What's The Best Way To Pick A Cruise?
I recently responded to the question, “What’s the best way to pick a cruise?” A lot of this information will be similar to an earlier blog post, Make Planning A Cruise A Breeze. However, this question came after that blog post, so I think it's worth sharing my response here. Let me start by saying that this is really subjective. For some, this decision will be primarily driven by dates. For others, this decision will be primarily driven by cost. There are many cruise options out there, so the quick answer about the “best way to pick a cruise” is to know the factors that are most important to you and your family, and to prioritize those factors accordingly. As an example, I share with you, below, what My Cruising Family’s decision-making process usually looks like when choosing a cruise.
Our process usually starts with our work and school schedules and ports. We then consider the ship and its amenities. If there are multiple sailings on ships that cater to the multi-generational family, offering ports we want to see, during the time we want to cruise, we then consider price in order to make our decision.
Schedules: We generally cruise as a family of five - my husband, our two sons, my mother, and me. I generally search for cruises based on the time we can travel. A number of other things factor into deciding when we will travel, including school and work schedules. It should be noted that prices are generally higher when children are out from schools – spring break, winter recess, summer break, etc. That being said, some schools run on a non-traditional schedule, so they may have school breaks when most other schools don’t, so cruising during such breaks may be quite affordable. Also, consider taking advantage of long weekends, such as the weekends around Columbus Day and Veterans’ Day, at which time, you can either squeeze in a short cruise, or if you choose to take your children out of school for the cruise, then this minimizes the days of school that they will miss because schools usually have one or two days off around these times.
Ports: We also have a good idea of where we would like to go before we start looking at cruises. As previously stated, there are many cruise options to choose from, so knowing where we want to go is helpful in narrowing the cruise search. At the same time, keep in mind that balancing the desire to visit certain ports with some flexibility can help the cruise actually happen.
Ship/Amenities: We look for a ship that caters to multi-generational family – one in which grandparents, parents, and children can look forward to sailing together as there is something of interest for everyone.
Price: We consider more than the cruise fare in making our decision on what cruise to take. Our considerations include the following:
· The cost of transportation to and from the cruise ship (for example: the cost of driving, flying, or taking the train, and any transfers to the port of embarkation);
· The cost of pre-cruise and/or post-cruise accommodations;
· Gratuities for the crew members (which, is usually somewhere between $13 to $14 per day, per person, and our family usually provides additional tips to certain staff members for exceptional service);
· Drink packages or drink vouchers, as many cruise lines do not include sodas and alcoholic beverages in the cruise fare;
· Spending in port (including shore excursions and shopping); and
· Travel insurance.
What are the most important factors to you and your family in selecting a cruise?