Carnival Cruise
Credit: My own

In recent years cruising has become a very popular choice for a holiday.  For many years it was considered something that only the very affluent could afford.  However, many cruises today are quite reasonably priced.  There are cruise lines that target particular age groups.  Disney appeals to families with children, and Princess and Holland America are often selected by the middle aged and seniors.  Carnival cruises are a popular choice for young adults.  

Here are some tips if you are planning a cruise for the first time.  If you are like me, you will love the experience, and look forward to planning your next holiday.  

Advantages of A Cruise Holiday

One of the biggest advantages of cruising is it is easier to budget.  In addition to the cruise itself, you likely need to book air fare, and possibly a night in a hotel before the cruise begins and possibly at the conclusion.   Welcome AboardCredit: my own

Most things are covered in the cost of a cruise.  You would have to pay extra for land excursions, alchohol, and of course any items you may want to buy onboard.  Some cruise lines charge extra for some beverages you may have outside of meal times, although this depends on their own policy.  Meals are generally all included in the cost, except for speciality restaurants which may be offered on some ships.  

Excursions are optional, but you should seriously consider doing at least one while at port.  You can experience things you otherwise would never be able to see. Some of these must be booked well in advance.  Others can be reserved while you are on the ship.  In any case, don't leave something to the last minute as it may be too late.  

There also is a gratuity that is paid to the staff at the end of the cruise.  Generally, this is added on to your credit card at the end of the journey.  

Another advantage is the ease of travelling, Once you have embarked, you unpack your suitcase and you are ready to go.   There is no need to pack and unpack daily, as you would have with a road trip.

The entertainment is excellent and there is no extra charge for it.  Most of the shows are family friendly.  However, some ships may have more adult oriented entertainment, but this is always much later in the evening when the kids would likely be in bed.

Finally, the service and food aboard is excellent.  I have spoken to many people who have taken cruises with many different companies, and they all agree on this point.  The staff treats everyone like royalty.  

You probably won't want to be on a diet while on a cruise, since the food is so delicious, very plentiful, and available on a 24 hour basis.  The restaurants close late at night, but room service is available.  

These are the main reasons why I highly recommend taking a cruise.  

Why I Recommend a Travel Agent

A travel agent can offer invaluable help, particularly if you have not cruised before.  There are many travel agencies that specialize in cruises, and the agents are well trained.  In most cases, they have been on multiple cruises themselves, and can offer advice based on personal experience.  

An agent can also assist you with travel documents you may need, such as visas that are required when entering certain countries.  Of course, you will need an up to date passport.  Travel insurance, particularly medical, is strongly advised.

There is no charge to get assistance from a travel agent.  They can find you the best deals and save you money.  

Dining Options on a Cruise

Each ship has a main dining room.  Reservations need to be made for dinner, and this is usually done when you book your cruise.  There will be two seatings, an early one around 5 and the second is at 6;30 or 7.  The entertainment is planned so that you can enjoy a show either after your meal or ahead of time, so you won't miss out, regardless of which seating you select.  

Breakfast does not require a reservation.  The main dining room is not always open for lunch, particularly on port days.  However, there are also other options.  ice sculptureCredit: my own

There is a huge buffet area that is open for all three meals, and often late into the evening.  The food choices are excellent.  In the morning fresh waffles and pancakes are available, besides many other selections.  There is always a lot of fresh fruit available for all three meals.  

The buffet remains open for lunch even when at port, so it's always available.  The lunch and dinner choices are enormous and there also are plenty of desserts available.  

Elsewhere on the ship, you should be able to find pizza, hamburgers and other casual dining.  As I already mentioned, some cruises will have speciality restaurants, such as sushi.  This will depend on the cruise line.  If you book with a travel agent, he or she should be able to give you this information.  

If you have special dietary needs, such as needing to eat gluten free food, the cruise line will accommodate your requests.

Selecting a Cabin

Inside cabins are quite a bit cheaper than ones that have views or a balcony.   If you plan to be in your room just to shower and sleep, it might not matter to you.  However, you may regret not having a room with even a small window.  

Also, the better cabins have amenities not included in the inside ones.  Passengers booked into the more expensive cabins often are given priority at check in and when disembarking.

If you or someone in your party is concerned about becoming sea sick, you can reduce the chance of this happening by reserving a room on one of the lower decks and at about the middle of the ship.  

What To Wear on a Cruise

Some people are under the impression you must be dressed very formally on a cruise.  The dining rooms do have a dress code, which means they do not want guests to be dressed in jeans, cut offs, swim suits or other beach wear.  However, women do not have to wear dresses, and men do not have to be wearing a suit.  sunsetCredit: my own

Of course, some people want to wear formal clothing, as that is part of the fun of cruising for them.  It's not essential though.  As long as you aren't dressed for going to the beach or wearing clothing that is too informal, you should be ok.

Don't forget a hat, sunglasses, sun screen and clothing that will be appropriate for the climate.  Cruise lines have laundry service so you don't necessarily need to bring a new outfit to wear every day.  

Cruise ships have evening entertainment and dancing, so if you want to take part in these activities you might want to bring a dressy outfit for those occasions.  

Cruising is a lot of fun and a great experience.  This is a holiday that will create lasting memories.