Top Tips to Make Your Cruise Work
In the sometimes murky waters of cruising, it pays to have a little forewarning before saying ‘anchors away’.
What experienced travel agents know is that cruising is not without its quirks, and seeking advice from a qualified agent can be the difference between encountering an unexpected setback and walking away from a dream holiday.
Cabin location, all-inclusive pricing conditions and destination are important factors to take into account when booking a cruise, and consulting an experienced agent prepares you for the practicalities of your holiday.
To prepare you for what to expect, Cruiseabout has outlined its top five tips for getting the best out of a cruise.
1. Sea more clearly
Despite some cruise lines featuring as many as 20 different cabin categories, there are in essence only four types of cabins on any ship – inside, outside, balcony and suite.
Obstructed views can be annoying, inconvenient and unexpected. Particularly problematic are the lower decks where lifeboat storage can impede or even completely block the view from an outside cabin window.
Balcony cabin passengers have also encountered problems, unprepared for privacy issues or disappointing views. On some ships, the lower deck balconies have solid metal partitions between the railings, blocking seas views while seated. Cruisers should also be prepared for incomplete partitions between some balconies, which may result in noise from the neighbours or a waft of their cigarette smoke.
Your Cruise Specialist will know which cabins are affected by obstructed views and so on, and will be able to help you find the best cabin for your needs.
2. Location, location, location - securing the right ship real estate
Cabin location is all important and selecting the right real estate could make or break your cruise experience.
Mid-ship cabins on lower decks are the most stable and best for travellers prone to seasickness, while light sleepers should steer clear of cabins near noise sources such as dining rooms, pool decks, nightclubs and crew service areas like the kitchen. As a rule of thumb, select a level that is both above and below another passenger deck for the quietest location.
More experienced cruisers have cottoned onto the benefit of an aft cabin - those found at the rear of the ship where the curved shape at the back of the boat results in slightly larger living and balcony space. While advantages include roomier interiors and expansive views, aft cabin balconies can be overlooked by those above, due to the tiered nature of these decks.
3. ‘Guaranteeing’ the best cabin for you
The major cruise lines offer automatic upgrades on oversold cabin categories, which is only found out at the start of the cruise. Booking a ‘guarantee’ cabin can be a great deal, with passengers assured of at least the cabin category they paid for, with an increased likelihood of being upgraded to a better category. For example, an upgrade from an outside cabin to one with a balcony. What some passengers aren’t aware of before taking this option is that while the category may be an upgrade, the location may be a downgrade, leaving passengers in a less desirable position than before. This option is also final, so better suited to risk takers willing to gamble with their cabin allocation.
On the flip side, passengers assigned a room of their preference, for example near the elevators or away from the kitchen, should decline all upgrade options.
4. Almost all-inclusive
Compared with the cost of a typical land based holiday, cruising represents excellent value with meals, accommodation, transport and entertainment included in one price, at a per-day cost lower than holidaying in many international destinations. However, there are some out of pocket expenses to be aware of, including alcoholic drinks, spa treatments and gratuity payments.
In Australian waters, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises offer a range of drinks packages that can be pre-purchased for convenience before the cruise, or secured on the first day. The packages, which must be purchased for the entire journey, represent excellent value, offering passengers a saving of up to 35% on the cost of buying drinks individually.
For savings on shipboard services such as fitness activities and spa treatments, passengers should look out for special offers on port days when cruise lines offer discounts when most passengers are out exploring.
Many cruises operating in Australian waters have done away with tipping separately, however the tradition of shipboard gratuities still exists with some cruise lines charging passengers an additional daily fee to cover this cost. Passengers can arrange to pre pay for gratuities to avoid a final tipping tab, or look out for a comprehensive cruise package that includes shipboard gratuities.
5. Late running
Cruise lines offer guided onshore excursions, but there is no obligation for passengers to take this option. To save money, some passengers decide to make their own way from port – a group taxi can often be significantly cheaper - or book directly with an alternative tour company.
Be warned, should the independent excursion run over time, or something happen to delay arrival back to the pier, the ship is not required to wait, unlike with a late ship-sponsored excursion group. What’s more, passengers are expected to make their own way to the next port, at their own expense, to re-board the ship.
To avoid this situation, it is recommended passengers pay special attention to the time at each port, take into consideration the distance between port and destination and the ease of travel in that location. For example, in big cities like Rome and Athens, the port may be a considerable distance from the city centre, making an official onshore tour a safer alternative, while in a tiny destination like Monte Carlo, an organised tour may not be necessary as the sights are walking distance from the pier.
Tips provided by Cruiseabout.
For more information, phone Cruiseabout on 1300 954 661 or see www.cruiseabout.com.au.