How do you choose the right cruise?
In last week's article on the delights of river cruising (which so many of you enjoyed), I promised that this week I'd discuss a very important topic related to ocean cruising...what happens when you're on the wrong cruise.
Before I went on my first cruise, I'd never had the desire to take one. Based on what I'd heard, I thought it was about eating all the time, sitting around in a post-prandial stupor, being required to make banal chit-chat with strangers, and what on earth does one do to pass the time while bobbing on the ocean? Then I went on a cruise and omigosh, I couldn't wait to take another.
Many of you have had the opposite experience - you regret the trip, didn't enjoy it, won't do it again, don't see the point, and now I can't pay you to take one. Well, what if there were specific reasons that contributed to you having a poor trip? And what if those reasons can be mitigated on future trips? Would you give it another shot? Yes? Well, here goes...
1. THE BIGGEST reason you may have hated your cruise is that you were on the wrong cruise line. Go figure! You had a boarding pass, they let you on, fed you and everything...how is that the wrong cruise line? Remember last week when I made fun of the bellyflop contests and buckets of beer? That's how wrong it can be. Cruise lines fall into one of five categories: contemporary, premium, deluxe, luxury and specialty. The five levels vary in service level, ambience, food quality, space per passenger, staff to passenger ratios, included amenities, and several other features. Think of choosing a cruise line as if it were a shopping experience - are you a Target/Walmart shopper? Nieman Marcus? Small exclusive boutiques? Something in between? (online shopping only - can't help you there).
Here's what I mean - Target and Walmart have huge stores, millions of customers, and a bazillion affordable products for the mass market; nothing wrong with that, right? In contrast, the staff at a small boutique knows its customers personally, and the store offers fewer, higher end and perhaps bespoke products. The music and noise level are completely different in the boutique, compared to Target; the feeling in the store is different; they don't have thirty styles of sandals to choose from.
Between these two extremes, are regional department stores, nation-wide chains, and high-end department stores, and if you walk into a store that doesn't suit your taste, budget or shopping list, you'll not likely return soon. So if your travel style doesn't match the cruise line you're on, you won't get what you want out of the trip; you'll want to disconnect from the experience and you'd rather not do another. Your travel advisor's job is to match your travel expectations and style to the correct cruise line. It's one of our super-powers.
2. Wrong itinerary. This actually covers a lot of 'wrongs', everything from too long (or short) a trip (you were stir crazy after the second day, OR three days was not long enough for you to relax), to you get really seasick (you should try river cruising). Perhaps it was a family trip with your grown kids and the grandkids - you'll need a completely different itinerary from empty-nesters celebrating a milestone anniversary, or Caribbean 'booze-cruise' travelers. Here's a big one...wrong cabin type. Compare this to having the wrong hotel room. Imagine no natural light, engine noises, too small a cabin, too far away from the elevator; need I continue? Make sure your advisor understands EXACTLY what your expectations are for your trip, and make sure you understand exactly what you're buying.
3. You were unprepared. If you've never cruised before, you'll need a little coaching on what to expect with the check-in/boarding process, meal scheduling, excursions, expected attire and behavior, and SO much more. Here's something you might not expect - budget-priced cruises will probably have fewer inclusions, so anything you might want to partake in onboard (spa treatment, shore trips, photo packages, beverage/meal packages, and upgrades) will cost you more once you're onboard, than if you purchased before leaving or if you had opted for a higher cost journey. The higher cost just may result in an overall savings, and higher value for you.
The fewer surprises the better, right? So what's the answer to the question "how do you choose the right cruise?" Well, your travel advisor is the expert and can guide the process. Yes, you can book cruises on your own directly from the cruise line, but you will miss out on the customization, advice, upgrades, benefits, inside information, perks, and so much more that your advisor provides. Find one that you love working with that caters to and understands your travel style.
'til next week!
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Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder