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CHOOSING A CRUISE



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I've never been on a cruise before. Where do I start?

First, think about how long you want to cruise, where and when you want to go, and how much money you want to spend. Next, find a travel agent who knows about the many types of cruises available and is interested in matching your needs and lifestyle, not just making a sale. This may take a little probing through a telephone directory, but there are travel agencies which specialize in cruises. When you've found one be sure to ask questions. Some questions you'll need to have answered are:

  1. What is the budget for the trip?
  2. What is included in the price of the cruise?
  3. What are the additional costs?
  4. Where does the ship go?
  5. What is the ship's atmosphere like?
  6. What activities and entertainment can I expect?


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How long a cruise should I take?

Most cruises range from three days to several weeks. Your available time, budget, and destination will determine how long your cruise should be. First-time cruisers might opt for a 3-4 day cruise, to test the waters, so to speak. Often, these shorter cruises run to the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

An average cruise usually runs 7-14 days. Destinations in this range include Alaska, Europe, the Far East, Southeast Asia, and many points in between.

Around-the-world trips are still possible if your time and budget allow. These trips can take100-150 days to complete.

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How much does a cruise cost?

Cruise costs depend on several factors: length, cruise line and ship, destination, time of year, and choice of cabin. Most cruises have peak periods when the prices may be higher; usually January, February, and March for the caribbean, and July/August for Alaska. A travel agent can tell you the specific times for each season.

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How can I tell if I'm getting a good deal?

The rule of thumb for cruising is "Don't ever pay book price," because the cruise industry is heavily discounted. Ask your travel agent about special rates. For example, Caribbean cruises have more difficulty filling their ships in the autumn, when school is starting, so look for special offers at that time. It is difficult to find discounts on cruises to the Greek islands and the Mediterranean. Most lines have alumni programs offering discounts to people who have previously sailed with them. The only way you can really know if you're getting a good deal is by asking travel agents and more experienced cruisers about the different rates for each cruise.

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What's included in the price?

The price of the cruise includes your accommodations, all shipboard meals, and most shipboard entertainment. In some cases, the line will include airfare and transfers to and from the ship.

Unless specified, the price does not include the cost of drinks (alcoholic or soft drinks), gambling, items of a personal nature, beauty treatments, laundry service, telephone use, photographs, shore excursions, medical services, tips, and port charges. A cruise brochure will usually indicate specific details about tours not covered in the cruise price.

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What's "price protection?"

Price protection means that you are protected against price increases in the cruise rate once your booking is under deposit.

Recently, lines have also been guaranteeing that they will refund the difference if the price of the cruise drops before your sailing date. Cruise lines will not notify you about price decreases, so check with your travel agent from time to time.

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I'm traveling alone. Do I need to pay a supplement?

Unfortunately, the travel industry penalizes the "solo" traveler by charging extra for a cabin of one's own. However, many lines run a "guarantee share" program where they pair you with a roommate of the same sex at the lower double rate. If sharing a cabin with a stranger doesn't bother you, consider this option.

Some of the older ships may have single cabins available that are sold at the double rate.

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Which cruise line should I book?

Cruise lines and ships have "personalities." Some lines are known for their party atmosphere, others are more popular with senior citizens, still others cater to families with children. There are also specialty cruises for dancers, sports fans, gays and lesbians, and just about any group under the sun. So the key to your decision is to decide what atmosphere you want and can afford. A travel agent will be able to offer brochures and make suggestions based on your needs.

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Should I take an older or newer ship?



New ships tend to be larger and have plumbing, air-conditioning, and electrical equipment which reflects the latest technology. The cabin layout and public rooms are normally more spacious. Newer ships also offer first-rate health spas and sports areas.

Older ships have the charm and grace of the era in which they were built. When well maintained, the facilities are comparable to the newer megaships. In older ships, which were designed for multi-class ocean voyages, the cabins vary greatly in size and amenities.

Many of the lower-priced cruise lines use older vessels that have been renovated. When considering a ship, check into the cruise line. A good reputation is vital to keep any ship, new or old, sailing smoothly.

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Should I take a larger or smaller ship?

Larger ships offer more shops, bigger public rooms, and more activities. They also have more passengers and may seem less intimate.

Smaller ships offer a more intimate, less crowded cruise but can be very expensive. Some of the luxury ships offer private dining, orchestras, and all-suite cabins. Keep in mind that pools, public areas, and facilities are scaled to the ship's size.

Your destination may be a factor in selecting ship size. For example, some of the newer ships are too large to fit through the Panama Canal. Less popular destinations are served by smaller ships.

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What's an air/sea package?

Air/sea packages include round-trip air transportation to the port of embarkation, transfers to and from the ship, and luggage handling. Not all cruise lines do this, so speak with a travel agent about options and costs in getting to and from the ship

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How do I pick a cabin?

First decide if you want an inside or an outside cabin. Outside cabins offer a window. Inside cabins have a mirror, picture, or curtains in place of a window. Less expensive, inside cabins offer the same facilities and service but make some people feel claustrophobic. On newer ships, inside and outside cabins tend to be similarly sized. On converted ocean liners, however, the outside cabins are almost always larger.

One comment you will often hear is, "Don't worry about the cabin, because you won't spend much time in it." This varies with individual preferences. In very warm climates you may spend more time in your air-conditioned cabin to get away from the heat. If you think you are going to be spending a good deal of time resting, reading, sleeping, or if you just want to be alone, you may want to book a larger cabin. On the other hand, if you know that you are only going to use the cabin for changing clothes and sleeping, a smaller cabin would suffice.

Outside cabins cost more than inside ones. Prices also rise as the cabin gets closer to the top deck. More expensive cabins may have more square footage, a balcony, mini refrigerator, and bathtubs. Cabins at the bow and stern of the ship are sometimes less expensive due to space limitations imposed by the ship's structure. When deciding on a cabin, determine how important the different features are to you.

If you fear seasickness, book a cabin that is nearest to midship. The center of the ship generally has less pitch and is more stable.

Another consideration: check the location of the jogging deck, dining room, nightclub, and other public rooms in relation to the cabins. If you are a light sleeper, you may want to avoid cabins directly below or above public areas and the promenade. If you have trouble negotiating steps, you may want to book a cabin near the public rooms, since ship elevators are small and may not always be convenient.

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Is the ship accessible to people with disabilities?

Most modern ships are accessible to handicapped individuals. Some of the smaller ships may not be, however, and some of the older ships have doors wide enough for a wheelchair, but may have steps into the bathroom or shower. Most lines allow "helper dogs" aboard their ships if notified in advance. Ask your travel agent to ensure a cabin that will meet your needs, and reconfirm your arrangements before you go.

Shore excursions may not be fully accessible. For example, persons with disabilities may not be able to board the tenders that ferry passengers into port.

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What should I pack?

An old rule of thumb: Pack what you need, withdraw as much money as you think you need. Then take out half of what you packed and withdraw twice as much money! What to pack depends on the cruise line, your destination, and the time of year. The cruise brochure will tell you what type of clothing you'll need. During the day, people generally wear resort clothing.

Make sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes for shore excursions. Some churches, cathedrals, and restaurants will not admit persons in shorts or women in pants. A light sweater or jacket may be useful for cool evenings even in warm weather destinations. Make sure any valuables, medications, breakable items, and personal documents are packed in your carry-on luggage.

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|| CHOOSING A CRUISE ||
|| FOOD ||
|| PAYING FOR THINGS ||
|| ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT ||
|| CHILDREN ||
|| PORTS OF CALL ||
|| SECURITY AND MEDICAL ||
|| TIPPING ||
|| CRUISE BOOK RESOURCES ||
|| INTRODUCTION ||



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