A city that moves slowly across the water.  That seems to be the best description for ocean liner cruises these days.  Ships continue to get bigger and better as new vessels are built and brought into service with the different cruise lines.  So, what can you expect on an ocean cruise?  How do you plan for a cruise?

What’s Included – Most basic cruise fares only include the fare, taxes and fees.  That basic cruise fare will get you your sleeping cabin, all your meals and snacks, and basic drinks like tea or coffee.  Unlike an all-inclusive resort, you will need to budget for soda or alcohol purchases.

Upgrades – Many cruise lines will run sales/specials that your travel advisor can access.  While offers vary, some items your advisor may be able to snag include free balcony upgrades, free gratuities (more on that below), on board credit, or a free or discounted drink package.

Gratuities – Most cruise lines require a gratuities payment at the end of the cruise that averages about $15 per day per passenger.  Your travel advisor can confirm the exact rate and payment process.  This gratuity payment is shared across various cruise employees such as your room attendant, waiter and activities team.

Budget – It is always good to start with a budget in mind that includes everything based on inclusions and upgrades.  Think about the level of service and pampering you want on the vacation and then compare that to the budget you have for the vacation.  Some items to include are the cruise, airfare, transportation to/from the pier, any additional tips or expenses, and additional excursions or spa treatments. 

Location, location, location – Where do you want to travel?  Cruises sail practically anywhere around the world.  I recommend you consider a cruise vacation that stops in a place you cannot get to as easily by land.  Or, you can select a cruise based on a particular excursion.  For example, I planned our family’s vacation for 18 family members in celebration of my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary.  We specifically chose a cruise that included a stop at St. Marteen because of the America’s Cup Regatta sailing excursion.  It had been a bucket list activity for my father-in-law for years.  And he said it did not disappoint at all!

Excursions – It is a great idea to plan your excursions for budgeting and availability prior to your vacation. Some cruise lines often discount the activity cost if purchased online prior to sailing.  This also ensures you get your top choices before they sell out.  Not interested in learning about the culture at the next cruise stop?  You can get great spa deals or drink specials if you choose to stay on the ship when it is in port.  You can experience all the ship has to offer with less passengers.

Food and Drink – A great cruise will include all meals, snacks, and tea/coffee.  And many meals will be created using locally sourced ingredients.  The main dining room and all snack options are included in the cruise fare.  There are some restaurants on board for an additional, nominal fee.  Personally, we don’t ever dine at those as we enjoy the changing menu each night in the main dining room.  Also, be sure to enjoy anything you want if you can’t make up your mind.  You can order multiple appetizers or entrees from the menu.  

Activities – In addition to daytime activities like swimming, trivia games, and cruise director shows, most cruise lines offer theme nights too such as a white night or disco night.  These, of course, are all optional so you can make your vacation as active or laid back as you like.  One of our favorites is the midnight chocolate buffet. 

Family Travel – Family cruising is great because it includes the Kids or Teens Club.  These clubs continue to be updated to reflect the times with games, arcades, and dance parties that are age appropriate.  Mom and dad can have a relaxing spa experience or fancy date night on vacation while they know their kids are being cared for is the safest manner.

Packing Tip – Definitely plan to pack a few key items in your carry-on bag like a swimsuit and sunscreen.  No need for a beach towel as they are provided.  Try to set your check-in time early enough to enjoy the amenities before setting sail, including lunch and the pool.  Don’t waste any vacation time if don’t have to.

So, where would you want to sail to next?  Do you have a favorite beach or place to see?  Share your thoughts below in the comments.

Dell Adventures Travel Agency
PO Box 3651, Grapevine, TX 76051


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