There are thousands of cruise ships worldwide, so how do you pick? It can be pretty tough and might depend on the following 7 factors I’d suggest considering to help you decide! I hope this helps!
#1 Cruise Type & Destination
Simply put: where do you want to go?
Do you want to visit certain countries, cities, or adventure type locations? Some locations are best reached by ocean cruise ships, big or small, and others by river cruise or expedition ships.
Ocean Cruising will allow you to reach more distance than say, a river cruise, so if you wanted to explore the Mediterranean Sea, South America, or various Caribbean Regions, it’s the way to go. World cruises are typically by ocean cruises.
CruiseTours, also mostly Ocean Cruising, allows you to visit places that have more inland most people want to see. A good example of this is Alaska. Part of your trip by sea, to see things you can’t see on land, and the rest by train up north to see other parts of the region.
River Cruising is an excellent way to sample many cities throughout a region, mostly in Europe, but also in the USA and Asia. There are also river cruises for the Amazon River in South America and the Nile River in Egypt. These are great cruises if you want to see these particular areas.
Expedition Cruising are bucket list experiences for sure. Travel to the furthest reaches of our planet to places like Alaska, Antarctica, Antarctic Polar Circle, Atlantic Isles & Western Africa, Australia, Black Sea, Expedition World Cruises, French Polynesia, Galapagos Islands, Greenland, Japan, Iceland, Maritime Canada, New Zealand, Northern Europe, Russia, Sea of Cortez, South America, Southeast Asia, The Arctic, Great Lakes & Canada, & World Cruises!
#2 Choose your Ship Type
Large Ocean Cruise Ships are likely what you might be more familiar with, unless you have more than the average cruise knowledge. These are your huge ships with 2000+ as an example onboard. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Holland America, Disney, & Princess tend to be the larger ocean vessel lines. There are others, but just to name a few.
Small Ocean Cruise Ships are less widely known, because it is usually the more experienced cruisers who take these ships. You may wonder why someone would want less amenities, public spaces, dining options, etc onboard. Well, it’s about the destinations usually. Small ships can go to smaller ports where larger ships cannot go, such as these in the Caribbean: Fort-De-France, Martinique; Saint Georges, Grenada; Pigeon Point, St. Lucia; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Road Bay, Anguilla
River Cruise Ships are small and sail rivers. We did discuss a bit earlier (above in #1) but these ships move slowly and smoothly. If you are concerned about motion sickness, the river cruise ships are some of the best for you! Not to mention, they port right in the city most of the time so you can get right out and experience the destination!
Expedition Ships are mighty, often fortified for additional rigors for locations like the Arctic and Antarctica. While the polar expeditions are the most “off the beaten path” I would say, there are so many more. Like all cruise lines, they do range from more “bare bones” to luxurious accommodations, so there’s a full selection of choices, but it may depend on the destination as there are not as many cruises to locations like these go to.
#3 Decide what inclusions you’d prefer
Gratuities/Tips – On some cruise lines, these are included, but with others, you pay in advance or out of pocket when onboard.
Excursions/activities – more premium cruise lines often include select tours and excursions, and some cruise lines include excursions or activities. One other option is to choose an Amenity or Hosted Departure date with Easy Breezy Journeys, which gets you a bonus amenity on select sailings – sometimes a tour!
Bar tab – Most cruise lines include coffee, tea, and juice at breakfast, offering add-on packages for soft drinks and/or alcoholic beverages. Others give you light alcoholic and soft drinks at meals and such, and some have everything included, all the time. What you want included is up to you… but it’s an important and sometimes costly consideration. At times, depending on several factors, such as cruise line, destination, and type of ship, you might pay about the same for a more premium experience on a cruise line that includes more!
Everything else you can imagine including air, transfers, insurance, etc might be included on select cruise lines. In fact, there’s one offer going at the time of the writing of this posting where they include pick up at your home if you are within a certain distance of the airport or cruise port!
#4 Vibe type
What I like to call “VIbe Type” relates to how the travelers on a certain cruise line would be expected to dress (both regularly and for dinner), Typical clientele of that cruise line, Kids versus less kids, noisy & party feel versus relaxing and serene feel.
Photos above all are courtesy of Star Clippers Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Oceania Cruise Line.
Price Can affect vibe. For example, you’ll have a lot more families and kids on a mass market large ocean cruise ship in the Caribbean than you would on a more expensive cruise line sailing a less common destination, like Celebrity or Holland America. You’ll see families there, of course, but you’ll see many more of them on Royal Caribbean or Norwegian, for example.
#5 When to Travel
When you’ll travel might make a difference too. Here are some factors about when you go:
Pricing may vary at different times of the year, depending on the peak, shoulder, or low season of a destination or region.
Families present may vary higher when school’s out and lower when it’s in session.
Crowds will also be less in the off season for a destination or region for cruising.
High and Low Rivers – With river cruises, you want to be mindful of high and low river seasons.
#6 Who’s going?
Who’s going might alter what you want to do. If you have a family reunion group or something, that’d be a great way to get extra perks by working with me or your preferred travel professional to secure group space and hopefully perks! These are often things like, group events (photo, cocktail hour) or onboard credit for every guest. Ask your Travel Professional to learn more, and in some cases you need only 5-10 rooms to get something extra!
Not only groups matter. Ages are important too. Kids going? Make sure the cruise line has great kids clubs and activities. What about the 18-21 crowd? Too old for kids clubs and too young for bars. All these need to be considered not to mention food preferences, all of the things in this post and how those relate to those going, and cruise pace. Faster and busier or more relaxed and laid back.
It shouldn’t be the only priority, but very important is your budget. It’s not everything, though. What you get for that vacation budget is, I would say, more important than the very best price on a similar trip. Here’s why.
Cheapest price typically means the cheapest room, and not usually the best experience you could have had. You might not realize that the river cruise’s most affordable room is a bit low, so you have an “up top” high window, and no balcony. See what I mean with these River Cruise Photos, courtesy of Ama Waterways River Cruise Line:
The same can go for an ocean cruise interior stateroom – lowest price might mean a bad location where a ton of movement can be felt, or it can mean no window – or both. Nothing in my opinion is worth sitting in the room bored while your traveling companion showers when you could be sitting on a verandah enjoying a coffee watching the scenery go by.
Photos above Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
So what I like to do for my clients is go with a budget in mind price, a great or amazing room rather than the least expensive one by default, & find the best offers as well as value-adds available. I can sort through promotions since I’m constantly flooded with that information to find a cruise line that matches your personality, destination in mind, budget, and find you a great value compared to the “inexpensive” one.
To be clear, working with a travel professional is not about “getting the lowest price” but rather; it is about getting your vacation dollar stretched to meet as many of your vacation wish list items as possible. Yes, sometimes we might have a lower rate, but typically, our value stems out of value add ons, services (such as answering questions, making sure everything is set up right, and that you know what you need to know), expertise, advice, personalized service, and much more. If you want the cheapest price, we are not likely well suited to work together, but if you want a fair price, and a wonderful vacation, that’s where I can be of help to you.
My passion is helping you get an incredible experience and to not waste your vacation money or vacation time, which are both very precious. There’s a cheap vacation and an “okay” vacation, a fairly priced vacation that matches what you are looking for, or an overpriced vacation can always be had as well.
If you’d like to plan a cruise now through a couple of years out, I can help you book early for the best offers & availability, and if budget is tough, you can make payments over time to get your dream vacation! To get started, just click HERE to inquire!