Essential Tips For First-Time Cruisers
By Guest Writer Sophia Young
One thing that the past several months have taught us is that we shouldn’t wait too long to build memories for ourselves and our loved ones. And a special way to do just that is through cruise travel. If you’re contemplating taking a cruise but are experiencing first-timer jitters, let us help you change that. Run through these tips to help you get started on planning your dream cruise vacation.
How much should I budget for?
First off, determine how much you can afford, then stick to your budget. Your cruise fare will depend on your choice of cruise line, cabin preference, where and when you are traveling, and the length of your cruise. Aside from the cruise fare, factor in other travel costs such as plane and taxi fares, airport transfers, port taxes, shore excursion packages, gratuities, pre-or post-cruise hotel stays, even insurance fees. On average, prepare to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 per person on a typical 7-day Caribbean cruise vacation.
Which cruise line?
Because your cruise fare depends a great deal on your choice of cruise line, take the time to find out which can give you the best overall value. According to U.S.News, Royal Caribbean International is among the cruise lines that can bring you the most bang for your buck. Royal Caribbean able to make its rates more affordable because each of their ships can accommodate thousands of guests per cruise. According to Forbes, for as little as $235USD per night per person (likely less, if you choose an inside cabin), you can choose from their many itineraries such as Europe and the Caribbean.
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Balcony or Ocean View?
Your cabin or stateroom preference need not put a dent in your budget. Typically, there are four types in order of price: Interior (the most affordable), Ocean View, Balcony, and Suite (the priciest). If you’re a big packer but are looking for more budget-friendly options, you can check out the larger-than-average rooms with Carnival Cruise Line. Their standard interior rooms at 185 square feet are more spacious than the average room size of most competitors at 140 square feet.
What if I have seasickness?
The best cabins to book if you have motion sickness are those located on the lower deck towards the middle of the ship, where there are fewer swaying and rolling movements.
Another point to consider is where and when your ship will travel. Although cruise ships usually steer clear of rough waters and reroute, there are ports such as the Bahamas and the Caribbean that many cruise lines visit even during the worst of weather. If you have a particularly bad case of seasickness, you may want to forego cruises with itineraries that have port calls in these regions.
On the Mediterranean, it’s best to travel during spring and summer, when the sea is at its calmest. You may also want to avoid the typhoon season, between May and October if you plan to cruise around Asia, specifically in South Korea, China, Japan, and the Philippines.
Any saving tips?
- If you can, rely on a travel agent instead of on online DIY. Travel professionals can offer expert advice, give you travel hacks, and snag many deals and promotions for you. It will not cost you any extra fees to get their capable help in planning your trip.
- Check for cruise deals. Carnival offers these generously, making the cruise line attractive to budget-savvy travelers.
- Check the fine print of your cruise package and find out if there are any inclusions you may have missed, such as port fees, shoreline excursions, even free Wi-Fi. Celebrity Cruises may not have the cheapest fares, but these include many complimentary amenities such as beverages, surf Wi-Fi, and tips.
- If you have a pre-or post-cruise hotel, check if it offers free shuttle service to or from the cruise port.
- Check for cruise line and airline partnerships to get the best prices on flights. An example is the Air2Sea program with Royal Caribbean International which guarantees the lowest airfares.
- Check for all-in fares, such as Holland America Line’s “Have It All” fares. Although the liner is in the premium class with higher than average fees, their “Have It All” special rates offer 50% off on the following: Wi-Fi for up to two guests, beverage package, meals at specialty restaurants, and shore excursions.
- If you are going for basic rates, check how much more you will have to pay for additional onboard amenities. You might end up paying more than if you were to avail of the standard fare.
- Don’t ditch the insurance option. It may eventually cost you more if you don’t.
What else should I watch out for?
- Check the extras not covered in the fare, such as soda and alcoholic beverages.
- Check for activities covered in the fare such as cooking lessons and history lectures (e.g. Princess Cruises).
- Check the dress codes, if any. Although the trend is towards more relaxed cruising, it is still best to validate.
- Check Wi-Fi connectivity. Royal Caribbean claims to have the fastest internet at sea with its VOOM Wi-Fi that is available on all its ships.
- Note that shorter cruises tend to have a party crowd. If you want a more balanced mix of solo travelers, couples, and families, go for longer cruises.
- Take note of the ship to be used on your cruise. The same line may have several ships that differ in amenities. The newer ones tend to be larger and are more luxurious. Check out the younger, though more expensive, fleet of Norwegian Cruise Line.
- Book spa appointments and other cruise ship activities ahead of time to ensure your slot.
- Itineraries can change due to inclement weather. If your ship swaps your destination port for another, don’t expect compensation.
- Check for Covid-19 protocols as these tend to change from time to time.
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