1. Book Smart
Choose travel dates that historically offer the best prices. Generally, the cheapest times to sail the seas are the middle of September (after the school year resumes) and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Next, decide what type of cruise you and your companions would enjoy. Are you the active type, or the laid-back traveler? Do you want lots of shore excursion options at different ports along the route? Or would you rather have all your fun onboard?
After picking a ship that’s right for your tastes, choose from the four basic cabin types – inside (no windows in the room), outside (porthole or window in the room), balcony (a deck space outside the room/often private or semi-private), or a suite (extra sitting room/separate sleeping areas/larger bath). They are priced from lowest to highest accordingly. If you just sleep and dress in the cabin, and spend all your time on deck or on shore, opt for the inexpensive inside cabin and spend the price difference on a fun excursion. Another tip for inside cabins is to leave the TV on the live ship’s camera to create the illusion of a window. This worked for me, and I’m claustrophobic!
Finally, comparison shop online for the best deals. Prices can vary widely. So take the time to check out all the popular booking sites, as well as your chosen cruise line’s website.
2. Pack light
Whatever clothes you think you need to take on a cruise, put half of them back in the closet. Read the dress code for your chosen ship. Daytime is likely cruise casual. This means you can wear the same clothes multiple times (use the laundry service if needed). And, one ‘dressy’ outfit will suffice for any formal dinner requirements. The latter only occur once or twice per cruise.
When your suitcases arrive at your cabin, unpack them. The beauty of a cruise compared to other types of trips is that you don’t have to pack and unpack at every destination. Do it once, and be done!
Also, if you want to avoid stepping over suitcases the whole trip, ask the stewards for insider hints on where to stash them.
3. Eat it up (and take the stairs)
You can literally order whatever you want to eat in the main dining room of most cruise lines. Yes, that includes steak and lobster, three desserts, or specialty items from the dietary needs menu. It’s a good idea to check the menus for the duration of your voyage and plan accordingly. For example, if you’re not very fond of the entrée choices one evening, spend a little extra and try one of the fine dining restaurants onboard.
Many cruise lines also offer free room service. For a fantastically luxurious way to start the day, order room service breakfast – every day!
Be aware that ‘all meals included’ will probably not mean alcoholic beverages. And, there may be a limit on sodas. Frequent cruisers usually purchase one of the ‘drink packages’ based on their preferences and consumption habits. Do this prior to boarding, and you won’t be surprised at the costs of liquids exponentially growing on your account tab.
Finally, to avoid the cruise bulge from all the delicious food, don’t wait on the (slow) elevators – take the stairs.
Use these three insider tips and do a bit of research on the ship’s entertainment and shore excursions for the perfect vacation on the high seas.
Angela is a professional freelance travel writer and published indie author – AngelaMinor.com