A cruise vacation can be a significant investment, so it only makes sense that you want your cruise to be "perfect"[end]. After all, how many vacations do you actually get to enjoy in your lifetime? Here are some tips on how to increase your odds of enjoying The Perfect Cruise.
Manage Your Expectations - People often have unreasonable expectations when they book a cruise. A lot of this can be avoided by following the 10 steps I outline herein. If you have done your research and know what to expect, you should have an amazing vacation experience, regardless of the cruise you book.
Do Your Research - We read hundreds of consumer reviews on CruiseReport.com, and about 40% of them are nothing more than complaints. However, in most cases, the complaints stem from them not doing their homework. They basically booked the wrong cruise for them. There are a lot of different cruise lines and each one has a target demographic. For example, if you are traveling as a family with small children, you will probably be better served with a cruise aboard Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or NCL. If you book a cruise aboard a small riverboat, you might regret it. On the other hand, if you are traveling as a mature couple, you might be more comfortable aboard a smaller ship, or one that caters to adults and couples. This is where you can really use the Internet and websites like CruiseReport.com to research cruise lines, ships and destinations before making a purchase decision.
Buy Trip Insurance - Nothing will mess up a vacation like an unforeseen emergency. There are dozens of things that can cause you to cancel your cruise and you are only protected from financial loss if you have a good 3rd party policy from a company such as TravelSafe.com. We NEVER take a cruise without first purchasing an insurance policy. And, don't forget, if you are outside the US, your health insurance may not reimburse you for any medical expenses. A 3rd party insurance policy will.
Use A Reputable Travel Agent - A lot of cruise lines will sell you a cruise directly. Be advised, you are not going to save any money by booking through a cruise line's website or 800 number, Often, a good travel agent can even get you a better deal than some sales rep working for the cruise line. A travel agent has a vested interest in your satisfaction and, because they may sell dozens of cruises a year for a particular cruise line, they have leverage that you don't have. A good travel agent can intervene on your behalf in case a problem arises.
Take Lots of Pictures - Thanks to digital cameras, there is no excuse for not taking as many photos as possible. Take extra memory cards so you have plenty of storage for lots of pictures. Most cruise ships sell memory cards, but you will pay more on a ship than you will at home.
Budget for Extras - Most cruise lines will charge you extra for beverages, shore excursions, dining in specialty restaurants, etc. And don't forget gratuities; you can expect from $12 to $20 per day/per person depending on the cruise line. Some cruise lines offer drink packages, which can be a good value. If you budget for these extras ahead of time, you won't suffer "sticker shock" when you get your final bill at the end of the cruise.
Leave your cell phone at home - If you truly want to get the most from your vacation, leave the cell phone at home. The world will go on without you for a week or two. If you have to communicate, use the ship's Internet cafe and send an email. Use your vacation as a test to see if you can break the smart phone addiction, at least temporarily. If you have your cell phone with you, it's not a vacation!
Don't Overindulge - The best rule of thumb is to pace yourself. Every cruise offers obscene amounts of food, and it is all included in the cruise fare. There is no rule that says you have to gain 10 pounds on a cruise. Some people embark the ship as passengers and disembark as cargo (I know, it's an overused cruise joke). There's nothing worse than getting home from a cruise and feeling miserable when you step on the scales.
Make New Friends - A cruise is the best time to open up and make new friends. Everyone is on a cruise to have a good time, so there is no pretense. Have dinner at a table for 6 or 8 and you will be amazed how fast you make new friends.
Be Prepared - Odds are pretty good that everything will go as planned. However, problems do occur. Airlines can delay or cancel a flight, your luggage could get lost, or, you could end up in a foreign country without your passport! Yikes! You can prepare for these rare problems with an online email account through Gmail, Hotmail, etc. Take a hi-res color photo of your passport and email it to your online email account. Do the same for your luggage. If the airline loses your luggage, you can pull up your photo online and show them exactly what your luggage looks like. If you are in a foreign country without a passport, you can pull up your online email account from any computer on the Internet and print out a copy of your passport(s), take these to the nearest US Consulate or Embassy and it will greatly expedite the issue of a new passport. IMPORTANT! Before using an email account to store sensitive documents, you should have a very secure password on your account.
BONUS TIP! Share Your Experiences - After you return home from your cruise, submit a review of your experience to CruiseReport. Your experiences can help others to make a better cruise decision!