The Joy and Value of Cruises
Last year, approximately five million people enjoyed
cruise vacations. According to ASTA (American Society of Travel
Agents), cruises have a higher percentage of satisfied customers
than any other vacation experience.
Once you have experienced the true pleasure and value
of cruising, you'll be hooked like I am. I've sailed 15 times over
the years and each voyage just keeps getting better. This past year,
I took two cruises: one on the Carnival Destiny and the other
on the Disney Magic. Both
Cruising is the ultimate vacation in value and
convenience. Today's new cruise ships are floating resorts with all
the choices fine resorts have to offer, only better: they also take
you to different places, so you'll never be bored.
There are a variety of cruises that can accommodate
any individual's taste and budget. The price of your ticket includes
your cabin and all of your meals, snacks, and all onboard activities
and entertainment. The only extra expenses are drinks, sodas, spa
treatments, and shore excursions.
What will I pay?
Cruises can range from $300 per person for a three-day
cruise to well over $100,000 per person for an around-the-world
cruise. Cruise package prices can be quoted either with or without
airfare added on. When airfare is included, cruise lines generally
price their packages with greatly reduced or even free airfare.
You may often see enticing ads in the newspaper
boasting a 7-day cruise from $599 per person. These ads usually tout
the lowest inside cabin categories without airfare, and the majority
do not tell you about other expenses, such as port charges, taxes,
and tipping. Port charges vary depending on your destination. An
average 7-day cruise with five ports of calls averages out to cost
about $100 extra per person.
What are my cabin options?
The cabin you choose will largely determine the price
you pay. The price of a cabin is based primarily on size and
location. Cabins can range from expensive penthouse suites to small
inside cabins with no portholes. Newer ships tend to have larger
staterooms; however, some older ships have cabins that are very
small. Regardless, be advised that cabins aboard all ships are small
compared to hotel rooms. Nevertheless, they do not lack for
amenities, and they are very comfortable.
Unlike ships in the days of the Titanic, today's
cruise ships are "one-class". All passengers onboard can use all of
the ship's facilities. Whether you are in the lowest category inside
cabin or owner's suite, you will enjoy the same service, menus,
activities, and entertainment as everyone else onboard.
Do I need to tip?
A few cruise lines include tipping in the price. Most,
however, do not. Tipping is an additional expense and a matter of
individual preference. As a general rule of thumb, plan on tipping
$3.00 to $4.00 per person per day for your room steward and dining
room waiter/waitress, and about half that amount for your
busboy/busgirl. Additional personnel can be tipped at your
discretion. Most bar drinks have tips automatically included in the
It is important to understand that tipping is how the
majority of the cruise service staff earns their living. Good
service should be rewarded. If you find the service lacking,
however, be sure to speak up and say so.
Types Of Cruises
There are very few places on earth that cruises don't
go to. Itineraries include Antarctica, Caribbean, Mediterranean,
Africa, India, Asia, North Sea, Oceania, the Mississippi, even the
Amazon, just to name a few.
The dates you will be traveling influence the types of
cruises available to you. Alaskan cruises, for example, sail from
May to September, while European and Caribbean cruises sail
year-round. The duration of a cruise ranges from three-days to
several months. The most popular cruises are seven days. However,
three-day cruises to the Bahamas and the Mexican Rivera are growing
Specialty cruises are also a growing trend. Many
cruise lines now cater to specific age groups, singles, couples, and
families. In particular, themed cruises for enthusiasts of music,
art, wine, sports and so on have become hip.
When it comes to atmosphere, cruise lines can vary
widely. Cruise lines like Crystal, Silversea, Radisson, and Cunard offer a more formal and
sophisticated experience, while Costa, Disney , Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, and Carnival are more mainstream and
offer more a relaxed, party type atmosphere.
Cruise ships also vary a great deal in size. Cruise
ships range from the small, 60-passenger explorer type ships to the
huge, 12-story mega ships that can accommodate over 3,500 passengers
All the great things you've heard about dining on a
cruise ship are true. Cruises are feasts for the eyes and stomach.
You will wine and dine on gourmet meals. Even children have their
The best part is that there is virtually no limit on
what or on how much you can order. If you have the late night
munchies, check out the midnight buffet, or order room service. Most
cruise ships offer 24-hour room service, which is included in the
Contrary to popular belief, not all cruise food is
high in fat. You can certainly manage to stick to a healthy diet and
still enjoy all the good stuff. Most cruise lines offer low-calorie
and spa type cuisine.
Cruise lines such as Carnival specialize in glitzy Las
Vegas-style entertainment. Some offer shows that are more subdued.
Often the best entertainment onboard is from passenger
participation. For example, last year onboard the Carnival
Fascination, I had a great time watching passengers participate in a
newlywed type game with the cruise director as the show host. On
Costa, you can experience "Toga Night" where passengers don togas.
You can dance the night away in the disco or you can
mellow out in one of the many lounges on board, which feature jazz
or classical music. If you are an active soul, you can exercise to
your heart's content. You can jog, participate in an aerobics class,
work out in the gym, swim, golf, play tennis or basketball, go skeet
shooting, shuffleboard and much more. Want to be pampered? Try a
message or facial in the ship's spa.
Kids from 2-18 have their own play areas and
supervised entertainment. Carnival, Disney, and Princess offer the
best and most expansive children's programs at sea.
Get Professional Advice
After you've developed a general idea of what type of
cruise you'd like to take, talk with a professional travel agent.
Unlike airlines, most cruise companies deal exclusively with agents
rather than with individual consumers.
A good agent who specializes in cruises will advise
you on what cruise is right for you. You can find an agent near you
by checking out the CLIA (Cruise Line International Association)
website at http://www.cruising.org/ or
ASTA's website, at http://www.astanet.com/ . When discussing your
plans with a travel agent, let them know your preferences and budget
and you'll be on your way to smooth sailing!
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