Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cruising for the New Cruiser - Who to Book With - Where to Sail

I've decided to do a few blogs about cruising for the new cruiser, why?  Because so many people, almost every day ask me a question about cruising.  So I am sure there are more people who have questions, and hopefully this series of blogs will help.

Island Princess

First, I am no expert, I don't work for any cruise line, I don't work for any travel agent.  I just love to cruise.  I have been cruising since 1988 when I started with Carnival Cruise Lines, and sailed four times with Carnival.  But in 1997 I talked my husband into trying his first cruise.  We sailed on the original Star Princess to the Caribbean.  Thankfully he was hooked and we continued to sail Princess to this day.  Currently we have sailed 25 times with Princess with 5 future cruises booked.

I work full time as a transit driver for the city of Vancouver.  I get asked all the time, wow you must get a lot of vacations because you sail so often.  Well with 13.5 years on the job I get 4 weeks vacation, I get 2 more weeks to cover all the holidays (as buses run every day of the year) as I work the holidays.  I am also able to bank two weeks of overtime.  So normally we sail and often have to get trades to cover the extra days, or we take leave of absences.  Somehow we make it work.

So back to cruising.  This blog is going to be about booking and where to go as a first time cruiser.

First I have to say Travel Agents are the back bone of your trip and not enough good things are said about them.  If you have never cruised before, if you are not sure which line to sail on, if you are unsure of where to book a cabin on the ship, if you are unsure of where to sail.  Then I have one thing to say to you, contact your local travel agent and ask all the above questions.  They will direct to you an appropriate cruise line and destination and will assit you with picking the best cabin for your needs.

St. Thomas, from Water Island

A travel agent will also help you with pricing and work with you and explain all the rules and necessary documents you will need.  Trust me I hear the horror stories - make sure you have the documents you need, visas, passports etc.  There is such a large learning curve when it comes to cruising, why not gain the experience of a knowledgeable person.

Now saying all the above, if you are travel savvy, you know where to go, and when, and with whom, well try some of the online agency.  I of course have a few favorites, but my main agency is often mentioned in my blog (so I won't mention here), and I have been using them for probably our last 16 cruises, if not more.  However I use their services online, I know exactly what line I want to sail, I know what type of cabin and location I want.  I need very little assistance when booking, if any.  I also can recommend cruise only agencies, like cruise ship centres, they know what they are talking about, this is all they do.

Now the question of booking directly with the cruise line, well I am not going to say not too, but I am going say WHY.  A cruise line rarely will get you a better price than a travel agent would and a travel agent will work for you.  Often travel agents will offer you specials like on board credits, or gifts, like wine, or coupon books, etc. 

Princess Cays, Bahamas, Princess' private island
Now where to cruise as a first time cruiser.  If you just want to try out a cruise for the first time, I would recommend a seven day Eastern or Western Caribbean.  Why?  Seven days is a good intro, less than that you don't relax enough, also travelling a distance for anything less than seven days is too exhausting.  With seven days you get a real feel for what a cruise is all about, you don't feel too rushed.  Sure you could try a short cruise, maybe a repositioning cruise (see earlier blog), but often they are just way too short, you just get on board and learn the layout of the ship and you are getting off. 

I recommend the Caribbean because normally the weather is very cooperative, you get to travel to exotic places with lovely scenery and you can relax, and oh yeah it is romantic.  Also the price for seven day cruises is very competitive and you can often find great deals.

My next blog for first time cruisers will be on -- What to Expect on Embarkation Day and Disembarkation Day.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea for a blog! You certainly have the experience to answer the first time cruiser questions.

    We would like to suggest some additional insight about using a local agent versus online. While some local travel agencies do have a lot of cruise experience, there are many more that don't. A cruise only agency (like us) has agents that cruise all of the time, are certified experts with every cruise line, have much more opportunity for ship inspections, have intensive training sessions and are given updated product information directly by the cruise line representatives in our office, and deal with cruises and only cruises daily. That wealth of knowledge actually lets us give better advice to a first time cruiser because we have the experience to point them to the right cruise line and destination. This is one of the many reasons we not only have a dedicated customer service team for our internet bookings, but also cruise specialists available by phone.

    We look forward to more of your first time cruiser blogs. We are sure that they will be helpful for a lot of people interested in cruising!