Even though it is important to consider a ship’s itinerary, it may also be worthwhile to take a look at the shore excursions which are offered in each port. Most of the cruise lines will allow you to browse their shore excursion offerings before you actually book the cruise.
The reason why I recommend taking a look to see what shore excursions are offered is because in some places it just isn’t practical to do something on your own. For example Rome, Paris, and London are all a couple of hours drive from the places where the larger cruise ships have to dock. If you attempt to visit these cities on your own you could end up missing the ship just because it can be such a hassle to try to get to the city, do your sightseeing, and get back to the ship within the allotted amount of time.
In other places, taking a shore excursion is a matter of practicality. For example, a language barrier may make it impractical for you to spend the day on your own. Likewise, some ports aren’t safe for independent sightseeing.
In any case, if you think that you might need a shore excursion in a particular port then you should look at the excursions that are available before you book the cruise. Ships offer excursions based on their clientele. As such, some ships offer better excursions than others.
As much as I would love to tell you what type of passengers you could expect on each cruise line, I can’t really get away with that for legal reasons. Instead, I will just tell you to look on the Internet and search on the name of a cruise line along with the word passengers (for example Carnival Passengers or Holland America Passengers). You should be able to get a fairly good idea of the type of clientele that each cruise line attracts.
OK, so you will probably be spending a considerable amount of time with your fellow passengers, but you may be wondering how bad it can really be. Believe me when I say that the other passengers can have a direct impact on how much you enjoy your cruise. I have been on some cruises on which my table mates were truly a joy to be around, and I have been on other cruises in which it took every bit of restraint that I could muster not to verbally assault some of the people at my table.
So what should you watch out for? Start out by checking out the average age of the passengers. I have some friends who recently took a cruise that was geared toward senior citizens. Even though my friends are in their sixties, they said that they felt very uncomfortable because they were the only passengers on the entire ship that were under the age of 80. One of them described the ship as a floating nursing home.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some cruise lines are geared primarily toward children. Obviously, if you are looking for a romantic getaway away from the kids, then that’s not the kind of cruise that you want to take. If you are trying to avoid the kids then it will be important to do your homework. Everyone knows that Disney Cruise Line is all about the kids, but in recent years some of the other cruise lines (ones that you might not necessarily expect) have started trying to attract more children.
Although they are becoming increasingly more difficult to find, some cruise ships tend to cater to the party crowd. I remember taking my sister on a cruise once, and I can honestly say that the cruise was a lot like a frat party at sea. The alcohol was flowing freely, the music was pumping, and the cruise line even went so far as to include a wet T-shirt contest among their onboard activities.
The “floating frat party” was a great cruise, but it is another example of why it is so important to check out the cruise line’s target demographic. I can only imagine what would have happened if someone had booked that cruise as a family vacation. Likewise, anybody who was hoping for some peace and quiet or a romantic getaway would have definitely been a lot happier on another ship.
I have also been on cruises that were of the opposite extreme. Some of the upscale cruises tend to attract the snooty crowd. I will never forget one cruise during which Taz and I sat down to dinner the first night, and the people who were at our table all immediately held up their menus so that they wouldn’t have to interact with us. During that meal, everyone at the table was extremely cold toward us. We ended up eating dinner at the buffet for the rest of the cruise. You might by susceptible to sea sickness or claustrophobia then I recommend taking a couple of short cruises before you book a long one. That way, you can get a feel for what the experience is like before you commit to a long cruise.