Cruise Considerations: What’s of Primary Importance?
As a woman who was a single mom with 3 kids to raise for over 12 years I know the importance of a vacation budget. Let’s talk about factors that are almost as important as budget when you consider a cruise vacation.
To me the most important factor to consider are the ports of call. I base my decisions on both ocean and river cruising around the ports of call I’ll get to experience.
I’m off to the south of France in a week and I selected this Rhone River Cruise primarily because I could check the Pope’s Palace at Avignon off of my bucket list. Nice, Paris, Tournon, Lyon, Beaune, Viviers and Arles are other great reasons to select this itinerary (follow The Joy of Travel LLC on Facebook and you’ll get to go along on the adventure with me)
The number of ports of call is another important factor. There are amazing arrays of 7 night cruises out there that offer only 3 ports and spend most of the days at sea.
The ports of embarkation and debarkation are important considerations. We have a group Panama Canal cruise right now that has a huge advantage-you board and disembark the ship in Fort Lauderdale. Inexpensive flights, no long international flights, all are important pluses to the itinerary.
The length of the cruise can’t be ignored either. Is it worth the cost of a flight to board a 3 night cruise? What about an 8-9 hour drive to Galveston for a 3-4 night cruise? I’d rather drive that same distance to New Orleans and have a 7 night adventure personally. Throw in a couple of pre or post cruise nights in New Orleans and it’s a fabulous vacation experience.
Let’s talk about the cruise companies. There is a huge difference between the experiences you’ll have with different brands of cruises. Budget focused cruises keep their overhead low by keeping staff numbers low. Budget cruises have a guest to staff ratio of 4 to 1. Mid-priced cruises bump that to 2 to 1, which affords you a much cleaner ship with better personal service, often for a very minimal price difference.
The capacity of the cruise ship is an important factor as well. Now that the mega-ships have entered the market you want to be sure you’re going to be happy with that 5,000 passenger experience. Resort and mid-sized ships are preferred by about 74% of cruisers.
The atmosphere onboard your vessel is another important consideration. There is particular brand of river cruise that I don’t sail simply because I think their rooms look like a funeral parlor (no offense to my funeral director friends out there).
Do you prefer a casual ambience? Family friendly environment? All of these should factor into your final decision.
What’s included in your package gets us back to the budget. If you have to dig into your wallet every time you want a coke, beer, or dining experience other than a buffet the cruise might not end up as a good value.
Are excursions included? Excursions are a huge budget consideration on most cruises and you owe it to your budget to take a look at itineraries with included excursions just to make a fair and educated final choice.
Cruising is hugely popular, I love it, and if you’ll work with agents who truly know the products you’ll have an experience you’ll remember fondly and a final bill that won’t give you a stroke.
Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel