Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Planning a cruise can be an overwhelming experience. From deciding which port to embark from to which cruise line to sail with. It all can be a daunting experience, but it doesn't have to be. Here are my tips for planning the best cruise ever and getting the best rate for it.
First of all cruising is not for old folks anymore. With the newer cruise ships having more activities cruising can actually be a fun experience. The new Norwegian Encore has a gocart race track and some cruise ships have rock climbing and zip lining, and not to mention water slides. I've been on two cruises so far and it just keeps getting better. While some people don't like cruising because of the short stay at ports, other people like it because they get to see multiple countries without breaking the bank.
Let's talk planning. Here are some things you need to consider when choosing a cruise line.
1. Is it family friendly or just for adults?
2. Is it food and drink inclusive?
3. Is alchoholic drinks included? Do they have drink packages? Are you allowed to carry your own bottle of alchohol?
4. Does the cruiseline have a good track record? Minimal to no incidents while at sea, Good customer service, etc.
5. Is the ship up to date? Is it a newer ship or an old ship?
6. Do they have onboard activities that you will enjoy? Eg. social mixers for single travelers, game shows, entertainment (shows), activities for children, etc., pools, jacuzzi, mini golf, etc.
7. Where do you embark from? Do you have to fly to get to your port or is the port in your city, etc.
8. Do they have good health and safety reports? Have they recently had an outbreak of food poisioning, do they have up to date sanitation report, etc.
9. Which countries will your ship be sailing to?
10. Can you get the best value rate for your trip?
When I was planning my first cruise the first thing I wanted to know was which cruiseline had the least amount of incidents. Let's face it, safety is a priority. Visit the CDC.org website for all cruiseline sanitation report cards.
Now for the rates. Here are some tips to getting the best rates for your cruise vacation.
1. Reserve at the right time! - Now I normally reserve my cruise vacation 1 year in advance. Yes you heard me right! One year in advance, usually around December or January. With most cruiselines you can reserve your cabin up to three years in advance and make monthly payments. When you book at least six months in advance you can get up to to 50% off the original fare. Plus this gives you ample time to scan for cheap air fares if you have to fly to your sea port destination to embark the ship, and get good deals on hotels early if you have to stay at a hotel before or after your cruise.
2. Watch for Sales - You can score BIG during certain times of the year. The best months to look for sales is October, January, and February. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise tends to offer one day sales every week. You can also check CruiseCritic for great bargains as well.
3. Reserve at the last minute - Yes, sometimes reserving last minute can be a good thing. Fares generally rise as the cruise sail date approaches, but sometimes a spectacular (non refundable) deal pops up.
4. Sale at the right time - sailing during off peak season, you will definately pay less. Shoulder periods which are before and after popular times to travel, you will definately pay less. For example everyone wants to go to Alaska in the summer so there are great deals on May sailings just before summer really hits. Fares are also lower during hurricane season which is mid September to mid October (but don't worry hurricanes hardly ever interrupt cruises but people tend to still not want to cruise during these times).
5. Book spa and restaurants ahead of time - You've confirmed your reservation, now what? Well unfortunately you can't start booking for spa and restaurants and other packages until after you've completed paying for your cruise in full. But when you do book before you reach the cruise ship as if you wait till your on the ship you might have to pay extra (for speciality restaurants) or you might not get the dining time you want, and that goes for spa packages too.
6. Ask for special discounts - If you're over 55 years old, guess what? You can get a 5% or 10% discount. You can also get a discount if your in the military, a member of AARP, or if you're a repeat cruiser. So be sure to note that when your making your booking.
7. Book the next cruise on the ship - If you liked it, book another. When you're on a cruise they give you an opportunity to book another cruise at a discounted rate. Just make a deposit (normally refundable) and you can change the booking date if you ever change your mind about the sailing date.
8. Repositioning Cruise - What is that? Well it is when a cruiseline changes routes such as moving a ship from starting in Orlando to instead starting in Mexico to start that new route. Now in order to move the ship to its new route it has to set sail of course and that one time only "repositioning run" is usually super cheap. Now keep in mind thats more time at sea and minimal to no stops. To find these cruises check out Repositioning Cruise.
Hope these tips will help you plan your ultimate cruise vacation. Got any questions? Shoot me an email or DM me on Facebook or Instagram and I'll definitely help.