Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whether you like them or not, cruises touch on a tantalizing vacation
trifecta: good value, hassle-free planning, and the promise of adventure.
Pay
an upfront rate and you"ve got a floating hotel, three meals a day, ample
entertainment and activities, luxe services, and an expert itinerary in
multiple destinations.
Now add to that the fact that you only have to unpack
your bags once.
We know the reputation that cruises still have, but even
staunch non-cruisers will want to become first-timers after considering this
stress-free kind of travel.
Whether you"re a cruising veteran or an absolute
beginner, you"ll find everything you need to prepare for your next floating
getaway here and in our exhaustive Cruising 101 guide.Is cruising right for
me? Photo: Constantinescu Adela / Shutterstock
Cruising is not a
one-size-fits-all experience, but it"s a near-guarantee that there"s a cruise
vacation out there that"s practically tailored to you.
Whether you want to
float down French canals or sail the Caribbean with 5,000 other passengers,
the right experience is out there.
Cruises make it easy to visit multiple
destinations, sample a specific region, and explore exotic locales.
As for the
onboard experience, there"s plenty of entertainment, and there"s no need to
worry about seasickness, because there are plenty of ways to avoid it.Where
can I sail, and when should I go? Photo: Laszlo Halasi /
ShutterstockWherever you want to go in the world, there"s a cruise waiting for
you there.
The best destinations for year-round cruising are Asia, the
Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico"s Riviera Maya, South America, and the South
Pacific.
Other regions have more limited windows for ideal cruise travel.
You
should book a cruise for wherever you want to see most, but know that
Southeast Asia is a particularly hot destination in the cruise world
currently.When"s the best time to book a cruise? Photo: Andrey_Popov /
Shutterstock
Deals can be had just about any time of year, but you generally
want to book far in advance, at the last minute, or during "Wave Season,"
which runs from January through March.
Travel agents and tour packagers also
often stage their own sales to coincide with holidays like the Fourth of July
and Labor Day.
Perks can include reduced deposits, discounted cruise fares,
two-for-one deals, onboard credit, free kids" fares, cabin-category upgrades,
prepaid gratuities, complimentary beverage packages, free specialty restaurant
reservations, and gratis shore excursions or spa treatments.Which cruise line
is right for me? Photo: BCritchley | Dreamstime
Cruise lines fall into
three basic categories, ascending in level of sophistication and service, and,
predictably, price: mainstream (Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean), premium
(Celebrity, Holland America, Princess), and luxury (Crystal, Regent Seven
Seas, Silversea).

Selecting a cruise line that matches your vacation
preferences will mean the difference between an excellent experience and one
that leaves you wishing that you"d just stayed home instead.
Families may
prefer Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, while seniors might
gravitate to Holland America Line and Crystal Cruises.
Natural-born explorers
may be interested in Lindblad Expeditions and Hurtigruten, while honeymooners
tend to prefer Paul Gauguin Cruises and Windstar Cruises.
Want a small-ship
experience? Go for Un-Cruise Adventures or SeaDream Yacht Club.
Ask trusted
friends and family for their recommendations, and do plenty of independent
research online.Related: Envelope Please … the Best Cruise Lines of
2015
How do I pick the perfect cruise ship? Photo: IkeHayden /
Shutterstock
Tailor your cruise by selecting a suitable ship in terms of size
and onboard offerings (bigger cruise ships offer anonymity and oodles of
amenities; smaller ships offer more intimacy and quiet, and access to smaller
ports); like-minded clientele (fun-in-the-sun partiers, toddler-toting
families, or sophisticated socialites–numbering anywhere from 10
passengers to 6,000), and of course, price (mass-market lines like Carnival
and Royal Caribbean dole out bargains, but charge for à la carte extras,
while luxury lines like Silversea and Seabourn are more all-inclusive with
heftier upfront price tags).How much do cruises cost? Photo: Drkatsphoto |
Dreamstime
Cruise costs vary greatly according to itinerary (including
factors like cruise length, and popularity of the destination), season (with
highest prices during summer and holiday periods), cabin accommodations, and
of course, the caliber of the cruise line.
A good rule of thumb is that the
less expensive the cruise, the less that"s included in the rate, as the lines
try to up their profits with a lot of ancillary offerings; luxury lines might
carry a higher upfront price tag, but will often operate on a more
all-inclusive model.
Note that quoted cruise rates are based on double
occupancy; solo travelers should be careful to find out whether there are
single passenger supplements tacked on.How should I book my cruise? Photo:
MJTH / Shutterstock
If you have the time to independently research the best
cruise line for you—and to shop around for the best deals—you
can book your cruise directly through the cruise line or through a third-party
seller that posts a striking deal.
Otherwise, consider a travel agent who
specializes in cruise travel and the line that you"re most interested
in.
Travel agents often offer discounts and perks (think onboard credit and
prepaid gratuities) that you won"t get by booking directly with the cruise
line.
Travel agents are also intimately familiar with these cruise ships and
can help you book the cabin that"s right for you.
For example, they know the
ship layout and can steer you away from booking the cabin directly under that
noisy nightclub.Which cabin should I choose? Photo: CAN BALCIOGLU /
Shutterstock
Booking the right cabin will greatly enhance your cruise
experience.
First things first: If you"ve never sailed before and don"t know
if you"re apt to seasickness, pick a midship cabin on a lower deck.
That"s the
fulcrum point of the vessel and that means you"ll feel less movement than if
you"re far forward or aft, or on an upper deck.If you"re on a budget, look at
inside (windowless) staterooms or "guarantees".
A guarantee means that you"ll
be assigned to at least the category of your guarantee—though you could
also end up in a higher category cabin.
This is a terrific option if you"d
like to upgrade your accommodations, but don"t want to pay out of pocket for
it.Seriously consider booking a balcony cabin.
Cruise travel affords some
amazing vistas and it"s wonderfully convenient to be able to sit on your own
balcony and watch the world go by.
Balcony cabins are especially important
when sailing in French Polynesia, Alaska, the Caribbean, and the
Mediterranean.See more about how to plan for a cruise.More from Fodor"s
Travel:
World"s 20 Most Beautiful Train Stations "20 Places to See in the
U.S.
Before You Die "World"s 10 Best Holiday MarketsSky Diving, Surfing: Is
This the Most Over-the-Top Cruise Ship? Let World traveling club Travel
inspire you every day.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.

Photo: Constantinescu Adela / Shutterstock Cruising is not a one-size-fits-all
experience, but it's a near-guarantee that there's a cruise vacation out
there that's practically tailored to you.
Whether you want to float down
French canals or sail the Caribbean with 5,000 other passengers, the right
experience is out there.
As for the onboard experience, there's plenty of
entertainment, and there's no need to worry about seasickness, because there
are plenty of ways to avoid it.
Photo: Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock Wherever
you want to go in the world, there's a cruise waiting for you there..Deals
can be had just about any time of year, but you generally want to book far in
advance, at the last minute, or during "Wave Season," which runs from January
through March.
Travel agents and tour packagers also often stage their own
sales to coincide with holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Perks
can include reduced deposits, discounted cruise fares, two-for-one deals,
onboard credit, free kids" fares, cabin-category upgrades, prepaid gratuities,
complimentary beverage packages, free specialty restaurant reservations, and
gratis shore excursions or spa treatments.Which cruise line is right for me?
Photo: BCritchley | Dreamstime
Cruise lines fall into three basic categories,
ascending in level of sophistication and service, and, predictably, price:
mainstream (Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean), premium (Celebrity, Holland
America, Princess), and luxury (Crystal, Regent Seven Seas,
Silversea).

Selecting a cruise line that matches your vacation preferences
will mean the difference between an excellent experience and one that leaves
you wishing that you"d just stayed home instead.
Families may prefer Disney
Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, while seniors might gravitate to
Holland America Line and Crystal Cruises.
Natural-born explorers may be
interested in Lindblad Expeditions and Hurtigruten, while honeymooners tend to
prefer Paul Gauguin Cruises and Windstar Cruises.
Want a small-ship
experience? Go for Un-Cruise Adventures or SeaDream Yacht Club.
Ask trusted
friends and family for their recommendations, and do plenty of independent
research online.Related: Envelope Please … the Best Cruise Lines of
2015
How do I pick the perfect cruise ship? Photo: IkeHayden /
Shutterstock
Tailor your cruise by selecting a suitable ship in terms of size
and onboard offerings (bigger cruise ships offer anonymity and oodles of
amenities; smaller ships offer more intimacy and quiet, and access to smaller
ports); like-minded clientele (fun-in-the-sun partiers, toddler-toting
families, or sophisticated socialites–numbering anywhere from 10
passengers to 6,000), and of course, price (mass-market lines like Carnival
and Royal Caribbean dole out bargains, but charge for à la carte extras,
while luxury lines like Silversea and Seabourn are more all-inclusive with
heftier upfront price tags).How much do cruises cost? Photo: Drkatsphoto |
Dreamstime
Cruise costs vary greatly according to itinerary (including
factors like cruise length, and popularity of the destination), season (with
highest prices during summer and holiday periods), cabin accommodations, and
of course, the caliber of the cruise line.
A good rule of thumb is that the
less expensive the cruise, the less that"s included in the rate, as the lines
try to up their profits with a lot of ancillary offerings; luxury lines might
carry a higher upfront price tag, but will often operate on a more
all-inclusive model.
Note that quoted cruise rates are based on double
occupancy; solo travelers should be careful to find out whether there are
single passenger supplements tacked on.How should I book my cruise? Photo:
MJTH / Shutterstock
If you have the time to independently research the best
cruise line for you—and to shop around for the best deals—you
can book your cruise directly through the cruise line or through a third-party
seller that posts a striking deal.
Otherwise, consider a travel agent who
specializes in cruise travel and the line that you"re most interested
in.
Travel agents often offer discounts and perks (think onboard credit and
prepaid gratuities) that you won"t get by booking directly with the cruise
line.
Travel agents are also intimately familiar with these cruise ships and
can help you book the cabin that"s right for you.
For example, they know the
ship layout and can steer you away from booking the cabin directly under that
noisy nightclub.Which cabin should I choose? Photo: CAN BALCIOGLU /
Shutterstock
Booking the right cabin will greatly enhance your cruise
experience.
First things first: If you"ve never sailed before and don"t know
if you"re apt to seasickness, pick a midship cabin on a lower deck.
That"s the
fulcrum point of the vessel and that means you"ll feel less movement than if
you"re far forward or aft, or on an upper deck.If you"re on a budget, look at
inside (windowless) staterooms or "guarantees".
A guarantee means that you"ll
be assigned to at least the category of your guarantee—though you could
also end up in a higher category cabin.
This is a terrific option if you"d
like to upgrade your accommodations, but don"t want to pay out of pocket for
it.Seriously consider booking a balcony cabin.
Cruise travel affords some
amazing vistas and it"s wonderfully convenient to be able to sit on your own
balcony and watch the world go by.
Balcony cabins are especially important
when sailing in French Polynesia, Alaska, the Caribbean, and the
Mediterranean.See more about how to plan for a cruise.More from Fodor"s
Travel:
World"s 20 Most Beautiful Train Stations "20 Places to See in the
U.S.
Before You Die "World"s 10 Best Holiday MarketsSky Diving, Surfing: Is
This the Most Over-the-Top Cruise Ship? Let World traveling club Travel
inspire you every day.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.

Photo:
Constantinescu Adela / Shutterstock Cruising is not a one-size-fits-all
experience, but it's a near-guarantee that there's a cruise vacation out
there that's practically tailored to you.
Whether you want to float down
French canals or sail the Caribbean with 5,000 other passengers, the right
experience is out there.
As for the onboard experience, there's plenty of
entertainment, and there's no need to worry about seasickness, because there
are plenty of ways to avoid it.
Photo: Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock Wherever
you want to go in the world, there's a cruise waiting for you there.

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