Don’t just book a cruise because it is cheap. Even if it is the right cruise a mistake on the booking can ruin it for you.
Here is a run down of the things that you should consider before handing over your credit card details.
Choosing a cabin
If you’re worried about being seasick then the middle of the boat has less movement than the front or rear. There are two basic types of cabin, inside and outside. The inside ones don’t have any portholes, so at night-time the only light while you sleep will be whatever light gets through the cabin door. Some people find this too dark. The only advantage is that inside cabins are the cheapest of any cabin type.
Outside cabins come with one of the following
- Partial View
The partial view cabins are the cheapest outside cabin. They have a window but the view is blocked (usually be a lifeboat). The partial view cabins that I’ve seen should change the word ‘partial’ to ‘no’. The life boat has covered the whole window. The advantage of this type of cabin, apart from the cheaper price, is that they can be good for claustrophobics as at least they are not fully boxed in.
The cabins with a view have windows that don’t open, it’s just a question of selecting a cabin that you can see land from during some of your cruise, or just look out at the sea. Use the ship plans to ensure that you don’t look out onto a public space. The windows in these cases are meant to be one-way, but…
Balconies can be seen from the bridge..
Balconies are promoted as a chance to get away from everyone and you can sit in your own private world and watch the land/sea go by. However the peace and quiet can easily be shattered if your cabin is in the wrong place, or if you have noisy neighbours. Also they are not private; I’ve been in the bridge of a ship and there is a good view of most balconies with or without the need for CCTV. So behave yourself.
Use the ship layouts to ensure that you get the cabin position that suits you best. It may be handy to be near the bars, nightclubs or restaurants, but it can be noisy at night. Also the closer you are to the public areas, the more footfall there is past your cabin door.
Cabins are divided into classes, this means differing facilities and prices. One option that the cruise line offers is a kind of ‘allocation on arrival’ scheme. You pay a slightly cheaper price for your class of cabin and there is a chance that you might get a free upgrade. However you can’t usually decline the upgrade if it’s in a part of the ship that you don’t want to be.
Shore activities are the main reason why most people go on a cruise. They want to see the destinations (although there are those who prefer to stay on board all the time). It can be cheaper to book locally, but please remember that if you go off on your own the ship will not wait for you if you are late returning. If you miss your ship it’s your responsibility to catch it up at the next stop.
If you do decide to book your own shore trips, please remember that at some destinations there isn’t much available during ship visits. Most of the popular trips will have been blocked booked (every available seat will have been booked) by the cruise line. There will only be one helicopter trip, one good beach bar, etc. One tip though is to contact the concierge desk at the ‘best’ hotel in the port area and get them to book something for you. Then you will get a more exciting city or area tour.
When researching online for excursions check to see if the tour company is a member of any trade organisations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), local chambers of commerce or if they are recommended by the local tourist board. Also, does the price include transfers to and from the port?
A typical complaint of an ‘official’ tour is that too much time is spent at a trading establishment instead of the actual activity. When looking into reviews or asking on forums always check to see if this has happened to previous travellers.
Tell your bank!
Finally, it is very important that you notify your bank/credit card company of your itinerary so that your cards are not blocked. It can be very expensive to call them from your ship if you need to unblock them.