New to cruising? Questions to ask to kickstart your planning

A cruise vacation is an excellent way to see the world while enjoying all the amenities of a luxurious floating hotel. However, planning a cruise can be overwhelming, especially for your first time. With so many options available, knowing what to consider when planning and booking a cruise vacation is essential.

Customizing a cruise vacation package for yourself has never been easier. You can plan, choose and book each element of your trip from home. Tailor-make your cruise package to suit exactly what you and your family want from a vacation, plan to start saving, and work out a budget that suits you.

The following steps will help you create a cruise package that suits you and your family or just for you as a solo traveler.

What region of the world do you want to visit?

Cruises can take you all over the world. So start with choosing your cruise destination. From Oceania to the North Pole, from tropical islands to bustling cities. Consider what kind of vacation you want, whether it’s a relaxing getaway with days at sea enjoying the view from the ship’s poolside or a cultural exploration with a new port of call each day.

Remember the seasonality of your destination, as some areas are best visited at certain times of the year. Here are some of the most popular cruise regions and why travelers choose them:

Caribbean – The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise regions thanks to its beautiful sunny beaches, clear water, and vibrant culture. Travelers can enjoy various activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring historical sites and cultures.

Mediterranean – Attracting travelers from all over the world, it’s hard to beat a cruise in the Mediterranean for its beautiful scenery, rich history, and diverse cultures and cuisines. Popular ports include Venice, Rome, Barcelona, and Athens.

Alaska – Alaska attracts those seeking adventure and breathtaking natural landscapes. Combined with cities such as Seattle, or a cruise from Vancouver, travelers can explore charming towns, see the Northern Lights, or visit picturesque fjords.

South Pacific – The South Pacific is a popular cruise destination for those seeking a tropical paradise in combination with visiting Australia and New Zealand, with a cruise from Sydney or the port of Auckland.

Asia – Asia offers a unique blend of ancient and modern cultures. Travelers can explore exciting cities such as Hong Kong or start a cruise from Singapore, to see extraordinary landscapes such as those in Vietnam and Thailand.

Which ports are on your bucket list?

Once you have decided on the region of the world you are interested in, find cruise itineraries in those regions and look at the listed ports of call. Are all the places you have dreamed of visiting on the cruise itinerary? Or perhaps you plan to extend your cruise vacation with some hotel nights before and after your cruise to squeeze in other bucket list destinations into the same holiday?

And remember, other fantastic destinations can also be within reach of your port. For example, Suppose your ship calls at the port in Genoa. In that case, you can visit beautiful Portofino or Santa Margherita, And from the port of Livorno, you can visit Florence, Pisa, and the stunning towns of Cinque Terre.

Which cruise lines offer the cruise vacation you want?

When you have found several itineraries you are excited about, explore the cruise lines that sail to these destinations. Find the cruise line that best suits you and your family.

The mainstream cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises, have big ships with plenty of activities and entertainment for the whole family. Others offer smaller, luxury cruise ships for a more intimate cruise and a total immersion experience in the destinations you visit. And some are great if you travel alone and want to cruise solo.

Look for reviews from past passengers and consider factors such as the quality of service, the cleanliness of the ship, and the variety of onboard activities. Remember that different cruise lines cater to different types of cruise guests.

Before booking a cruise, review the cruise line’s prices to see what is included. Some offer complete packages with beverage packages, WiFi, and excursions included in the price. Others offer these as optional extras. Some include gratuities as part of the price, and other cruise lines add this as an additional cost. Ensure you know what you are getting for the price you pay so you do not be surprised by additional charges once on board.

Book a flexible flight ticket

Most cruise companies also offer flights, hotels, and transfers, so you buy a complete package. This can be expensive. Other cruise travelers prefer to book hotels, flights, and transportation separately. We suggest you let your cruise company quote you for these options; then, you can compare prices when you look for your own flights, transport, and hotel accommodation.

Here are a few essential things to remember when planning flights: Check transit times when you have a flight connection, as waiting around at the airport is just not fun. Choose the smoothest route possible if you cannot get a direct flight. Sometimes a shorter transit time is worth paying a little extra for. And avoid flying in on the same day your ship departs port. If your flight is canceled or delayed, you risk missing check-in for your cruise.

Finally, we strongly recommend that when purchasing a flight ticket, you buy one that is flexible. This way, if your plans change, you will have the option to change your flight ticket.

Do you want to stay extra nights and extend your cruise vacation?

If your vacation budget allows, take the opportunity to explore your port city before you depart on your cruise. We recommend arriving at least two days before your cruise starts to allow for any potential problems or delays with your journey.

Read our inspirational articles and essential guide series to find out what to see and do in the most popular port cities, how to book transportation, where to stay, our recommended hotels for cruise guests, and how to get to the port.

Is your cruise ending at a different port? Lucky you! Then why not let book a hotel when your cruise ends too? You finish your vacation by experiencing another city or revisiting an old favorite.

Considering all these essential elements, you can narrow down your options and ensure that your cruise vacation is the experience of a lifetime!

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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