Travel agent and vacation planning in Prescott by Bruce Brenner
 

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Looking to take a cruise? Follow these 10 steps to pick the right cruise for your vacation

There are more than 160 ships in the fleets of the 24 major cruise lines—and more than 7,500 itineraries, from Alaska to Zanzibar. So how do you decide which one most suits your style? Weigh your options using these simple guidelines:

  1. Where to go Decide on the destination first, the ship second. Alaskan and Caribbean cruises have long been mainstays, but cruise lines are adding itineraries to unexpected places: Asia, the Indian Ocean, South America. Next, look at the specifics—with Alaskan cruises, ships tend to follow two routes. Inside Passage itineraries run round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver and call in southern Alaskan ports like Juneau and Skagway; Gulf of Alaska itineraries, which sail farther north, are typically one-way trips from Vancouver to Whittier or Seward, or the reverse.

  2. When to go Shoulder seasons can offer large savings, and may be even more appealing than high season: a mild fall day can be more enjoyable than baking under the August sun in the Mediterranean. Alaska’s popularity with families means that going in May and September (when children are attending school) often translates into fewer visitors—and better deals. Fewer people can mean more chances to see black bears and humpback whales up close.

  3. Which line to book Select the cruise line, and the fellow passengers, that best match your personality. This is crucial for the first time, It will make or break your experience. If you aren’t matched to the line, you probably won’t cruise again. Some have dress codes and assigned seating times for meals. Some, are more kid-friendly. Some are more casual than other lines and doesn’t have assigned dining times. Some are more traditionally geared toward baby boomers. Some are more upscale and, in turn, more expensive. A travel agent can help you make sense of the different options.

  4. What it costs Don’t look at the daily rate for a stateroom and then simply multiply by the number of nights you’ll be at sea. Remember to factor in airfare to and from the originating port, the costs of incidentals such as alcohol (unless the ship is all-inclusive), and shore excursions. A helicopter ride over the glaciers of Alaska can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it can also add as much as $1,000 to the bill.

  5. Beat the rush Many cruise lines give discounts for booking far in advance. It’s an issue of supply and demand, As bookings come in, cruise fares go up in the most popular regions, like Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean." It’s never too soon to start planning your cruise.
  6. Ship tips Size matters. The size of the ship can dictate the itinerary. Smaller ships can dock at smaller ports and offer a more personalized experience. They are often best suited for nature-oriented cruises to Antarctica, the Galápagos, and the Sea of Cortés. The downside: entertainment and dining options are often more limited.

  7. Cabin splurge Consider your itinerary when deciding whether to reserve a balcony stateroom. For a repositioning cruise across the Atlantic, when there will be nothing to see from your balcony but the open ocean for days, it may not be as appealing. But on Alaskan and Mediterranean cruises, it’s all about the views. And in Alaska, remember to book a cabin on the starboard (right) side of the ship on a northbound cruise and on the port (left) side of the ship on southbound itineraries so you’ll have a view of the coastline.

  8. Arrive early—and stay on after your cruise First, if you don’t book your flight through the cruise line, your ship won’t wait if it’s delayed. As canceled and delayed flights have become commonplace, it’s wise to arrive at your starting port at least a day before you are scheduled to set sail. Second, cruise extensions are an increasingly popular option. You can cap off a Crystal sailing, for example, with a safari organized by the line—with fewer hassles and less expenses than on a separate tour.

  9. Before you board Don’t waste time waiting in line after you’ve pulled out of port. There are enough activities to make the most adventurous cruiser happy, but popular shore excursions often sell out. Be sure to plan your onboard activities early. Spas on ships have a limited number of treatment rooms; book your massages and facials in advance, if possible. Also, ask if there are discounts for booking treatments on days in port.

  10. Turn to an Expert When it comes to cruises, some professional advice is often indispensable (and it’s the main reason most cruises are still booked through travel agents). That being said, Contact us today to book a wonderful getaway!

 

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