Cruising is my favorite way to vacation. I love watching my phone signal slowly fade as we sail away until there are no bars or service. My husband and I have been on 3 cruises, and will be going on our 4th this year. Other reasons I love cruising is because it is cost-effective and family friendly. Where else would you be able to get an almost all-inclusive 2 week vacation for 2 adults and 2 kids for $2,500.00 or under? On a cruise you get lodging, meals, entertainment, and adventure all-inclusive. (If you would like alcohol, drink packages, or to gamble and go on excursions associated with the ship it will cost you a little extra, but not everyone needs those amenities.) Here are my best tips for selecting and booking the right cruise vacation for you and your family. 🙂
(St. Thomas U.S.V.I and Princess Cruise Line Ship)
Selecting the right cruise line and ship: There are a lot of cruise lines out there, but they are not all made equally. The same thing goes for their ships. In my experience if you are looking for a cruise line with a younger crowd then Carnival Cruise Line is the way to go. A lot of their ships are outfitted with water slides and activities for all ages. Another great cruise line where you might find a younger crowd as well is the Disney Cruise Line. Princess Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian I have found will have an older crowd. Your ship also makes a difference. If you book a cruise on one of the newest and biggest cruise ships on the market, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas comes to mind, you might find a mixed crowd due to all of the activities offered on the ship. (It has a huge shopping section, bumper cars, roller rink, flowrider simulator, etc.) If you book on one of the older ships like Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas you may find yourself in an older crowd. ( It does not have a roller rink, bumper car’s, or a flowrider. It is a much smaller ship.) When booking make sure you also look at a cruise line’s customer service rating, and if you can find out how the cruise line responded to its passengers when they had issues. (For example, if cruise passengers encountered issues with the cruise that were the fault of the cruise line or sickness broke out how did the cruise line respond? Did they just apologize or did they go above and beyond to make sure their guests were compensated and happy?) You will also want to know where you would like to cruise to. Many cruise lines have their own islands that they sail to that others don’t. Also, your departure port matters as well. Your local port might not cruise or have a cruise line that leaves from your local port to where you want to go. Thus leaving you to spend extra money-getting to another port that does.
Booking your cruise: When and with whom you book your cruise matters. Cruise lines like to run deals all the time. Sometimes when you book you think you have gotten the best deal only to learn that a couple of weeks later they have changed up their sale to something better, or a different travel website was offering a better deal when you booked. You will need to do some research when booking your cruise. When I book my cruise I always call the actual cruise line first, get their pricing and perks, and then I look up the pricing of the same cruise on websites such as Priceline and give them a call. These company’s want your money. More often than not, especially Priceline, will give you a better price with better onboard credit, or they will match the price of the Cruise line but offer you more onboard credit and reduced deposit. When booking make sure you get confirmation that if a better deal comes out after you book that you will be able to change your reservation to that deal. (Priceline does this, but YOU must keep track of the deals out there and if you see a better one you must call to get your reservation changed.)
(Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda)
The month you book and your sail date also matter. Booking a cruise during hurricane season may be cheaper than booking outside of hurricane season. You will just need to be prepared to be flexible. (If you book during hurricane season your ship destinations can be affected. My husband and I booked a Southern Caribbean cruise but ended up on a Western Caribbean cruise due to a hurricane during one of our cruises)
Your ship will matter as well in regards to pricing. Booking a cruise on a newer ship will cost you more. Things to look for are deals such as every 3rd night free, kids sail free, reduced or no deposit, free extra on board credit, military/firefighter/police discount, resident discount if you are leaving out of your home port, and cruise line specific membership clubs.
You don’t need to be a travel agent to get the best cruise vacation deal for your family. You just need to be educated, smart and vigilant about with whom, from where, and when you want to cruise. That way when you get on that ship and your phone signal starts fading away you will be able to enjoy your amazing vacation instead of worrying if you got the best deal or not. Happy cruising!