Make Planning A Cruise A Breeze
While juggling life’s demands, planning a cruise can seem like an unnecessary use of your time, or like a luxury that you can live without. This working wife and mommy – yours truly – is quite familiar with the day-to-day juggle, and I am also quite familiar with the tools that can make planning a cruise a breeze!
So, what are some of the things that go into planning a cruise?
Well, we generally search for cruises based on the time we can travel. Thankfully, my job is flexible with vacation time; however, a number of other things factor into deciding when we will travel, including my children’s school schedules, as well as my husband’s work schedule. Of course, we also have an idea of where we would like to go, as discussed in an earlier blog post, here. Knowing where we want to go helps to narrow the cruise search, but balancing that with some flexibility can help the cruise actually happen. For example: I may have a list of 5 ports that I want to see, but the itineraries for our selected travel dates may include only 3 of those 5 ports, and that’s fine. In fact, that gives us another reason to book another cruise afterwards. I want to see the entire world, eventually, so truly any itinerary with new ports of call is a win.
How do you decide on ports though?
Believe it or not, I use an atlas that I have had since preparatory school in Jamaica to provide my checklist of countries. For in-depth details about ports, I recommend reading about the ports you are considering on Fodor’s and Frommer’s online guides. However, for the real deal feedback from cruisers, I highly recommend Cruise Critic’s destinations/ports page, as well as the Cruise Critic ports discussion boards. I have spent hours researching ports on Cruise Critic, but that’s because I am a cruise nerd and love this stuff. I think that anyone looking for advice on cruise ports can get it rather quickly through Cruise Critic’s user-friendly website. It is also my hope that this website, My Cruising Family, becomes a resource on ports for you and many other cruisers and those considering cruising.
Once you decide on dates and ports, how and where do you conduct your search for actual cruises?
I check directly with the cruise lines. I also highly recommend checking with a travel agent. About 3 to 4 years ago, when I embarked on the journey to becoming a home-based travel agent, I learned that, generally, cruise fares are no longer deeply discounted for regular cruise travel. That being said, cruise lines highly value travel agents, and so, they are provided with a good commission that allows travel agents to provide perks that add to the cruise packages they sell, thereby adding to the overall value of the cruise. In addition, travel agents can book group space that locks in a certain price and amenities for the group, which may allow someone booked in that group to pay a lower price than the otherwise advertised non-group price.
Other tools that I have used through the years include Expedia (yes, Expedia sells cruises too). Cruise Compete, and Cruise Critic (yes, it truly is a one-stop shop). Each of these tools allows you to search and sort cruise options by travel dates, destinations, cruise line, cruise ship, and more. Again, though, to fully understand what cruise pricing means, i.e. what is and is not included in the quoted prices, I suggest consulting with an experienced cruiser and/or a travel agent.
I will repeat what I’ve said in an earlier blog post, cruising as a family always requires lots of thought, multiplication, and budgeting, so if you’re new to family cruising, then you may want to consult with someone who understands that. Planning it out, numbers and all, shows you whether a particular cruise works for your family. My hope is that, given my experience considering these things for my own family, I can help you to plan your family cruises as well.
So, you’ve decided on your cruise – now what?
Again, Cruise Critic is the number one website that I recommend in your cruise planning. There, you can find cruise reviews, ship reviews, excursion reviews, and much more. I also use Trip Advisor and Viator to assist in researching pre-cruise and/or post-cruise hotels, airport and cruise port transfers, and tour operators and shore excursions which I may have learned of from Cruise Critic. Again, call me a cruise nerd, but I find this sort of planning enjoyable, and my family benefits from the time I’ve taken to research and plan our travels.
My hope and goal through this website is to inspire more families to pack their bags and cruise the world together, so if you have a family cruise in mind, please do not hesitate to contact My Cruising Family. I will be happy to listen and assist in planning as much or as little of your family cruise as you would like me to. I do, however, ask that you pay it forward!
What do you mean by “pay it forward?”
As I’ve expressed throughout this post, a lot of the cruise-planning that I do includes reading reviews that other cruisers have taken the time to post, and those reviews have assisted me in selecting ports of call, cruise lines, cruise ships, and more. I must quickly add that reviews must be taken with a grain of salt, and if you read a decent number of reviews on a certain topic, then you will likely realize which reviews to ignore and which ones are legitimate.
I have paid it forward by writing reviews after my cruise experiences. I have written cruise reviews, excursion reviews, and more, and I have submitted them to websites, including, but not limited to Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, which then published them on their sites. All the experiences that I write about in my reviews, and all the information that I share via My Cruising Family are my own. I share my experiences to, hopefully, help other cruise-planning/cruising moms and families to plan the best cruise vacation for their families.
So, when I ask that you pay it forward, I am asking you to take some time to provide a fair and truthful review of your cruise experience after you return home from your cruise. Your voice can help someone else who is trying to decide on a cruise, excursion, etc.
Do you usually read reviews before traveling?
Do you usually write reviews after traveling?