When I first met Harry he had not been on a vacation in years. Hmmm I could not be with a guy who doesn’t vacation. I explained that we would need to get traveling. He was not particularly happy (at first) about this but I am happy to report he usually books the trips now. Our first trip together was a cruise.
1. Pick a Cruise Line
There are two cruise lines that Harry and I have come to prefer (so far anyway). We like Princess and Royal Caribbean. Within the cruise lines the ships can range from small to huge. We have been on a variety of ships. The smaller cruises tend to have less going on so it is important for us, that these ships stop in many ports. We get up early, spend the day onshore, eat dinner, go to a show or the casino and collapse into bed. The larger ships are a great deal of fun and have much to do. For instance, Oasis of the Seas has so much entertainment it is best to book the shows in advance. Trying to juggle the schedule reminded me of registering for classes during my college years. On big ships we don’t mind having more days out to sea because the boat keeps us entertained.
For a more laid back experience we feel Princess Cruises is the way to go. The service on their cruises feels equivalent to Disney World, the workers never disappoint and it does feel like a happy place. Princess Ships tend to attract fewer children.
NCL is also entertaining and has great dine-around plans. We had one experience on NCL…children EVERYWHERE. This was ok because we were traveling with a group and we all had kids but if you are not traveling with children and would prefer a more serene environment, this might not be your best option. It may be that their newer ships have a child free pool zone you take advantage of, if this is important to you then check it out.
We don’t take Carnival. I have tried them in the past and find them lacking in many areas.
We tried one Celebrity cruise and found it was disappointing for us compared to our two favorite cruiselines, however, it was an older boat so maybe we will just need to try another newer ship.
Since everyone has different needs, I suggest first researching what each cruiseline has to offer and finding a few you like before researching availability and prices.
2. Pick Desired Location
Figure out where you want to go. If price is a factor then closer is usually cheaper. For example, since we live in New York, leaving from New York or New Jersey means no airfare (although sometimes it is actually more advantageous for us to fly to Florida to avoid too many days out to sea). If you live in California, then leaving from a CA. port is going to be less money than flying to FLA.
3. Research Prices
When trying to find the cheapest price we find this website helpful:
Vacations To Go – this website usually has some of the lowest prices. You can sort the cruises by location, cruiseship, port, etc. Click on the number on the left for itinerary and price.
You’ll notice there are usually two or three choices of basic rooms:
Inside – no windows – cheapest
Outside – you get a window – more expensive than Inside Room
Balcony – there is a balcony – more expensive than Inside and Outside Room
Sometimes they also have:
Promenade Rooms – Inside room with a window facing the promenade which looks like a street with stores that goes down the middle inside of the ship. These rooms are more expensive then Inside rooms but less expensive then Outside rooms.
More Expensive Options:
Suites – Junior, Executive – the bigger they are the more money you will pay
Determine your room and you will find the price of each cruise.
Notice the cruises are rated according to stars with 5 star rating being the best. We find 3 star cruises are usually the smaller ones.
After researching cruises and prices on VTG, I usually….
4. Check out other sites.
If you have a frequent flyer card for any of the airlines, I suggest you check out their websites, some offer cruises. I paid less money on the United Airlines site for a European cruise and received 5000 miles. Had I booked the balcony I would have received an additional 5000 points.
Check out the official cruiseline site. For example, I booked one cruise through Princess with the air. The air was actually cheaper and it came with a guarantee that they would get us to the ship if something went wrong, such as a flight cancellation.
If you are considering booking through a lesser known travel site, I suggest you review them first. (i.e. Travel X site google Travel X reviews to get customer reviews – look at many). Another great site for reviews is Trip Advisor.
5. Book the cruise. Note: If you need to take a plane to the port and you are not booking air with cruiseline, make sure you book the cruise BEFORE the flight (as long as there is no charge for cancellation). Why? There is usually a $100 charge per person to change airline flights if the cruise date is unavailable.
After you book, you can still get a lower price…..
6. Keep an Eye on those Prices
Once booked – keep watching the prices. While your booking agent usually will not lower the price of the present room category booked, they will change the booking at no cost for an upgrade. There have been a few times when Harry booked an Inside room and the Balcony rooms went on sale for say, $50 more per person. For an extra $100 we were in a much better room. It was worth it to us.
6 1/2. Miles, Miles and more Miles
Thought you were done right? While this one technically will not get you a better cruise price it will earn you miles which could lead to flight and other freebies. So make sure you sign up for the cruiseline frequent flier card (it’s free so just do it). Cruiselines reward loyalty with perks which increase as you build points. Also, NEVER take any flight without signing up for their card. Accumulation of points can get you a flight to your next cruise!!!