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First Time Cruisers Getting the Most from Your Cruise

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between one cruise line and another. Cruise ship companies are experts at designing attractive brochures and flashy television commercials. It can be confusing to know how to choose the right ship, much less, destinations and a flood of information from the advertising media. How can you determine the best value for your vacation dollar?

This guide to "Getting the most from your Cruise" is based on our years of experience in cruise vacation planning. As one of America's premier cruise specialists, Cruise Planners has the expertise to help you in your selections. Hopefully, this will be useful to you in gathering information about cruising and why it is the bast vacation value.

Why cruising is such a value

We all live in a fast paced world so it is no wonder that more and more Americans are discovering the value and enchantment of cruising. The sea has been a source of romance, adventure, excitement, and wonder. Cruising in this day in age has developed into fun and relaxation. Surveys show that cruising has the highest passenger satisfaction rating of any type of vacation.

Cruising has it all

Almost everything is included at a fixed price that you can pay in advance. This is what is typically included in the cost of your cruise. This price that is generally lower than a comparable land-based resort vacation:

  1. Round-trip airfare.
  2. Transfers from airport to ship and ship to airport.
  3. Three main meals per day. Special children's menus are available for families.
  4. Three buffet meals per day (breakfast, lunch and midnight). Some ships also have afternoon snacks or coffee bars.
  5. 24-hour room service on many ships. Some new ships are adding 24-hour pizzerias.
  6. Casino, pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, gym, on-board lectures and seminars at sea, library, a variety of organized games, contests, sing a longs, etc.
  7. Top-rated, supervised children's activities offered on a daily basis.Many of the Youth Counselors are degreed education specialists.
  8. Broadway and Las Vegas-style shows, lounges, nightclubs, movies, dancing and more...
  9. Visits to exotic ports of call.

Gratuities are not generally included in the cost of your cruise.A suggested amount is $7.50-$9 per day per person, or $52.50-$63 per passenger per week for a 7-day cruise, paid at the end of the cruise; port charges and government fees (approximately $125 per person for a typical 7-day Caribbean cruise, but varying in price depending on destination); shore excursions; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, casino, boutiques, spa. etc.

Cruising is value

Cruising does make good sense. The dining experience is the equivalent of going to the best-rated restaurant in town. At every meal you will find fine china, crystal, and silver, impeccable service, and excellent cuisine. You can have as many servings of whatever you like as often as you like and there is no comparison to the value found in the dining experience aboard a cruise ship. It cannot even be compared to any land based resort.

The ultimate in relaxation and fun

Cruise personnel have the most cheerful attitudes and help in putting passengers at ease as they step on board a ship. Most cruise ships have developed guest services to a high art. Friendliness is virtually institutional aboard most ships.This gives passengers the sense that they are truly valued as welcome guests.

Exotic Destinations

There is virtually no place in the world that you cannot get to, in some way, than by cruise. Whether for escape, adventure or a thirst for knowledge, visiting exotic destinations is a collective fantasy that appeals to everyone. New destinations and itineraries are constantly being added.

Some common questions

What about cruise safety ? Cruise ships today are the representation of high technology.Ships are now designed to withstand the most angry seas, to transport passengers in maximum comfort, and to protect the lives and ensure the safety of its passengers and crew. State-of-the-art weather forecasting have allowed ships to be warned well in advance of hazardous weather conditions, and to take evasive action if necessary.

When you board your ship, one of the first things that you will be required to do is to participate in an emergency drill. You will be told where to find your life vest and then be directed to a specific location on the ship

What about motion sickness? There are many over-the-counter, non-prescription medications available to help avoid or eliminate seasickness."The patch," is a prescription medication that is applied behind the ear and time releases small amounts of medicine through the skin. Many people have found this to be effective against motion sickness. Ships today have hydraulic stabilizers, which regulate the movement of the ship at sea to create more balance and less motion. However, the sea is one of the greatest forces in nature, and during rough seas, even the largest cruise ships can be subject to motion.

In the event of seasickness, most ships are equipped with modem medical facilities and a ship's physician. Seasickness is very rare aboard cruise ships, especially on the new generation of superliners.

What about boredom? Cruise ships are like the most exciting and well-planned resort you can imagine. Add some of the most beautiful and exotic places on earth, the majesty of the sea and the impeccable and attentive service of the cruise ship staff. It it almost impossible to get bored.

Inside the ship numerous lounges cater to a wide variety of tastes. Las Vegas-style reviews or Broadway shows are always playing in the evening. Throughout the ship you will find smaller lounge areas where people can meet and greet each other. There are also card rooms, libraries, and theaters.

Not only are you enjoying all of the amenities of a floating resort, you are also in motion toward a completely new port of call. When you get off the ship, you will often be in a different country with different culture, different people and different scenery.

What about children's programs? Many cruise ships cater to year-round children's programs with fully-trained youth counselors on board. Newer ships have playrooms, teen discos, video arcades and computer rooms.

Is cruising too expensive? Considering that cruising is all-inclusive, it is hard to compare cruising to a land-based vacation because, by adding up all of the different expense items and you will find cruising, it is less expensive than a land-based vacation. Plus, the service that you receive aboard a cruise ship is usually far superior to what one would receive in a land resort.

What about romance on board? Cruising is becoming increasingly popular for honeymoons, weddings, anniversaries and singles of all ages. Perhaps it's the realxed atmosphere or simply the beauty of the sea.

What should I pack? Pack as if you were going to a land resort. Most cruise ships are casual by day with resort-wear suggested by night. Seven-day cruises usually have two formal nights where tuxedos or dark suits for men and cocktail dress or gowns for women are suggested. There are also two semi-formal nights where jacket and tie are suggested.

All cruise ships visiting countries outside the U.S. require proof of U.S. citizenship - either a valid passport or birth certificate. Some cruises may also require visas.

Is there a good cabin location? Generally, there is less motion the further down and the more mid-ship you are. Some people like to be higher up and nearer to the public areas of the ship.

How do I choose the right cruise?

It depends on where you want to go and for how long?There are many resources at your disposal to help you to decide where you would like to go. Visit your local library or the reference section of your local bookstore. The travel section will have guidebooks. The geography section will have descriptions of countries and cultures, while the history section will provide backgrounds of the places that you might like to visit. Travel magazines are also helpful.

Also examine cruise brochures so you will get a feel where different ships it is rarely necessary to pay the price listed in a cruise brochure. Cruise Planners can help you get a discounted price.

How to fit a cruise to your budget: There is a cruise to fit every passenger. If this is your one week during the year to travel, you might have set aside more funds because you want something extra special. If you will be celebrating some special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary you may want to spend extra . If your are travelling with the family, perhaps is most important to find the least expensive cruise that meets all of your expectations.

Choosing a cruise ship When you travel, are you more comfortable in a budget, moderate, or deluxe hotel? Budget cruises include Commodore and First European. Moderate cruises include American Hawaii, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Olympic and Costa. Deluxe cruises include Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Disney Cruise Line and Celebrity. Carnival may be in a class by itself. As the largest cruise line in the world, it caters to the "average" American on ships that rival the finest Las Vegas hotels.

Exclusive cruises appeal to the most discriminating cruise goers and are at the upper end of the spectrum in terms of expense, quality of service and amenities. Lines in this "ultra-deluxe" or "six-star" class include Crystal, Cunard, Radisson Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea.

How do I read a cruise brochure? The first thing to effectively using a cruise brochure is to look carefully at the photographs.Look for children, seniors or a mature clientele. Look at the tone to determine if it's festive and high spirited, or more sedate and refined.

Deck plans are easier to read than they look and can tell you a lot about a ship. By reading the deck plan, you can decide where you would like to stay on the ship and what amenities the ship has to offer. Do not go by the brochure rates. Ask your Cruise Planner for a quote.

The Caribbean

IThe Eastern Caribbean consists of ports such as Nassau, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Maarten, San Juan and St. Croix. The Western Caribbean includes Jamaica (Ocho Rios or Montego Bay), Cancun, Grand Cayman, Playa del Cannen, Roatan and Cozumel. These ports are also referred to as the Mexican Caribbean because, with the exception of Jamaica, they are on or near the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises sail from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and New Orleans.

The Southern or Lower Caribbean refers to ships that are based in San Juan or other Caribbean ports such as Montego Bay, Barbados or Aruba. Since these cruises begin further south into the Caribbean, they are able to visit islands such Antigua, Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Caracas, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago.

A shore excursions

Shore excursions are the highlight of every cruise vacation. Whether you want to just relax on the beach or get an in-depth historical or cultural perspective of the island or port you are visiting, there is a shore excursion for you.

While cruise ship brochures do not list tour options, many cruise lines send a descriptive brochure along with documents so that by the time you board the ship, you have had the opportunity to plan your activities on shore. To reserve the ones you want, plan on signing up at the Shore Excursion Desk when you first board the ship. Some ships have interactive in-cabin television, which allows you to preview and order shore excursions.

The price of shore excursions varies widely depending on the port and the cruise line. An average price is $28-$42 per person for escorted activities such as city or island tours, snorkeling, beach parties, and glass bottom boat rides.

Longer shore excursions are more expensive. In Alaska, you can enjoy a salmon bake for $25-$42 per person, take a 2- hour motorcoach tour for around $40 per person or fly over Glacier Bay for 1 1/2 hours for $145 per person.