Finally, I strongly recommend reading some reviews before you book a cruise. A couple of years ago, Taz and I had pretty much decided on a cruise that we wanted to take, but decided to read a few reviews before we booked it. By doing so, we discovered that the ship was plagued by mechanical problems.
On several recent occasions, the ship had missed ports due to engine problems. There were also several instances of passengers being asked to share cabins with complete strangers because of plumbing problems on one side of the ship.
Needless to say, we ended up booking a different cruise. The cruise that we ended up booking didn’t have as good of an itinerary as the one that had received the bad reviews, but it was nice a date that is really far off helps me to guarantee that I will be able to take time off to cruise because I have plenty of time to arrange my calendar around the cruise.
Once we settle on a general time period, we start looking to see what cruises are available during that time. Usually we will both browse the cruise line’s Web sites and make note of any cruises that catch our attention. We make our selections based solely on itinerary. The sailing dates and the ship do not come into play during this process. We do however, limit our search to specific cruise lines. That way we can make sure that we sail on a ship that at least somewhat suites our personalities.
After Taz and I have both picked out a few cruises, we compare notes on what we have found. The next step in the process is to begin familiarizing ourselves with any unfamiliar ports that are visited on the cruises that we have chosen. As we do, we also check out the shore excursions that are available in each port. We don’t always use the shore excursions that are offered through the ship, but if we do have to take a ship sanctioned shore excursion we want to make sure that there are some worthwhile excursions available.
The process of looking at the various ports and the shore excursions usually eliminates at least one or two of our possible choices. From there, we begin looking at the cost of each cruise. As I said earlier, the total cost of a cruise far exceeds the cruise fare. As such, we use the method that I will discuss in a separate article to estimate the cost of each cruise.
Once we have calculated each cruise’s estimated cost, we eliminate any cruise that is cost prohibitive. The cruises that are left on our list are all good candidates. As such, we begin reading reviews on the ship and on the various ports. We also research the ports a bit more thoroughly. This means reading Web sites and blog posts about the various ports as well as talking to any friends who might have been there.
Our primary goal in this final round of research is to determine a few things about the port. Specifically we want to know:
- Is the port safe?
- What is there to do?
- Will we need a shore excursion?
- How much will the day in port cost us?
When we have finally finished researching the various ports, we can usually make a decision on our itinerary without too much trouble.
As I said earlier, our method won’t work for everybody because our method doesn’t address certain concerns that some people might have. For example, we don’t have kids, nor do we have real jobs so we don’t have to worry about planning around when the kids are out of school or how many vacation days our employers will give us. Likewise, we don’t usually take the ship into account in our decision making process, whereas the ship is a major factor in some on most cruises the ports of call tend to be within relatively close proximity to one another. This makes it possible to the ship to visit multiple ports within a limited amount of time. If you are interested in exploring greater geographical expanses though, then you might try a repositioning cruise.
Repositioning cruises are cruises that occur when a ship is moved to a different geographical region. For example, in the fall a lot of the cruise ships that have been cruising in Alaska all summer will move to Hawaii or Australia. Likewise, many of the ships that cruise Europe in the summer are repositioned to the Caribbean for the winter.
Even though repositioning cruises tend not to include a lot of ports, there are advantages to taking one. For starters, repositioning cruises tend not to be all that popular. As such, you can usually get a really good price on a repositioning cruise and the ship probably isn’t going to be filled to capacity (which means shorter lines at the buffet). Another advantage to a repositioning cruise is that you will be spending lots of time at sea, which is great for anyone who just wants to relax or enjoy the onboard amenities.
The major disadvantage to a repositioning cruise is that it can be a little bit tricky to arrange your air travel. You will most likely end up having to buy two one way tickets since you will be flying to one part of the world and returning home from another part of the world that may be thousands of miles away.