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Cruise Travel Planning?

Can anyone give me some tips on how to choose a good cruise. I have never gone on a cruise and don’t know anything about choosing one. Can anyone recommend a good cruise line which offers a Caribbean cruise but at affordable rates, preferably below $5000 ;-). Please let me know your reviews.

Here’s the basics of what you need to know:

All cruise cabins are sold based on double occupancy and the prices listed will be per person and based on at least two people going on the cruise. (If you have a 3rd and/or 4th person in your cabin their fare is generally about 50% of what the first two persons pay. The price you pay will depend mostly on the type cabin/accommodations that you choose. There are 4 basic types of cabins on ships;
– inside (no window),…………………………..… least expensive
– outside (a window or porthole),
– balcony/veranda, and
– suites and penthouses…………………….. most expensive.
On some Royal Caribbean ships they have inside cabins that overlook an interior pedestrian mall and they are a great price. The “FROM” prices you see will always be for an inside cabin. There are also some subcategories within each category above with cabins on a higher deck, and/or a better location on ship (like midship) that are slightly larger costing more.

You can reserve a cruise by (1) booking on line; (2) by calling the cruise line, or (3) through a travel agent. You will pay at booking the minimum deposit which will be between $250 and $350 per person for a 7 day cruise, depending upon the cruise line. The balance will be due approximately 60 days before the cruise departure date. If you book within about 60 days of the cruise you will have to pay the full amount.

Cruise prices vary by date by as much as $50 to $100 for the EXACT same cruise itinerary. So shop by date to get the best price. Don’t be confined to a specific date, like a birthday or anniversary because the cruise may be less the week before or after. All of the cruise lines give the best prices for early booking; that means up to a year or more in advance. There are rarely any last minute deals to fill the ship; last minute these days is about a month before the cruise and generally by the the ship is full. All of the cruise lines have discounted dates listed on their web site; look for those.

– Princess, Celebrity and Holland America have great ships are more classy and reserved. They are just a little more upscale and luxurious than the other cruise lines. Passengers tend to be middle aged and up and have cruised multiple times. Holland America has mostly senior citizens cruising on its ships. Norwegian cruise line is good, it cater to families and have mostly passengers in the range of age 35-40 and up. Its the line that you want to go on if you want to be informal for pretty much your whole cruise. Carnival is the budget cruise line that generally has the lowest prices. They cater to young people, first time cruiser and families. Royal Caribbean is also a cruise line that caters to young cruiser and families. It has the advantage of having the most on-board activities. Things like ice skating, roller skating, mini-golf course, a full sized basketball/tennis court, the rock climbing wall, and on the new Freedom Class ships the surfing simulator, the Flowrider.

For the most part all cruises are all inclusive. Regardless of which cruise line you select the things that are included are pretty much the same. The price of your cruise includes your cabin, all meals (including breakfast, lunch dinner, snacks and free room service), free admissions to all shows and entertainment, and free use of all facilities on ship like the pools, hots tubs, gym, disco, etc,. The things that you will have to pay for after you pay your cruise fare are gratuities (tips), alcoholic drinks and soft drinks, photos that you want, any tours from the ship you want to take, spa services like massages, and internet service. Gratuities will be about $11.50 per day per person and cover the cabin steward, waiter and assistant and the Matre’d/ Head waiter. Other tips are added to drink orders at a rate of 15%.

You can easily get a great 7-day cruise in a balcony cabin for about $1,000. per person; less if you select an inside cabin. The cruise prices you see do not include transportation (airfare), but most cruise lines will arrange air travel if you want. My advice is do your own air travel and plan to fly, or drive, to the cruise port a day early; so as not to miss your cruise due to a delay.

My recommendation, based on about 30 cruises on several cruise lines is Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Princess. You will get a great cruise on either.

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