Monday, October 28, 2013

Picking the Right Cruise

Time for the next post in my Series Cruising 101 with Selena!

Hopefully, I've convinced you that cruising is a great option
and Matthew has given you a British perspective 

Now it's time to take the next step and select the perfect cruise.

The options seem endless.  So many choices!
This step can certainly be the most overwhelming,
particularly if this is your first cruise. 

Not to mention the pressure to get it right.
You're spending hard earned dollars and valuable holiday time on this cruise.
This is a big decision.   So how do you pick the right cruise?  

This post will break it down to four easy variables that will help you
make this important and exciting decision. 

Who?  (Cruiseline)    What? (Ship)    When? (Season)    Where? (Itinerary)

Who shall we cruise with?

Consider the cruise line's niche, culture and price. Each cruise line is different.  The key is to pick the one that best matches your personality and interests.    What do you want?  Family Fun.  Gourmet Meals.  Great entertainment.  Laid back vibe or party atmosphere.  Each line has their own specialty.  It's also important to consider the culture of each  cruise line.  There is usually a different feel between a cruise line geared towards Americans versus Europeans.  Does this factor into your decision?   Your budget (which we will talk about in a future post) will also help you answer this question.  There is a very wide range of price points in cruising from budget to luxury.  

What ship do we want to spend our time on?

Each cruise line will have a range of ships.  They can vary greatly in age, size and amenities and each of these will lead to a very different experience on board.  What amenities are most important to you?  A stellar kid's program.  Modern spa and fitness center.   Adult's Only pool.   Each year another Mega Ship is launched with anything that you can imagine on board.   But a smaller ship can get into smaller and more interesting ports.  What is more important to you? 

When is the best time to go? 

This one can really trip you up if you don't do enough research.  Imagine taking your European family on a Caribbean Cruise to discover that you've gone during Spring Break Week when every US college student has headed south to get their drink on.   It's important to consider holidays, school schedules, and who else is likely to be on the cruise.   You should also consider weather and travel seasons.  Know that if you cruise the Med in July it's going to be frickin' hot. And if you cruise the Caribbean during Hurricane Season you might miss a port (or get two extra days in Puerto Rico.  Not that we complained.) 

Where do we want to explore?

I love this one!  Where shall we go?   Do we want to lounge on beaches in the Caribbean?  Shall we explore ancient ruins and drink wine in the Mediterranean?  So many options, so little time.  But selecting an itinerary isn't just about the ports.  Be sure to think about your departure point and consider any extra time and cost involved.  Don't forget to think about sea days vs. port days.  As well, as how much time you have.  Three nights?  Two weeks?  Three months?  Itinerary is an important one.   

It's a lot to consider, isn't it?  But don't let it discourage you.

Some of these may have been decided before you even start this process.  Your dates might be limited by school holidays or your itinerary may be something that you already have your heart set on.  It's also important to note that each of these variables may hold different weight in your decision.  You want a cruise line that caters to families no matter where it takes you. 

So start by writing down these four questions and filling in the answers that have already been decided.  Then place them in order of importance for you and your fellow cruiser(s).  This is where the real fun begins!   I hate to even call it research, because it is so much fun.

Recommended Resources  

Cruise Brochures  (Take note of who their target audience is.  Is it you?)
Blogs (That's a no brainer.)
Online Reviews and Forums
Cruise Magazines
Cruise and Travel Shows

Cruise Critic is our number one resource when planning a cruise.  If you don't do anything else I've suggested, visit for their reviews, cruise news, invaluable articles and the community forums.  I've spent countless hours there and not one minute was wasted.

Cruise Specialists

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help.  With the internet at our fingertips, many of us have started bypassing the experts.  (Don't tell me you haven't Googled your symptoms and completely skipped a trip to your GP.)  A Cruise Specialist might be a lifesaver, especially if this is your first cruise.  Find one that comes highly recommended and let them help you wade through all of the details. 

When I was planning my first cruise, I was so nervous.  Not only was it me but five other family members were trusting me with this decision.  I used both a Cruise Specialist and Cruise Critic while planning a week long Caribbean Cruise.   I will admit to one minor meltdown upon embarkation.  (Everyone was looking to me to have all of the answers and guide them through the logistics but I was as overwhelmed by it all as anyone.)  And we did miss a port because of high winds.  But, I we all had a blast  and I fell in love with cruising.  

Once you get that first one under your belt, it gets so much easier.  I promise.
And I highly recommend a Caribbean Cruise.
It's the perfect way to start your very own love affair with cruising.

Next in the series, we'll talk about booking that cruise once you've made your choice.

What's your top tip for picking the perfect cruise?


  1. Great tips! I have never done a cruise. We are hoping to take the kid on a Disney one in a couple years. I'm pathetic like that.

  2. You would love it, Andi! Just sayin'! 

  3. That is so not pathetic. Can you imagine a Disney Cruise?!? That would be sooo awesome. 

  4. Something else to consider---Do you get seasick? The first cruise we ever went on, there were 20 foot waves the first day. Even some crew members were sick. I was sure I would hate cruising after that. The big ships are quite stable, but if you know you have motion sickness be prepared with a remedy.

    I also once organized a cruise for 10 extended family members. Our group ranged in age from 13 to 90! It was an Alaska cruise which also meant getting everyone across the entire continent to Anchorage. It was ultimately a success, but I needed a vacation after the vacation. Herding cats is exhausting ;-)

  5. That's a great point, Suzanne. I've only had one experience where the waves were big and the ship was really rocking. But that can't certainly put a damper on things. I just took some medicine and went to bed. Oh, my! Organizing that cruise must have been a challenge :D Herding cats is right. Thanks you so much for reading and commenting! 


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