Cruising 101

So you’re thinking about a cruise? I talk to many people who are not quite sure what to think about cruising. Some don’t think they’ll like it at all and others simply don’t know anything about it. I hope that this post can clear up a few misconceptions and show people the benefits of cruising. In this post I will talk about what the majority of cruise lines do, but they can vary from cruise line to cruise line.

Stuck on a Cruise Ship

Most people that are unsure about cruising tell me they don’t want to be stuck on a cruise ship and that they don’t want to feel confined. Essentially, being on a ship is like being on a floating resort. Cruise ships have most of the amenities that any average land resorts would have and some of the bigger ships have amenities that you won’t even find on land resorts. Amenities like ocean view rooms, plenty of bars and lounges, high end steakhouses and other great dining options, pools, spas and lots more.

Another major concern is motion sickness. Unless you’re sailing through a hurricane, you’re most likely not going to have an issue. Cruise ships have some of the latest GPS technology and monitor weather patterns closely. If need be, the Captain will alter the route and sometimes the ports they visit to avoid severe storms. Most cruise ships have  massive stabilizers to prevent the ship from moving so much. Of course you may feel some slight movement, but it’s usually minimal. If for whatever reason you do experience some seasickness, the ship sells motion sickness medication and bands to help.

What is included?

Your cruise fare will include accommodations, food, entertainment, childcare at a minimum.  I’m sure you’ve heard someone make a comment about how much weight you’ll gain on a cruise. It’s true, there’s a lot of food. All cruise lines have a main dining room (some have multiple) where you can go for breakfast lunch and dinner. If you’re more of a grab and go type person, there’s always the buffet with endless amounts of options.

All sounds great, so what is NOT included in your fare? Your typical cruise fare will not include service charges for the staff. Cruise lines will charge a service fee anywhere from $12 to $16 per person, per day for service charges. The service charge typically goes to your room attendant, bartenders, servers at the restaurants, maitre d’ and any other staff you encounter on your cruise. Your fare will also not include soda and any alcoholic beverages. Most lines will offer an all you can drink beverage package, but the rate is applied for the entire length of your trip. Lastly, your fare will not include specialty dining options. Older ships at least offer a high end steak house restaurant. Newer, bigger ships offer many specialty restaurants, ranging from steak houses to Hibachi to well known restaurants like Johnny Rockets or Margaritaville. These ‘for fee’ restaurants will cost you anywhere from $7 to $40 for a meal. Luckily there’s ways you can get these extras for free. Cruise lines will offer many different types of promotions where they offer a certain amount of on board credit (in a dollar amount), service charges or offer the beverage package for free. Feel free to contact me about what cruise line are currently offering.

I heard you’re on a tight schedule

Many years ago when cruise ships were introduced as a new form of vacation, they had lot of schedules and set dining times. The first cruise that I went on I had the option of a 5:30 or 8:00 dining time. Every night I sat at the same table, at the same time with the same server. While this is a still an option for most cruise lines, they are definitely steering away from that mindset. Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to introduce “Freestyle Cruising”, which empowered guests to make their own schedule and do everything on their own time. Embark when you want, dine when you want, do whatever you want, when you want. This freestyle outlook on cruising was huge for the cruise industry as other lines started to take on this philosophy and do the same. While on the topic of schedules; all cruise lines provide a schedule of events each day to its guests. These daily sheets are usually left on the bed during turn down service so guests can plan out the following day. The daily sheets will usually include locations of the shows and what time they start, operating hours for almost everything on board, game times, seminars, cocktail making contests, kids club hours, shopping specials, spa discounts and more. Although these daily sheets may look exactly like a schedule, it’s a list of ideas for you to customize your day.

Will my kids be bored?

Most likely not. I suggest going through a travel agent (ME!) that knows what you’re looking for. Some cruises are geared toward the older crowd, but many have lots for children of all ages to do. Cruise ships today have kids clubs at no extra expense. The daycare usually requires children to be at least 3 years old and potty trained. The kids clubs takes the kids as little or much as you want.  They do different activities every day with the children. If you’d rather do more activities with your family, there’s plenty on the ship to do with them. Some ships offer pools, water parks, splash pads, mini golf, zip lining, rock wall climbing, bumper cars, sports complexes, sky diving, surfing and more. So no, you’re kids will not be bored. You just need to make sure you’re on the cruise ship that’s right for you and your family.

The Biggest Benefit of Cruising

If the above topics haven’t enticed you enough, the biggest benefit of cruising is that you get to visit lots of awesome ports of call without having to pack bags 5 times. The Caribbean to be the most popular cruise destination; but there are many itineraries like Hawaii, Alaska or the Mediterranean. For guests that want to visit a few countries in Europe, they would have to pack, and repack multiple times, as well as plan out the logistics of getting from point A to B, C, and D and lodging. With cruising, you pack once, sit back and relax. Enjoy the ports without having to navigate too far and you also don’t have to worry about your accommodations varying from hotel to motel or hostel. You’ll get that same consistent excellent service throughout your entire journey. It’s generally just a great way to see the world.

For more information about this Blog Post or about a Vacation perfect for you, please contact me at Jaclyn@castleconnectionstravel.com

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