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Choosing, Booking and Having a Great Cruise
c. W. Frysinger, July 6, 2011

My credentials: we've sailed Royal Caribbean (Caribbean), Holland America (Alaska, Caribbean, Canada/New England, Mexican Riviera), and Celebrity (LA to San Juan through Panama Canal) on cruises from four to sixteen days long.  The next cruise we're considering is a 12-day Baltic cruise which we'll take with our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.


If you're considering a cruise, here are a few basic questions to answer as a starting point:

                    where do you want to go?

                    when do you want to go?

                    why are you going?

                    what can you afford?


The where and when are closely related as season dictates availability.  For instance, there are no Alaska cruises in the winter.  So the when of it or the where of it might be the determinant as to what is available.


The “why” question is also significant.  Is it a family vacation, or is it an intimate getaway for you and your spouse?  The answer will help you determine which cruise line is best for your cruise.


There are websites which evaluate cruise lines, and visiting a few will give you some ideas about what segment each cruise line focuses on.  For example, Disney Cruise Line likes and caters to families with young children.  Holland America tends oriented to somewhat well-to-do seniors.


Cost is listed here last because if you are looking at a cruise vacation, you presumably are ready to commit funds toward such.  The cost range can be wide, and what you get varies as well.  The high-end cruise lines such as Radisson and Cunard will cost you dearly, but it could be well worth the investment if this is the trip of a lifetime.  Very inexpensive cruises will feature less-well appointed cabins with downscaled cuisine.


Booking a cruise is easy once you have answers to all four basic questions listed above, and there are a variety of ways to book.  I recommend going through a cruise agent since you always have a go-to person when you have a question.  Your cruise agent will know about various cruise lines, and can give you a lot of guidance as you answer the above questions. 

Another option is to book your cruise directly through the cruise line you have decided upon.  However, if you do, you'll have to be satisfied with speaking with a different customer service representative each time you call.  It could be frustrating to get conflicting answers or to have to explain your question or situation repeatedly.