Finding a Good Cruise Match Tips

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(13) Where to Look for Cruise Match Information

Use these tips from cruise experts to learn more about finding the perfect cruise match:

Go Surfing: Visit Websites that offer unbiased reviews of cruise lines, cruise ships and cruise itineraries. A good site to view cruise line and ship profiles is Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) at www.cruising.org.

Visit individual cruise line Websites. Order cruise catalogs and free promotional DVDs. Note the age of passengers in photographs and the type of activities onboard ship. For instance, Crystal Cruises promotes enrichment lectures and learning opportunities while Carnival promotes non-stop, high energy activities like pool games and competitions.

Check the newsstand for cruise magazines like Porthole and Cruise Travel. Scan the Sunday travel section of major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Atlanta News Journal, or Los Angeles Times for cruise news and special deals.

Visit local travel agencies and collect an armload of cruise line brochures. The majority of cruises are currently booked through travel agents. An experienced travel agent knows the cruise market and understands your cruise style can help find the right cruise match for you and your budget.

Word of mouth is powerful. Ask for recommendations from satisfied cruisers. Find out what they liked best about their cruise line experiences and what they would do differently on future cruises. Check out cruise forums on the Internet and learn about the pleasures and pitfalls of cruises, cruise lines and cruise ships from veteran cruisers. Cruise Reviews Online (www.cruisereviewsonline), Cruise Mates (www.cruisemates.com) and Cruise Critics (www.cruisecritics.com) are leading Internet cruise forums.

   

(12) Buy a Piece of the World

At the opposite end of the cruise match budget spectrum, when money is no object, buy a piece of The World (www.aboardtheworld.com). Think condo at sea. This luxury residential cruise ship travels the seas year-round, stopping for a night or two at ports around the world. Residences on The World range from $825,000 to $3.6 million (not including annual maintenance fees).As of June 2006, all residences were sold, but some are available for rent for a minimum of six nights beginning at $1,200 per night for two guests. Dining is included at four onboard restaurants and a variety of small cafes and tearooms.

Coming in 2009, T he Magellan (www.residentialcruiseline.com) will feature two-to-four bedroom cruise ship residences and cruises to 300 ports of call in 150 countries. Full ownership starts at $1.8 million and fractional ownerships begin at $156,250.

   

(10) Mass Market Cruises

Popular mass market cruise lines include: Carnival, Costa, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. These cruise lines offer a quality cruise experience with an emphasis on fun and value-oriented prices. Cruiser ages are the most diverse, but in general these cruise lines attract a younger cruise crowd.

Carnival Cruise Line (www.carnival.com) was once known as the “Fun Ships” with a reputation for attracting a young hard-partying set. Today, the fun is still there, but Carnival Cruises is marketing to young adults and families and boasts being "The World's Most Popular Cruise Line." With one of the newest and most modern fleet of cruise ships Carnival offers a wide variety of itineraries at bargain cruise prices.

Costa (www.costacruises.com) is Europe's #1 cruise line with 11 Italian-inspired ships offering 350 sailings with 81 different itineraries. Enjoy unique European experience throughout the Mediterranean, North Cape/Fjords, Baltic/ Russia, Asia, Dubai and Transatlantic voyages.

Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) has a fleet of 15 ships in service and more under construction. NCL is known for its signature Freestyle Cruising offering passengers a relaxed, resort-style cruise experience with total flexibility for dining in up to 10 different onboard restaurants and almost endless activity choices.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (www.rccl.com) leads the way in innovative onboard ship activities for active travelers, from rock climbing and ice skating to shore side adventures like glacier trekking and parasailing over the tropics. RCCL provides cruise getaways all over the globe from three night getaways to longer cruise vacations.

   

(9) Premium Cruise Markets

Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, MSC, and Oceania are leading premium cruise lines. Disney Cruises also caters to families in the premium cruise market. Premium middle market cruise lines deliver a taste of luxury and plenty of pampering below luxury rates. Average age of premium cruisers is 40-60.

Princess Cruises (www.princess.com), the original “Love Boat” of the late 1970s, spans the world with 17 ships on nearly 100 different itineraries calling at over 280 ports around the globe. Princess is known for its Personal Choice Cruising program that provides passengers with a wide variety of options to customize their vacations. Newer ships feature “Movies Under the Stars” on a giant screen, pool-side at the top of the ship.

Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) boasts 13 ships and around 500 cruises from over 25 home ports. Itineraries from two days to 108 day around the world cruises. On-board ambiance is traditional. A new Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine features a show kitchen where celebrated guest chefs and culinary experts provide cooking demonstrations and classes.

Celebrity Cruises (www.celebrity.com) offers a comfortably sophisticated, upscale vacation experience with highly personalized service, five-star dining and excellent on-board programs for all ages and interests. Check Concierge Class balcony cabins with loads of luxury perks and pampering at non-luxury cruise pricing.

MSC Cruises (www.msccruises.com) exude an energetic Italian ambiance and a multi-national passenger base. Special offers often include free airfare from major airports and pre or post night hotel stays.

Oceania Cruises (www.oceania.com) is a distinctive premium cruise line with only three modern ships each carrying just 684 guests. Think country club casual with no suits, tuxedos and gowns required. Priority is on an extraordinary cruise experience that exceeds expectations. With a reputation for the finest cuisine at sea, guests enjoy open-seating dining in four diverse on-board restaurants. Cruise specials almost always include complimentary airfare from major gateways.

Disney Cruises (www.disneycruises.com) brings the same degree of attention to detail and fun for all ages to cruising that it is renowned for at theme parks. Avoid summer heat and crowds and vacation with favorite Disney characters at sea. From tots to teens, there's plenty of well-supervised activities and entertainment, leaving Mom and Dad or grandparents free to relax and be pampered grown-up style. Most cruises depart from Port Canaveral, Florida for Caribbean destinations. However, Disney recently added Mediterranean and Mexican Riviera itineraries.

   

(8) Luxury Cruise Markets

Whether you are budget conscious or have money to burn, there is a cruise for you. There are luxury cruise lines, middle-market premium cruise lines and mass-market value oriented cruise lines.

Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Yachts of Seabourn, Silverseas, Cunard, SeaDream Yacht Club and Azamara are typical luxury cruise lines. Each of these cruise lines offers gourmet cuisine, elegant service and many personal amenities. Average age of luxury cruisers is 60+.

Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) is the recipient of many of the travel industry's highest awards, including "World's Best Cruise Line" and "Best Large Ship Line" in Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler surveys. Three beautifully appointed ships cruise ports around the world. Excellent onboard enrichment programs.

Regent Seven Seas (www.theregentexperience.com) sails to over 300 ports on six continents, including Antarctica. Onboard ambiance is up-scale, but not uptight. And, all gratuities, select wines and spirits, soft drinks and juices are included in cruise fares.

Yachts of Seabourn (www.seabourn.com) provide the ultimate in small-ship ultra-luxury cruise vacations with intimate all-suite ships carrying a maximum of 208 guests. Level of service is legendary. Added value perks include: complimentary wines and spirits, free Massage Moments on deck, enrichment speakers, Movies under the Stars, water sports from a unique, fold-out Marina and free exclusive shore experiences on each cruise.

Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) features all oceanview suites, most with a private balcony and open-seating dining options. On-board cruise costs are all-inclusive.

Cunard Line (www.cunard.com) caters to sophisticated, seasoned travelers who enjoy the finer things in life. The Queen Mary 2 debuted in 2004 as the new flagship of “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World” and is the only ship offering regularly scheduled transatlantic service. The Queen Elizabeth 2 sails a World Cruise and round-trip Southampton voyages.

SeaDream Yacht Club (www.seadream.com) boasts that their crews “Splendidly Spoil” guests making them feel they are on their own private mega-yacht. Seadream's twin mega-yachts offer seven to fourteen day Caribbean, Mediterranean and South American voyages. Fares are all-inclusive onboard cruise costs including: open bars, gratuities, water toys and rounds of golf in exotic ports.

Azamara (www.azamaracruises.com) is a new player in the luxury cruise market. Affiliated with Celebrity Cruises, the company operates two sleek ships carrying just 694 guests to out-of-the-ordinary destinations. Highlights include: butler service for every stateroom, unique shore excursions and enrichment programs and gourmet specialty dining.

Cruise fares on luxury cruise lines are typically significantly higher than value oriented lines. However, even if your travel funds are limited, don't rule out luxury cruising. Compare the benefits of all-inclusive pricing with a luxury cruise lines with a la carte onboard extras with other cruise lines. Visit the websites for luxury cruise lines and check spotlight offers and specials. Put your travel agent on alert for bargains. If your travel dates are flexible or you can sail on short notice, you might discover you can lavish in luxury for less than you think.

   

Age Matters

For many cruisers, the cruise ship size is not as important as the age of the ship. New ships have more affordable private veranda/balcony cabins. Balcony cabins are very limited on older ships; consequently, they go for premium prices. On the other hand, there are cruisers prefer the low key environment and classic ambiance of smaller and older ships.

New ships have the latest technology such as: Internet cafes, high tech gym equipment, interactive game rooms, and sophisticated sound and light production shows. They have more public spaces, pools and spa facilities. Staterooms on many new ships tend to be somewhat smaller than on older ships, but room décor is updated and more modern. Soundproofing is better. And, even a small cabin seems larger with the open space of a private balcony and sliding glass doors instead of a porthole.

On the other hand, there are veteran cruisers who prefer the low key environment and classic ambiance of smaller and older ships.

   

(6) One Size Does Not Fit All

In finding the right cruise match, it helps to know the differences and advantages for ship size. Small cruise ships typically carry fewer than 1000 guests. Ships carrying 1000 to 2000 passengers are considered mid-sized and those carrying over 2000 to 3,000 are large. And, mega-ships accommodate over 3,000 passengers.

Advantages of Large and Mega Cruise Ships

  • Offer more activities and more activity choices.
  • Provide more dining options.
  • Have more glitzy public spaces.
  • Boast bigger casino/spa, gym and more cruise shops.
  • Handle rough seas better.
  • Offer large scale, elaborate production shows.
Advantages of Smaller Cruise Ships

  • Relaxing atmosphere, fewer activities.
  • Service is more personalized.
  • Easier to get around the ship.
  • Can get into ports/ areas too small for large ships.
  • Allow faster boarding and disembarking.

   

(5) How Long Do You Want to Cruise?

Travel time is another important factor in finding the best cruise match. There are one day cruises to nowhere, 100 day around the world cruises and everything in between. Typically, Caribbean cruises sail from three to 10 days and there are multiple cruise ports within a few hours drive or a short flight from many U.S. east coast airports. Hawaiian cruises are usually seven days with stops at the major islands with at least a six to eight hour flight from major U.S. and Asia gateways. Mediterranean and Europe cruise itineraries also require a long flight from the U.S. or Asia , but are a “home” port choice for Europeans. Most Med and Europe cruises average 10-15 days. South America cruises are 10-21 days with long flights from the U.S. , Europe . And, cruises that begin in Australia and New Zealand require a 13-15 hour flight from the U.S. and almost 20 hours from London . Cruise down under are typically 14-30 days.

How much time do you have? If you only have a one week vacation, you don't want to spend half of it getting to the cruise ship.

   

(4) How Much Do You Want To Spend on a Cruise?

Finding the best cruise match means being realistic about your travel budget. For most people planning a cruise vacation, price matters. The basic cost of a cruise is determined by destination, timing, length of a cruise, statement category and which cruise line you choose. Factor in other cruise travel costs including: port charges and government fees, travel to and from the cruise port, pre-night and post-night cruise hotel accommodations and additional (a la carte) onboard charges. (See the Hidden Costs of Cruising.)

Bottom-line: Save travel dollars by basing your cruise search primarily on best cruise pricing by traveling off peak season. Look for cruises with extra perks like free air travel or pre-paid cruise gratuities. Or if the travel budget is really tight, choose a short cruise in an inside cabin departing from a port you can drive to. (See Finding the Best Cruise Prices.)

   

(3) All Cruises Are Not Alike

The right cruise is one of the most rewarding travel experiences. The wrong cruise is a disappointing vacation. The difference lies in choosing a cruise that matches personal interests, style and special occasions. A sophisticated senior may be miserable on a cruise filled with swinging singles or a ship teeming with toddlers or teens. Most Generation-X travelers don't find a sedate cruise exciting. Fortunately, there are cruise lines, cruise ships and cruise itineraries for every taste and budget. There are cruises that are rowdy or refined, casual or chic, no-frills or filled with frills. Continue on for cruise market comparisons, special interest cruises and destination overviews to get a jumpstart on finding your best cruise match.

   

2. Misconceptions About Cruising

Almost 80% of travelers express the desire to cruise, so what is holding them back? When asked why they have not cruised, here are some of the most common misconceptions about cruising:

Cruising is too expensive. Cruising is actually one of the best vacation values. Many cruises are around $100-$150 per person per day for a cabin with a private balcony. Outside view and inside cabins are even less. Even with extra onboard charges (See Hidden Costs of Cruising), compare the price of $1500 - $2000 for a couple on a seven day cruise with a private balcony cabin, unlimited meals around the clock, Las Vegas style entertainment and non-stop activities to a seven day stay at a luxury resort where room rates average over $300 per day. Meals and entertainment conservatively add another $300-$500 per day, making a week at a resort top for two cost $4,000 or more. Use the Cruise Value Calculator at CLIA's Website (www.cruising.org) to compare cruise and land vacations.

Cruises are for old people. According to CLIA, the average cruise enthusiast is 49 years old. However, there are really three major cruise age groups: cruisers 25-40 years old, cruisers ages 40-60 and 60+ year old cruisers. Different cruise lines cater to different age markets. Families have also discovered the fun of cruising and most cruise lines offer daily programs for kids of all ages. (Cruise-ism: The longer the cruise; the older the cruisers.)

Fear of boredom and crowds. Some travelers express fears of “being cooped up and bored on a crowded cruise ship.” Boredom is rarely an issue. Cruises are action packed with activities. Choose your favorites. Do everything or nothing. The average seven day cruise includes three or four diverse ports of call. It's fun to go exploring and fun to return to the ship after a busy day sightseeing with no worries about packing, unpacking and where to book dinner reservations. And, even on mega-ships with over 3,000 people, there are always uncrowded spots (including your own private balcony) to enjoy breakfasts or romantic dinners and hours at sea.

Cruises are too structured. On the contrary, the cruise days of structured activities and structured dining are a thing of the past. Choose a cruise that offers “free-style” everything allowing you to eat where, when and with whom you please and featuring dozens of entertainment options and activities. Create your own schedule and do as much or as little as you please.

Fear of seasickness. Modern ships are equipped with high-tech stabilizers for smooth sailing. For travelers who are prone to motion sickness, there are medications to alleviate potential queasiness and nausea. (See Cruise Health and Safety for tips on avoiding seasickness and other travel health problems.)

You don't get to see enough on cruises. True, you can't see all of most destinations in a day. But, cruises are a wonderful way to sample destinations that you might never see otherwise. You can always return to a favorite port for a longer stay.

   

1. Reasons to Run Away to Sea

Looking for the ultimate escape far from daily doldrums and demands? It's time to run away to sea. Since the end of 2000, 76 new ships have been introduced to the cruise market with 30 more to come between 2007 and 2010. The cruise industry continues to expand embarkation ports (especially in the United States) making it easier and less expensive to cruise. Itineraries are expanding with diverse ports of call spanning the globe. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), there are about 30 cruise companies, more than 150 ships and over 1800 ports of call around the world.

The cruise industry is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry. Each year millions of travelers cruise for the first time. Most of these new cruisers get hooked on cruising, returning year after year to explore new ships and new ports. According to travel surveys, compared to all types of vacations, cruises rank at the top for exceeding vacation expectations. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

Reasons to Cruise

  • Cruise ships are floating resorts value-packed with pampering and pleasure.
  • Escape ringing phones, stressful traffic and daily demands.
  • Leave your worries at the dock. Don't worry; no one will take them!
  • Visit exotic places without the hassle of multiple flights..
  • Unpack just one time and travel to multiple destinations.
  • Gourmet meals around the clock. Don't worry about where to eat only how much!
  • Activities for all ages. uality family time mixed with just the right degree of separation.
  • Choose from dozens of daily activities. Do as much or as little as you wish.
  • Meet interesting fellow travelers from all over the world.
  • Learn new skills and hone special interests.
  • Enjoy Las Vegas style entertainment without the high show price.
  • Savor spectacular sunrises and sunsets and a glittering starlit velvet night sky.
What are you waiting for? There's never been a better time for a cruise

   

(11) No-Frills Cruising

New to the cruise market from the United Kingdom, easyCruise (www.easycruise.com) offers a no-frills budget approach to cruising. Basic cruise prices can be unbelievably low. Think specials as low as $175 for seven days for a recent Caribbean itinerary. However, once onboard easyCruise you must pay for everything, including all meals. Cabins are described as “minimalist.” Itineraries are limited and don't look for extravagant production shows, a casino, spa or much in the way of planned onboard activities. Think of easyCruise as transportation at sea; a way to reach ports not a resort-type destination in itself.

   
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