So it’s time to plan your next vacation and someone suggests the option of a cruise. If your cruising knowledge doesn’t go beyond the three hours you sat watching Titanic, don’t worry! There is a valid reason why this style of vacationing is so popular, and I plan to spend the next several minutes providing you with some basic information that will alleviate some of the concerns you may have as you plan your cruise vacation.

Choose Your Destination. For many first-time cruisers, the primary motivation behind planning a cruise is based on where the ship is going. Do you want to visit Jamaica? The Mediterranean? Alaska? Your itinerary will most likely guide your decision making process. Some first-time cruisers opt for shorter trips (3- or 4-day sailings) to make sure that cruising is right for them. These trips will typically take you to the Bahamas (from the East Coast of Florida) or Cozumel, Mexico (from the Gulf Coast). Or, if you are feeling confident, you can explore some of the longer itineraries that will take you to several different islands in one sailing. There are a wide variety of itineraries with different durations that might work for you!

Choose Your Cruise Line. Likely the secondary factor in choosing a cruise (especially for first-timers) is the cruise line. There are a number of companies out there, many of whom sail to many of the same destinations: how do you choose?

Each cruise line has its own personality, and its own price point. You want to ensure that you match your personality – and your budget – to the appropriate company. This will ensure that you not only enjoy yourself on the ship, but you have a vacation that you can afford (and possibly repeat, if you wish). Some examples:

First Tier/Commercial:

Second Tier/Upscale:

Third Tier/Luxury:

Pick a date. Now that you know where you’re going and which company you’ll be using, it may be time to figure out WHEN to go (if you haven’t done this already). Although most of the cruise lines travel year-round in the Caribbean, you should know that hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 1. Cruise prices may be lower at this time, but you may also run the risk of being diverted due to a nasty little storm. (Buy travel insurance). On another note, many Alaska cruises only operate during between May and November. These are factors you’ll certainly want to consider when planning your vacation!

Choose Your Cabin. So many decisions; so many cabins…how ever will you choose? The cruise line will help narrow this down for you. First things first; the price you see advertised (“7 DAY CARIBBEAN CRUISE FOR $499!”) is typically quoting you the price of an inside cabin. What’s that? Never thought you’d ask.

Inside Cabin: Located on the interior of the ship from the lowest deck to (sometimes) the highest deck. Price varies based on the location of the cabin. These cabins can sleep up to 4 people and are completely enclosed – no windows, porthole, or balcony.

Oceanview Cabin: Located throughout the ship, these cabins have a porthole or window to allow passengers a glimpse of what’s happening outside of the ship. Sleeps up to 4 people

Balcony Cabin: Each of these cabins comes with a private balcony, complete with deck chairs and a table. Allows passengers to enjoy the ocean from the privacy of their cabin. Can sleep up to 4 people.

The Suite Life

Suite: Typically located on the upper decks of the ship, these cabins are larger in size and have an included private balcony. Suites also include additional amenities to make passengers feel like VIPS, including express check-in, butler service, private breakfast, private courtyards and even a grand piano in the suite. Suites can sleep up to 8 people. (Amenities and occupancy vary, depending on the cruise line.)
You may also wish to consider the location of the cabin on the ship, when making your selection. Cabins located on the Forward of the ship tend to feel the “motion of the ocean” a little more and may not be advisable for those prone to seasickness. Passengers in Mid-ship and Aft cabins are less likely to feel the movement of the ship.

There! All of the pieces of the puzzle are together! Once you are ready to book, you will need to make an initial deposit to hold your cabin. For a standard cabin, this amount is usually $250 per person or 20% of the total cost of the cruise. If you’re booking a suite, the deposit will be more. You will typically have until 3 months before your departure date to make final payment.

My hope is that you will be working with a travel expert to assist you with this planning process. There are many pieces to consider and it can be overwhelming at times…but it doesn’t have to be. Planning  a vacation is supposed to be FUN and it can be, if you’re linked up to the right person!

Happy Travels!