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Atlantic Cruises – How To Choose The Right One

Choosing a cruise can be overwhelming, but it can also be easy once you narrow down what you're looking for. If you're reading this, you've probably already decided that you want to go on an Atlantic Cruise, so you made a step in the right direction. Now – it's time to think about budget, destinations, and the kind of travel experience that you're looking for.

Laying out your budget helps taper your focus. The difference between budget, premium, and luxury cruises often c...

Choosing a cruise can be overwhelming, but it can also be easy once you narrow down what you're looking for. If you're reading this, you've probably already decided that you want to go on an Atlantic Cruise, so you made a step in the right direction. Now – it's time to think about budget, destinations, and the kind of travel experience that you're looking for.

Laying out your budget helps taper your focus. The difference between budget, premium, and luxury cruises often comes down to staff to passenger ratio, age of the ship, included extras, and available on-board services. Another budget consideration is time allowance. If you only have a week's vacation, you can rule out month-long transatlantic cruises.

The next question is 'where'? Are you looking for sun fun on the Canary Islands? To explore the Nordic beauty of the Fjords of Bengal? Perhaps hiking the foothills of Scotland? Or exploring the historical port cities of the Americas? Even if you decide between the Northern Atlantic and the South, you'll tighten your focus.

How you'd like to travel is your last major decision. Some ships cater to families, others to couples or singles. If you're celebrating your 60th anniversary, you may not want to book on the 'Spring Break Party Boat.' Having a clear idea of what you're looking for will narrow your options significantly.

If you're not sure about the character of different Atlantic cruises, try reading reviews on-line. You can find professional reviews as well as those written by regular passengers just like you. Another fantastic resource is a travel agent that specializes in Atlantic cruises. They know about their industry, and can help you discover a tailored experience.

Picking an Atlantic cruise doesn't have to be difficult. Just take a moment to sit down, think through your what, where, when, and how - and the 'who' you'll choose will come to you!

 

How to Book Your First Cruise Vacation

Booking your first cruise vacation is not as hard as you might have thought. Check out how to plan, what to do and what not to for an unforgettable vacation on the high seas.

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Perhaps you’ve saved every dime for this day and now it’s time to book that long awaited cruise vacation. Naturally, you’re a bit edgy because this is your first time. You have probably sought advice from peers and travel agents.

Seeking recommendation from friends and agents is a good idea, but this is only a starting point for your research. You can’t rely entirely on this information. Can you book until you’ve read or heard enough first hand experiences? Of course not! At this stage, you need to read the latest consumer reviews online for the vessel you’re planning to go with. Don’t get confused by the slew of contradictory remarks. Consider both the positive and the negative sides. This will help you in getting a better picture of the pros and cons, and aspects which you wouldn’t have ever known before experiencing on board.

Cruise deals are available in plenty and it doesn’t require much hard work to find one. Compare rates across different travel sites and shop around for a good price. Ideally, cruise rates on new vessels are always higher than older ones. If saving money is on your agenda, you should be looking for older cruise ships. However, make sure that your expectations are realistic. If you scour the Internet, you’ll see that passenger complaints are the highest among these ships. There might be cramped fitness areas, or the cabins might need a re-paint.

In general, most cruise lines have the same menus, with slight variations. There isn’t much difference in on-board activities or entertainment either. The only possibility is that in an old ship the choices are limited and the décor and accommodation facilities might need a refurbish. However, many cruise companies maintain a respectable degree of consistency across the fleet, in this particular area. But remember, when you’re cruising an old ship, you’re paying just about one third of the money required for a newer one. At any rate, if you want to strike a balance between amenities and rates, go for a ship that is less than five years old.

Cost cutting is possible if you’re cruising off season. Caribbean cruises are affordable and the weather is great during the period from January through May. Christmas, New Years, spring break, and summer tend to be the most expensive. Comparatively, Thanksgiving and Presidents week are cheaper and less crowded. Besides, during this time, the weather is favorable in Mexico and the Caribbean.

As always, the early bird catches the worm! For the best rates, book your vacation well in advance, or within three months of the sail date. If you’re making your own flight arrangements, be sure to arrive on the day before embarkation. Most cruises will not wait for passengers who are delayed.

In matters of cabins, most people prefer an outside cabin over an inside cabin simply because there isn’t enough natural light in the former category. Besides, the higher the deck, the greater is the price. So, although a cabin on deck 7 will be the same as one on deck 3, the former will have a higher price tag. It is up to you as to what type of cabin you want. But remember that you’re not going to spend much time in your cabin. A rule, per se, is that if the price difference between types of cabins is under $100 per passenger or just over, it’s okay to pay for an upgrade.

When it comes to shore excursions, there’s no bargain here. But it will enhance the entire experience. If you plan to go snorkeling, be sure to pack your own gear. Also, find out the best options before booking the cruise. Learn about the places and how easy or difficult will it be to get there. If your ship is at the port for the whole day, you can rent a cab to go to the spot and enjoy snorkeling for as long as you wish. But if the ship anchors only for a few hours, then booking a shore excursion is perhaps the best way to maximize your time and money.

Like any other holiday, proper planning is the key to a successful cruise vacation. Prepare a list of your needs and expectations, look up the price tags, and then draw your budget. When you know the specific areas where you need to spend and where to save, you can easily rearrange your priorities and expectations according to your budget. Then, you are good to go!

 

How To Choose The Right Ship For Your Cruise Vacation

When you want to take a cruise vacation the hardest part is picking the right ship. There are many things to consider when you are about to invest in cruise travel. Mary Hanna packs this article with information on how to choose the ship and plenty of cruise tips to help you make your decision.

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You want to take a cruise vacation, but how do you pick the ship? You’re the cruise planner in the family so first, consider the type of ships. They run the gamut from small yacht like ships to mega-liners holding over 3000 passengers. The small ships normally do not have constant activities throughout the day while the mega-liners schedule loads and loads of things to do. Choose your type of ship by whether or not you want time to yourself or if you want to be entertained. When considering cruise travel keep the following things in mind.

A small ship, 500 or fewer passengers, will have small musical shows in the evening while you will be free to do as you please during the day. This type of ship is for an intimate cruising experience. Being on a small ship is like staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast versus being at a large chain hotel. A smaller ship can also go to less frequented destinations due to its ability to maneuver in tight spots.

A mid size ship, 500 to 1000 passengers, will usually have local groups come on board while in port and perhaps a piano player or a duo. An advantage to a mid size ship is that lines seldom form and when the do they clearer quickly.

Now, your mega-liners will boggle your mind with activities and entertainment. There are ships out there that have skating rinks and rock climbing walls! When you are on these ships, be sure to carry around the pocket size layout of the ship that will be in your cabin on day one. (Get additional ones at the purser’s deck). The disadvantage of these ships is that they are crowded and you will have to stand in long lines. One important thing to know is that some of the really large ships cannot fit in some of the docking facilities therefore making it necessary to “tender” into port. The tender is a life boat that constantly goes from ship to shore. This is important if you are handicapped or afraid of small boats.

Cruise Tip: When in a large port like St. Maarten where it is necessary to tender in to shore and back to the ship, be sure you get on the tender that goes to your ship. There may be as many as 8 ships in port and it would be easy to board the wrong tender after a long day of sun and surf. It could make it quite dicey if it is near the time of departure for your ship.

Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you want an intimate laid back voyage? Are there any facilities that are important to you like spa packages, healthy exercise, or culinary delights, cultural experiences? These are essential questions when planning cruise travel.

Cruise Tip: The Spa Experience. Use the cruise to take a spa vacation while your kids are entertained and your spouse is learning about new Computer techniques. Yes, you can have a spa experience with all the treatments that you have at a traditional spa and the spa cuisine. All of the top lines have healthy alternatives on their menus and some of the spas are state of the art, many of them managed by land based spas. So not only will everyone be entertained, but you can experience that long awaited week at the spa. I have read many cruise reviews that love the spa experience.

If you have a tendency to be seasick, book a mega-liner, you will reduce the chance of that malady. On the really big girls you hardly know you’re moving. (Ships are always referred to as she, her or Lady i.e., the QE2 is known as the grand old Lady of the Seas).

The type of ship should always be considered to get the most enjoyment from your cruise. Rule of thumb is that the larger the ship the more amenities while the smaller ships are more personalized. We took a cruise on a luxury small ship to the Greek Islands and by the second day everyone knew our names and the service was stellar.

One other consideration is the number of ports that you visit. A ship that stops in a port everyday can be tiring, besides it’s nice to spend a day or two at sea. If you are going back to a port previously traveled, stay on the boat. It’s terrific to have the ship all to yourself. These are also good days to visit the gym or schedule a spa treatment, there’s hardly anyone using the equipment or the spa personnel.

Common sense tells you that the longer the trip the older the passengers since they have the time and resources to take long voyages. Ships are very different, from the all day partying of Carnival, to the quiet laid back ultra luxury of SeaDream Yachts.

Cruise Tip: Maiden Voyages come with all the bragging rights but you might want to rethink that, especially if you are a first time cruisers. On maiden voyages the crew is “unseasoned”. They don’t necessarily know where everything is or how everything works and this can cause delays in service. Sometimes a cruise line will borrow a staff from another ship to sail the maiden voyage of a new ship and train the staff. Same thing applies, this is a new ship and everybody is learning. Better to let the ship break in for at least six months before choosing her to sail. Construction delays can put a new ship off schedule so don’t book a month or two out from the announced Maiden Voyage, since you might then find yourself on the Maiden Voyage. There exists a chance of things going wrong like the plumbing or the electrical.

The same thing applies to a ship that is coming of dry dock or “refit”. Many things can and do go wrong. Have your travel agent check to see if the ship has just been refurbished and if it has, pick another one.

Equipped with this information you should be able to find the ideal ship for your cruise vacation. So what are you waiting for? Call your Travel Agent and Set Sail!

Happy Cruising!

Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.
This article may be distributed freely on your website and in your ezines, as long as this entire article, copyright notice, links and the resource box are unchanged.

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