Dreaming of a vacation on the seas? Check out these tips before booking your next getaway.

Planning a cruise vacation can be overwhelming due to the variety of cruise lines and destinations one can choose from. There are several options to consider when choosing an itinerary including time of year, traveler expectations and ages of the group.
Best Cruises for the Winter Months

Nothing beats escaping the harsh cold of winter and enjoying the sun in a warm climate. In the winter months (December – March) it is best to cruise to a warmer destination, such as the Caribbean (the Bahamas and Central America), South America, and Mexico. Hawaii is also warm and beautiful year round. There are some great cruise deals during October – early December. Around Christmas, rates can soar sky high, but prices drop drastically right after the holiday season. In fact, a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas can be less than $200 a person. A vacation in paradise doesn’t get much cheaper.

Best Cruises for the Summer Months

From May – September, taking a cruise through Canada, Europe (the British Isles, Mediterranean, etc.) and Alaska are fabulous options for vacationing. It is too cold to really enjoy a cruise to these places any other time of year, so the summer months are really ideal for visiting these ports of call. Visiting the Caribbean would be ideal for the months of April – early June. The temperatures in the Caribbean may be too hot during July and August for some people’s liking. Also, late summer (August and September) can bring questionable weather to the islands since it is hurricane season. However, islands such as Aruba rarely see any type of hurricane, so it’s best to research each spot and look at the average temperature and weather reports for the month of travel.

Choosing a Cruise Line

Choosing a cruise line can be a very difficult process. The least expensive cruise line is generally Carnival. Carnival caters to many different travelers including families and young cruisers, and is considered to have great night life if one is looking to party late night. Royal Caribbean, although usually a bit more money than Carnival, provides similar prices on its older ships, but the line has released two larger ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas which are significantly higher priced, but offer an extraordinary amount of amenities. Celebrity is one of the more expensive lines when comparing the major companies, but offers considerably more dining options and amenities than the average ship. Norwegian Cruise Line offers Freestyle Dining. This option allows cruisers to eat whenever they want and cruisers can also dine with whomever they choose. This may appeal to couples since most other cruise lines will especially pair up couples for dinner to make tables of at least 4. Disney cruises are ideal for families with young children, as they specifically cater to the young ones.

Choosing an Itinerary and Ship

With so many cruising options, one can choose to travel on a cruise ship for anywhere from one night to over 2 weeks. When deciding on an itinerary, realize that the shorter cruises (under 6 nights) are usually on smaller ships, and longer cruises (7 nights +) are on the cruise lines’ larger ships. A great site to read about individual cruise ships is cruisecritic.com. This site offers reviews for nearly every ship on the market. Before booking an itinerary, consider the time of year, weather, and expectations for the trip. If scuba diving is on the top of the list, research different islands that offer this; if browsing through museums is a passion, check out the different European cities the cruise lines stop at.

Traveling and Packing for the Trip

If the cruise ship leaves from a city that requires travel, it is best to travel the day before to the port of call. This way, there is a window in case flights are delayed or the weather is stormy. This also gives travelers a chance to relax and unwind right before embarking on the ship. Packing for the trip is also an important aspect. Make sure to check the weather and read about the ship’s dress code; each cruise line is different with what is considered formal attire and what is appropriate to wear at the main dining rooms. At night, ships tend to be cooler due to the winds, so it is advised to bring at least a light sweater for walking around during the evening.

Remember, any vacation is what the traveler makes of it. Cruising is a definite way to relax, unwind and escape from daily stresses. Happy travels!


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