Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are Your Meals Included on a Cruise?


If you're thinking of booking a cruise, you'll probably wonder how many expenses you'll have beyond the initial price of the cruise. For instance, are meals included?

The good news is that your meals are included on a cruise.

However (isn't there always a "however"?), not all beverages are included (everything from sodas to alcoholic drinks are considered "extras" and you'll be charged).

Also, the big resort ships all have "alternative" dining restaurants these days that serve a wider variety of meals than the dining rooms. These restaurants take reservations and can cost anywhere from $10 to $30 a head for meals.

So, yes, your basic meals are included on a cruise, but if you think you'll want to try some exotic extras (like a diet coke), then take some extra money along for food and drink expenditures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Cruise for Chocolate Lovers


Themed cruises can be a lot of fun, and if you're into desserts, here's one for you:

Celebrity Chef Chocoholics Cruise on Costa Mediterranea

Yes, from January 5 - 12, 2008, you can attend a cruise just for chocolate lovers.

Join hosts of the Food Network's compelling "sweets" shows, like Duff Goldman from "Ace of Cakes," Warren Brown from "Sugar Rush" and Colette Peters, owner of Colette's Cakes in New York. Perks include daily presentations and lessons, gift bags, cash prizes, an onboard credit for purchases, and a chance to witness a new "Guinness Book of World Records" entry.

The 7-day eastern Caribbean cruise departs from Fort Lauderdale, and prices start at $1349 per person (inside cabin).

More information on the ship and cruise. (If you miss this year's dates, don't despair; these "chocoholics" cruises tend to be a yearly event.)

Is Smoking Allowed on Cruise Ships?


If you're a smoker planning a vacation, you may be wondering where (or if) smoking is allowed on cruise ships.

There aren't any completely non-smoking ships. Policies vary depending on the line you cruise with, but you can find designated smoking areas on most ships. Some also have "cigar bars" and lounges (though ships starting or ending in a U.S. port aren't allowed to carry genuine Cuban cigars).

You probably won't be allowed to smoke in your cabin (since cruise ships are all about filling every cabin before they sail, it wouldn't make economic sense for them to designate permanent smoking and non-smoking rooms) , but--depending on the cruise line--if you get a suite with a balcony, then you may be able to smoke directly outside your cabin.

Since policies differ from line to line, make sure to compare different ships you're considering sailing upon if you want the fewest restrictions.

If you're a non-smoker looking to avoid lots of smoking people, in general, ships that sail with a large European or Asian (where smoking is still prevalent) contingent tend to be smokier than ships filled with North Americans.

For lots more information on which lines allow what degree of smoking and wear, check out this article on Cruise Critic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How Do Casinos Work on Cruise Ships?


If you enjoy gambling, you might be excited by the idea of playing the casinos while you're cruising from one port to the next on an exotic vacation. But how do casinos work on cruise ships? Do you have to pay? Is it the same as on land?

Here's the lowdown on casinos on cruise ships:

  • Yes, you do have to pay to play (though there is no charge to enter the casino). As in Las Vegas, the reason these casinos exist is to make money. The House will always have the best odds.
  • Children under 18 are not allowed in the casino.
  • Cruise ship casinos are closed in port due to international customs regulations.
  • Taking photos in the casino is usually not allowed.
  • German- and Japanese-registered ships don't have casinos that give out cash prizes.
  • The gambling environment is about entertainment, so don't expect a "hard core" atmosphere.
  • Examples of games you'll likely find are blackjack, roulette, Caribbean stud poker, craps, and baccarat.
  • Most cruise lines have demonstrations on how to play the various games, and you can even get lessons.
  • Yes, there are slot machines too.
Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How Do Cruise Loans Work?


Cruise loans are an increasingly popular way to finance your vacation.

You may be dreaming of taking a luxury cruise, but perhaps it's not in the budget right now. Though cruises are fairly affordable relative to other vacations, the fact that you have to pay upfront can be challenging to some families. That's why cruise loan programs are becoming more popular.

How Cruise Loans Work

Basically, you are given a revolving line of credit to finance the cruise's cost (the same way credit cards work). You are given the option of paying off the loan over 24, 36, or 48 installments (much as car loans and mortgages work).

Cruise Loan Rates

With car loans and mortgages, your car or home backs the loan (meaning if you don't pay, the bank can repossess your car or foreclose on your home), but since that's not the case with a cruise, rates are higher. In fact, they can be a lot higher.

In 2006, the lowest rates for cruise loans were 9% while the highest were a whopping 31%, according to The Unofficial Guide to Cruises.

As they write, "Loans are administered by participating banks that are unaffiliated with the cruise lines. If you obtain the lowest interest rate for cruise loans on a 36-installment loan, the monthly payment for a seven-day cruise costing $5,000 per couple is $161 per month. Multiply the $161 by 36 months to see you'll actually be paying $5,796 for your cruise."

And who ever manages to get the lowest monthly rate, anyway?

As the book says, most people would be better taking out loans on their own instead of going through the cruise loan programs.

13-Day Luxury Cruise to Antarctica


If you're looking for cruise ideas and want to head someone more exotic than the Caribbean, then perhaps it's time to travel down to Antarctica.

Cruise Norway offers a 13-day vacation on their 2007-built MS Fram, an "intimate luxury ship" where you won't be inundated with masses of people.

"The 2007-built, 318-passenger, 12700-ton exploration ship MS Fram has 8 decks. On board you will find an observation lounge with a passenger bridge, a restaurant and a bistro, a sauna and a jacuzzies, a fitness room and two conference rooms, a shop and an internet cafe, and a library. MS Fram has 136 modern cabins and 39 luxurious suites."

For the Antarctic cruise, you fly to Santiago, then get taken to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, where you will depart. You sail through the Drake Passage and then spend five days exploring Antarctica, the White Continent.

Highlights in Antarctica
  • Half Moon Island and its famous chinstrap penguin rookery, kelp gulls, and Antarctic terns
  • Whaler's Bay on Deception Island where you'll find warm springs and black volcanic sand
  • Ukrainian Vernadsky Base and its abundant bird life
  • Port Lockroy, which is surrounded by mountains, glaciers and ice shelves
  • Almirante Brown in Paradise Harbor, home of ice cliffs and floating icebergs, populated by gentoo and chinstrap penguins
  • Neko Harbor off Errera Channel, which supports hundreds of gentoo penguins, Weddell and elephant seals
  • Petermann Island, home of the southernmost gentoo penguin colony, as well as blue-eyed shags and Adelie penguins
If five days in the Antarctic isn't a long enough trip for you, the company also does 21-day cruises that visit Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands.

Prices for the 13-day luxury program start at USD $4975.

Cruise Norway

Friday, October 26, 2007

How Much Cash Should You Bring Aboard a Cruise?

Wondering how much spending money to bring along on your cruise?

Actually, you won't need a lot. Oh, there's plenty to spend money on, but most lines use a cashless system aboard the ship. When you check in, you'll get a credit-card-looking thing that will be your room key, identification card, and your swipe card.

Whenever you want to pay for something on board the ship, you just hand over your card to be swiped. This generates a tab that is charged to your credit card at the end of the trip (or you can choose to pay the balance off on the last day with cash, traveler's checks, etc.).

So, you don't need cash aboard the cruise ship itself (though you will want to be careful not to run up too much of a tab!), but of course you'll need some for going off the ship at various ports of call. In most places, though, you can use your credit card (which is often safer anyway), so you don't need to bring a lot of cash along on your cruise vacation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cruise Discounts for Senior Citizens?


Are seniors eligible for discounts on cruises?

The short answer is: YES.

Since seniors have long been the backbone of the cruise market, cruise lines often offer good deals. You don't even have to be retired to take advantage of them. If you are 55 or older, just about all the lines will give you a discount.

(Note, only one person in the cabin needs to be 55 or older, so if you're planning a mother/daughter trip or some such then you can still get the senior discount.)

The discount varies depending on the cruise line, as does the inclusion of airfare. Just ask your travel agent or the cruise line directly about what kind of deals they have for seniors.

Also, if you are a member of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), Carnival and some other lines have additional discounts.

How Do You Get a Free Cabin Upgrade on a Cruise?


You've probably heard that it's sometimes possible to get a free or deeply discounted cabin upgrade on a cruise.

This is true, though it isn't quite the sure thing some travel agents or websites would have you believe. Today's cruise ships are often sailing at 100% capacity and it can be hard to get cabin upgrade deals, especially during peak season. That said, there are some tricks you can try to get a deal on an outside cabin or a suite with a balcony without paying the full price:

1. Look for advertised (or unadvertised) specials

On specific sailings, cruise lines will have specials that include free or cheap cabin upgrades. These are often only advertised to travel agents though (which is why it often pays to book with a travel agent).

These specials allow you to buy the cheapest fare and be upgraded from one to five cabin levels.

2. Find "soft sailing' upgrades

During the off-season and on cruises to less popular destinations, a ship is sometimes expected to sail with less than full capacity. When you book early and choose the least expensive cabin during the low- or shoulder-season, you may be able to get an upgrade if the more expensive cabins fill up.

For a better shot, book early and choose a ship with relatively few inside cabins (you can study ship deck plans online). However, with today's high occupancy rates, it can be hard to get these kind of upgrades even during the low season.

3. Look for guarantees on sold-out cabins

If you request a sold-out cabin category when you book your cruise, the line will offer a guarantee, promising you the category you wanted or better. Since these guarantees are only offered when then cruise is sold-out or over-sold in the requested category, odds are in your favor for getting an upgrade at no additional cost.

4. Look for inexpensive paid upgrades

You may not always be able to find a free cabin upgrade, but you improve your odds of getting a deal by also looking for paid upgrades that don't cost much.

A number of cruise lines sell upgrades for as little as $15 per person, especially for soft sailings.


Source: The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

How Much Does a Cruise Cost?


If you're thinking of taking a cruise vacation, you're probably wondering "how much do cruises cost?"

This is actually a hard question to answer, since there is such a wide variety of cruises out there. Price depends on a number of factors:
  • Length of cruise (you can find 3- and 4-day weekend cruises or you can sail around the world for months)
  • Destination (some locales are cheap compared to others; the Caribbean is inexpensive, for example, while Alaska and the Mediterranean can be twice as much)
  • Type of ship (big resort ships tend to give you a good deal for your money and can be deeply discounted, while smaller luxury cruises are rarely discounted. Also small and mid-sized adventure ships cost more)
Despite all the factors involved, it's pretty easy to find a cruise for every budget. Cruises cost less than many mainland vacations since so much is included (meals, travel, entertainment, and your cabin).

You can find a one-week cruise to the Caribbean starting at $700 or less per person. (Weekend getaways start around $200.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Buy Early or Buy Late for the Best Discounts


If you're looking to save money on a cruise, there are two strategies you can take:

Buy early or buy late.

The biggest discounts for cruises are typically given for buying early (right after the cruises are listed--at least four to eight months before sailing) and for buying late (during the last six weeks when cruise lines are dropping rates to make sure cabins fill up).

If you're a first-time cruiser and there's a set time when you want to take your vacation, you'll definitely find the most peace of mind by taking the book-early route. That way you'll know everything is taken care of and you won't feel stressed wondering if you'll be able to find a good cruise deal as the days tick closer to your vacation time.

If you're an experienced cruiser and/or you are flexible about when you can take a trip, you may also find good discount cruise deals by booking last minute cruises. However, any time you wait until the last minute, you seriously decrease your odds of getting a good cabin, dining room seating, and the airline routing and prices you prefer.

It really depends on your personality and what's important to you. If you know you won't be spending much time in your cabin, it may be just fine that the view is blocked by the life boats.

Those are the two best ways to save money and get great cruises at discount prices though: book early or book late.

Small Ship Cruising Leaves the Crowds Behind

If you've been on one of the big resort ships that carry thousands of passengers and you weren't that crazy about the crowded ports and the masses of people waiting to disembark, then maybe it's time to experience another form of sea vacation: small ship cruising.

Small-ship or "niche" cruising can take you into the small ports, hidden coves, and narrow channels that the big boys can't access. The focus is often on destinations and in-depth itineraries rather than 24/7 entertainment on board the ship. Instead of being encouraged to gamble at the casino, you'll be invited to attend lectures offered by history, geography, culture, and wildlife experts who will give you insight into the destinations you're visiting.

Who cruises on small ships?

If you're wondering who you might meet on board, here's a look at some of the typical small-ship cruising passengers:
  • They are generally well-traveled and well-educated.
  • They want to immerse themselves in the history and lore of the destinations.
  • They are often baby boomers or folks in early retirement.
  • The passengers tend to be somewhat active and adventurous (to enjoy the variety of available shore excursions, trips that often eschew shopping for adventure and sightseeing).
  • They enjoy the relaxed, informal environment aboard most small ships.
If this sounds like you, some of the small-ship cruise lines you can look into are Star Clipper, Windjammer, Clipper Cruise Line, and Discovery World Cruises.

Make sure to book early, especially if you're traveling during peak season, as these smaller ships have fewer cabins and may fill up early.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What Is Freighter Travel?


Freighter travel is an alternative to traditional cruising.

It's where you book a trip on a commercial freighter that is delivering it's cargo from one destination to another. You won't find casinos, theaters, and other entertainment venues on freighters, and don't expect to stop for lots of shopping and guided shore excursions. (You'll have chances to go ashore, but you'll be on your own!) Also, freighter trips tend to be longer, and you can expect to spend 30, 60, or even 90 days at sea.

So, why would you consider a trip on a freighter?

There are lots of reasons these types of "cruises" intrigue people, and any one of them may appeal to you:
  • Freighters roam the globe and stop at famous and exotic industrial ports that are usually far removed from the touristy areas of cities.
  • On a per diem basis, they cost less than traveling on cruise ships (you can roam the wold for months for as little as $90 a day and unlike on cruise ships, there are few opportunities to spend extra money).
  • Freighter travel is relaxed with a carefree informal environment.
  • Companies that allow freighter travel rarely advertise in mainstream venues, so you'll get to experience something few people have heard of and most have never done.
  • You'll be one of only a handful of passengers (12 is the maximum allowed on transportation vessels), and you'll dine with the actual ship's crew.
  • Instead of being on some pristine cruise ship made for entertainment, you'll be able to wander amongst stacks of metal containers (much like railroad box cars).
  • You'll easily find quiet nooks where you can relax with a stack of books or perhaps hit up other people for a game of bridge.
Other resources for freighter travel:

http://www.geocities.com/freighterman.geo/
http://www.gonomad.com/transports/0011/miniguide_freighter_voyage.html

Antarctica Cruise Season Starts Soon


An Antarctica cruise could be just the adventure you're looking for this winter.

(And when I say winter, I mean winter in the northern hemisphere when it's actually summer down in Antarctica.)

No, you won't find the palm trees, sandy beaches, lust rain forests, or the scuba and snorkeling opportunities of Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean. In fact, Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, and driest spot on earth. Whether you're coming from South America, Africa, or Australia, the ocean crossing will almost always be a rough one. Once you get there, there aren't any shops or entertainment venues, and the tourist season is less than four months long (with cruises often only findable in January and February). The rest of the year is very cold and very, er, dark.

So why on earth would anyone want to cruise to Antarctica?

It's all about seeing exotic wildlife and having an adventure few of your friends will ever experience.

Since there are virtually no tourist amenities on the continent, a cruise ship is the best way to see Antarctica too. Most of the wildlife occupy the narrow ice-free ridges of coastline around the mainland and its islands, so you'll have a front row seat to watch the antics of the land and air creatures.

Examples of wildlife you can see include penguins, seals, whales, and birds such as the albatross, cormorant, skua, sheathbill, petrel, fulmar, tern, and of course gulls.

For more on cruises to Antarctica and the continent itself, check out these resources:

About.com
A Surveyor's Cruise Adventure

Monday, October 22, 2007

Are Cruises Good for Honeymoons?

If you're planning your honeymoon, it's hard to imagine a better vacation than a cruise.

Really.

Imagine the romance of balmy nights and sun-filled days in beautiful destinations such as the South Pacific, the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean.

On a cruise, you don't have to worry about driving anywhere, and you only have to unpack once. You get to leave the hassles at home and truly enjoy your honeymoon.

Your cabin can be your honeymoon suite, and since room service is complimentary, you never have to leave if you don't want to. A room with a balcony lets you enjoy each other's company in private even as you gaze out at the islands and ports you visit.

If you do want to venture out of your room, many cruise lines will provide you with a romantic dinner table for two in the dining hall (advance noticed usually required, but your travel agent can handle that).

Newlyweds can expect other preferential treatment too (after all, the cruise lines are hoping you'll become customers for life and cruise with them again and again) such as a bottle of Champagne, flowers in your room, free photos, or maybe even a free cabin upgrade.

Planning tips:

Since many cruises leave on Sundays, they can be a perfect getaway after a Saturday wedding.

Some cabins do come with bathtubs instead of showers, so if you want to soak with your partner, request one of those rooms ahead of time.

Work with a travel agent, who can handle all the details for you.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Lowdown

Are all cruise lines created the same? Do they all offer the same sort of vacation?

Well, no.

While there are similarities, especially among the big resort ship lines, there are a lot of differences too and this section of the blog will look at the various cruise lines and see who does what well and what might make one line appeal to you more than another.

Let's start out with a big gun...

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)

This Miami-based 14-ship line is known for its freestyle cruising. The ships have a casual, laid-back atmosphere, and the line is gay-friendly.

The manifesto is diverse, and you'll find families, honeymooners, and couples. The guests tend to be younger than on other mainstream lines, but you'll find folks of all ages on board.

No formal-wear required!

With this casual cruise line it shouldn't come as any surprise that a lot of the traditional rules are thrown out the door. Formal-wear isn't required for dining, and if you want to relax 24/7 nobody is going to stop you. Kick back and hit the bowling alley or just lounge in a deck chair with a good book.

Despite the casual atmosphere, service is good overall though. You can also find family-friendly interconnected suites (as much as you love your kids, you probably don't want them all crammed into your cabin) or if you want to spend a little more, "villa" accommodations with private gardens, sun decks, living and dining rooms, and butler service.

NCL is an affordable cruise line and you'll find prices starting around $429 for Caribbean cruises.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can You Get Good Deals Shopping in the Caribbean?


If you like to shop, a cruise can be a great opportunity to spend money. You're visiting lots of different ports, often different countries, and you'll never have to go far to find shops. In fact, there are lots of shopping opportunities just on board the ship.

But are you going to find good deals?

Well, maybe.

Let's say you're taking a cruise to the Caribbean, a popular destination for U.S. ships and one that is known to be a shopping mecca. Here's the lowdown on what kind of deals you can find:

In the Caribbean, you can expect to save 20% on French perfumes and well-known brands such as Gucci, Fendi, and Vuitton. Be wary of prices lower than that since dealers of luxury brands will be dropped from distribution if they're caught undercutting. If a deal seems to good to be true, it's probably a knock-off.

Also be wary if during the port talks, they recommend certain stores in port, as they may be getting a cut. Deals in the ship's shops aren't necessarily that great either.

In truth, you can usually find as good of--or better--deals shopping in your discount stores and factory outlets back home as in the Caribbean.

That said, one area where you can get some good deals is when it comes to cigarettes and liquor.

The prices aren't necessarily lower but in the U.S. and many other countries these items are taxed heavily, so in the Caribbean you can get them for less.

Now before you consider buying something illegal (I know that wouldn't cross your mind, but I've got to put this notice out for good measure), know that your packs and bags will be searched for security before you are allowed back on the cruise ship.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Can You Use U.S. Dollars in the Caribbean?


If you're an American planning a cruise to the Caribbean, you may be wondering if you need to exchange money or if U.S. dollars will work on the various islands you'll visit. Since each port you'll stop in is in a different country, it would certainly get confusing trying to exchange dollars for all those different kinds of currencies.

The good news is that U.S. dollars are accepted throughout most of the Caribbean.

You can also use traveler's checks and credit cards in most places. So there's really no need to change your money for the island's currency unless you want some colorful souvenir bills to bring back home.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Are Cruise Ships Wheelchair Accessible?


If you're planning your first cruise and you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, you are probably wondering if the ships are handicap accessible.

On older ships--and sometimes on smaller ships--this can be a problem. Not all public restrooms, showrooms, and dining rooms are wheelchair accessible. Some small ships do not have elevators, and on older ships not all elevators service all floors.

Newer (built within the last few years), larger ships should all be up to standards, so this may be the way to go if you have mobility concerns. Newer ships are designed so that you won't have trouble getting around if you are in a wheelchair.

However, you will probably need to bring your own wheelchair on most ships. The cruise line may require one that is collapsible or narrow-gauge.

Wheelchair-accessible cabins are limited, so make sure to book early.

You may also want to look for a ship with a lot of elevators relative to the passenger compliment. A higher elevator ratio will mean less time waiting in lines.

If you use a wheelchair and will not be traveling with a companion to aid you, you may want to bring along a collapsible pointer or some means to extend your reach. This lets you reach elevator buttons, light switches, and higher storage spaces in your cabin.

Source: The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

What Are Repositioning Cruises?


If you're looking to save money, a repositioning cruise can make a great vacation.

What are repositioning cruises?

These trips take place at the end of one cruise season and the beginning of another in a different part of the world. The ship must sail from the old area to the new area, and you can sign up to be on board when she does.

Because repositioning cruises are more about covering ground (er, water) than stopping at every port along the way, you spend more days at sea than with traditional cruises. This can be very relaxing since you're not worrying about what you're going to do and see every day when you're in a new city or even country. You will still stop at some ports, but expect a higher ratio of at-sea days to at-port days in your trip.

Since the ships have so much entertainment on board, many people even prefer these types of cruises, because there is more time to just enjoy the ship's amenities.

Also, one of the big perks of repositioning cruises is that they are cheaper than regular ones. Because they only happen a couple times a year, the trips are harder for the cruise lines to promote. Thus the often deep discounts.

This can make repositioning cruises great vacation deals, and you still get the good food and all the on board activities you want to partake in.

Examples of Repositioning Cruises

In late April, at the end of the Caribbean "high season" cruise lines such as Princess and Holland America reposition some of their ships by sailing them from the Caribbean to Alaska where the summer cruise season is about to begin.

Around the same time other cruise lines reposition some of their ships from the Caribbean to Europe or the Mediterranean.

As you can imagine, these cruises can be a great way to see parts of the world you wouldn't normally see and get a great deal while doing it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book Your Next Cruise During Your Current One to Save Money


Cruises offer a great value for your vacation dollar, but there ways to get even better deals than the ones printed in brochures or posted on the Internet. For instance, repeat cruisers can get some excellent deals.

Want to save big money on your next vacation?

Consider booking your next cruise while on board your current cruise.

Cruise lines love to give discounts to people who sign up to vacation with them again. So if you like the experience you're getting, see what kind of deals you can get for signing up for another trip.

(Just because you go with the same cruise line doesn't mean you have to go on the same vacation. The big cruise lines have ships running all over the world, so you can sign up for a trip to Alaska or South America even if your current cruise is in the Caribbean.)

What if you're already back from your cruise and you didn't take advantage of the cheap deals you can get by booking while you're still on board?

You can still get great deals if you're a previous customer of a certain line. Some lines even offer free cruises after you've taken enough trips with them. Just ask your travel agent or check out specials on the cruise line's website.

So when you're trying to justify your next vacation, just remember that a great way to save money on cruises is to take lots of trips!

Should You Use a Travel Agent to Book a Cruise?

In today's Internet-connected world, it's easier than ever to plan a vacation and book airfare and hotels without ever talking to another human being. The cruise world is no exception. Sites like Travelocity make it easy for you to sign up for cruises online.

But should you?

You might be under the impression that you can save a lot of money by booking online instead of using a travel agent. In truth, travel agents can get you some great deals and help you decipher some of the mysteries of the cruise world. If you're a first time cruiser, in particular, you might not be entirely sure what terms like "inside cabin" and "outside cabin" or "main seating" and "late seating" mean.

Here are some perks to working with a travel agent:
  • Travel agents can help singles get the best deals (often travel agents book blocks of cabins and they can set you up with an acceptable roommate to ensure you get the best prices).
  • They know all the cabin lingo and can help you find one that isn't by the anchor, under clubs, or by elevators (all noisy spots) or has the view obstructed by life boats.
  • They get daily updates on exclusive deals, so they may have access to prices and specials that aren't listed on websites.
  • They'll know if it's possible for you to get a free cabin upgrade.
  • Reputable travel agents will honor a lower fare if the price drops between the time you book and the time you step on board (that's something you won't get if you book online).
  • They will inform the chef of any food allergies or special meal requests you might have.
  • Travel agents check your documents and make sure you have everything in order.
If you do decide to book through a travel agent, make sure to choose someone who specializes in cruises. They'll be the most "in the loop" when it comes to knowing all the best deals and specials going on.

You can find a good cruise travel agent in your area through the CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) website:

http://www.cruising.org/TravelAgents/index.cfm

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Are Massages Included in the Price of a Cruise?

There are lots of ways to have fun and relax on a cruise ship, and massages and other spa treatments are very popular.

If you're planning your first cruise, you may be wondering if massages are included in the price of the trip. After all, cruises are "all inclusive" right? Well, they do include your cabin, meals, and the trip itself, but for extra luxuries you'll have to pay extra.

On most ships, you will have to pay extra for massages and other spa treatments. Prices generally are comparable to land prices or maybe a little more (about $80 an hour is normal).

So if you're planning on enjoying a massage on one of your sea days, make sure to set aside some extra spending money. Also, book early as appointments can fill up rapidly. (On some ships, you can actually reserve a spot before the cruise even starts.)

Pros and Cons of Disney Cruises

If you're a Disney fan or you've got kids who are and you're looking for a family vacation everyone will enjoy, you may be checking out the Disney Cruise Line.

Disney's cruises feature "modern ocean liners with classic steamship lines" (which is code for: these ships are big enough to put tons of people on them). The company offers family-oriented mainstream cruises that are combined with a Walt Disney World vacation. Obviously kids are the emphasis, but kids of all ages can enjoy the trips.

Before you book your vacation, you may be wondering about some of the advantages and disadvantages of the cruise line. Here's a closer look:

Disney Cruises Pros
  • The staff is friendly and conscientious.
  • You've got name recognition that your kids will get excited about.
  • The innovative ships are just plain fun.
  • You'll probably cruise to Disney's private island, which is excellent compared to other line's islands.
  • Plenty of children's facilities (and babysitting so mom and dad can get away for a break)
  • There's a nice variety in dining venue and presentation.
  • The family cabins are roomy enough for all.
Disney Cruises Cons
  • You might get sick of the "Disney overdose."
  • Expect loud and intrusive public announcements.
  • You might find the children's programs are too regimented.
  • The cruise can be uneven in quality.
  • Some have complained about an unnecessary pressure to leave the ship on disembarkation.
As you can see, there are not too many cons, and Disney is generally considered an excellent choice for a family cruise. The line is recommended for families with kids or grandchildren, though anyone who is a kid at heart can enjoy the cruises. But if you're not "enraptured" by Disney, this may not be the vacation for you.

Source: The Unofficial Guide to Cruises

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How Much Do Shore Excursions Cost?

You can spend a lot of extra money on shore excursions if you're not careful.

It's true that cruises have "all-inclusive" pricing, but that refers to the cruise itself, your cabin, basic entertainment, and meals on board the ship. If you want to take tours or go on adventures when you reach different ports of call, you'll pay extra (unless you want to go off and explore yourself which is a possibility in many areas).

So, how much do shore excursions cost?

It depends, of course, on where in the world you're cruising and also on what you want to do.

In the Caribbean, standard half-day shore excursions run $25-$35. In Europe and Alaska, they can cost twice that much. Adventure shore excursions cost more because groups are smaller and they cost more per person to operate. Expect to pay $50 and up for half-day adventure tours and $70-$150 for full-day excursions. Exotic tours, such as helicopter rides, cost $200 and up.

Do Cruise Ships Have Laundry Facilities?

If you're packing for your first cruise, you may be wondering if you'll be able to do laundry on the ship.

After all, you need to take a lot more clothes if you need new clothes for every day of your trip (well, let's hope you're changing daily anyway). If you're going for a multi-week cruise, laundry becomes even more of a concern.

The good news is that almost all ships have laundry facilities. (Ask ahead of time if you're booking a cruise on a small ship.) Fewer ships have dry cleaning service.

When it comes to laundry, don't expect to do it yourself. (Why would you want to on vacation anyway?) Some do have public laundry facilities, but in most you'll have the staff do it.

You'll find price lists in your cabin. Just give clothing to be washed to your steward (they can also press clothing). Items are usually returned in a day, but for additional cost you can get same-day service

Laundry service is generally good and reasonably priced, but the ship laundries are known to use a lot of bleach.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What if I Get Seasick?

If you're thinking cruises sound fun, but you haven't signed up for one because you're afraid of getting seasick, I may be able to quell some of your fears:

1. Most people don't get seasick on cruises, even if they get queasy in a car (stabilizers on ships keep the ride pretty smooth).

2. Over-the-counter medications such as Bonine and Dramamine (both available in non-drowsy formulas) can get you past the first few hours of acclimatization.

3. If you aren't into drugs, you can try Sea Bands, elasticized wristbands with little plastic disks that apply pressure inside the wrist (this is an acupressure point and many people swear by the bands' effectiveness).

4. Consider booking a cruise in calm waters such as the Caribbean, Alaska's Inside Passage, the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Mexico. (Save the cruises through the South China Sea, the Pacific, the Atlantic, and Indian Oceans until you're sure you won't have troubles--these are less calm rides).

What Is the Best Time of Year to Cruise?

One of the beautiful things about cruise vacations is that you can find cruises departing for exciting destinations year around. There really is no "best time of year to cruise" because there are always ships departing.

If you want to take a trip next week, you can find a last minute cruise to sign up for. If you want to plan a trip for next winter, you can also find a cruise to book.

It really just depends on the destination you have in mind. Naturally some places have limited cruise seasons (most people want good weather for their trips).

For example, if you want to cruise to Alaska, you'll need to book a trip in the summer, between May and September. If you've always wanted to see the nature and wildlife of Antarctica, you'll have to visit in January or February (which is summer down there). What if you just want to head some place tropical? You can take a cruise to the Caribbean any time of year.

For more on when you can cruise where, check out my earlier post that lists Cruising Seasons for Popular Cruise Destinations.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Top 10 Cruise Myths Debunked


Over the last couple of weeks, I've been going through a lot of the "myths" and misconceptions people have about cruises. If you're dreaming of taking a cruise vacation and having a hard time convincing your significant other or a friend to go with you, then direct them this way. It may just be they're not aware of how cool modern cruising is and what a great vacation it can be no matter what their interests are.

Here's a recap of the list of 10 cruise myths I've covered:

  1. Cruises are only for retired people
  2. You'll get fat on a cruise
  3. You'll get seasick
  4. Last-minute bookings offer the best rates
  5. Cruise ships are crowded
  6. You'll get bored
  7. You can get the best cruise deals online
  8. Cruises aren't for singles
  9. Cruises only go a few places like Alaska and the Caribbean
  10. You have to be rich to cruise
There you have it. 10 cruise myths debunked.

If there's anything else you want to add, feel free to comment below!

Cruise Myth #10: Cruising is Only for the Wealthy

Do you only get to cruise if you're rich?

Heck no.

According to the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), fully half of today's cruisers have household incomes under $60,000 a year.

Prices are very competitive, especially considering cruises are all-inclusive, meaning your cabin, entertainment, and meals are included. This makes cruising more affordable than other vacation options. In many cases, you may even spend less than you would taking a road trip and renting a cabin by the lake (just consider the price of gasoline these days).

Today, cruises are departing from more ports than ever as well, so if you live near the coast, you may not even have to pay for airfare.

In other words, you definitely don't have to be rich to take a cruise.

If money is a concern, know you can get some great deals by booking well in advance (as soon as the cruise is opened up for bookings) or at the last minute (great for people who can pick up and leave on a moment's--or at least a couple weeks'--notice).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Will I Have to Pay Port Charges on a Cruise?

If you've been researching cruises, you may have learned that "all inclusive" price quotes aren't quite as all inclusive as they sound.

You can expect the price of a cruise to include the trip, your cabin, and three square meals a day. Extras (including drinks, massages, and shore excursions) will usually cost you extra.

But you're wondering what are port charges and will you have to pay them?

Port charges are taxes the cruise lines are charged for using the ports they dock in. The fees are determined by the government of each country your ship is visiting. Port charges will be higher on longer trips that stop at more destinations. As an example, the taxes can range from $120 to $200 or more on a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean, depending on the itinerary.

That's all well and good, but you probably just want to know if you'll have to pay extra for these fees or if they're covered.

The good news is that port charges are usually included in the price of your cruise. There are exceptions, however, so it pays to read the fine print carefully, especially if you find a cruise price that seems too good to be true.

If you book with a travel agent, they can easily find out for you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

List of Cruising Seasons for Popular Cruise Destinations


Wondering when you can cruise where? Here's a list of cruising seasons for several popular destinations around the world:

Africa

Cruises head to Africa year around but the high seasons are considered May - October for northern Africa and November - April for eastern and southern Africa.

Alaska

Since the weather is cold much of the year, cruises only run from May - September.

Asia and the Orient

The cruise season runs October - March.

Baltic

Cruises to the Baltic Sea run from May - October.

Bermuda

Bermuda is also popular from May - October.

Black Sea

You can find cruises through the Black Sea from April - October.

Canada

Like Alaska, you'll find mostly summer-time sailings here: May - October.

Caribbean

Thanks to its tropical climate, you can find cruises to the Caribbean all year around.

Hawaii

Again, ships sail all year around to the Hawaiian Islands.

India and Southeast Asia

You can book cruises all year around, but the high season is from November - April, and you'll find more variety then.

Mediterranean Sea

Again, you can find cruises all year around but the majority sail from March - November.

Mexico

This warm climate also features sailings all year around.

New England

May - October is when you'll find cruises to New England.

Panama Canal

Bookings run year around, but due to the summer heat, more cruises are offered September - May.

South America

For the north coast, you can find sailings all year around. For other areas, the season runs from September - April.

South Pacific

Cruises are offered year around with the high season from November - April.

Best Time of Year for a Caribbean Cruise?

Cruises follow the sun, and in the tropical Caribbean climate, that means you can find a trip pretty much all year around. But some times of year are considered off-season, while others are high-season.

If you cruise during the off-season, you can get great deals; on the other hand, if you cruise at the most popular time of year, expect to pay more.

The "high season" in the Caribbean (i.e. when you can expect good weather, when most people want to take vacations, and when you'll pay more) runs from Christmas to the middle of April and again from June 15th through August 15th. (Weather is actually better in the winter than in the summer, but since children are out of school in the summer, that creates a lot of demand during those months.)

Want to save money on your trip?

For Caribbean cruises, prices are quite low the first two weeks right after the Christmas/New Year holidays, so if you can shift your vacation back a bit, you can save big time.

Cruising with Food Allergies

Do you have food allergies or food intolerances?

I do, so you can bet I'm looking into what it's like cruising with special dietary needs.

How well will the chefs accommodate your food allergies? Will you have to order special at every meal? Can you just tell them ahead of time and not have to worry about alerting a waiter at each individual meal?

I will post specific answers to some of these questions once I've taken my first cruise, but in the mean time I'm posting some ideas from a nice guide I found (link below). Also, I invite you to share your comments if you have food allergies and you've cruised.

I'm supposed to avoid gluten and dairy, which are huge ones, since wheat in particular tends to creep into, well, almost everything. Fortunately my intolerances aren't life-threatening; I just get sick (I'll spare you the details), which is of course preferable to avoid, but if you're one of the folks who gets deathly ill, you'll definitely want to be careful.

A very helpful guide on dealing with food allergies on cruises suggests the following:
  • Book your cruise with a trusted travel agent rather than through the Internet. Have the agent fax the cruise line (including CC to the Head Chef) at the time of your deposit.
  • List all your food allergies. If lots of foods cause allergic reactions, also consider including a list of foods that don't cause any reaction. This will help the chef plan his menu for you.
  • Choose the set dining times instead of freestyle dining. The assigned tables let your waiter and the Maitre D get to know you and assist you better at every meal.
  • It's a good idea to avoid the buffet area, as the ingredients are not easily available. Buffet lines also can be risky since utensils are often moved from a dish that is dangerous to you to a dish that looks safe.
  • Take any medication and medical information in your carry-on bag.
  • If your allergies are severe, make sure to take your Epi-pen and oral Benadryl with you on shore excursions. If you sign up for a full day tour, ask for a ³box lunch² to take, so you'll know there's something you can eat.

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping for the day when all restaurants and buffets (on land as well as cruises) list all the ingredients on the menus Whole Foods style.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Golfing at Mahogany Run in the Virgin Islands


You might not think a cruise vacation would be all about golfing, but if you're a golf fanatic, chances are you'll find some great opportunities to try out new courses.

If you're cruising in the Caribbean and your ship is stopping at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, look for a shore excursion to Mahogany Run. What could be better than golfing on a course with the sea breeze ruffling your hair and views of the water everywhere you look? (I don't even play and it sounds lovely to me!)

Mahogany Run Information
  • Designed by Tom and George Fazio
  • Known as "one of the most beautiful courses in the West Indies"
  • 18 hole, par-70 course
  • Challenging rises and drops "like a roller coaster on its journey to the sea"
  • Golf Digest proclaimed it more of an engineering marvel than an architectural one as the course had to be carved and blasted into an area of land just less than 110 acres.
  • Green fees = $130 if you go by yourself, shore excursion (which includes the 20-30 minute ride there) runs about $170
Mahogany Run

Shark Feeding in Tahiti Anyone?


When you're deciding where to book a cruise, one of the funnest parts is deciding which shore excursions you're going to go on. The shore excursions may even help you decide where in the world you want to cruise.

Do you want to dog sled in Alaska? See Mayan ruins in Mexico? Or perhaps feed sharks and rays in the South Pacific?

If the latter sounds exciting to you (it sounds dangerous to me, but I guess I'm not all that adventuresome), then you might just want to check out a shark feeding shore excursion in Tahiti.

Here's part of the description from an outfit that does shark and ray feeding tours:

"...the skipper's first mate jumps into the water and secures a floating rope. Everyone will be instructed to hold onto the rope floating "face down" with their snorkel gear on. The skipper checks to make sure everyone is safely on their side of the rope (which is of paramount importance) as he pulls out the shark food. You wait with anticipation as the sharks come out, one after the other, to rip and tear up the bait. The sharks may give you a demo of their amazing sonar as they swim directly towards you and, at the very last second, make a sharp turn away from you. The only thing between you and them is the rope and your heartbeat."

So, are you feeling lucky?

More on this particular tour at Tahiti Legends.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Do Cell Phones Work on Cruise Ships?

Should you take your cell phone on your cruise vacation?

Well, those solitude seekers who get annoyed with people blabbing on the phone constantly might wish you would leave your phone at home (Okay, okay, I admit it: I'm one of them. Don't shoot me!), but you probably don't need to.

You might not get reception all the time, but chances are you will be able to use your cell phone on a cruise ship.

Many of the big cruise lines have contracts will land-based phone companies and often have coverage, even at sea. Rates vary, but expect to pay international roaming rates. When a ship is in port, the ship's network will be switched off, and you'll pay whatever the country's going rate is for mobile calls.

If, however, you don't mind leaving your cell phone at home and you'd love to escape all those constantly chatting types, try booking a cruise for the Arctic, Antarctic, or South Pacific. Chances are good you won't be in range of any networks.

Do You Need a Passport on a Cruise?

You're heading off on a cruise soon. Do you need to take your passport?

The short answer is yes.

For a long time, U.S. citizens cruising to Canada or Mexico didn't need passports, but all that's changed. In this era of heightened security awareness, plan to take a passport wherever you cruise. (An exception might be the NCL Hawaiian cruises that never leave the islands.)

So, if even if you're just taking a weekend trip to the Bahamas or you're heading to Alaska and departing from Vancouver BC, plan on taking your passport with you.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New Ships vs. Old Ships, Which Offer a Better Cruise Experience?

When it comes to choosing a cruise ship, do you assume that new is automatically better?

Well, it depends a bit what you're looking for. In some ways it's true that they "just don't build 'em like they used to."

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of new ships and older ships. Then you can decide which will offer the better cruise experience for you.

Advantages of older (pre-1980s) ships:

  • larger cabins with longer beds, since voyages used to be longer with more days at sea
  • sturdy, plated hulls that can withstand all sorts of weather conditions well
  • usually quieter and smoother than modern vessels, since they're mostly powered by steam turbines
  • often have portholes that actually open
  • large range of cabin sizes and shapes, often great for families with children
  • interiors are usually built from real materials (i.e. wood and brass) rather than synthetics

Disadvantages of older ships:
  • less fuel-efficient (and more costly to operate) than modern ships
  • deeper drafts which makes them smoother in open seas but means they can't get around well in ports and tight spaces (requiring tug boats and slowing things down)
  • less likely to comply to all modern international safety, fire, and environmental regulations
  • more likely to experience plumbing, air-conditioning, etc. problems since they're older
Advantages of newer ships:
  • all the latest high-tech electronic systems, entertainment, etc.
  • more interior public rooms
  • standardized cabin layouts (may be a disadvantage if you like lots of selection) and generally easier to navigate public spaces
  • more fuel-efficient
  • shallower drafts, which means they can navigate tight spaces and ports more easily (don't need tug)
Disadvantages of newer ships:
  • shallower drafts mean they don't "take the weather" as well and ride as nicely, especially in open waters
  • smaller cabins with smaller beds
  • thinner hulls
  • walls and decor made from synthetics instead of "real" materials (could be a problem if you have allergies to synthetic materials)
  • completely sealed cabin windows instead of portholes that can be opened
There you go, the lowdown on new ships and older ships. Now you know that they're not all the same and that new isn't necessarily better!

If you think you've developed a preference after reading this article, make sure to let your travel agent know when you book your cruise.

Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships

Cruise Myth #9: Cruises Only Go to a Few Places Like Alaska and the Caribbean


Not true!

You can find cruises that travel all over the world. Sure the Caribbean is popular in the U.S. (it's tropical and close to home for anyone on the east coast or in the South) and Alaska is an awesome destination where you can see glaciers and whales in one trip, but these are by no means the only cruise vacations out there.

Think of a place and if it's close to a seaport, there's probably a cruise that stops there. Shoot, some cruises these days even include land tours where everyone disembarks the boat for a few days and takes a train inland to visit a landlocked sight. Also, you can find river cruises floating along interior waterways.

Here are just some of the places you can visit on a cruise:
  • The Mexican Riveria
  • Antarctica
  • South America
  • Southeast Asia
  • New England
  • Scandinavia
  • The Mediterranean
  • The Missippippi River
  • Tahiti and the South Pacific
  • Australia and New Zealand

For more cruise destination ideas, visit my earlier post on "5 Exotic Cruises Your Friends and Family Haven't Been on"

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Last Minute Cruises Save You Money BUT...

You've probably heard that signing up for last minute cruises can save you a lot of money. This is absolutely true. When a cruise ship approaches the sail date and all their cabins aren't booked, it's better for them to drop prices and get bodies on the ship than sail with empty staterooms.

So, yes, finding last minute cruise deals can save you money.

But--and isn't there always a but?--you need to realize a few things first.

You will probably NOT find last minute cruises available during the holidays and peak seasons. And there's no guarantee that ships won't fill up even during the off season.

Also, there's no way to plan a trip in advance if you're depending on saving money by booking at the last moment. You have no way to know if you'll get on a ship or what day it will leave until, well, the last moment.

And just because you got a good deal on the cruise doesn't mean you'll be able to get a good deal on airfare (granted, this is less of a problem if you live within driving distance of major port). You could actually end up paying a lot more on airfare because you waited until the last moment. Remember, cruise prices usually don't include airfare, especially last-minute specials and deals.

Last minute cruises are best for people who can be extremely flexible (i.e. retired folks or those who work from home and don't have to arrange for someone to watch after the kids).

Big tip here...

You can get good deals on cruises without waiting until the last moment.

In fact, the usual practice is for great deals to be available when bookings first open (booking through travel agents is the best way to stay on top of this). Once the opening flurry settles down, you'll have a harder time finding those cheap prices.

Ok, now that I've warned you that last minute cruises won't work for everyone, here's some information on how to find them anyway!

How to find last minute cruise deals:

--Plan to take a trip in the off-season. This varies depending on where you're sailing, so you'll have to do your homework. For example, cruises to the Caribbean have their off-season from September to the end of the year (excluding holidays).

--Shop online at sites like Travelocity. They often list specials on last minute cruises.

--Sign up for cruise line newsletters, especially if you've cruised with the company before (they often offer discounts to repeat cruises) and liked their service. The company will send you newsletters alerting you to last minute specials.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Large Resort Cruise Ships: Pros & Cons

We've talked about small and boutique cruise ships, and we've covered mid-size cruise ships. Now it's time to look at the big boys of the cruise scene: large resort ships.

If you're planning your dream cruise, might one of these large mainstream ships be for you?

If you like the big-city environment, you want lots of entertainment options, plenty of places to eat any time of the day or night, and you don't mind being social, then a big ship might be your best bet.

On the flip side, these ships lose a lot of the intimacy of the smaller ones, and their schedules tend to be highly programmed with less flexibility. Anyway, let's break it down further into pros and cons...

Passenger amount = 1,200 and up

Advantages of Large Resort Cruise Ships
  • They have the largest variety of public rooms and facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools.
  • They often feature wraparound promenade decks outdoors.
  • More space overall (but lots more people too) to explore.
  • They sail well in open seas and poor weather.
  • More dining options available close to or around the clock.
  • More programs and activities for children.
  • Newer ships feature state-of-the-art gadgets and technology (computers, wi-fi, etc.)
Disadvantages of Large Resort Cruise Ships
  • They've been likened to floating hotels or "retail parks surrounded by cabins."
  • Frequent ship-wide announcements, often in several languages.
  • Lots of lines to wait in for buffet meals, fast food grills, the information desk, elevators, tendering ashore, security checkpoints, immigration, and disembarkation.
  • You'll always feel like "one of the crowd" even if you pay for a big expensive suite.
  • Dining room staff are trained to get you in and out efficiently rather than let you linger.
  • Food can be bland and cafeteria-like.
  • Phoning for room service frequently means dealing with automatic telephone answering systems.
  • Signs aren't always clear, and sometimes it's hard to find what you're looking for.
As you can see, because large resort cruise ships are designed to be efficient and provide a decent (but rarely excellent) experience for everyone, they tend to lose the great service and special attention you can expect on smaller ships. However, if you don't mind the big-city feel, there is plenty to see and do on these ships.

Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships

Back to "What Size Cruise Ship Is Right for You?"

Mid-size Cruise Ships Pros & Cons


Mid-size cruise ships can still visit some of the small ports , as small and boutique ships can, but they are roomier with accommodations ranging from "penthouse" suites to small interior cabins. They offer more facilities, entertainment, and dining options than smaller ships. Also, due to their increased size and draft, they tend to be more stable at sea.

Passenger amount = 500-1,200

If you're thinking you might like to book a cruise on a mid-size ship, let's take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide:

Advantages of Mid-size Cruise Ships
  • They're more traditional (ship looking) than large resort vessels with their boxy shapes.
  • It's still easy to find your way around (as with small ships).
  • They sail well in rough weather.
  • They offer more to do than small ships (though still not as much as large resort ships).
  • Lines are more frequent than with small ships, but nothing compared to what you see in the large ships. When lines do form, they tend to be short.
Disadvantages of Mid-size Cruise Ships
  • They don't offer as many and as large of public rooms as on large resort ships.
  • They rarely have large show lounges for large-scale productions, so think "cabaret variety" for the entertainment.

Many consider mid-size ships a happy medium between small ships and large ships, sort of a porridge juuuust right type of cruise ships.

Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships

Back to "What Size Cruise Ship Is Right for You?"

Friday, October 5, 2007

Boutique/Small Cruise Ships, Pros & Cons

Boutique and small cruise ships give you a much different vacation experience than the large resort ships.

Passenger amount = up to 500

If you're thinking of going small, here are some of the pros and cons of these ships:

Advantages to Cruising on Small/Boutique Ships

  • They're cozy, more like "small inns" than giant resorts.
  • It's easy to find your way around.
  • They often have an open bridge policy, which means you can head up to the navigational bridge most times of the day to see what's going on.
  • They usually provide open seating in the dining room, so you're not assigned to certain tables.
  • Small ships can go to smaller and more off-beat ports, which larger ships are too big to visit (this means less crowded and touristy ports).
  • When the ship anchors, you don't have to deal with huge lines of people waiting to be tendered ashore.
  • These ships often offer better, fresher foods that are cooked to individual standards.
  • You'll find no or almost no ship-wide announcements disturbing your peace.
Disadvantages of Boutique/Small Cruise Ships
  • Since they have less bulk, they don't sail as well in open seas in poor weather conditions.
  • They have fewer public rooms and open spaces than large resort ships, so there are fewer options for entertainment.
As you can see, the pros generally outweigh the cons when it comes to small cruise ships, so if you're looking to avoid the mainstream, you may want to consider booking passage on one of these for your cruise vacation!

Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships

Head back to "What Cruise Ship Is Best for You" for information on other size ships.