Cruise 101: Choosing Your Cruise

Couple relaxing inside stateroom
Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

With 100s or perhaps 1000s of itineraries to choose from, plus so many other cruise planning considerations, the idea of booking a sailing can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you happen to be new to cruising. Though serendipity could lead to some memorable moments in life, in the cruising world, the best vacation experiences are nearly always reserved for people who have taken the time to plan well.

Included in this Cruise 101 blog post are the following topics:

  • Choose the Cruise Destination
  • Choose the Embarkation Location of Your Cruise
  • Choose Your Cruise Itinerary
  • Choose the Best Time to Sail
  • Choose How Long to Cruise
  • Choose Your Cruise Stateroom
  • Choose Your Travel Insurance

Watch for The post next week – Cruise 101: Selecting Cruise Options (coming next week):

  • Choose How To Get to Your Cruise
  • Choose Smart & Arrive at the Cruise Port Early
  • Choose Your Beverage Package
  • Choose & Pre-Book Tours / Shore Excursions for your Cruise
  • Choose to Pre-Book Specialty Dining
  • Choose to Work with a Travel Agent
  • Choose to Pack Smart for your Cruise
  • Choose to Gather Vital Travel Documents in Advance

A bit of smart cruise planning can absolutely go very far to help make sure that your trip is 100% smooth sailing.

Choose the Cruise Destination

beach chairs on Labadee
Labadee, Haiti – Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Other than the ship you choose for your cruise, there’s probably no bigger selection than the destination or destinations you choose.

There are hundreds – maybe thousands – of itineraries to contemplate worldwide, so whether your idea of a great vacay is Caribbean beaches, city-hopping in Europe, exploring Alaska, or soaking up ancient culture in Asia is more your vacation speed, there’s a great itinerary for you!

If you’re taking your first cruise, a great choice that is close, well proven, and a great option to try it out is the Caribbean or Bahamas, Bermuda, or a Western Caribbean itinerary which usually goes to Mexico none of these will disappoint, because in these destinations, gorgeous beaches are paired with interesting cultural experiences too!

This or that?

  • Beach lounger or Cobblestone streets on the Medeteranean?
  • Adventure in Alaska or Cities of Asia?

The best thing about cruising is that there are destinations for just about any kind of vacation experience, plus it’s what I like to call the “Sampler Platter vacation” – try a bunch, then go back for a land visit to your favorites!

Choose the Embarkation Location of Your Cruise

Aerial view of picturesque South Beach
Miami, FL courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Another big consideration in deciding upon a cruise is where you board, this is called your embarkation port. If you are looking to start your voyage at a specific U.S. port (such as one that’s close and easy to drive to), your options will be narrowed down to the specific ships sail from there, so that’s a good place to start your planning.

You may have to fly for cruises departing further away, such as Asia, Europe, South America, Australia or some more exotic Caribbean itineraries. While sailings in these regions can be an amazing experience, remember to factor in that extra travel time & airfare cost. For example if you wish to sail Hawaii, you might be able to leave from southern CA or you may need to get to Hawaii first.

Once you’ve decide where you want to cruise from, you’ll then consider your available destinations. As one example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to spend a few days in Barcelona then take a Mediterranean cruise. On Celebrity cruise line, from Barcelona, you’d have several itinerary choices, such as Western Mediterranean (going to Palma De Mallorca, Provence, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Taranto, Dubrovnik, Split, Kper, and ending in Venice), an Italian Riviera & France option (going to Provence, Nice, Santa Margherita, Florence/Pisa, Sicily, Naples and ending in Rome), or Spain, Azores & Bermuda with some Europe and some North America too (Barcelona Spain to Valencia Spain, Cartagena Spain, Ponta Delgada Azores, Royal Naval Dockard Bermuda, and ending in Ft. Lauderdale FL)

Choose Your Cruise Itinerary

how to plan a cruise - choose an itinerary
Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

Once you’ve selected the departure port and destinations you want to see, you can start narrowing down your cruise itinerary.

When choosing an itinerary, you’ll need to know what is most important to you for your cruise. Are cruises with overnight stays interesting to you? Do you prefer a lot of days at sea or prefer more port stops? Are you looking to go on a round-trip cruise or would you like a one way to hit more ports?

Choose the Best Time to Sail

Celebrity Millennium sailing along glaciers
Alaska Millennium Ship Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

The next big question is when to go. Every region for cruising around the world has its own sailing season – some have times of the year where there are no cruises like Alaska in October through April. Alaska has a peak – or popular – season near the end of the season where the Northern lights may be seen possibly, and there can be other times that are less popular, which is referred to as a low season.

Completely because of supply and demand, sailing outside of the peak means if you’re willing to let go of the best weather and school vacation type conditions, you’ll enjoy likely a lower price and less crowds!

Chose How Long to Cruise

Couple at the roofdeck of Celebrity Edge
Celebrity Edge Rooftop Garden courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

Itinerary duration definitely varies a lot, from short weekend getaways to standard 6-8 night cruises and even super long cruises that go for weeks, even months! Most options, however, tend to run around the 6-8 nights, but if you’re new to cruising, opting for a shorter sailing is a fair choice.

Family passing by Sagrada Familia
Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

It’s easy to find plenty of 3-5 night cruises for destinations such as the Bahamas, Caribbean, or Mexico, for example. Do keep in mind that shorter cruises mean fewer ports of call & less time to enjoy the ship, which could ultimately take away from an optimized cruise experience.

Also shorter cruises tend to get older ships, and longer cruises are usually set up with the newer ships with the greatest, most amazing innovations.

Choose Your Cruise Stateroom

Couple relaxing in cruise suite
Celebrity Flora Suite Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

Once the itinerary is selected, then you’ve got one more big decision before you can actually get ready to book that cruise – that is: What kind of stateroom you’ll want to stay in.

Stateroom Spot

Left to right is Aft (rear), Mid, & Fwd (forward or front) Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Stateroom location is a bigger deal than some people give it credit for. Which side, front, middle, or back, room type, cruise floor, whether you want any special upgrades.

You’d want mid-ship for a first cruise, since you may not yet know whether you get seasick. Concerned? Talk to me. I get seasick but LOVE cruising!

If you like a lot of movement, the front is best, and the back, or AFT, is the in between. Deck varies by ship but generally higher is considered more desirable by many cruise travelers.

Room Types

Interior Stateroom
Interior Stateroom Courtesy Princess Cruises

Cruise ship staterooms generally fall into 4 basic categories—inside, ocean view, balcony, and suite.

Ocean View Stateroom courtesy Disney cruise Line

For a lower price if you’re on a budget, you might want to book an interior (interior and without a window) or ocean view (window) staterooms.

Balcony courtesy Royal Caribbean

If you want a private balcony, book a veranda or balcony stateroom, which once you get one, you’ll never sail without one again – totally worth it!

Sofa and two chairs around a glass coffee table in the Neptune suite aboard Koningsdam
Suite Courtesy Holland America Cruise Line

For the luxury lover, some cruise lines like Celebrity and Norwegian have special vacation with in a vacation or a ship in a ship with exclusive areas like the Haven or the Retreat.

The Haven Courtyard
The Haven, Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Next up is a vast collection of suites, which range in size, amenities, and perks tremendously depending on the cruise line.

Airplane in the sky
Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

Choose Your Travel Insurance

(Get Travel Insurance!)

ATVing in St Kitts
St. Kitts Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

Experts all say that protecting your financial investment not to mention your personal health (especially these days) while cruising is always a smart move.

Grab a cruise travel insurance policy for peace of mind; and if you work with a trusted travel agent (that’s Easy Breezy Journeys), we can help you choose a well-written policy, too!

Feel like cruise planning now?

Excellent—you’re ready to book your cruise vacation and set sail for a vacation of a lifetime! Just click HERE to answer a few quick questions and we’ll get started!

Couple walking on cruise deck
Courtesy Celebrity Cruise Line

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