New To Cruise

How to choose a cruise that’s right for you

If you’re thinking about taking a cruise for your next holiday, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the choices. Should you opt for a river or ocean cruise? Should you go for a large or small ship? What kind of cabin should you book? And which excursions are a must-do?

Don’t worry, we’re here to help with a handy guide on how to choose a cruise that’s right for you. Keep reading to learn more.

Destination, destination, destination

One of the first things you need to think about when choosing a cruise is where in the world you want to go – and where do you want to sail from? Many cruise lines offer ‘no-fly’ cruises departing from UK ports such as Southampton. Depending on the time you have to spare, this will limit the options of the destinations you visit. While you can cruise from the UK to Northern Europe, France, Spain, the Mediterranean, the Canaries and Morocco, for example, if you want to explore Australia and New Zealand you will have to take a flight although you could opt for a longer duration round-the-world cruise.

The rugged coastline of the Dampier Peninsula

The weather

The other factor to consider is the time of year that you are able to travel. You may not want to visit certain parts of the Caribbean in August and September when hurricanes are prevalent! That said, there are some people that choose to sail in the southern Caribbean at this time as the risk of hurricanes are lower in this region and prices low. Some cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean employ a dedicated meteorologist to guide the fleet with the best advice based on weather conditions and will change itineraries if they foresee a problem.

Mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula. Icebergs and mountains in the Gerlache Strait in the Danco Coast, Antarctica

Big ship or small ship?

When most people think of cruises, they envision large multiple-deck ships packed with thousands of cabins and a wide range of entertainment options and facilities that typically attract families and multi-generation groups. Mega ships can carry around 5,000-plus passengers, while smaller ‘large’ ships cater for around 2,000-3,000 passengers.

But there are smaller vessels available, too, which not only offer a more intimate experience but can dock in smaller harbours allowing passengers to explore more interesting and unusual ports of call. These smaller ships also mean there are shorter queues when embarking and in general, they offer a more personal premium service.

Port heavy river cruising or days at sea?

Similarly, some cruises focus more on time spent in port while others spend more time sailing from one destination to another allowing passengers to make the most of the facilities onboard. Again, it comes down to personal preference. If you want to spend your days exploring different ports and cities, then look for port-heavy itineraries – river cruises are a good option. But if you are travelling with children and want to stick to a budget, opt for more days at sea as food and entertainment onboard is often free.

Cabin choices

When it comes to cabins on cruise ships, there are different categories available ranging from standard inside (no window) rooms to palatial suites with private balconies. Most people will opt for something in the middle like an oceanview room or balcony cabin – after all, part of the appeal of cruises is being able to enjoy stunning views while sailing from one destination to another. But if your budget allows, treat yourself to a suite for extra space and luxury during your vacation. If you are prone to seasickness, some experts recommend choosing a low ‘midship’ cabin which is in the centre of the ship where you won’t feel much rocking in rough seas and avoiding front-of-ship cabins which are prone to movement.

Excursions

Most cruise ships offer excursions at each port they visit – think city tours, culinary experiences, hikes, and more – but most charge an additional sum on top of the overall price of the cruise. However, some cruise lines, such as Viking and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, include the cost of basic shore excursions in their cruise fares. Others such as Oceania Cruises, feature OLife Choice promotions which offer four free shore excursions on cruises up to nine days long. Other cruise lines offer excursion ‘credits’ for example $50 in shore excursion credit per port.

Conclusion

While there is a lot to consider when choosing a cruise, if you consider the options above you will have a good chance of choosing the right cruise. However, be warned, most cruisers enjoy the experience so much they end up booking another cruise as soon as they get home.

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