I have taken quite a few cruises over the years and I think I am getting pretty good at planning for a cruise. My next one is coming up in just a few days so I’ve been giving cruise planning a lot of attention. I’ve come up with the following 9 tips for how to plan a cruise:
#1 – Decide where you want to set sail from
The first thing I always do is decide which port I want to sail from. Since I always fly on Southwest Airlines, I only look at departures out of cities where Southwest flies. If you have a favorite airline this is definitely something to consider in the early stages of planning.
#2 – Pick a date
You may be flexible with your date but I almost always have to plan in advance when I am going to be gone. If, however, you can be flexible you should be able to find some great deals at the last minute since cruise lines are always anxious to fill any open cabins. There are usually some really good deals to be had on cruises between Thanksgiving and Christmas since less people choose to travel then.
#3 – Research the cruise lines
Most cruise lines have a particular niche. Some cater to families, some to couples, some to older travelers. Ask for recommendations from your friends who have cruised about what they liked and didn’t like about a particular line. I have cruised on Carnival, Royal, Norwegian, Princess and Holland America. Each of these cruises were chosen for a particular reason. The cruise I took on Carnival was a birthday surprise for a friend with a large group of people. We were mainly interested in an inexpensive trip and Carnival had the best deal at the time we wanted to go. I’ve chosen other cruise lines solely by the places I got to visit. Decide what is most important to you and do some research to find a cruise line that fits with your needs.
#4 – Start looking for cruises from your departure port
I have recently found an website that I love for cruise planning called iCruise. It allows you to search by date, destination, number of nights and cruise line. Once I have put in that information it is easier to check the list for cruises that depart from my selected city. There is also an app available so you can search for cruises on your phone.
#5 – Check back for price reductions
One of the great features to iCruise is the option to track a cruise you are interested in and to be notified if the price changes on that particular cruise. For the cruise I currently have booked I get an email anytime the cruise line changes their prices. This allowed me to upgrade to a cabin with a balcony for only $70 more per person over what I had already committed to! Totally worth it!
#6 – Pick your room
When you are booking your cruise it pays to look at the deck plans online and actually pick your room. Prices vary by location and you can save money if you pick a cabin in a “less desirable” location. And if you are worried about being seasick, rooms in the center of the ship have less movement and might be worth paying more for.
#6 – Plan what you take carefully
You will have a very limited amount of space in your cabin so it really pays not to over pack. Once you have booked a cruise you can easily find out how many “formal” nights the cruise has and be very picky with your packing list. On my last cruise I had lots of cute dresses to wear in the evenings, but I limited my shoe choices for the sake of room in my suitcase and room in the cabin. You can even opt out of “formal” nights if getting dressed up on vacation just isn’t your thing. Here is a packing list to help you plan what to take.
#7 – Plan your excursions
If you want to make the most of your stops at each port it pays to look at your excursion options ahead of time and book them before you set sail. Then you will know if you will need to bring along anything special. I’m going snorkeling on my next cruise so I’m planning to take along water shoes since some of the best snorkeling areas often have rocky beaches.
#8 – Arrive at your departure city a day early
Cruise lines won’t wait on you if your flight is late or cancelled. I always fly in a day in advance just in case there is a problem. You’ll pay for night at a hotel but it’s worth it to me not worry about missing the boat!
#9 – Consider buying trip insurance
I almost always purchase trip insurance for cruises I take. I like knowing I’m covered if an emergency arises. So far I’ve never had to use it but I have always been happy I had it.
These 9 tips are the things I consider when planning for a cruise. Do you have any other tips I should know about? Please let me know in a comment! I’m ready to go and have some fun!!!