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How to Choose the Cruise That's Right for You

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Our tips and tricks for successfully planning a fantastic cruise vacation

five cruise ships docked in the Caribbean, aerial shot
Photo credit: Unsplash - Fernando Jorge

Please note that these opinions are our own. We have not been compensated for this post.


Determining which cruise is best for you can be challenging. We're here to help!

We've created a few helpful tips and tricks to help you book the perfect trip for your needs.

To get started, answer the following questions which will help you identify your unique cruise needs.
  1. What is your budget for a cruise?

  2. How many guests will be joining you?

  3. What are the ages of the guests?

  4. How many staterooms will you need?

  5. What is the desired length of your cruise (number of nights)?

  6. Do you prefer a more adult-oriented vacation or a family-friendly adventure?

  7. When are you available to travel?

  8. Which ports of call do you want to visit on your cruise?

  9. Which departure port is the best option for you?

  10. Rank the following in order of importance to you.

    1. Activities onboard (ex. trivia, competitions, educational offerings)

    2. Casino & gambling

    3. Drinking (ex. beverage packages, onboard bars, alcoholic beverage options)

    4. Entertainment onboard (ex. production shows, live music, guest acts, etc.)

    5. Food quality & variety

    6. Kid’s clubs & activities

    7. Physical activities onboard (ex. rock climbing, water slides, basketball, etc.)

    8. Ports of call

    9. Quality of crew service

    10. Shopping onboard

    11. Stateroom size


Now that you’ve taken the time to organize your needs and wants, let’s work together to help you find the perfect cruise for you. To narrow down your cruise options, follow the steps below.


OPTION 1 - LET THE DEPARTURE PORT GUIDE YOUR DECISION

If where you leave from is the most important factor in your decision-making process, this may be the best set of steps for you to follow to find the best cruise for you.


Steps:

  1. Check out which cruise lines use the departure port you selected To find out which cruise lines use the departure port you selected, you can use a search engine to find a list of the cruise lines and their associated terminals at that port. For example, if Port Canaveral is the best departure port for you, that will narrow your cruise line options to just a few choices such as Carnival, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean. You can also use a website like Cruise Critic or Castaway Dream Travel to search cruises from a specific departure port. Please note that you may need to use an advanced search/filter to filter by departure port.

  2. From the cruise line options you discovered in step one, reflect on your ranked list from #10 above. Now that your options have been narrowed down, you can filter those options even more by identifying what factors are most important to you and then select the cruise line that best matches your preferences. For example, if you have a modest budget, diverse traveling party, and are looking for a cruise that can appeal to everyone in your group, one of Royal Caribbean’s ships might be the best fit. If you’re looking for a more kid-centric vacation and have a bigger budget, Disney might be perfect for you and your family. Take a few moments to narrow your cruise line options down to two or three options.

  3. Find the cruise that fits your budget and schedule Now that you’ve narrowed down your cruise line options, you can go to each cruise line’s website to review the cruises that fit your budget and schedule. Make sure to use the filters and sorting options when you search to tailor the results to your needs. Note: if you’d rather see all of your options in one place, visit a travel aggregator like Cruise Critic or Castaway Dream Travel. Use the advanced search tools to narrow down your options by departure port, cruise length, budget, and cruise lines. You can then sort your options by price, length, etc. to find the best cruise for you.

OPTION 2 - LET THE DESTINATION GUIDE YOUR DECISION

If where you visit on your cruise is the most important factor in your decision-making process, this may be the best set of steps for you to follow to find the best cruise for you.


Steps:

  1. Determine where you’d like to go on your cruise Cruise lines travel to different ports, so if the destination is the most important part of your vacation, we recommend starting with the destination and working backward to identify the cruise line that’s the best option for you.

  2. Find which cruise lines travel to that destination Once you’ve identified your ideal ports of call, you can do a quick search to identify which cruise lines visit those ports. You can search for cruises to X destination or you can use a search tool on a travel website like Cruise Critic or Castaway Dream Travel to select a destination and see the cruise line results.

  3. Find the cruise that fits your budget and schedule After you complete your search and narrow down your results using the sorting and filtering options, compare and contrast the cruise options to determine the best match for the ranked factors you identified above.

OPTION 3 - LET A TRAVEL AGENT BE YOUR GUIDE

If conducting your own cruise research feels intimidating, we highly recommend working with a travel agent for a stress-free planning process. You’ve already done a lot of the work by answering the questions above. You can share those answers with a travel agent who can then determine the best cruise option based on your needs and preferences. If you don’t have a travel agent already, we highly recommend working with Ed and Shelly at Castaway Dream Travel. Working with a travel agent provides you with personalized attention and sometimes even access to special deals and promotions.

 

Our tips & tricks for booking cruises

  • If budget is a considerable factor, be flexible with your travel dates since the cost of cruising varies depending on the time of year (ex. cruising in summer is often a lot more expensive than cruising in fall)

  • Look for last-minute cruise deals

  • Book when there’s a great sale and then track the price. Did you know that some cruise lines will adjust your fare if the price goes down before your departure date? Check the cruise line's policy for best price guarantee information.

  • Read reviews online to figure out which ship is the best fit for your travel party

  • Check social media for an inside look at what cruising is like with each cruise line

  • Work with a travel agent to secure the best deals


Happy cruising!




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