From the sun-drenched beaches of Mozambique’s Portuguese Island to the frozen wilderness of Antarctica. From onboard family features to exclusive boutique vessels, there is a cruise and cruise ship for every type of traveler. The options can be overwhelming. Make sure your cruise really does float your boat by consulting an expert.
Here are 10 essential things to check and discuss with your cruise specialist before packing a suitcase:
1. What do you want?
Is your dream cruise a fun and festive vessel packed to the rafters with kids, friends, and facilities? Perhaps that’s your worst nightmare?
“Do some of your own research first before meeting with a cruise specialist,” advises Divan Viljoen, Marketing Campaign Manager at Cruiseabout, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group.
“Being able to describe your dream holiday and cruise in as much detail as possible will ensure that the cruise specialist can offer you the best, personalised recommendations and specials, and save you time by minimising unnecessary to-and-fro,” says Viljoen.
Here are some simple points to consider when planning your dream cruise:
- Establish your priorities. Relaxation? Connecting with friends and family? Exploring a destination?
- What weather are you hoping for?
- Do you want to relax onboard or enjoy a day packed with high-energy activities, or a little of both?
- Food and drink – fine dining or fuss-free all-you-can-eat buffet? Limitless cocktails or teetotaller? How much water, coffee and tea do you drink? Food intolerances, allergies or other requirements?
- What are you interested in? Culture, arts, beach, partying, niche experiences, going off the beaten track?
With a clear vision of your dream holiday, a cruise expert will offer you only the cruises that will make that dream a reality and ensures you are both on the same page, with the same goal.
2. Where do you want to go?
Do you want to go wine tasting and chateaux hopping on a river cruise through the Burgundy region of France? Hit the beaches of the Caribbean? Take a bucket list expedition cruise through Antarctica? Or simply enjoy the facilities on board the ship? Also, consider what you want to do at the destination. How much time do you need there?
If you’re not sure about the destination, that’s okay, too. Do some research and describe what you do know you want from your dream cruise and your cruise specialist will be able to offer you some recommendations.
3. When do you want to go?
Calculate those leave days and figure out how much time you have. That will determine what type of cruise you should opt for (local, regional or international), cruise length and whether you have time to fly in and out of a different destination or go for a closed loop cruise (departing and returning to the same port). Are you celebrating a special occasion? Do you have specific dates or are you flexible?
It doesn’t matter if you have two days or two months, you don’t want to be stressed by rushing from Port A to Port B and back to the airport with no time in between.
4. Who are you travelling with?
This can help to determine the destination, cruise line, and cabin best suited to you. There are options to suit families, groups of friends, honeymooners, solo travelers, adventurers, and every age group.
It goes without saying that if you have any special needs when traveling (such as specific dietary requirements, medical conditions, mobility needs, etc) you need to inform your cruise specialist when first discussing your booking.
5. First-time or frequent cruiser?
It is important to let the consultant know if you are a first-time or seasoned cruiser. If you’re a seasoned cruiser they can use your past experiences of cruises to find your perfect match (or perhaps even suggest something you wouldn’t have initially considered).
First-time cruisers can benefit from the expertise and handy tips offered by cruise specialists, including everything from what to pack, how the onboard dining works to which seasickness medication is the best.
6. What’s your budget?
Don’t beat around the bush. Be upfront and honest about your budget for the entire holiday. It will save a lot of time and ensure that you only get shown options that you can comfortably afford. Or your cruise specialist could even show you how you could upgrade to a more high-end cabin, ship or cruise line by finding you a fantastic special, suggesting you travel off-peak or sharing any other tips only the experts have access to.
Don’t forget to take the ‘extra’ essentials into account when planning your budget, such as airfares, transfers, insurance, spending money, sightseeing, health requirements, visas, and any additional paperwork.
7. How much time do you want to spend on board?
Are you comfortable with days at sea or do you want to spend more time off the ship? Do you want to relax in the spa, hit the buffet or enjoy fine wining and dining? How many drinks do you want on board? What do you want to drink? Local beers, French champagne or imported spirits? Will you need to do laundry? Make calls? Need high-speed Wi-Fi?
Your cruise specialist will be able to choose the best cruise line, ship and fare package that ensures you don’t end up spending more than you planned on board. Paying more up-front for an all-inclusive package can often save you a lot of bucks.
8. Seasonality is key.
Once you have a destination, cruise line, and ship in mind, consider the season. Many destinations and experiences are season-specific. For example, if you want to see the Northern Lights, you need to cruise between October and March, and if you want to explore the bustling beaches of the Caribbean at their ‘quietest’, don’t travel during spring break. The local cruise season on MSC runs from November to April while the Mediterranean offers cruises year-round.
9. Remember, remember the paperwork.
Whether it’s an unabridged birth certificate, visa and insurance papers or a doctor’s note, ask what special requirements and documentation you need to pack.
10. Read the fine print
Your cruise specialist can assist you with going through this but remember, the onus always sits on you to make sure you have read – and understood – the fine print. If anything isn’t clear, speak up as soon as possible and ask them to clarify.
You can’t control the weather and other circumstances, but with this checklist, you can ensure you get not only the best bang for your buck but the very best cruise experience out there.
Cruise ideas for 2019
- Culinary travel – Wine and dine in Burgundy and Provence onboard the Avalon Poetry II.
- The most popular local favourite for a short getaway – Portuguese Island on MSC’s Orchestra – with a free cabin upgrade!* T&Cs apply.
- Luxury and adventure – Luxury Antarctica cruise on Ponant’s Le Soleal.
- Family-friendly bucket list cruise – See the Bahamas from the Disney Dream.
- Culture vulture – Travel Southeast Asia onboard the Sapphire Princess.
- Captain your own boat cruising the canals of France – Cruise the Canal du Midi onboard Le Boat’s Caprice.