What to know before you book a cruise?
Different types of cruise lines?
Luxury cruise lines offer a high level of personalized service. These lines typically have dress codes, scheduled meals and enriching activities both on board and during port excursions.
Specialty cruise lines offer a unique sailing experience or adventure. They also tend to offer a relaxed environment and unusual destinations.
Contemporary cruise lines tend to offer activity-packed itineraries. All accommodations and activities are typically included in the package price of contemporary cruises.
Themed cruise lines operate around one main theme. Themed cruises let guests immerse themselves in a popular story or single topic that enriches the travel experience.
Before booking a cruise check
Cruises have a reputation for being expensive, but this assessment is not always accurate. Consumers should compare the cost of a cruise package against the cost of other travel expenses, such as airfare or train travel when combined with hotel costs, to get an accurate price comparison.
- Price point: Cruises are available at different price points, with options for budget-conscious travelers or travelers seeking a luxury experience.
- A la carte pricing: Some cruise lines offer different price breakdowns that accommodate the needs of individual travelers.
- All-inclusive pricing: Packages with all-inclusive pricing mean cruise guests do not have to pay separately for each item or excursion; look at the breakdown of costs to determine what is included with selected cruise packages before purchasing.
Traveling partners, such as family members, significant others and close friends, can impact the type of cruise selected because activities one person enjoys might be unpleasant for others. Consumers should ensure the cruise selected has something to entertain all members of the traveling party.
- Solo travel: The main consumer considerations when traveling solo include the type of room desired, activities offered and final destinations available.
- Couples travel: Couples traveling together might want to book with a cruise line with a strong reputation for romance-filled excursions and activities or for offering adventure-packed excursions.
- Family travel: Families traveling together can create challenges in coordinating activities, so consumers should look for cruise lines that offer cruise packages specially created for families.
Luxury or casual
The level of formality varies greatly among cruise lines. Consumers can determine cruise line formality by researching the requirements for on board activities, such as dinner dress codes and what activities are offered.
- Luxurious: Some cruises ask guests to dress for dinner and appear at a scheduled time. This more formal atmosphere may interfere with some excursions or activities, so be sure to check schedules before deciding on a dinner time.
- Casual: Casual dining is usually available throughout a cruise ship, with several restaurant options. The main dining room might need a designated time to help guests avoid long wait times, so check with staff about the need for reservations.
- In-between: Most cruises offer both causal and formal settings, so guests can dress up or down, depending on their mood. Formal dinners might include eating with the Captain or a meal at a specific onboard restaurant. Standard meals are typically casual, so no need to spend hours getting ready.
Age of traveling party members
Most cruise lines offer packages for individuals, couples, families and groups. Some cruise lines, however, tend to be either more kid-friendly or specifically focused on catering to adult guests.
- Young children: Some cruises are created to accommodate the needs of young families and children, with play-filled activities like state-of-the-art video games, Lego building and crafts, along with daycare services so kids have fun and parents do too.
- Young adults: Some cruises have an adult theme, with rich nightlife experiences and active daytime itineraries.
- Seniors cruises: Cruises designed with formal activities and a luxurious pace are sometimes considered ideal for seniors; seniors should ideally consider whether they want a slower pace or a high-action cruise experience before booking.
Cruises offer on board activities and excursions to exotic ports of call. Consumers should consider their level of physical fitness and comfort with partaking in activities before scheduling certain events.
- High energy: High energy outings offered by cruise lines include physical activities during excursions and on board cruise ship activities like climbing, swimming, kayaking and jogging.
- Medium activity levels: Look for medium activity level cruises with activities like classes and medium-active excursions such as hiking or strolling around shops in ports.
- Relaxed pace: For a cruise with a relaxed pace, consumers should look at the more formal cruise lines; guests can also plan to relax on board during excursions.
On a cruise, the majority of a guest’s time will be spent on the ship. Consumers should review the activities offered before booking to ensure the trip will be enjoyable.
Quiet activities on a ship include relaxing on deck or reading, meditating in designated meditation rooms and taking spa treatments.
Interactive entertainment on a cruise involves anything that gets guests moving or communicating with others, like dances, team games, parties, karaoke, culinary classes, fitness classes or arts and crafts.
Performances on cruise ships include movies, live theater performances and bands.