Cruises: Your Guide to Fun on the High Seas

Cruising while you’re on vacation is one of the most popular pursuits across the world. Boarding a cruise ship for three days or longer means that you can explore the open ocean and certain ports without any worries about travel logistics. You simply let the captain do his or her job as you enjoy the on-board amenities. To get the most out of your cruise trip, take a look at this guide to all the fun you can imagine.

Evaluate the Seasons

Cruise ship operators are well aware of their itineraries and corresponding weather patterns. You certainly don’t want to lay out by the pool when an Alaskan adventure has almost arrived. Consider the time of year and destinations that you want to explore. Booking a cruise during the off season is always attractive because costs are lower, but the weather may not be optimal. Travel to the Mediterranean during the summer months while reserving the Caribbean for the winter. Planning for the seasons also dictates your packing strategy as you prepare for a grand travel experience.

Book Early

It makes sense that the most popular cruises and staterooms will fill up fast so you want to book as early as possible. In some cases, you might want to keep track of official booking dates when they’re first released. Pick the best itinerary and stateroom for your budget with an early booking. Waiting too long to reserve your spot will severely limit your choices. Staterooms at the more expensive level might be your only selections, for example. Caribbean and European cruises alike will sell out if you don’t plan accordingly.

Bundle the Transportation

It’s common to pick a cruise that’s in exotic waters where you need to fly out from your home to even start the vacation. Ideally, you want to bundle your vacation transportation whenever possible. Book a cruise with your flight and ground transportation covered in one reservation. You’ll often save money with this strategy. Some cruise lines allow you to book hotels through their company as well. Staying at a hotel on the night before or after a cruise is common. You don’t want to miss out on an early boarding time.

Try the Road Less Traveled

There are so many types of cruises that you couldn’t experience them all in the length of an entire lifetime. For a unique adventure, look for a cruise that’s different than the typical island-hopping adventure. Euro river cruises, for example, will take you down main waterways that are otherwise untouched by major ships. Explore old-world cities as few tourists make it down to these areas.

Alternatively, save up for that dream cruise that goes around the world. Month-long and extended voyages that travel across several seas are possible. You’ll need to save up a considerable amount of money for the experience, but these cruises are some of the most spectacular that you’ll savor every experience.

Pay Attention During the Safety Drill

Once you’re on board the ship, you’ll immediately go into vacation mode. However, it’s important to think of your safety first. By maritime law, every cruise visitor must participate in the safety drill. You’ll don your life jacket, and congregate at your designated emergency exit. In many cases, a ship cannot leave the port until this drill is properly completed. Pay attention to this drill, and you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your vacation without any worries. Being prepared for a rare emergency is part of the cruising experience.

Ask About Upgrades

As you check in with the cruise line, there’s often a situation where a party doesn’t show or they cancel a reservation outright. Take a moment to ask the cruise-line staff about any upgrades. You might be in an interior room, but a balcony reservation just opened up. Cruise lines want to fill up their ships so they’ll often upgrade you for a small fee. That action gives them a chance to fill your now vacant room for another fee. Filling the boat entirely is always the goal of any ship company.

Schedule Excursions on the Ship

You’ll be visiting one or more ports during your cruise vacation. Each port usually has several activities or excursions that you can take for a fee. Although you can look for excursions offered by local merchants after you debark the ship, it’s always a better idea to reserve an adventure through the cruise line. The cruise line vets their excursion operators so that you’re always pleased with the experience. Be aware that you’ll pay a bit extra for the cruise-staff booking, but it’s worth it as you learn more about the port you’re visiting.

Keep Up With Charges

No one wants to pay attention to their shipboard charges, but you don’t want a surprise at the end of the vacation either. Keep up with your stateroom charges by asking for a printout of your fees about halfway through the voyage. You can curtail some expenses afterward if anyone was too excited about spending money. Any mistakes can also be fixed with the concierge well before the cruise’s final day. Lines grow long as everyone starts to reconcile their bill.

Be Aware of Duties

Depending on where you cruise, you’ll be able to take a certain amount of goods back home without any duty charges. Duties are essentially taxes paid on goods moved between countries. Simply be aware of your limitations, such as quantities of alcohol or perfumes. Going over the stated limit will require you to pay for the fees when you debark the ship. You cannot put off these fees until a later date. However, remaining under the item limit will give you a great deal in the end.

The cost of cruise vacations differs widely across the globe. If you’re looking for that dream trip, research your options several months or years ahead of time. Large parties, in particular, will require specialized reservations that might be difficult to narrow down if you plan too closely to the departure date. With a little preparation, you can cruise the high seas in style for that memorable family vacation.

Ralf Gosch / Shutterstock.com

Ralf Gosch / Shutterstock.com

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