if you purchase them a la carte, so consider buying a package to help you save money. Many cruise lines also have smartphone apps that, when linked to the ship’s Wi-Fi network, gives users access to the program of daily activities and a way to communicate with one another while onboard the ship. If you don’t want to spend the money or risk the chance of a slow connection, you can take the opportunity to disconnect and relax.
River cruising is an increasingly popular vacation option. These cruises allow travelers to explore some of the most intriguing cities of the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia in a leisurely way. The ships are smaller and provide a more intimate experience. If you prefer keeping your vacations smaller, this might be the right cruise for you.
Booking a cruise is not as simple as one might think, especially with all the different cruise companies, destinations, promotions and general information you need to know. Work with a travel agent. They work with cruise lines every day and often have access to added benefits that are not available elsewhere. They can provide clients information on values and savings during certain times of the year—for example when a cruise line is offering extra incentives to sail to a destination, special offers for residents or military personnel, or special promotions for kids to travel, eat or stay free.
The next question you may be asking is “when should I book?” January through March is typically the best time to book a cruise. Often referred to as “Wave Season,” this provides travelers an opportunity to get some tremendous deals for popular summer cruises to Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean. Prospective cruise passengers should book early and take advantage of special promotions to secure their first choice of ship, itinerary, cabin location and sailing date.
Before booking a cruise, consider your priorities. There are cruises to match every vacation type – from casual and laid back to formal, high-end luxury and nearly everything in between. A knowledgeable travel agent can help you determine your priorities and identify a cruise line, itinerary and ship to match your lifestyle, budget and destination interests.
Every cruise company offers onshore excursions in each port, and these usually fill up quickly. Book shore excursions directly through your travel agent when you book your cruise; don’t wait until you get to your destination or onboard.
One of the most important things to consider when cruising is reaching the city where the cruise will depart. Delays happen, so plan to get to your embarkation port the day before the cruise, not the morning of departure. Cruise ships have firm departure times and won’t wait for a delayed flight.
If you’re planning a family vacation, a cruise may be the best option. Cruise ship vacations can be great for multigenerational travel and family reunions. AAA surveys have shown that multi-generational travel is on the rise, and cruises are an ideal vacation for people of all ages. There are plenty of things to do on board as a group, as well as opportunities for family members to break off and partake in different activities without a conflict of interest.
Cruising can also be a great value for family travel as many costs are included in the base price (including food, lodging, transportation, entertainment and activities, including children’s programs on many cruise lines). Cruisers can experience many destinations with only needing to unpack once.
If you are traveling with young kids, be sure to pack essentials they may need the first day in a carry-on bag, as it can sometimes take a few hours for checked luggage to be delivered to rooms. This will ensure that they have everything they need to start enjoying their cruise right away.
Cruising is a wonderful way to explore the world in comfort. If you’re new to the cruising world and want to plan a trip, AAA Travel is here to help. Contact a AAA Travel Agent today to book your dream cruise vacation.