#CruiseMonth is upon us, and as the winter months arrive and the familiar chill creeps in, thoughts turn to warmer climes and the holiday season. Cruise travel presents an interesting choice of escape, invoking images of sailing the Mediterranean or exploring the Caribbean. In this post, we answer four questions that might help you take your interest in cruise travel a potential step further.

Before we took our first cruise, we remember thumbing through cruise holidays brochures and abstractly thinking that perhaps someday we would take a trip ourselves.

P&O Cruises | Ajaccio | 10 Things First Timers Should Know About Cruise Travel

Visiting Ajaccio in May as a port stop on our Mediterranean cruise, onboard P&O Cruises

River cruises, ocean cruises, family cruises…the list of choices available can be daunting for the first timer. However, we found that there are number of resources available, such as these great FAQs from industry supremo Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) to guide the first timer.

While speaking to several people about our own first-time cruise experience, we narrowed down their questions into four buckets: price, timing, suitability for families and destinations.

 

#1: Where do I go?

The answer to this question is only limited by your imagination. If you can think of a destination, you can (most likely) cruise to it…or get close enough at least. You want to see the world? No problem. Cruise travel can deliver.

For starters, there are two main types of cruises: ocean cruises and river cruises.

Major ocean cruise destinations include Antarctica, Alaska, Baltic Sea, Caribbean, Galapagos, Fjords of Norway, Asia and the Far East, Hawaiian Islands, Mediterranean, South America and the South Pacific.

We had not heard much about river cruises until recently. However, their popularity continues to increase. Top river cruise destinations include: Nile (Egypt), Yangtze (China), Rhine and Danube (Europe), Amazon (Peru) and the Mississippi (USA). Also, consider ‘off the beaten track’ destinations like the Oder along the German-Polish border.

Each cruise will typically stop at multiple port cities and towns. All you need to do is decide where you want to go and then find a cruise operator that serves that region. With cruise travel, the world is truly your playground.

HDYTI Tip: See the infographic below from CLIA for some ideas

 From Thought to Cruise: Four Questions to Help You Decide! | via @dipyourtoesin

Visiting Ajaccio in May as a port stop on our Mediterranean cruise, onboard P&O Cruises

discovery-week-listicle

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#2: When is the best time of the year to go?

While summer and holiday seasons attract the highest numbers, there is likely to be a cruise going somewhere at any time of the year.

HDYTI Tip: Avoid summer cruises if, like us, you don’t like crowds.

Seasonal ecological and weather patterns (e.g., Aurora Borealis aka ‘northern lights’ in the Polar Regions), animal/marine migrations and special events such as the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and Christmas markets are factors to consider when thinking about timing.

While many cruise travel operators operate year-round, others run cruises to optimise weather conditions in specific regions. For example, European river cruises in the winter months may not be possible due to the cold.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go, check with cruise operators serving the region to find out what options are available.

Venice | From Thought to Cruise: Four Questions to Help You Decide! | via @dipyourtoesin

Departing Venice in May for a Mediterranean cruise

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#3: How much does it cost?

We get this question a lot but are unable to provide a simple and straightforward answer. If you consider that a cruise ship is basically a floating hotel with on-board restaurants and bars and entertainment, you start to get an idea of costs involved.

Cruise operators have certainly caught on to the demand from customers to diversify their offerings. The market has grown big enough to accommodate different types of budget.

With the luxury market largely well defined, mid-market and budget options are increasingly gaining attention. Operators are also increasingly allowing customers to choose the level of inclusions they want. There are even options tailored to suit solo travellers.

Apart from your personal taste and standards, other factors that will typically influence cost include: transportation to/from cruise ship port, type of accommodation, duration, excursions, activities, inclusion options and Wi-Fi.

One person’s budget travel is another person’s luxury. We recommend speaking to an agent or directly with an operator to discuss your budget and preferences to find something that works for you.

HDYTI Tip: The smaller and more intimate the vessel, the higher the price per person is likely to be.

Villefranche | From Thought to Cruise: Four Questions to Help You Decide! | via @dipyourtoesin

Various size vessels floating in the harbour at Villefranche

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#4: Is it suitable for children?

Wondering what to do with the kids? Worry no further. Cruise travel has you sorted. However, note that some cruise lines are better suited to travel with children than others.

HDYTI Tip: If you would rather escape from the kids totally (and we don’t blame you), consider an adults only or river cruise holiday.

According to Travel Weekly, the market-leading publication for the UK travel industry, Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and P&O Cruises are the best for families. Travel expert Howard Hillman of travel website Hillman Wonders corroborates this view and further advises that Disney Cruise Line is a better fit for children ages 8 to 10 while Royal Caribbean is better for children aged 11 to 12.

Activities available include water slides, bumper cars and kids clubs. Children can dress up and parade around the ship as their favourite Disney character or a swashbuckling pirate. With P&O Cruises in particular, their night nursery has proved to be a big hit, offering parents some respite and a chance to enjoy a romantic evening.

Ajaccio | From Thought to Cruise: Four Questions to Help You Decide! | via @dipyourtoesin

Kids playing volleyball in Ajaccio, Corsica; A port stop on our Mediterranean cruise, onboard P&O Cruises

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From Thought to Cruise – Just Do It

For many, cruise travel is their idea of a dream holiday. Many people we spoke to however did not realise how accessible it has become. With the array of options on offer, cruise travel no longer needs to be about sailing off into the sunset in the sunset years of our lives.

When it comes to travelling, if you can think it, you can cruise it.

Also read: 10 Things First Timers Should Know About Cruise Travel

 

Survey

To support #CruiseMonth, we are conducting a short survey. Which of these factors would MOST influence your decision to consider going on your first cruise?

Which of these factors would MOST influence your decision to consider going on your first cruise?

#CruiseMonth: Four Questions to Help You Sail Away | via @dipyourtoesin

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Full disclosure: The team at CLIA are providing support for the #CruiseMonth campaign. However, all views and opinions expressed here remain ours.