Cruising Advice for First-Timers

What you need to know before taking the plunge

More than 13 million people around the world took a cruise last year – and 770,000 of those were Canadians. It was a record total for an industry that continues to grow, innovate and win plaudits for the quality and value of the experience provided.

If you’re thinking of walking the gangplank for the first time, here are some words of advice, culled from the cumulative experience of leading cruise sellers.

  • Planning Your Journey
    The first task is to decide where you want to go and for how long. Cruises offer everything from one- or two-night excursions to 100-day, round-the-world odysseys. Most Canadians choose a cruise of seven days or longer, but three-day weekend and four-day midweek options are also available. This is where an experienced travel agent is almost essential. “With literally hundreds of ships and itineraries from which to choose, there truly is a cruise for everyone,” says Chris Russo, president of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).  “But selecting the right cruise involves more than just picking your cabin — it’s not a one-size-fits-all vacation.”
  • Cabin Fever
    If you plan to spend significant time in your cabin, choose the biggest room you can afford. On newer ships, balcony cabins are very popular – it’s a wonderfully relaxing experience to sit on your balcony watching the waves. Standard cabins have twin beds, which can usually be converted into a queen-sized bed.
  • Specialist Advice
    Many travel agencies employ certified cruise specialists who will help ensure details such as your cabin view not being obstructed by a lifeboat. They can often save you money on your cruise, but more importantly, they’re skilled at finding the best choice for your unique requirements. The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies offers a tool to help you find a cruise specialist near you. Click here to search.
  • Better Safe than Sorry
    Things can go wrong, and travel insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind. A good policy will not only cover you for trip cancellation, but also missed connections, lost or delayed baggage, emergency medical and dental expenses and emergency legal assistance.
  • What’s The Real Price?
    The advertised prices you see are usually for the smallest cabin on a specific sailing date. With most cruise lines, the fare includes your cabin, on-board entertainment and food. Other items to consider when budgeting your trip include: departure taxes and port charges; shore excursions, alcoholic beverages and on-board extras such as gambling, spa treatments and cover charges for specialty restaurants. As the industry expands, different pricing models are emerging, with some including crew gratuities, alcohol and even some shore excursions in one price.
  • Shore’nuff
    When your ship stops at a port of call, you have three options: stay on board, explore by yourself or take an excursion offered by the cruise line. Talk to your travel agent about your expectations — what you want to see and experience while in port.
  • Healthy Sailing
    Seasickness is much less common nowadays as the ship’s immense size and high-tech motion stabilizers control gentle rocking. Once on board, spend some time on deck and focus on a fixed point of the horizon to help you adjust and get your ‘sea legs’ quickly. Be sure to pack your complete health information with you on your trip, with your medical history, insurance information, contact person in case of emergency, blood type and list of allergies, medications and immunizations.

Have a great cruise!

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