There are many of you who have never been on a cruise before and this page is dedicated to you! If you've never been on a cruise before, the idea of doing so can be quite intimidating. There are many misconceptions regarding cruising and I hope to clear some of them up for the cruise virgins out there.
Cruising offers you the Best Value in a vacation!
One price includes just about everything ... your cabin or stateroom, meals, activities, entertainment and more ... a wide variety of ships and destinations, fun and romance, fabulous meals, exotic cuisine prepared by some of the top chefs of the world, simplicity, new horizons, exotic ports of call, opportunities to meet new friends, family time, pampering, no guess work, hassle free days, time to relax, new cultural experiences and most importantly
Whether you choose to cruise Mexico, the Bahamas & Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, South Pacific, Asia, Hawaii, or the Panama Canal ... you will come home with memories that will last a lifetime and will probably book your next cruise before you get off the ship! Let me tell you that nothing is sweeter to me than a Cruise!
And why you may ask?
Cruise vacations consistently rank at the top of vacation value and satisfaction polls. Most people who take a first cruise end up taking another one -- or dozens. Why? Cruises offer high standards of service and excellent cuisine, but the convenience factor is likely the main reason. In one transaction, you arrange your accommodations, meals, and itinerary for your entire vacation. You can cover thousands of miles and visit a dozen exotic destinations - and you only unpack your luggage once.
A Ship for Every Cruiser
There’s a perfect ship for every cruiser. This "cruise primer" can help you find your dream boat and select the style of cruising that best suits you.You can cruise on a river boat, a small ship, a big ship or a mega-ship. (As the old sailors' joke goes, never call a ship a boat -- a boat is what you get in if the ship is sinking.) There are cruises that provide intellectual stimulation - and others that focus on the complete opposite. Some cruises offer up-close encounters with nature, while some ships are giant floating cities where you can easily forget the ocean is “out there somewhere. ”Some ships are great for families with young kids or teenagers; others are preferred by retirees craving peace and quiet. Today’s ships can even accommodate road warriors who need constant access to the office via e-mail and cell phone. In fact, many modern cruise ships can handle all of the above at the same time. By explaining the differences between various cruise lines, you can come closer to finding the perfect cruise ship for you. Below is a basic synopsis of the cruise industry, with a description of the cruise lines available to North Americans and the kinds of vacationers they appeal to.
A Category for Every Ship
The industry includes four basic categories of cruise lines. Roughly in order of increasing price, they are: Contemporary, Premium, Deluxe and Luxury. The contemporary cruise lines are the biggest brand names, and carry the most passengers on the largest vessels. They are the most popular, but certainly not the only brands you will recognize. Some people refer to these as the “mainstream” cruise lines.
A Synopsis of Mainstream Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines:
Since Kathie Lee Gifford first sang “If You Could See Me Now,” people have known Carnival Cruise Lines as the “Fun Ships.” They live up to the moniker, with impromptu conga lines in the dining room and wacky pool games like “Belly Flop” and “Men’s Sexy Legs” contests. As trite as it may sound, the formula works, making Carnival the world's most successful cruise line. The spirit of fun permeates every person on the ship -- including the crew, from deckhands to captain. Asked to describe what type of person Carnival appeals to, former CEO Bob Dickinson once replied, “Everyone but curmudgeons.” Everyone finds something to like about this budget cruise line, and some people will cruise no other.
Royal Caribbean Cruises:
True to its “Get Out There” slogan, this line delivers action and adventure onboard, with an abundance of shipboard activities and cutting-edge architecture. Royal Caribbean has the biggest and most technically impressive ships at sea, including the “World’s Biggest Cruise Ships,” the Oasis class" can accommodate over 6,000 passengers and 2,100 crewmembers. It has an outdoor “Central Park” with creeping vines and real trees; a separate outdoor “Boardwalk” with a real merry-go-round and an AquaTheater for water-based performances a la “O” by Cirque du Soleil. Other entertainment includes professional ice skaters on the largest ice rink at sea – also open for passengers who want to rent skates between shows. The main theater shows the first licensed version of a Broadway musical at sea: Hairspray.
Norwegian Cruise Lines: rounds out the mainstream category. The line's forte is “Free-Style” cruising – meaning there are no set dining times or table assignments, and a variety of ongoing events and eateries. Norwegian Epic (4,500 passenger berths), Norwegian Getaway and Breakaway have no main dining room or theater. It offers 21 different restaurants, several nightclubs, and an array of entertainment options. Cruisers concoct their own cocktail of cruise fun by selecting different dining and entertainment options every day and night. The ship will feature entertainment by the Blue Man Group – the hit show from New York and Las Vegas -- as well as comedy from Chicago’s Second City Troupe and a unique Cirque dinner theater that may remind you of a Renaissance Fair production with its irreverent revelry. These mainstream cruise lines have two things in common – they are based in Miami, and their megaships are considered destinations unto themselves. These mainstream ships mostly sail to Caribbean ports of call (they also venture to Alaska, Mexico and Europe), but the “ship as the destination” mindset is the hallmark of mainstream cruising.
Moving Up to Premium Cruising:
Next up the ladder, in cost and sophistication, are the premium cruise lines. No doubt you have heard of these companies, but you may not know they cater to more intellectual mindsets by including lecturers and other enrichment and sail to more rare and exotic locations. Their ships are smaller at about 2,400 passengers apiece, lending a quieter and more personal touch to the onboard experience.
The premium cruise lines include: Celebrity, Cunard, Disney, Holland America and Princess Cruises. Premium cruise ships are smaller in size, but with fewer passengers they offer more space and more crew members per guest, for a heightened level of personal service. The food is generally better and the décor is decidedly more opulent than on mainstream vessels. Most important is the variety of itineraries on offer. With the exception of Disney, they travel worldwide from New Zealand to the Norwegian North Cape. And don’t let the word “premium” derail you – these ships can be as affordable as the mainstream lines.Remember that the cruise lines in any single category can still harbor vast differences, especially when we start to examine individual ships. For example, some Princess ships are as big as some Carnival ships, but they are roomier and sail to more exotic destinations. The newer Celebrity ships (called the Solstice class) are even bigger, but they carry 30% fewer passengers making them roomy and architecturally radiant.
Disney ships, on the other hand, mostly sail in the vicinity of Orlando, with rare trips to Europe or the West Coast, and their entertainment is all Disney for appeal to kids and other Disneyphiles.
Holland America, founded in 1873 but now headquartered in Seattle, has the smallest of this category on average, catering to a mature mindset with string quartets, cognac and cigar bars and a wide variety of world destinations such as South America, South Pacific, Europe and South America.Cunard is the last cruise line to keep any semblance of the classic ocean liner “class system” in place, as in the movie Titanic. Cunard's Queen Mary II is considered "premium" only in its regular class, but it qualifies as a luxury line in its upper class staterooms -- like the Queen’s Grill category, where the cabins are all suites with butlers, and the cuisine is served in a private restaurant. Cunard, founded in 1839, is rife with seafaring history and the majestic Queen Mary 2 is the only modern ocean liner offering regular transatlantic crossings.
Deluxe Cruise Lines: Next we have deluxe cruise lines, including Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, the new Voyages to Antiquity and Windstar. These cruise lines can be defined as “budget luxury cruises.” They are much smaller than mainstream cruise ships, 700 passengers or less, and put the focus on unique, port-intensive itineraries. With a different port each day -- and even offering overnight stays in certain ports -- deluxe lines focus on the travel experience first, but include top-notch restaurants and comfortable staterooms, so you can be fully revitalized for your next day’s sightseeing throughout the cruise. There is little entertainment onboard and no children’s programs.
Luxury Cruise Lines: Finally we have the luxury cruise lines: Crystal, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea. These lines offer the finest cuisine and the most spacious and comfortable staterooms at sea. They have butlers onboard and will keep your personal refrigerator stocked with your favorite wine, champagne or beer included in the cruise fare. Luxury cruise lines generally offer only open-seating restaurants, so you dine whenever you please every night. All spirits, wines and even champagne are included in the cruise. These ships also include staff gratuities in the fare (on other ships, the average is about $10 per day per passenger). Luxury ships tend to have the finest cuisine at sea: Regent has Le Cordon Bleu, Silversea has Relais and Chateaux, Seabourn features food by Charlie Palmer, and Crystal has food by Nobu, among the most famous sushi restaurants in the world.Note: Although Crystal qualifies as a luxury line, its pricing is not as inclusive as just described. Tips and alcohol are separate.
What’s Included on the Average Cruise? Except on the luxury lines, you are expected to pay for all your alcoholic and soda beverages onboard. You will also be charged for tips for the staff, generally $11-12 per passenger per day. To track these onboard expenses, you submit a valid credit card upon boarding, and all your shipboard charges are posted to your stateroom account. You can also charge shore tours provided by the cruise line, and you can get advances for the casino from the credit card that anchors your shipboard account. There are usually plenty of gift shops on all ships, and you can also spend additional money on photographs, dinner reservations for special dining rooms, and massages or other treatments in the onboard spa/salon.
About Cruise Pricing and Value: When you see a price quote on a cruise, you can be sure that most sources are offering the same price, including the cruise line itself. Years ago a practice called “rebating” gave the price advantage to large volume sellers who rarely offered the best service. To reinstate a level playing field, the cruise lines now set all cruise prices and enforce a “flat-pricing” rule for all sellers. The only exception to this rule is group pricing by special affinity groups offering a package deal cruise and special onboard events included in the price. Group cruises can only be attained through me - your agent sponsoring the group, and I will tell you everything you need to know. Cruise lines hate to see a cabin sail empty, so they have become expert at filling their ships by using price discounts and other incentives to entice vacationers. The industry reported almost 100% capacity every year. Savvy consumers should try to “buy low and sail high,” booking cruises that the lines are discounting because they want to fill their ships. There is nothing wrong with these cruises. The lower prices simply reflect lower-than-expected demand for a perishable commodity. From the cruise line's perspective, some revenue from an empty cabin is better than none.Thus you might think that last-minute bookings will always provide the best cruise bargains, but it isn’t that simple. With clever computer modeling, the lines can offer enough attractive prices to sell most of the cabins on a given cruise six months before the sailing date, and rates can often go higher for the remaining vacancies.
A cruise is a great vacation value: The price includes not only your accommodations on the ship, but also all your meals, entertainment and transportation to exotic ports of call. Regular cruisers know the value proposition cruises offer, so they book early to get the best selection of deals. Cruises generally earn a higher satisfaction rating than other types of vacations, and on any given cruise, most of the passengers have cruised before and will again.
Nowadays, days at sea usually occur at least once or twice on 7 night or longer sailings. Many cruisers enjoy these leisurely days at sea, but many seasoned and first time cruisers alike struggle with finding things to do or activities to take part in while at sea. These are a few quick ideas to help those looking for ways to make the most of a sea day.
Activities, Activities, Activities
Days at sea are the busiest days for the ship’s entertainment staff. They realize that cruisers are looking for fun and interesting activities to keep them busy, so it is almost impossible to find an hour where some activity isn’t being offered. From karaoke, to Lido games, pub crawls, cooking demonstrations, to even scavenger hunts – there are plenty of arranged activities for you to take part in. Many of the larger ships offer a plethora of amenities, including rock climbing, ice skating, zip lining, and massive waterparks. Most ships keep these amenities open longer on sea days to allow guests to enjoy them throughout their day at sea.
Relax & Work It
Days at sea provide a perfect opportunity for guests to book a spa package or hit the gym and work off the 4 lobsters they may have eaten the night before. Sea days are some of the most popular days for spa treatments, as guests are not time restricted in a port and have more free time onboard. Guests will also find that having a massage with a view of the passing ocean can be incredibly relaxing. The gym is also admittedly a healthier place to be than the line for the chocolate buffet, but to each their own.
Hit The Slots
Look out the window. Are you sailing at sea? If the answer is yes, then the casino is open. While we do not encourage excessive gambling or wagering the deed to your house, occasionally hitting the slots or tossing the die is a part of the classic cruise experience. Plus, if you can keep your winning streak going, you might stroll into the dining room later that night with a bit more to spend on that fancy wine you’ve been eyeballing on the wine list.
Do Nothing At All
It’s possible that you may not be the type of person to “over do” a day at sea. Perhaps you’re just looking for a relaxing, quiet space to read a book or take a nap in the Caribbean sun. Many cruise lines nowadays offer exclusive adults only deck space and private cabanas. Either option can provide you with the privacy, relaxation, and serenity you are searching for. There’s nothing wrong with using your day at sea to do nothing. You can enjoy that hammock and your umbrella drink while the rest of the ship takes part in the conga line on the Lido deck.
Well here's a BONUS REASON … Cruising is all about YOU …You can have the vacation of a lifetime, see the world, unwind, take a walk on the wild side, dance the night away, take part in the bingo game in the main lounge, hit the slots in the casino, race down a waterslide, or find a secluded lounge chair and read a book – it’s your day at sea. Feast on fabulous cuisine, learn something new, make friends, bond with your family, and steal quiet moments with your spouse. Whatever your heart desires, is yours, when you choose to cruise. That’s the essence of cruising!
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Cruising is a great way to spend time together as a family! There are activities of all kinds for all ages allowing you to reconnect and recharge. No hassle of packing and unpacking all the kids stuff to go to the next location as your hotel goes with you! Also, most lines have amazing youth programs tailored to your childrens ages so that Mom & Dad can have that needed alone time knowing that the kids are well cared for.
Let's face it.....sometime life just gets in the way of romance. Work, family, chores, activities and other day to day things can take a toll. Sometimes you just need to run away and not worry about anything. Cruising is a perfect solution. The two of you can spend some time away while being pampered to your hearts desire. Have a romantic dinner followed by a leisurely stroll around the deck. Dance the night away in an exciting club. Take in an amazing show at the theatre. The choices are yours. Whatever it is that brings the two of you together, you can find it in a cruise vacation.
Weddings & Honeymoons
The first day, the most important day, of your new life together. Every year, thousands of couples choose a cruise as part of their special celebration. Whether for the wedding itself or just the honeymoon, most cruise lines have packages available to make your time onboard extra special.
Family or Group Reunions
Planning a reunion can be a LOT of work. It's not just getting together. Where will you meet? What activities will you plan? When/where will you dine? So many details to think about. On a cruise, you have most all of that taken care of for you so your group can just relax and have fun together without one (or more) of you going absolutely crazy trying to gather everyone together. Also, during those times when everyone is on their own, there are so many choices of things to do and see.
Do you belong to a special activity group? Church? Singles? Fraternal Organization? Dancing? Book Club? Sport? Crafting? Photography? The list goes on and on. Gather together on a cruise. Cruising is a great way to get your group together to enjoy familiar activities in a fresh, new environment. Also, many groups that have cruised together find that, when they return, they have so many new, shared, experiences together that there is a greater sense of comaradarie than they had before which brings more fun and excitement to the group.
Oh, what a way to meet and mingle with new and interesting people! If you know of a singles group or organization in your area, suggest a group singles cruise. It's a more relaxed way to mingle than a club or hall. There are so many activities, you get a better idea of what the other singles likes/dislikes are and how that matches up with what you're interested in. And, since you have several days instead of just a few hours, you have more chances to meet that special someone!
Do you own your own business? A cruise can be useful in several ways. With various conference rooms and other spaces available to book, think seminars, meetings, team building and/or training sessions over several days. Your employees will gain a better sense of "team" having shared non-work experiences on the ship and in ports. Since you are in a more relaxed environment, you may find your employees more receptive in meetings than they would be in the usual office environment. Also, you could use a cruise giveaway as part of your incentive program. Think top sales per period, employee of the year, etc. What a way to reward (and retain) your most valued employees!
Got something special going on? Anniversaries, graduations, homecomings, birthdays, promotions, weddings, retirement, etc.? With so many types of activities, venues, and amenities to choose from, cruises are Celebration Central! Does your family have a particular month where there seems to be a TON of special events? Combine them all into one glorious and memorable vacation celebration and save with a group rate!