So You Think You Can't Cruise?

Top 10 Tips For First Time Cruisers

Cruising has grown phenomenally over the past 40 years. There were a mere half-million passengers in 1970. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recorded that 12.6 million people cruised in 2007.

Since 2001, 62 new innovative cruise ships have been built. Cruise ship amenities cater to a wide range of guests which encompass every age group, families, couples, honeymooners, "baby boomers" and seniors.

One of the biggest obstacles to the cruise industry is the perceived image of being too expensive. When comparing a resort vacation to cruising, often the cruise will actually be less. There are 3 segments to help you identify what experience you are looking for: Contemporary, Premium and Luxury, with price ranges in each segment.

Other objections from potential first-time cruisers are: not knowing enough about cruises, being afraid that you might get seasick, don't think there is enough to do on board and think that cruises are for older people.

The following helpful tips will make your cruise trip the most enjoyable it can be.

1. Always use the services of a professional cruise consultant. There is a wide variety of choices available today, with many cruise lines and ship classes, as well as destinations and departure ports. A cruise consultant will discuss your needs and interests, prepare a personal profile and then find the vacation package right for you.

2. Be sure to purchase out of Province medical and trip cancellation insurance. Since most cruises are booked well in advance of the sailing date, the small investment will protect you in case of illness or any unforeseen difficulties that may result in you having to cancel your trip at the last minute.

3. Plan for the time of year that you wish to travel. Ships schedules vary depending on seasons:

Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and Gulf regions: now year round
Other exotic destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Asia have selected seasons established by the cruise lines, usually between November and March
World Cruises (or segments thereof) begin in January

4. Each cruise line has an abundance of staterooms in various sizes, with comfortable beds, tv's and tasteful décor. The four main types of cabins available include suites, balcony staterooms, ocean view staterooms and interior staterooms. Deck plans will show where the cabins are situated and the various levels. Suites can range in size up to 1600 square feet with 2-3 bedrooms for families. Other choices are mini suites, balcony staterooms and ocean-view staterooms, around 300 square feet. Interior staterooms are usually between 150-200 square feet.

5. Consider amenities and on-board activities that fit your lifestyle and interests. Amenities may include a fitness center, day spa, children's programs, babysitting, internet access, casino, swimming pools, library, rock climbing, mini-golf, surf simulator, shows and movies under the stars, and educations programs to name a few.

6. Dining - cruises are known for their abundance of all-inclusive cuisine. Ships have fine dining rooms, specialty restaurants, lounges, snack bars and complimentary 24 hour room service. If interested in fine dining, reservations for 2 seating times can be made at the time of booking your cruise. Some cruise lines offer more flexible dining times. There may be an additional cost for some specialty restaurants.

7. Shore excursions can also be purchased through the cruise line, 90-120 days in advance of your sailing. Check options available at your ports of call. They are usually listed on the cruise line web site. If you prefer, you may book excursions on board the ship on a first-come, first-served basis.

8. Another consideration may be whether to extend your vacation with cruise tours or hotel packages either before or after your cruise. A cruise consultant can discuss this with you and make these arrangements for you as well.

9. Gratuities are usually not included in your cruise price. They can range between $10-15 US per day, per person. A tipping schedule for service staff is published as part of your information package.

10. Attire - dress on board is casual resort wear. If you prefer a more relaxed environment, be sure your cruise consultant books you on a ship that suits your preferences. Evening wear can be casual, smart casual or formal. You can expect 1-3 formal evenings, depending on the length of your cruise. Formal wear would be cocktail dresses for women and suits & ties for men.

With more than 10,000 cruise destinations, options and prices, be sure to work with a cruise professional to plan a vacation that will meet all of your expectations, avoid disappointment and be one that you will remember for a lifetime.

Cruise Ship Centers is currently giving away 25 free 2-night cruises on the new Celebrity Solstice. Contest runs from September 4 to 28, 2008.

To enter the contest, or for more information visit http://www.cruiseshipcenters.com /ErikaMartlew

Erika Martlew is a Cruise and Vacation Specialist offering assistance in planning, preparing and booking your dream vacation. She can be reached by phone at (905) 977-1657, or 1-866-544-1644 Reprinting of this article is permitted as long as contact information is included.

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