Travel

The best cruises: How to choose a cruise

Author: Canadian Living

Travel

The best cruises: How to choose a cruise

Oh, for the Ocean Blue
Gilligan, eat your heart out! Today's cruise passengers are treated incredibly well. You can choose to cruise virtually anywhere in the world, from oceans to rivers, and on ships that range from freighters to floating luxury resorts complete with wave pools, ice rinks, climbing walls, and so much more. And cruising is a wonderful way to sample what the world has to offer. You can travel from place to place, seeing the highlights everywhere, yet you only have to unpack once and you never have to worry about navigating. When you factor in the hotel and transportation costs of other vacations, cruises can offer good value, too. Most of all, they can be low stress and high fun if you choose the one that suits your vacation style.

Here's what you need to know to get started on the cruise-ship lifestyle.

How do I choose a cruise?
With such a vast selection of cruises out there, how do you know which one will be the best fit for you? Start by asking yourself some basic questions. The answers will help you narrow down your choices.

• Where do I want to go? If you have a firm destination in mind, such as Mexico or the Greek Islands, this is your logical start point.

• Which water do I want to cruise? Cruise ships don't just sail the seas, they also head down rivers and canals, which can be a wonderful way to explore the interior of a country rather than its coastline.

• How much time do I have?
Cruises range from three-day weekend getaways to year-round floating homes, so you can find a cruise to suit virtually any schedule. Some of the most popular choices include trips of seven, 10 and 14 days, but the destination may be the determining factor in the length of your trip. For example, if you're heading all the way from North America to Europe to cruise, you may not want to go with just a four-day option unless it's only one part of your trip. Otherwise you'll spend most of the cruise getting over jet lag and then packing up to leave.

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Excerpted from Travel Best Bets: An Insider's Guide to Taking the Best Trips Ever, copyright 2008 by Claire Newell. Excerpted with permission from Whitecap Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
• What's my vacation priority? Do you want to relax or enjoy the nightlife? Watch wildlife or shop till you drop? Go on eco-adventures or tour historic sites? Some ships are geared to older travellers, with more of an emphasis on history and culture, while others definitely set sail with "party" in mind. You don't want to end up on a ship with a crowd of passengers who are well out of your age or interest range. Some ships also offer specific "theme" cruises, ranging from music to casinos to archeology. If you have a specific focus, these can be an excellent option.

• Who's travelling with me?
Your vacation priority may not be the same as that of your travelling companions, especially if you span a significant age range. In this case, you may need to compromise and choose a cruise that will keep everyone fairly happy. This is one of the big advantages of a cruise: there's always plenty to do, both on board and on shore.

• How much do I like other people?
This sounds like an odd question, but it's an important one. You can set sail with a handful of other people, with a few hundred, or with a few thousand. If you'd prefer a more intimate experience, you may prefer a smaller ship, which also has the advantage of being able to dock at a greater variety of ports than the larger ships. And if you really want to be adventurous, you can hop on board a freighter. They often take paying passengers and the choices available now are as vast as the oceans and waterways served by these ships. Expect rates to range from US$80 to US$140 per day for trips from 7 days to more than 100 days, and note that there is often an upper age limit, usually 79 or 80, but sometimes 75. There are exceptions, however, especially on shorter, coastal routes, and in those cases when more than 12 passengers are on board, when a medical doctor must be on board as well.

Travel best bet!
I've seen cruises offer groups of friends and families a wonderful vacation experience. In one case, five couples of varying ages travelled together. Some wanted to tour on shore, other wanted to shop, and others just wanted to relax. The cruise gave everyone the opportunity to do their own thing, and they had a great time comparing notes when they all meet for dinner each evening.

Read more:
Tips for women on travelling solo
7 reasons to visit Maui
7 reasons to visit Sanibel, Florida

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Excerpted from Travel Best Bets: An Insider's Guide to Taking the Best Trips Ever, copyright 2008 by Claire Newell. Excerpted with permission from Whitecap Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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The best cruises: How to choose a cruise

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