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Cruise Planning For An Unforgettable Adventure

Cruise planning is the secret sauce for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with delicious food, new friends and adventures at various ports.


Published on January 18th, 2024 in Destinations, Travel Tips

After a couple of quiet years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruising is starting to make a comeback.

More than 20 million people worldwide boarded a cruise ship in 2022, which is short of the 29.7 million who cruised in 2019, but large increases over 2020 and 2021. It’s easy to see why the cruise industry is rebounding: Aside from pandemic-era restrictions being more or less a thing of the past now, going on cruises is a relaxing and fun way to see the world and make new friends.

Today, we’re going to look at everything that goes into planning a cruise, from reasons to do it, activities, possible destinations, and tips for safe travel. Join us as we explore an activity in cruising that’s seeing a well-earned resurgence.

Why plan a cruise?

There are any number of reasons to plan a cruise, whether it’s the first cruise or the 30th time that a person will be embarking on one.

Here are four compelling reasons to consider going on a cruise:

1. A chance to relax, however one likes

The nice thing about a cruise is that a person doesn’t have to do anything once they’re onboard the ship. While there are a variety of entertainment options and activities for a person to choose from on many cruises, people can essentially do as they please for the duration of their trips.

If a person wants to book shore excursions and onboard activities for a full cruise itinerary each day, great. And if a person wants to stay in their cabin throughout the duration of their cruise trip, that’s fine, too. Some higher-end cabins on cruises are the size of apartments, and often come with private decks.

While realistically, a person might need to leave their room at least once or twice a day for meals, that’s about it. Everything else is their choice.

2. Exciting shore excursions

One of the great things about a cruise is that it’s not just about the journey or a single destination. Opting for at least 1-2 shore excursions can make a cruise come alive.

A cruise itinerary in Alaska might include seeing bald eagles in Haines, kayaking in Ketchikan and walking around downtown Juneau. A cruise from Florida might include a stop in the Bahamas in Bimini, with much of that island within easy driving distance. Cruising to Mexico might mean stopping at Mexican Riviera cities such as Cabo San Lucas.

And that’s just a few of the possible exciting shore excursions, which can often be reserved at the time of booking a cruise.

3. Year-round cruise options

It’s maybe not possible to cruise each part of the world year-round, thanks to weather that can vary based on the season. Still, if one is so inclined, they can journey throughout the year thanks to all of the different cruise port locations.

While late June is ideal to board a cruise somewhere in the north like Copenhagen, where there might be 18 hours of sunlight depending on the day, January might be the time to cruise from Sydney or elsewhere in the southern hemisphere.

Related reading: 14 Unbeatable Vacation Destinations for Seniors

For older adults who might want to save summers and accompanying school breaks for going to visit children or grandchildren enjoying their vacation days, not having to only take a cruise that time of year can be a major selling point.

4. Departure ports worth seeing

People might forget that if they’re cruising somewhere, they’re not just going to their cruise destination. They can also have a night or two at the beginning wherever they’re cruising from, be it Vancouver, New York City, or Port Canaveral, Florida, the last of which had over four million cruise guests in 2022.

While it’s not guaranteed that a departure port will be one of the world’s best cities, it often is. A cruise is as good an excuse as any to spend time in it.

Activities to do onboard a cruise

Like we said, there’s a lot of activities people can do on cruises if they want to. Here are a few things a person is likely to be doing on a cruise:

Eating well

If nothing else, a cruise is several days of eating exquisitely. Many ships will offer an assortment of culinary fare – think lobster, steak, escargot and much more – or drink packages. Some cruise lines even have specialty dining restaurants, such as Carnival’s Fine Cut Steakhouse or Royal Caribbean’s Chops Grille.

Between specialty dining onboard and grabbing food on land during shore excursions, cruises can be veritable food tours.

Meeting new friends

A British newspaper claimed many years ago that single people had a 14% chance of finding love on a cruise ship. The chances of being among this lucky number might draw people to cruise. It can even draw television viewers, with CBS debuting a reality show in 2022, The Real Love Boat.

Even for those who don’t meet a new special someone, cruises represent a terrific chance to forge new friendships. The average cruise ship has around 3,000 passengers, with some larger ships having room for nearly 7,000. It’s like a small town for however long a cruise takes, with the next good friend maybe a cabin away.

Aside from this, cruises can also help bring existing friends and family closer together through all of the shared activities and relaxation. A good cruise line can be a veritable reunion.

Taking in entertainment

Entertainment on a cruise boat doesn’t just mean watching television. Many cruise lines will offer live entertainment, such as musical variety shows or stand-up comedians. Some boats even have onboard movie theaters, such as the Carnival Vista IMAX Theatre from Carnival Cruise Line or the Buena Vista Theater on each of the four Disney Cruise Line ships.

Then there are celebrity cruises where artists like Kesha or the Backstreet Boys might perform and even be available to mingle with guests. These cruises can vary depending on the year, though it’s worth looking into who might be offering these types of cruises at any point. (These types of cruises are different, by the way, from Royal Caribbean’s branded Celebrity Cruises, which one guest described as “more adult-focused with a modern, trendy and innovative approach to cruising.”)

Whether it’s having a few laughs after eating at a specialty restaurant onboard or boogying down to a top musical act, one never has to be bored on a cruise ship.

Enjoying on-deck waterparks (or watching younger family members)

It used to be something if a cruise boat had even a pool on one of its higher decks. In recent years, however, there’s been a trend of building onboard waterparks with various amenities, as Cruise Critic noted in December 2022.

There’s the 200-foot Epic Plunge on Norwegian Cruise Line (which expands its waterparks once its ships are at sea). Disney Wish features a 760-foot tube ride called Aqua Mouse that even has onscreen entertainment. Royal Caribbean even has a Flow Rider surf simulator.

Of course, many older adults might not care one whiff about whether their cruise ship has the latest in water slides or surf technology. The value for these guests: Their children or grandchildren who are along for the vacation might care a lot about these things.

Cruise destinations to consider

There are hundreds, if not thousands of possible places to cruise these days. Here are five tried-and-true locales to cruise to for your next vacation.

The Caribbean or nearby

The most popular cruise destinations in the world? The Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas, which collectively received about nine million people taking one of these trips in 2022.

It’s not hard to see why these locations draw the number of cruise passengers that they do. Aside from idyllic, tropical weather much of the year, there’s a relaxed atmosphere among the people and a kind of peacefulness that’s hard to replicate.

These destinations also appear to be easy to cruise to from much of the southeastern United States, including Florida cities like Miami.

Recommended shore excursion: Bermuda’s Crystal Caves

Hawai‘i

Among the perks of taking a vacation cruise to one of the world’s great island chains is that there isn’t just one way to do it.

People can fly into Honolulu, a popular departure port where a wide array of cruises set sail. One can also cruise to Hawai‘i from a West Coast city like San Francisco. And for those with the time and the roughly $20,000 as of this writing needed to book it, there’s even a 72-day cruise from Tokyo to Honolulu courtesy of Oceania Cruises.

However one does it, Hawai‘i is a serene and tranquil place to visit.

Recommended shore excursion: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

Greek islands

There are 6,000 (yes, 6,000!) islands in the seas around Greece. Of them, only 227 of these islands are inhabited, with the remainder somewhat mysterious and remote at times. Cruise ships can help to make these islands more accessible.

Aside from exploring islands, cruising to Greece offers the chance for good food, humanity-defining history and terrific weather. One pro tip, though: While the best months to cruise to Greece generally range from about May to September, the country might be best avoided in August. This is because locations can get crowded and it is a popular month for Greeks to go on vacation, according to one travel site.

Recommended shore excursion: Mykonos.

Norway

Cruising doesn’t just have to be about heading to sun-drenched paradise. While temperatures typically hover in the 60s or 70s during summer months in Norway, it can be a beautiful place to cruise to.

This is thanks in large part to Norway’s many fjords. These watery inlets abound with natural scenery are a treat to take in.

Recommended shore excursion: Geirangerfjord.

Mexico

Some of the cruises on this list might require great journeys to reach. For anyone in the U.S., particularly on the West Coast, here’s one of the easier cruises to do.

This is also a great option for anyone with a limited time window for their cruise. Three-day cruises to Mexico or Baja Mexico are possible from a departure port of San Diego, Long Beach or even Los Angeles.

It’s of course also possible to book a five or seven-day cruise to Mexico as well, with a variety of different cruise lengths available.

Recommended shore excursion: Puerto Vallarta.

6 tips for a great cruise

When a person books a cruise, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to have a great time. Most cruises are like a week long vacation, with good food, fun shore excursions and other add-ons available. But it can also be smart to have some basic information in mind before booking a cruise and sailing.

Tip No. 1: Research potential cruise lines

This isn’t to endorse any particular cruise line over another, but to say that different cruise companies might be ideal to choose depending on the person.

A person might want certain types of onboard entertainment or activities only available with a particular cruise line or boat. Other people might live in a geographic area or country where an individual cruise line, whatever it is, does a heavy amount of business or is able to offer its service at an unbeatable price.

It can pay, literally, when cruise planning to have an idea of the different lines and boats that are out there.

Tip No. 2: Research booking and check-in procedures

Different cruise lines might have different nuances. See which ones have good pre cruise offerings such as a shuttle service or a complete online check-in or even shore excursions prior to setting sail. See if any might require a travel agent for a cruise reservation – which seems like a relic in the 21st century but might still be needed in certain parts of the world.

Tip No. 3: Be open to cruise destinations

A good cruise might go to one of the most popular destinations, or it might be to somewhere totally different.

There is a burgeoning industry for riverboat cruises in both the United States and Canada. It’s possible to cruise the Great Lakes. There are good cruises sailing out of New England. It’s even possible these days to cruise to Antarctica, though at an average cost of $8,000 per person, it is admittedly not cheap.

The point, though, is that there are a lot of potential places for would-be boat-bound adventurers to go, with an idea for the next great trip a Google search away.

Tip No. 4: If you’re on a budget, choose between accommodations and cruise length

Some people on a cruise can’t stomach taking an interior cabin without a window where with the lights off and no cell phone clock, it would be impossible to know what time of day it is. For others, the most intolerable thing on a cruise would be having to curtail it to three or four days rather than seven or 10.

Anyone on a tight budget might wind up needing to choose between accommodations and duration for their cruise. It can either be a nicer cabin and a shorter cruise or more spartan confines and a longer cruise. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with either approach for the budget traveler, it’s just a matter of choosing what matters most.

Tip No. 5: Going at off-peak times can also lead to savings

Granted, cutting days or room level isn’t the only way to save money on a cruise. Forgoing drink packages or onboard spending can help to preserve funds. And going at off-peak times can also lead to savings.

The cheapest time to book a cruise can be from January to March, generally known as wave season. This, of course, can mean sailing on choppy seas and might be too much for some people who get easily seasick. Still, the savings can be as much as 60% on normal cruise prices, according to USA Today.

There are limits to trying to wrack up savings, such as not planning a cruise during hurricane season. Overall, though, it’s good to get strategic about when and where to ride cruise ships.

Tip No. 6: Have a plan in case of emergencies

Most likely when someone books a cruise, the most they’ll come back with is a sunburn and a few extra pounds from unlimited access to that never-ending pizza buffet onboard.

But it’s smart to plan for any eventuality, whether something happens in the hotel pre-cruise, among the array of shore excursions such as beach breaks or onboard the ship. And that’s where we come in.

Prepare for your cruise

We hope this has been helpful for planning a cruise you’ll remember for the rest of your life. And remember, when you’re sitting on the deck or in your cabin, Emergency Assistance Plus® (EA+®) is good to have with you.

Unlike travel insurance, Emergency Assistance Plus provides travel assistance services such as:

  • Emergency medical assistance, even if we’re talking to a member in the middle of an ocean
  • Coordinating medical care with a cruise line
  • Emergency medical evacuation when and where possible

And that’s just a snippet of what we do. To learn more, please review our membership details or call us at (866) 863-4460.

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