Five months from today I will be boarding Carnival Sunshine in New York City a for a 9 day round trip cruise around the Caribbean. This will be my fourth cruise with Carnival, but it will be my first with the entire family. Jeff and I love cruises! They give us everything we need in one place. He gets the comforts of home, I get to island hop and we both get to eat as much as we want, whenever we want.
I know a lot of people who really don’t like the idea of cruising, but I can personally tell you that I have never had an issue with any cruise that I was on. And despite the not so good press cruising has recently received we really don’t let that stop us from boarding. I mean we hear of car crashes and still drive, planes crash and we still fly, so why wouldn’t the same be said for cruise ships?
If you haven’t cruised before then I’m here to tell you that you’re really missing out. There is so much to do, (which I will talk about in my next post) that I recommend everyone try it at least once. And when you do I can guarantee that you will love it! If you still don’t care for it, at least you can say you tried it. After all, that is what we tell our kids. Checkmate! But, I know you’re gonna enjoy it. I’m not worried about it, so I’m gonna just cut right to giving you a guide on how to book the cruise of your dreams.
RESEARCH & CHOOSE THE BEST TYPE OF CRUISE FOR YOU
With thousands of cruises sailing every year from Carnival, Royal, Norwegian, Celebrity, Disney, Princess and so many more, it can be hard to decide which one would be a good fit for you.
If you’re thinking about taking a cruise, especially as a first timer the first thing you need to do is research. Visit as many cruise websites as possible and see the destinations they offer, the length of time the cruise lasts, the type of cabins they offer and how much it will cost you.
You should know there are come as you are cruises where you pretty much wear jeans, t-shirts and flip flops the entire time, and ones where collared shirts practically required at all times. There are cruises that are exclusively geared towards families and those that are adults/couples only. Voyages that can last a weekend or as long as 7+ days. And destinations that are affordable to many, and the elite few that cost almost years salary. It’s all about the type of cruise you and your family want and how much you’re willing to spend.
After your research and picking the type of cruise you want to take, it’s time to pick a destination and how long you want your cruise to be.
CHOOSING A DESTINATION & LENGTH OF CRUISE
Cruises can sail anywhere in the world for whatever length of time you want. You name the location and there’s probably a boat going in that direction. There are cruises that sail around the sunny Caribbean or explore Alaska for up to 9 days, up to Canada for a week, or you can sail across the Atlantic to Italy or Greece, or catch a flight to Australia and sail to the South Pacific for cruises that last as long as 14+ days. Hell, you can sail to “no where” from Friday to Sunday.
Cruise lines know that not everyone gets the same amount of time off, so they have hundreds of cruises that leave from various ports week after week allowing for no excuses as to why you can’t board one.
Now you have your boat and destination and how long you will cruise for, now it’s time to choose your room.
PICKING YOUR CABIN
Like any other vacation when choosing a hotel you also have to make the decision whether you want a city view, ocean view or suite. The same rule apply on cruises.
There are 4 categories of cabins: (This is based on Carnival. Other lines could offer more categories.)
When picking your cabin remember the interior on the lowest floor is cheaper and the higher room category, floor and location on the ship (forward, middle, back) the more expensive your cruise will become.
I personally prefer having my own private balcony cabin midship on port side, as it keeps me far enough away from the elevator traffic and provides the best views when you’re pulling into a new port. I high recommend this area. I understand that not all can afford it, but if you can swing it then I say do it.
UNDERSTANDING THE PRICE BREAKDOWN
As previously mentioned cruises are priced per person, and are based on the destination, how long the cruise is, the type of cabin you have and the floor its located on. But let me show you what that really looks like so that you can have a clear understanding of it.
For example, a family of 4 books an interior cabin on the lowest deck for a 7 day round trip Caribbean cruise leaving from New York City will run at a starting cost of a $1000. The pricing will be broken down like:
1st & 2nd per person = $1000 x 2 (cruise rate) + $300 x 2 (port fees and taxes) + $100 x 2 (mandatory gratuity)
3rd & 4th person = $500 x 2 + (cruise rate) $300 x 2 (port fees and taxes) + $100 x 2 (mandatory gratuity)
You will notice 3rd & 4th person rates are cheaper than the 1st & 2nd, this is because the more people in the cabin the cheaper the room becomes. This goes for all cruises, not just Carnival.
So, the grand total for this cruise would be $4600. Now if its a group of adult friends you can split the total cost and everyone equally pays $1150. Families are not so lucky.
Please remember, as I cannot state this enough, the better and higher up your cabin is located on the ship the more your cruise will cost. So you really have to understand that unlike a hotel room you are not paying the cruise rate, port fees, taxes and gratuity for one person but for everyone who is in the cabin with you, including children and infants. This is all inclusive vacation which means your food, some drinks and entertainment are included in the cost of the cruise and therefore everyone must be documented and paid for.
And speaking of making a payment I left this next step for last since it’s a biggie!
PLAN IN ADVANCE & START SAVING
Cruises are popular choices for vacation and they get booked quick, so you need to gather everyone that’s going and choose a date for trip and start saving!
In order to secure your cruise reservation you have to pay a deposit that can start at $150 and go upwards of $500+ per person. Once the deposit is paid you will have a due date, which is about 70 days before sailing to be paid in full. Unless you’re using a third party system to book your trip the cruise line doesn’t care how you make the payments as long as it’s paid in full before the end of the business day on your due date.
I’m sure you’re wondering why you have to be paid so early, but the cruise line knows you just plunked down a large amount of money to take this trip so they give you about 70 days to save you money again, but this time it will be for vacation money.
This is where planning in advance comes into play. When you book your vacation so far in advance you are giving yourself more than enough time to be able to pay it off. Most cruise lines are already booking into early 2018. See what I mean about no excuses about not taking one
But now that you’re armed about what kind of cruises there are, where they go, how long you can travel for and what the pricing breakdown is you can now make the best decision for your family.
Come back next month when I talk about the amenities cruise lines offer.