Beginner’s Guide for Cruisers – “Do’s & Don’ts” – Tips and Tricks

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Published: December 18th 2022

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So……. you’re seriously considering taking a cruise, but have gotten conflicting opinions from just about everyone you consulted, right? It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. There are boatloads (pun intended) of people who have tried it once or twice and just aren’t fans. And there’s the group of “Never Cruisers” who, for various reasons, would slit their wrists before getting on a ship. Personally, I’ve pretty much enjoyed most cruises I’ve been on – finding great value and ease in this mode of transportation. If you’re still debating whether a cruise is right for you, here are some handy ideas to assist you plan a trip that, fingers crossed, you’ll end up loving.

First things first: before you can get to the point where you’re raving about your life exploring the globe by sea, you have a big decision ahead of you – which line should you sail with? Not an easy decision, as there are simply dozens of cruise lines available, and they vary widely. Some operate very large capacity ships; some operate much small ones; some confine their itineraries to North America, while others roam the seven seas; then you have the ships designed for family or, my personal favorite, those which ban children on board.

A major deciding factor is, of course, price. Cruise lines are all over the map when it comes to costs, and what you see online one day is not cast in stone – they fluctuate like a weather forecast! Just like land-based resorts and hotel chains, there are cruise lines for people on the tightest of budgets and those that cater to whom money is no object. Long story short, there is something for everyone out there in the cruising world. But obviously, depending on personal preferences, not every line will satisfy. The trick is to find the perfect one for you.

When you think “cruise ship”, you probably envision the giant floating megaresorts operated by Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Lines that you’ve seen on tv – the type of ships that carry thousands of passengers and have all sorts of gee-whiz amusements on their top decks. However, the list of cruise companies also includes those that operate far smaller, more imitate vessels carrying just a few dozen to a few hundred people – these have a completely different vibe. They compare to small boutique hotels which just happen to float from place to place. In addition, you’ll find adventure-focused “expedition” cruise companies that offer a third option: one that involves heading to off-the-beaten-path places like Antarctica on small, hardy vessels designed strictly for exploring. Add to this, companies that specialize in boats or barges that sail on rivers and even lines that just operate sailing yachts – talk about spoilt for choice! If you hear somebody say they’d never take a cruise because the ships are too big or too crowded, it’s obvious it’s someone who has no idea what’s out there.

The cruise industry loves “marketing speak” when advertising its offerings into a bunch of oddly named categories such as “contemporary” or “premium” – just ignore all that fluff when you see it. Basically, it can all be broken down into six categories, each of which appeals to a different type of cruiser. Let’s shine a light on each one:

The Biggies: there are 7 large cruise lines that account for most cruises taken by North Americans. They are, in order of size (when measured by passenger capacity): Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America. We’re talking ships with a seemingly endless array of fun zones, from waterparks to surfing pools, to go-kart tracks and laser tag courses, as well as oodles of restaurants, entertainment venues, spas, casinos and more. These are the floating megaresorts that hold as many as 6,000 passengers and that doesn’t include the crew contingent!

If you’re cruising for the first time, it is highly likely you will be traveling with one of the above brands – if only because they dominate the cruise market among North Americans and, indeed, the world. RCL (Royal Caribbean Lines) alone accounts for nearly 20%!o(MISSING)f all cruises taken worldwide. Add in the next 3 biggest players (Carnival, MSC and Norwegian), and you’re up to well over 50%!o(MISSING)f the entire cruise business.

One Step Down for Adults (far less kids!): if a ship topped with the cruising equivalent of an amusement park doesn’t “float your boat”, your best bets are either Princess, Holland America or Celebrity. These are more traditional ships for people who don’t want a floating theme park/Las Vegas resort experience. Instead of bustling attractions, the top decks of these ships offer lots of quiet and relaxing pool and lounge areas, where you can enjoy the experience of being at sea without a lot of hustle and bustle. Inside, the experience often revolves around dining, classic entertainment and a classy bar and music scene. These three brands draw more couples and far fewer families with kids – they skew older. At Princess for example, the average age of passengers is around 58 and you see a lot of couples in their 50s, 60s and 70s onboard. Holland America takes the prize for older passengers – their average age is closer to 80 – at times the ship can resemble a nursing home!

The Budget Option: and then there’s Carnival – the “fun ships” line is also in the budget line among the biggies – a brand that is all about great value and more kids than you can imagine. A recent price comparison was conducted among these brands, and it was discovered that a family of four could pay as little as half as much compared to a similar cruise on Royal Caribbean, assuming same cabins and itineraries.

In addition to being incredibly inexpensive, Carnival ships are casual, unpretentious, fun-focused and yes, a bit loud and wild. This is after all, the brand that famously holds a Hairy Chest Content around the pool deck on every voyage, to a standing-room-only, hooting and hollering crowd.

Luxury Lines: if your idea of a vacation is being pampered at every turn, and you have a large bank account, you’ll probably want to start your search among the luxury cruise operators: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Seabourn, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Compared with mass-market cruise ships, Luxury ones typically offer bigger cabins (quite often every cabin is a suite), more elegant dining and crazy-high levels of service. It’s not uncommon for luxury ships to have nearly as many crew members as there are passengers. What all the luxury lines have in common is that they can be quite pricey. You can easily pay several times as much for one of these as you would for a mass-market cruise. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see cabins for $1,000 or more per person, per day! Such comparisons however can be misleading, that’s because luxury lines typically include almost every extra charge you can imagine – drinks of all types; gratuities; Wifi; car transfers to the ship, and even round-trip flights – in their base fares.

Expedition Types: one of the fastest-growing cruise segments in recent years, have been “expedition cruising”, the type that involves sailing to remote, hard-to-reach places such as Antarctica, on small, hardy vessels that carry their own landing craft to get you ashore. This is very different than what the big mass-market lines offer – it might as well be considered an entirely different form of travel. Lines in this category include: Atlas Ocean Voyages, Lindblad Expeditions, Hurtigruten, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Ponant, Quark Expeditions, Silversea Cruises, Oceanwide Expeditions and Poseidon Expeditions.

River Cruises: another fast-growing segment of cruising is that which revolves around travel on rivers, with capacity among the major companies growing at a rapid pace. A lot of this growth has been driven by the marketing efforts and aggressive shipbuilding program of a single line, Viking, which now accounts for about half of all river cruises taken by North Americans. But it’s not the only significant player – other brands include: Ama Waterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, U by Uniworld, Tauck, Emerald Waterways, American Cruise Lines, Vantage Deluxe World Travel and Grand Circle Cruise Lines.

On many of the world’s major rivers, the vessels that these lines operate are all roughly the same size, due to specific limitations caused by lock size and bridge heights. As a result, there is much less variation than there is among ocean-going ships. That said, these brands offer a range of experiences and price points.

So, What Should Go in My Suitcase for a Cruise?

Most travelers know the basics of packing – roll your clothes, bring sturdy shoes, keep carry-on liquids to 3.4 ounces or less – but it’s still a highly personal endeavor that varies from one person to the next. Some bring less than they need, opting to either (1) do laundry onboard, (2) pay the cruise line to do it, or (3) wear the same clothes over and over. Others undertake this task as if they are permanently relocating and bring their entire closets – I fall somewhere in-between for the most part. Whichever one you advocate, there are certain items I strongly urge you to bring on each and every voyage….these are a few of my “must-haves”:

· With so many horror stories of lost luggage lately, Apple Airtags or Android Tiles are a must for any traveler, especially cruisers who are flying to their embarkation ports. Simply pop one into each piece of luggage and you can track their whereabouts using a Bluetooth connection and your smartphone. With a pack of these handy gadgets, you’re better equipped to find any missing bags than the airlines themselves.

· Most travelers have at least 2 pens but it’s not always top-of-mind to pack highlighters. I find they come in handy when poring over each day’s activity list (assuming your cruise line still offers paper schedules, that is). Just make sure you pack them in sealable plastic bags in case they leak – you don’t want neon pigment all over your cruise wardrobe.

· Metal hooks are a godsend as the walls of cruise ship cabins are metal, making them very magnet friendly. If you routinely stick important documents to your refrigerator door at home, bring a set of small magnet hooks to organize everything from daily schedules to shore excursions tickets and dinner invitations. They also work great for creating extra space to hang robes, sweaty gym clothes or wet bathing suits.

· I purchased my first set of packing cubes a few years ago and haven’t taken a single trip without them in my luggage since. Having underwear in one cube; jeans/slacks in a second; and tops in a third, makes for speedy packing and unpacking – I even leave the underwear in the cube and save drawer space. Just when you think you can’t fit one more thing in the case, there’s always a tiny bit more space using cubes. Any brand will do, and you can select from a variety of sizes and colors, water-resistant fabrics, reasonable prices and receive bonus bags for laundry and shoes – a real travel bargain.

· These days, cruising requires a bit more documentation than it did in years gone by. Not only will you need your passport handy (or birth certificate and ID), you’ll also have to carry things like your vaccination cards and maybe even COVID-19 test results and/or related paperwork. Nothing keeps me organized like the slim leather case I bought in the UK years ago, which easily fits all of the above with room to spare. So easy to pull out of my purse when checking in and have exactly what I need at my fingertips.

· A pack of thank-you notes or blank greeting cards are ideal for leaving cash tips for my room steward at the end of each voyage. I always have the automatic gratuities removed from my account immediately upon boarding – I’m not about to let anyone (especially a cruise line), tell me how I spend my money! It’s so much better than leaving money on the desktop, and even if you’re not a fan of additional tipping (assuming you keep the automatic gratuities in place), you can still leave a lovely note of thanks.

· This tip won’t be applicable for many people, as cruisers tend to disconnect during their vacations – but for the minority, we would never travel without our laptops. As such, I bring an HDMI cable in the event I want to have a lazy day lounging in my cabin, I plug the laptop into the cabin’s tv. This also works with smartphones, iPads and other tablets if you have an HDMI adapter.

· As a bibliophile, I adore reading whenever I have downtime onboard, but traveling with more than a single book takes up way too much valuable real estate in any luggage. With a Kindle or other e-reader, you can compress all of those pages into a single thin device that’s super portable. I have a 10” Kindle Fire HD which currently holds 980 novels but weighs very little.

· If you’re someone who has trouble staying organized when traveling, or you plan to share a cabin, consider packing a set of over-the-door shoe pouches. They are terrific for storing everything from actual shoes to jewelry, toiletries and hairstyling tools all in one place, and also allows you to instantly see what you have. It ensures nothing is misplaced, and it certainly keeps any cabin tidier.

· “Liquid Stitch” is a lifesaver and I never leave home without at least one tube in my bag. I don’t feel like fixing a torn hem or burst seam with a needle and thread when I can simply squeeze a thin line of white liquid stitch onto the problem and voila – problem solved! It’s an opaque white out of the tube but dries to a hard transparent seal which will last thru a couple of washes. I buy it at Walmart for about $5 a tube.

· In my experience you can never have too many zip-top style plastic bags (in different sizes) when you travel anywhere. Considering how many bottles of liquid go into my suitcase, with the corresponding problem of them leaking at some point in time, these plastic bags are my solution. I discard all paper/cardboard packaging on toiletries and use plastic bags instead. I save space and never worry about leaks. If needed later on, I can always reuse these bags.

· Plug Adapters for any country I’m traveling to are a no-brainer with the one I purchase online from Amazon. Approximately $9 each, not only does it have the required pop-out plugs for different countries, but also has a couple of USB ports. I have two or three with me for every voyage as cruise ships are notoriously short on outlets, and with the number of electronics I have on hand, it can make keeping them fully charged a challenge. Some travelers recommend packing a power strip, but that can be dicey, as surge-protected strips are often confiscated during the boarding procedure.

· In addition to patches or pills such as Bonine or Dramamine, ginger candies are good to have on hand as remedies if you become seasick, as they help to calm your stomach. They also double as lozenges if you suffer with dry mouth on pre-cruise flights.

· If you’re traveling solo, you can skip this one, but if not take heed. When you’re sharing close quarters and a bathroom, the last thing you want to share is the smell from the latter. Many travel-size air fresheners are available or, if you need to limit your liquids, simply use a spray or two of the perfume or cologne you’re bringing with you anyway or pack a solid air freshener.

· Getting up during the night to use the bathroom, I often find myself disoriented, especially in an interior cabin. More than once I’ve slammed into a wall or stubbed my toe on a side table before my eyes had adjusted to the dark, so I always bring a small night light. Some even come with a built-in air freshener, giving you a twofer.

12 Common Money-Wasting Mistakes Cruise Newbies Make:

(1) Savvy cruisers do one thing every day that I bet you do not. It’s not as sexy as securing the best sun lounger without turning into a chair hog or taking advantage of a lucrative bar or dining discount. However, if you adopt this habit, it could save you money and hassle. What is it that smart sailors do daily? Check their onboard bill.

“Oh no” I hear you saying – I do not want the buzzkill of thinking about money on vacation. I want to continue enjoying those umbrella drinks, impulse buys and extra-fee snacks without worrying about the cost, until I’m forced to face reality the night prior to disembarkation. And yet – what if this bill is wrong? If you don’t spot those screwy charges in a timely manner, recouping the funds gets a lot more difficult.

Mistakes on your onboard account are more common than you might realize. You could be inadvertently charged for drinks you did not order, or meals you did not eat. Maybe your cancelled shore excursion credit did not come through, or you were charged twice for the overpriced logo sweatshirt you bought at the onboard shops. I’ve heard tales of kids racking up bills at the arcade on some ships, and their parents not discovering these fees until the last night of the cruise. And let’s not overlook those mysterious charges which show up out of nowhere, and you have no idea where they came from.

If it’s not immediately obvious why checking your bill daily is the better way to go, let me spell it out for you. You could ignore it and wait until a paper bill is delivered to your cabin on the last night. If there are issues, you could contest the charges at that time. But I see two problems with this strategy. (1) is that most cruisers take this approach, leading to massive queues at guest services both that evening and the morning of departure. (2) this strategy does not help you stop a problem before it gets out of hand. If your kid is running up bills on video games without your knowledge, the cruise line isn’t going to wipe out those charges on day 7, because they are now considered legitimate purchases. However, catching this early, say on day 2 or 3, you can put a spending limit on his card at guest services, so he can’t rack up further charges.

It also lets you discover if onboard credit or loyalty-member perks are not being applied correctly and have that specific issue taken care of as soon as possible. If you’re thinking you will take care of any billing problems after your cruise, think again! Let me assure you that this will cause even more headaches. Post-cruise customer service is sadly not the best.

One last comment regarding your onboard account: be aware that any monies remaining at the end of the cruise can be either refundable or nonrefundable. It takes approximately 3-6 weeks to receive a check from the cruise line to settle your account, and of course if it was nonrefundable, you can kiss it all goodbye!

(2) Cruise lines usually throw a “sailaway” party on the first evening of a new cruise. Once you make an appearance on the appropriate deck, you will probably be confronted by a beaming waiter holding out a tray of colorful umbrella drinks. Don’t assume freebie cocktails – they are not. Soon as you grab one, out comes the electronic device to record your purchase, and trust me, it will be sky high…..ka-ching!

As any frequent cruiser can attest, cruise lines are masters at the upsell. On some lines, the whole business model is built around getting you to spend more than you ever thought possible. They get you on the ship at a low cabin rates, then blast you with spending opportunities at inflated amounts.

(3) Buying too many ship-sponsored shore excursions – despite what you will hear at onboard destination talks, you don’t have to book an excursion in every port of call. There are many big-name cruise destinations around the world – Barcelona or Venice for example – where it’s easy to visit the biggest attractions on your own, either on foot, using public transportation or take advantage of ride-hailing companies such as Uber or Lyft. This is always so much cheaper than going with a ship’s organized tour of 35 or more people, and probably a lot more enjoyable as well.

Do your own research and book your own shore excursions through independents in port or online, such as Viator or ToursByLocals. I’m a strong advocate of checking online with universities in cities I will be visiting, where many students are available as free guides – you just pay for any entrance fees, maybe their lunch and then a decent tip at the end. This way, you have your own private local guide/translator, and they get to improve their English language skills! This first started years ago in Japan and has since spread across the globe, in hundreds of major cities.

(4) Buying a drinks package, if you’re not a big drinker –let’s face it, drinks packages on ships are pricey and they really only make sense if you spend a lot on alcohol – a really big spender. Before committing to any package, think hard about how much you typically drink and what type of drink you usually order. Then take the price of the cocktail PLUS the 18%!o(MISSING)r 20%!s(MISSING)ervice charge PER DRINK times the number of days you are onboard – does it make monetary sense? You probably will find it’s far less expensive to just pay as you go.

Pay attention here: in addition to alcoholic drinks, passengers purchasing a drinks package typically have access to an unlimited number of nonalcoholic beverages such as specialty coffees and sodas that normally come with an extra charge. So, this can be a great value to vacationers who are fond of ordering a high number of caramel lattes, Cokes and pots of hot tea during the day, in addition to all those cocktails. When sailing with Princess, I always purchase their Coffee Card Package on Day 1 for $36.58, which gives me a total of 15 specialty coffees for the duration of the voyage, but the best part, it also includes unlimited cups of fresh brewed coffee, hot chocolate and pots of hot tea.

(5) Forgetting to bring every toiletry you could ever possibly need: yes, you’ll be able to find sunscreen, aspirin and Band-Aids on a ship, but be prepared to pay at least 4 times or more than you would back home. Cruise lines know you’re a captive audience and price their shipboard stores accordingly. I have a bag of over-the-counter medicines that reside permanently in my suitcase (refilled between every trip) containing everything from A to Z found in any pharmacy. I may not need any of it on most trips, but then again, I never get hit with a crazy toiletries charge. While we are on the topic of sundries, DO NOT forget extra batteries for your camera – highly unlikely the ship will have the exact size you need, and don’t ask about the prices, you don’t want to know!

(6) not maximizing your credit card points onboard – ensure you have tied the card that offers extra points for travel purchases to your onboard account. I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining.

(7) buying full-priced spa treatments – that’s a big no-no as the one thing all cruise lines have in common, is that their spa pricing is sky high. One strategy that many savvy cruisers follow when booking spa appointments, is to wait for treatments to go on sale. This happens mostly when the vessel is in port and with most passengers out touring, the cruise line has to drop prices to boost demand. Check your cabin newsletter the night before the ship docks and see what is being offered. Before you tip in the spa, ask if an automatic gratuity has already been added to your account – these are the same as drinks package – 18%!o(MISSING)r 20%!o(MISSING)therwise you tip twice.

(8) shopping onboard for just about anything – people buy the strangest things on ships. On just about every ship bigger than a tugboat, you’ll find at least one store, usually selling everything from little models of your ship to gold chains sold “by the inch”. There’s also art, sold through auctions (how did this ever become a “thing” on cruise ships?), and all sorts of tchotchkes, jewelry, watches and clothing, the latter often with the cruise line’s logo splashed all across it. For heaven’s sake, go ashore and bargain with locals for stuff you really like and can use, at much lower prices, and hopefully no logos!

(9) not keeping your smartphone in airplane mode: some of the biggest cruise ship horror stories are those of cruising newbies who racked up thousands of dollars in cellphone charges while onboard. Many phone plans – even international ones – do not include talking, texting and data on cruise ships, and you’ll pay exorbitant roaming rates for services that show up weeks later on your phone bill.

There are ways to make calls and access the internet onboard without spending a boatload (pun intended) of money. You can purchase a Wifi package for instance, that will let you make WhatsApp or Facetime calls and stream videos without using phone data. Some phone companies also have cruise-specific plans you buy in advance of a voyage. But I personally never go that route. I just put my phone in airplane mode the moment I step onboard and never switch it back on. Then I switch on the phone’s Wifi, buy an internet package with a discount (based on my elite status with the cruise line) and off I go, using WhatsApp and internet surfing over Wifi. This way, there’s no way I can ever be surprised by an unexpected massive phone bill.

(10) buying photo packages – this is a big business on many cruise lines. You’ll find ship photographers lying in wait at the arrival terminal, usually close to the gangplank, wanting to take your picture in front of one or more ship-related backdrops. They resurface at the gangplank during port calls, in restaurants during dinner and in the corridors and public deck areas on formal nights, snapping away. All these pix then appear in ship photography galleries, where they are available for a charge.

My advice, look but don’t buy. Some of the photos maybe fun, but the pricing for them on most ships is insanely over the top. You can easily pay $20 or more for a single shot in digital form – you don’t even get a print. Multi-photo packages often run into the hundreds of dollars. You may be excited about the photos when you first see them but trust me, you won’t be so thrilled when you get the final bill at the end of your cruise.

(11) not asking for comps in the casino – just like casinos on land, casinos at sea often offer extra perks for their most loyal customers. If you’re going to play a lot onboard, make sure you introduce yourself to the casino manager at the start of the cruise, and check to see if the line has a casino players card. Depending upon the line, your play could be rewarded with such perks as free drinks, free dinners in specialty restaurants, free internet time, OBC (onboard credit), or even a free future cruise.

(12) last but not least, my favorite tip of all: just because you have made a future cruise reservation and put down a deposit (regardless of amount), that is not the end of the pricing process by a long shot. Cabin prices can and do fluctuate like a yo-yo on steroids and it can pay off like the proverbial slot machine, if you get into the habit of checking the current cost of a similar cabin to the one you have booked, at least 2 or 3 times a week until final payment date (generally 90 days prior to sailing). As soon as you see a price drop, either contact your vacation planner/travel agent/cruise line customer service to have this reduction applied to your account. This does not happen automatically – you have to initiate the call.

Step 2: you have made your final payment and you think you have the best deal, right? Wrong – there is still more you can do. Cabin prices can and do continue to fluctuate, all based on passenger capacity on a daily basis. Let me give you an example related to a cruise I recently took:

· Booked a 17-day cruise, single interior cabin, 5 months from sailing date

· Over the next two months I had 3 separate price reductions totaling almost $500

· One week after final payment, I saw an identical cabin drop another $660. A quickie email to my vacation planner resulted in this exact amount being credited back to my credit card, plus an additional $300 OBC!

What the cruise will do (or not) depending on circumstances beyond your control, varies after final payment date. There are generally 3 options: credit back to your card; a big upgrade to a much better cabin or, full amount given in OBC (which by the way, is fully refundable should you not use it while onboard). I didn’t use the additional $300 OBC and received a check in that amount about 4 weeks later.

6 Ways to Save Money by Getting Cheaper Cruises:

If you’ve been looking for an affordable cruise vacation, you probably noticed a lot of last-minute deals this fall for soon-to-depart sailings (aka Drop ‘N Go fares). But prices for the coming year remain relatively high on many lines – higher in some cases, than they were in 2019, the last normal year for cruising. So, how do you get the best deal if you’re trying to book a cruise for 2023 and beyond? To start – don’t panic. Even if fares for the coming year don’t come down soon, you can still find ways to save when booking a sea vacation. The following are travel hacks that can work anytime, not just when fares are rising. Combine a few of these strategies and you are sure to find the best cruise deals available on your next sailing.

· Cruise during the off season. As is the case for resorts on land, floating resorts that are cruise ships, can be significantly less expensive during September, October and November. These are the months when kids are typically back in school and family travel declines, resulting in diminished demand for many types of travel, including cruises. In the Caribbean, it’s also hurricane season, which keeps some people away from both land and floating resorts in this region. Traditionally, the summer months of June, July and August have been high season in many cruise destinations like the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska. The time periods around major holidays – Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – also are considered the busy season for cruising with resulting higher prices.

· Book early. It’s a growing truism of the cruise world – the earlier you book, the better price you will get. But as I discussed in the last section, this isn’t always true! Booking far in advance does pay off however in more ways than one. One big advantage is that you are far more likely to get the exact cabin type you want. On many ships, the least expensive and the most expensive often sell out quickly. And as I have already told you, watching price reductions going forward and jumping on them ASAP is the way to go – BUT note, that not all fare types allow for changes after booking, it’s important to read the fine print for the category you reserved.

· Book last minute. If you’re really flexible and can travel on short notice, sometimes last-minute deals appear when the cruise line is scrambling to fill berths. Generally, the fare will only go up as sailing dates approach, but in some cases, prices will drop a lot, just two or three weeks prior to sailing. The happens when the line finds itself with a lot of unsold cabins.

· Sail on an older ship. On many larger cruise lines, you’ll find that the newest, most amenity-filled ships sell at a premium – older ships come with a discount. The older ships sometimes don’t have quite as much to offer onboard, but if deal-seeking is your objective, they can bring great value.

· Use a travel agent. Are you the “go-it-alone” traveler? I get it – I am too. However, even if you book all your land trips on your own (as I do), you may want to use a travel agent/vacation planner who is a cruise specialist for your future voyages. One big reason for this is that these specialists often have access to bulk fares for sailings not available to the general public. In addition to lower fares, they also sometimes throw in extra perks like OBC or amenities when you book through them. My biggest reason for using a vacation planner, is that I simply email her each time there is a price reduction and then forget about it – she handles everything at her end, and I know my booking is being handled correctly each time. I’ve rarely encountered problems while onboard, but the one time I did, contacting my vacation planner resulted in my being moved immediately from an interior cabin to a large balcony one for the remainder of the entire voyage (it was a B2B2B – 36 days) – she sure came through for me!

· Consider a Repositioning Cruise. Some of the absolute best deals are on ships relocating from one part of the world to another for seasonal reasons. This is because cruise lines often have trouble selling these itineraries which contain many “at sea” days, and oddball ports of call along the way. They have to discount these trips to fill the ships as much as possible. The example I gave above on watching price reductions, was a Transatlantic repositioning cruise. Among the most common “repros” are between the Caribbean and Europe in the spring, and the return sailings in the fall. Check out the “repros” on Transpacific cruises – they can be massive deals, especially going to Yokohama from Seattle or Vancouver. I’ve found “repros” between Europe and South America, also between Los Angeles/Vancouver and New Zealand recently at very reasonable prices.

Cruising isn’t for everyone that’s for sure, but for those who would rather step onboard a ship instead of staying home watching television, I hope this guide has given you lots to consider – Happy Cruising Everyone!


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