Cruise 101: Selecting Cruise Options

Body of Water during Golden Hour
Photo courtesy of Sebastian Voortman

Selecting your cruise options is the 2nd big step when you’re about to book a new cruise. Included in this article are the following:

  1. Choose How To Get to Your Cruise
  2. Choose Smart & Arrive at the Cruise Port Early
  3. Choose Your Beverage Package
  4. Choose Tours for your Cruise / Prebook Shore Excursions
  5. Choose Prebooking Specialty Dining
  6. Choose to Work with a Travel Agent –
  7. Choose to Pack Smart for your Cruise
  8. Gather Necessary Travel Documents in Advance

#1 Choose How To Get to Your Cruise

Airplane in the sky

Whether you want to drive, fly, or even take a bus or train to your embarkation port of call, you have to decide the best way to get there.

Anything other than driving, you’ll have to book that option as well, such as flights, buses, or trains. Most people either drive or fly, however.

Many cruise lines will arrange your airfare together and bundle everything for your cruise, and you can even get a hotel for the night before as well. I always, always recommend – that no matter how you get there, get there early. More on that is coming next!

#2 Choose Smart for your Cruise & Arrive at the Port Early

Couple going out of Celebrity Cruises ship
Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Most experienced cruisers will advise you to arrive at your cruise’s embarkation port with lots of spare of time to spare to ensure a stress-free vacation!

If you’re flying, especially to an international location, that means a day before departure at a minimum, plus it can be fun to visit a city for a day or two before hand!

It will give you lots of peace of mind to not miss the cruise departure – in the case there is a flight delay.

Family passing by Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

As I mentioned just above, that is also going to give you an extra day to explore the port city which is sure to offer some interesting options!

Now, if your embarkation port is set within driving distance, you might plan to arrive on the day of your cruise, depending on how far it is, since you can set your own schedule.

I still would recommend if it’s more than 3-4 hours to stay over the night prior – besides which, many hotels near cruise ports offer park and cruise packages, saving you money on expensive port parking.

Note: if you’re late, the ship will leave without you, then you’d have to figure out how to join the ship’s voyage at the next port of call at your own cost. The same goes for stopping at a port of call as well, so always be early!

Don’t Forget the Extras!

Couple enjoying German food and beer at a restaurant
Berlin, Germany

Upfront, your cruise fare covers a lot of the big stuff, like your room, all meals, entertainment, & sailing from port to port, but there’s a few extras to consider too.

Some typical charges to expect include shore excursions (tours), alcoholic drinks or sodas, specialty dining experiences, spa services, internet service or packages, some onboard activities (like the casino, wine or martini tastings, photography, shopping),& service staff gratuities. We will dig more into some of these below.

#3 Choose Your Beverage Package

Photo Of Man Pouring Liqueur On Glass
Photo Courtesy Michal Lizuch

If you plan to enjoy a Martini at the comedy club, a glass of wine with lunch or sunset cocktails while on board, more than likely it’s worth considering whether if a beverage package is right for you.

Let’s say you’re expecting you’ll have at least one drink a day during dinner and by the pool, an alcoholic beverage package is a great way to save.

Most cruise lines offer several levels of packages, for example:

  • Water “package” – some lines call it a package but it just means you order your bottled water by the case for some.
  • Soft Drinks package – best for those who don’t drink much alcohol but love to drink sodas and such. Sometimes these also include specialty coffees at the onboard coffee shops.
  • Classic or Basic package – typically includes house liquors and drinks plus usually the soft drinks package
  • Upgraded packages – typically include more expensive spirits, and all the below packages.

Tip: Some cruise lines offer a discount of a few bucks per day on these if you book in advance, also please know that drink and food add-ons typically also add a gratuity of anywhere from 18-20% on top of the cost. So, it’s good to calculate average costs per person, and see if you think it’s worthwhile.

# 4 Prebook Tours for your Cruise

Family hanging out on a boat

Booking shore excursions is a tough but fun thing to do! Once all the onboard options are figured out, tours are up next!

Whether you just want to relax on the beach, enjoy active watersports, take a food tour, wine or liquor making tours, or something like adventurous nature hikes, you’ve got so many options, it’s honestly ridiculous! That’s what makes it tough.

You would start off by going to the cruise line’s site, log into your booking, and see what types of shore excursions are typically offered in that port. Discuss with your traveling companions, and then pick your favorites!

You can search for family or couples activities, cultural adventures, sporty tours, and learn about your destination tours too!

Once you’ve selected the shore excursions you like, reserve it! Popular tours, such as whale-watching tours in Alaska or gondola rides in Venice, do usually fill up very fast and will likely be sold out by the time you board the ship.

Nowadays with social distancing measures, that happens more and more than even before.

#5 Prebook Specialty Dining

People eating dinner in Murano

Do you want to wait around in long lines when you should be exploring and enjoying your cruise? Of course not! That’s why if you want to enjoy some specialty dining, if it’s an option – book ahead. Often, advance bookings open up months ahead of time.

Decide on short excursions first, so that you’ll know if you’ll be back on board early or not – remember, when you go out all day you may want a little extra time to get ready for dinner if you’re going to a special restaurant.

#6 Choose to Work with a Travel Agent

Hint: That’s Easy Breezy Journeys!

Couple discussing itinerary with travel agent

In today’s world, many travelers have found it somewhat easy to book a US based hotel through one of many “online travel agency” sites, and that’s fair enough.

However, cruising is a more complicated type of trip, especially now, so working with a cruise-specialized travel agent (like Easy Breezy Journeys is!) can be one of the best ways to book your cruise.

That’s due to the fact that travel agents can often use our industry connections, experience & expertise to pinpoint the best sales, and/or in some cases, get for you extra amenities, such as stateroom upgrades, onboard spending credits, or prepaid gratuities.

Not to mention that we can offer plenty of planning tips and experienced advice to help guide you through different cruise types, lines, itineraries and everything else we are discussing about Cruise 101, and that does include destinations, staterooms, travel insurance & more.

Plus, we can help you keep tabs on important dates (such as when payment due dates), as well as assist in tweaking any other details and finer points.

Easy Breezy Journeys is here to help you!

#7 Pack Smart for your Cruise

Couple sightseeing with view of Bow Lake
Icefields Parkway in Jasper, Canada

Time to pack!

With all of your cruise planning now in order, there’s only one thing left to do: Pack for your cruise! Cruise packing has unique considerations compared to a land trip, including what the atmosphere is like (ie: onboard dress codes), weather considerations, & excursion types you are planning in port.

More to come in later posts about different types of packing tips!

#8 Gather Necessary Travel Documents in Advance

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Whatever you do – don’t wait until the last minute to ensure that you have all of the pre-cruise testing set up, documentation and IDs (passport recommended!) ready, and other documents that you need to successfully board and enjoy your cruise.

If you work with Easy Breezy Journeys as your travel agent, I can help guide you on the specifics, however, it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure your paperwork is in order, & please plan to do so well in advance of your trip.

If you’re traveling internationally, this will usually mean a valid passport and any needed travel visas, not to mention Covid pre-travel testing, vaccination status card, etc.

Note: Minors sometimes require special permission documents (letters or forms) for travel in the absence of both legal parent/guardians, so keep that in mind (example: grandparents taking their grandchildren on a cruise.

I think that’s plenty for today’s read – Stay tuned for the next post, Cruise 101: What to Expect on Your First Cruise.

Ready to plan your next cruise?

If so, Easy Breezy Journeys is here to make it easy for you! Just click HERE to answer a few quick questions and we’ll get started!

Shallow Focus Photo of People Riding Convertible Coupe
Courtesy Roberto Nickson

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