Planning a Cruise

Occasionally friends ask me for advice about planning a cruise. Because it is one of our favorite ways to vacation, I’ve summarized the process below.

Pick an approximate date, length of cruise, location, departure/return port

Check ship options and prices on at least two sites. I often use: Vacations to Go: they have a 90 day ticker http://vacationstogo.com/ and Travelocity:  http://www.travelocity.com/

Contact a travel agent. When we have a pretty good idea of the cruise for which we are looking, I contact our travel agent and ask her to check it out and give us pricing and stateroom options, or suggest a different cruise. We are almost always looking for the best price on a stateroom with a balcony. Our travel agent is Elaine Braunius, my sister in law  elaineb2travel@aol.com , Directravel – 201-847-2303-office direct line, 1-800-223-0599 Ext. 14117.

Related issues. After deciding on the cruise, I discuss some of the remaining options with Elaine. These may include:

Stateroom location: I Google the name of the ship and the words “deck plans.”

Trip insurance: I almost always get it through the travel agency.

Transfers from the airport to the ship and from the ship to the airport. We most often travel a day in advance and stay at a hotel that provides free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and (when possible) from the hotel to the ship. At the end of the cruise, we buy a transfer from the ship to the airport. The transfers issue is a matter of preference. I often make my own arrangements.

Air travel: I make our reservations myself.

Hotel: We arrive the day before the cruise. I make the reservation myself.

Shore excursions: We usually make reservations online several weeks before the cruise. This is because the most popular ones can fill up fast.

Dining: Totally a matter of preference. We like to request a table for 2 with early seating. It is often necessary to go to the dining room soon after getting on board to confirm or request the desired table size.