Is cruising for you?

We took our first cruise vacation in 2012. It was an exciting trip for my entire family, to mark my parents 50th wedding anniversary. The trip aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas was memorable in so many ways, but we were the only ones in the family to catch the cruise bug.

The appeal for us is the broad variety of activities and the diversity of entertainment on board. If you don’t buy into the extras, even a modest travel budget can afford you a great trip. Included with every passage is the choice to take your meals in the dining room, or in the large buffet restaurant, at some of the other bistros and cafes, or even in your room. For foodies, specialty restaurants offer epicurean experiences. There are shows, nightly, to entertain you in the lounges, great gathering areas, and theatres. Some of the bigger ships also have aqua theatres and ice rinks for some performances on ice.

The activities cater to every taste and segment. Plenty of adrenaline happens from super slides and zip lining, surfing on the Flow Rider, or climbing the rock wall….If cards are more up your alley, there is Casino, or the daily Bridge tutorial or a pick up game in the card room. I defineltely caught up on some of those when I could.

To keep you active and on top of your game, there are pools offering you Volleyball, polo or swim lanes. There is a walking/running/jogging track around the ship and a gym so you do not neglect your workout. I spent a lot of time in the hot tub…..

The best selling feature for cruising is the opportunity to visit more than one country, as the ship moves from port to port, offering one day shore excursions. If you are on a budget, you can just walk around port, and discover plenty to write home about. But, if you shell out 125$ or more, you can take a semi private journey when you arrive in port.

Cruising gives you the opportunity to customize your trip, according to your likes and preferences. There are some cruises that will focus on giving you a high adventure experience, and some which will take you to unique destinations, like trip through the Panama Canal.

Thinking of taking a cruise? Here are my 5 tips.

1. Chose a high end company. Don’t let your first experience be tainted by ships who cut costs, and serve cheap thrills. Some ships will let the ship rock and roll on high waves, rather than use the extra fuel to power technology that will help stabilise navigation. I have personal experience with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and they are very stable, safe ships, with very experienced Captains.

2. Decide on your priorities early, before boarding the ship. For example, chose the ports you want to visit, and the shore excursion that appeals most to you. Then, do your research, as you will sometimes find a cheaper provider in port, offering the same excursion without the cruise line markup. However, beware, that if anything goes wrong with the excursion that makes you late for departure, you will have to bear the costs – and that may mean flying to the next port.

3. Book your shows and specialty restaurants early. Especially if the shows are included in your cruise price, these will fill up fast, and don’t wait to be on the ship to book them. Its important that you do this early, so that you can prepare a schedule that does not have you rushing through dinner to catch the show. Also, call up the cruise line and ask them what nights will be “formal nights” or special activities nights, so you can work that into your schedule.

4. Study the deck plans, to chose a cabin location that will suit your activities. For example, we like to be on deck 8 on the larger RC ships that have Central Park. If mobility is an issue, you may want to be close to an elevator.

5. Plan your arrival and departures from ports. Don’t book departure flights too early in the day, as you may find yourself stressing out to get to the airport. Cruise lines have a very efficient departure plan, however, they are at the mercy of Port Authorities clearing them, and you will need to go through customs. Best to book flights at 2pm or later.

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