Dear Cruise Seller: As an experienced cruiser, with more than 150 sailings and counting, I present my six best tips to help your clients get the most from their cruises. The most controversial point, perhaps, is to book Business Class air on long-haul flights, because, of course, of the costs. Please read on, and share your opinions.
It’s one thing to get a great deal, but it’s another to budget so tightly that you extract any possibility for pleasure on your cruise. Yes, inside cabins are cheaper than balcony cabins, but balcony cabins can be much more rewarding. Of course, only you can know how much moolah you’re willing to part with for the best possible cruise vacation. So balance your budget against these recommendations. No one is asking that you break the bank, but don’t squeeze the nickel so hard that you choke the buffalo.
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1. Balcony Cabins Are Best – You’ve heard the argument time and again that as you’re only sleeping there, inside cabins are a better value. Perhaps, but your travel agent will tell you if you enjoy a room with a view, book a balcony. From my balcony, I have watched the sun paint pastel on the morning sky during the three-hour transit of Stockholm’s archipelago. On another morning, I dined on coffee and croissants as our ship glided past a captivating landscape to Kotor. I’ve pulled back the curtains to gaze on glaciers in Alaska and admire the fjords of Norway. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish. You only get one shot at seeing some of the world’s marvels. Book a balcony and step outside for a breath of fresh air and a view that will last a lifetime.
2. The Cruise Begins With Business Class – Gone are the days when flying was a dignified and elegant experience – at least in economy class. If you can afford it or if you can find a creative way to make it happen (ask your cruise seller for creative ideas), book yourself in Business Class when flying long distance. Business class is where the vacation begins. You’ll experience faster check-in, faster security clearance (at some airports), lounge access, comfortable on-board seating, and most times, excellent dining and service. Of course, you have to draw the line somewhere, and when the cost of Business Class far exceeds the cost of Coach Class, you’ll need to weigh the benefits against the costs, but if it’s within reason, book Business to begin your vacation before arriving at the ship.
3. Small Ships Offer The Biggest Value – Big ships offer tremendous variety and activity, and for families, those huge floating resorts may just be the way to go. But small ships carrying 800 or fewer passengers provide better value in my book. Small ships often call on ports that big ships can’t reach. With only a few hundred passengers in port rather than a few thousand, you’re not part of a mass tourism experience, plus you get to see destinations that you can’t visit on big ships. Another plus for small ships: They are like small towns; you get to know to everyone. On big ships, you may meet someone and never see them again for the entire cruise. On small ships, however, you’re likely to develop lasting friendships with like-minded people. And one more plus for small ships: Often, but not always, small ships are more inclusive than big ships. That could be worth a few hundred dollars a day, and certainly it can be comforting to know what your costs are before setting sail as opposed to being taken by surprise at the end of your cruise.
4. Book Your Next Cruise On Your Current Cruise – Cruise lines know that they have a captive audience when you’re on board their ships, so they typically offer incentives for booking your next cruise on your current cruise. You’re not likely to miss the cruise line offers while on board, but if you do, check with the on-board sales consultant for savings you might not otherwise get ashore.
5. Pre- and Post-Cruise – Explore and enjoy the cities where your cruise begins and ends by adding on at least one hotel night. There is the additional advantage that booking a pre-cruise hotel night assures that you – and your luggage – arrive at the ship on time. It’s a good to build in an extra day just in case flights are delayed due to inclement weather – or your baggage gets misdirected. Post-cruise alleviates the dreaded end-of-cruise and back-to-real-life feeling. There’s an effort and expense to get to the great cities of the world where your cruise begins, so why not make the most of the experience by adding a few days to your vacation?
6. Book Back To Back – Even better than disembarking when you’re cruise is over is staying on board. Check with your cruise seller. Cruise lines often offer incentives for booking back-to-back cruises.
Agree? Disagree? Have more to add? Let’s hear from you.