There are several factors that need to be discussed before you can get an honest answer about this question. Is the cruise all about you, or is this a family get together? If you want to keep the younger people happy rather than the grandparents (even though they may be paying!) you may wish to avoid certain lines. If you have no obligations to anyone else travelling with you, you simply have to decide what is the cruise line that best fits your lifestyle. Do you like lots of people and action, or are you more interested in a smaller, more sophisticated experience? Are you a Holiday Inn type traveler or would you prefer Westin or Four Seasons? With the tremendous diversity in the types of ships these days and the destinations, there is a cruise line for you.
Time and money are the biggest questions. Here is a brief description of the more popular cruise destinations.
For the North America market, the Caribbean is the most popular for the seven-day or less cruiser– but this can mean huge amounts of people arriving in the same port on the same day. Things tend to get rather mass market and touristy when this occurs. If you have a little extra time on your hand the longer voyages (10-14 day) go further south and there are some terrific itineraries that include going into the Panama Canal. There are fewer ships doing these sailings, thus not near the crowds you see on the roundtrip Florida (Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa or Cape Canaveral ) itineraries. Some of the sailings will start further south, like Barbados or Puerto Rico. The air is generally more to get there, but the itineraries often are more interesting. Often clients will choose to do “back to back” sailings. This is where a ship will do a seven-day Eastern Caribbean followed by a seven-day Western Caribbean or vice versa. This does mean coming in and out of Florida and more sea days, but are very popular. Some of the cruise lines that do 10 day itineraries will change, so you can do a 20 day back to back and not repeat that many ports. There are some exceptional values in back to back sailings and the longer you cruise, generally your cost per day goes down. Flying from Alberta can be a lengthy process, so it sometimes is easier to justify when you are doing so for a longer trip.
The luxury brand lines do offer some more unique and exclusive itineraries in the Caribbean. There are plenty of lovely and interesting islands and countries to visit.
Many of the contemporary and premium cruise lines offer seven-day roundtrip sailings from Los Angeles or SanDiego. Most visit Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta There are exceptions that cruise longer and explore the Sea of Cortez or go further south. There are also plenty of three and four day itineraries as well, but they stay pretty north and do not visit the “tropical” Mexico. Mexico itineraries usually have some incredible deals. It's quite often that you can find a four or five star ship in a balcony stateroom for less than $100 per day – which is really quite incredible, as this includes all your meals and entertainment.
There are numerous seven-day roundtrip sailings from Seattle and Vancouver all summer long (May through September). While they generally visit the same ports, the cruise and back is more interesting when you depart from Vancouver. Staple stops on the roundtrip itineraries are Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. Some will include Sitka, which is quite a lovely and less commercial port. You should get at least one glacier experience, whether Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm or Hubbard Glacier.
There are some exceptional values on the seven-day “one way” cruise itineraries (up farther north to Seward as example). Most “one way” passengers will combine their cruise with a land package that may include Denali Park and other majestic wonders of Alaska. There are numerous Cruisetours to choose from. These tours, which would require air one way are more extensive and interesting than the roundtrip itineraries, and if you're coming from afar, and have time to explore, we recommend you consider this option. If you are adventurous, you can cruise one way and rent a car to explore on your own, but the cruise line packages, with their own trains, coaches and accommodations offer a quality experience without any stress whatsoever.
If you don't care about exploring farther north and just love to cruise, the 14 day back to back Alaska cruises are easy and offer incredible value. You can often buy an early season cruise for around $75 per day! You generally do the same itinerary twice – one time (seven-days) you're cruising north and the next cruising south. Holland America, as example offers super deals on these roundtrip Vancouver sailings all summer long. If you love cruising and don't mind repeating ports, take advantage of this option.
This is one incredible place to go if you haven't been and cruising makes it very affordable, whether your choice is for the historic Baltic or a warm and sunny Mediterranean experience. Most of the cruise lines have European itineraries to choose from, whether you are looking for contemporary, premium or luxury brands. To top this off, are many river cruise options, which are quite outstanding. Your cost per day, when you take into account all your meals, sightseeing, etc. is significantly less cruising than land travel, and you get such a wide range of interesting ports. Cruising Europe is generally very busy. If you are looking for a relaxing, do very little holiday, perhaps Europe is not the itinerary for you. There is so much to see and so much history, most people feel guilty if they don't get off the ship. Where most cruises would have at three ‘sea days” on a seven-day itinerary, Europe may have only one or perhaps not any at all. If you are traveling all the way to Europe from North America, take a look at the 10 day or longer voyages. As mentioned above, you may also wish to consider doing back to back sailings which more often than not do not repeat ports – but if they do, it will give you a chance to see what you missed the first time.
Air to Europe is expensive. Your pre or post hotel are generally very pricy. The Euro or British Pound, compared to the CAD or US $ makes things add up. If you are looking for a bargain holiday, take Europe out of play. Things are going to cost you much more than what you'd pay elsewhere and if you're not prepared to pay, don't go.
July and August is prime time, and the Med can be exceptionally busy, let alone extremely hot. If you can, see the Med between late April and mid June or after Labour Day. The Baltic and cruises farther north to Norway, Iceland and Greenland tend to be better weather during prime time. There are some niche cruise lines that explore waters that the major ships avoid. They tend to be pricey but offer quite a unique experience.
Generally in March and April or October and November there are quite a number of ships repositioning and these can offer some exceptional value. This allows you only one leg of that long international flight, gives you five or six (or more) days to completely relax during the Atlantic crossing, and still gives you plenty of interesting ports to explore. Most clients will add pre or post land stays to their trip, and because of the time of year can often find some great deals. If you have the time, we recommend you take a Trans-Atlantic cruise. It can have rough seas, but more often than not, you won't.
One of the best values are the repositioning sailings that depart Florida in April that cruise to San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle or Vancouver or in reverse in late September or early October. These ships are generally moving to and from the Alaska season, and since there are quite a few sailings all at the same time, you can often find an 18-21 day sailing at an incredible price. Besides the interesting Panama Canal experience, most sailings include some Caribbean, Central American and Mexican ports.
If time is a little leaner, you can do the 10 day sailings from Florida most of the winter which do not go through both ends. Other options include generally 14 or 15 day full Canal itineraries, and are available also during the winter months.
Taxes aboard Panama Canal cruises are usually more expensive than most cruises. The fees the ships have to pay to go through are unbelievably high. Saying this, you can still find amazing value topped off with an interesting experience and we recommend you do the Panama at least once in your life.
Most sailings are from San Diego or Los Angeles and will make a brief stop in Mexico in order to satisfy the Jones Act rules that allow cruise ships to open casinos, duty free, etc. If you like sea days, you'll love these Hawaii cruises! In a 15 day itinerary, as example, you really only get five or six days in Hawaii. There are longer itineraries a couple times a year that start or end in Vancouver, and in April 2010 there is a 19 day roundtrip Vancouver itinerary for those who don't like to fly. These itineraries generally attract a somewhat older clientele, but you will see younger people onboard, even with kids – but not many unless it's during the Xmas season.
The most popular time of year is October to see the colors, but this itinerary is becoming increasingly more popular. Visiting this rather convenient part of the world is lovely. There are many cruise line options during the rather short window of opportunity. Some ships will run regular departures throughout the summer but the congregation of cruise lines happen as the leaves turn. Prices are generally higher for this itinerary as demand generally outweighs supply.
Most winter sailings (their summer) around 14 days long and will go from Auckland to Sydney or vice versa. The flights to and from are long and usually quite pricey, but this is a wonderful place to visit. You may consider adding at least a week extra to your trip to further explore both countries. Some cruise lines have reduced their sailings or even eliminated this itinerary, as demand from North America in today's economic condition has brought the cruise pricing quite a bit down. For those of you who need an excuse to travel, have the time and money, it's a great opportunity to visit. If you can, spend a week in both countries and plan a month away.
If you have some time on your hands there are roundtrip West coast length itineraries that usually include Hawaii, Tahiti and more on route – or you can cruise one way and fly home. These trips range from around 30 – 65 days, but dollar for dollar are often exceptional value.
Unfortunately there are less ships offering roundtrip Papeete, Tahiti sailings as there used to be, but there are options. This exquisite and exotic part of the world needs to be seen and the smaller ships that do this itinerary goes to places right out of the movie “South Pacific”. It is so nice to see a place that is not overtaken by concrete and is still so relatively untouched.
Tahiti is expensive, both to get to and to stay. Cruising supply is not overabundant so you don't see bargains very often, but that's the price you pay if you want paradise!
Some of the larger cruise lines make a stop or two on their voyage sailings through the South Pacific, but if you want to really see the beauty of Tahiti or the Marquesas islands, you need to think smaller and have enough time to truly explore.
This has become increasingly more popular and most major cruise lines offer itineraries from Rio or Buenos Aries going up to Valparaiso, Chile or vice versa. There are many interesting ports along the way and traveling here is quite special.
If you can include Antarctica, it's absolutely stunning. The large ships cruise through, but if you have an adventurous side, you may consider one of the smaller exploration vessels that come and go generally from southern Argentina. Cape Horn and the Drake Passage is notorious for big seas, so be warned - but the pain and suffering is worth it as the beauty and solitude of Antarctica simply cannot be described. Once going down there, it makes Alaska look like Disneyland !
If staying warmer is more your style, you may consider a smaller ship up the Amazon. While the major lines (larger ships) do have the odd sailing, the luxury and smaller ships offer a much more “up close and personal” experience.
Some sailings allow time for historic tours in Peru or Ecuador and for those of you that prefer nature over people, visit the Galapagos. There are a number of ships that have permission to cruise these waters including the Celebrity Xpedition.
There are a number of choices, but the cruise lines we know best in North America tend to just “touch” on this destination occasionally or as part of one of their longer voyages. There are convenient “one way” sailings that depart from or return to the West Coast and generally via Alaska. A popular option is to cruise one way to Japan, as example, spend time on land there and then fly home or vice versa.
Some of the more luxury brands visit Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and other exotic areas. River cruising in China is extremely popular and should be considered.
Again, not as many ships offering these destinations as regular “roundtrip” itineraries, but they are usually included in voyage and world sailings. Cruising the Nile is extremely popular for people visiting Egypt. If your cruise touches on Mombasa, Kenya or Capetown, South Africa, you want to do your best to add a safari to your experience. Dubai is like Las Vegas on steroids and is quite unbelievable if you like complete excessiveness in the middle of nowhere! It's worth seeing to believe! Where else can you ski indoors when it's 110 degrees outside!
There are not many places in the world as exotic as the Maldives, the Seychelle Islands, Madagscar or the Comores. There are not many known cruise line sailings through these areas anymore, but if you have interest in going we have personal experience on these unique destinations.
Taking a world cruise or a long voyage is on the wish list of most avid travelers. The premium and luxury brands offer many unique sailings that encompass so much in a relatively short time. Whether you are looking for a 30 day cruise across the Atlantic or Pacific, to the full 100+ day adventure of a lifetime, there is an itinerary that will suit you. Pricing is based on supply and demand, as holds true for the whole industry, the pricing for world cruises is generally more expensive per day. Unlike most sailings, the cruise lines are OK with departing without a full ship. Their onboard revenues are not as high per day as they'd see on a shorter cruise, so they make up for it with the higher cruise fares, and generally will do minimal (if any) discounting at the last minute to fill the last few staterooms. They don't want twenty people who paid a lot less making a thousand who paid the going rate angry aboard a sailing the spans three months or more! While there can be some extra incentives to book a long voyage, the cruise lines try and do this well in advance. Most people plan a year or more to take a sailing with this length and cost, but with today's economy you just may see some space when you normally wouldn't. World and longer voyages often have stricter cancellation policies with multiple levels of penalties. Where a normal cruise may often be fully refundable 76 days before, a world or voyage sailing may be 121 days. Make sure and ask for details when you are making your booking. Booking deposits are usually much higher as well.
While there are plenty of excuses these days to not taking a cruise of this length or cost, if you have the “you only live once” philosophy and this is on your “to do”, or on your “bucket list” (if you saw the movie) then do it! It is likely you will get a better than normal deal in 2009 and 2010 than what you would have paid in the past.
On our web site is plenty more specific information on destinations and ports. We also will be delighted to offer you our knowledge especially on itineraries that we have done personally.
An inside stateroom has no view to the water, but the service aboard the ship in most categories (not including suites) really is not different. An outside stateroom may have a port hole or may have an obstructed view, but you can see the ocean or river. A full oceanview stateroom should have completely unobstructed water views. Balcony staterooms will have an opening door to your own private lanai. Suites, which can come in various sizes usually come with some benefits, with the larger ones often coming with concierge service, some special dining and boarding privileges and more. A deluxe suite on Holland America, as example, has access to a private lounge, includes champagne in your room, special onboard invitations to cocktail parties, lunches, includes free dry cleaning, etc. If you don't need any fresh air to sleep at night, couldn't care less on where your stateroom is located on the ship, and are budget conscious, then an inside stateroom may be all you need. There is nothing wrong with an inside stateroom, and while it may not have as fancy a bathroom, or have the bedding a suite has, the money you save can buy a lot of other things. The majority of guests do want the luxury of their own balcony and in today's ship designs most staterooms have them – so the difference in price is not outrageous. Having a balcony or suite will make your cruise more memorable and having the extra space is very nice indeed. Reading a book without people around or enjoying breakfast on your balcony and the sea breeze is for you, then spend the extra money and spoil yourself.
Obviously the quality of the accommodations is different on all the cruise lines, and some of the newer ships have more modern features, whether they be flat screen TVs or jetted tubs or showers. Some ships now offer “Spa” type staterooms and amenities which allows even more indulging in the pampered life aboard.
Unless you have purchased air through the cruise line, you may be out of luck and have to meet up with the ship at the next port of call at your own expense. In general, if you bought the cruise lines air and transfer package the ship will wait for you providing it does not impact the timing to arrive at the next port of call. If they cannot wait or the Captain chooses not to, you will be flown or transported to the next port of call at the cruise lines expense.
In the old days most cruise lines would supply transfers and hotel, but this is becoming a distant memory unfortunately. Some of the luxury brands will include this, but clearly understand that this may not be the case with most contemporary or even premium brands. If you live on the West coast and are taking a cruise from, say, Florida, you either must be on the red eye or you will leave the day before and a forced overnight is required – and that you likely will have to pay for. You do not want to take any chances on missing your ship, and it's more probable that the cruise lines will book you the day before so you don't. If you were in Vancouver and were cruising from San Diego, the cruise line would probably fly you out on an early flight the same day. Europe and other far away destinations cruises generally have a forced overnight unless they feel they can get you in with enough of a time buffer – and be prepared to pay for it.
If an engine breaks down, they have to alter due to a medical emergency, weather, country unrest, or for any reason at all, the cruise lines will not give you much compensation at all. They generally only will refund that portion of the taxes. Sometimes, and especially if it something within their control that caused the change, they may apply some sort of shipboard credit. It is generally never enough, as invariably the port that had to be cancelled was the one you were the most excited about going to. Things happen, and while most sailings go exactly as planned if they have to change ports or even delete completely, do not expect much of a refund, if any.
This is totally at the discretion of the cruise line and you cannot count on being able to especially after final payment. This is a reason that you want cancellation insurance. Sometimes, you can make changes for a fee, but again it's their call. Cruise lines pick up additional revenue from reselling fully paid cancelled cabins and if they have people on a wait list they are less likely to allow you a change, even with fees as they can make a lot more by getting full payment again. Some cruise lines own insurance policies allow you to change or cancel without any medical reason, but they are usually more expensive than policies such as what we sell with RBC.
By having your credit card on file when you check in you will save yourself a lot of the hassle of having to settle your account when it's time to disembark. With your credit card all you have to do is check the statement, and if it's OK, you need to do no more. Tipping, which is extra on most ships (except for some luxury brands) is requested at between $10 - $12.50 per person per day. This covers all those giving you service on the ship, including your room steward, dining staff, etc. You are not expected to tip anymore over and above the pre-set daily amounts. On many ships, you actually can adjust the total tip amount (up or down) by visiting the front desk a day or so before the end of your cruise. Should you decide to reduce the tip, they are likely to ask you why as service aboard the ship is very important to them. Most onboard charges are done in US $.
Your ship room key is usually also your onboard credit card. You are not allowed to pay for drinks, etc. with cash or even your credit card. Your room key does it all.
If you do not have a credit card, most cruise lines require a US $ cash deposit which is generally calculated on a set amount per day per person. At the end of the cruise, should you have spent less than what you deposited, they will refund you. If you are charging more than you have on account, they are likely to call you to enhance your deposit. Bottom line is the cruise line wants to get paid, and they're not going to let you charge away unless they know they are covered.
As mentioned above, cruise line air comes with some insurance. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, the cruise line will get you, at their expense to the next port of call. It may also include ground transportation to the hotel or directly to the cruise terminal. Cruise line air is generally more expensive than what you'd pay on your own, and the hotel prices they charge are often much more expensive.
If you are comfortable making your own flight, hotel and transfer arrangements it usually works out to be much less. If you do this on your own, and buy regular air (whether through us or through other sources, including online agencies like Expedia) please take our advice and allow yourself at least one day before sailing in your departure city. You do not want to be stuck where you don't want to be at the time the ship is scheduled to leave. You may learn a very expensive lesson as it can be very costly to catch up.
A lot of the cruise lines have oil price levels that will determine whether or not they implement or discontinue charging fuel surcharges. Carnival Corporation (which owns Holland America, Princess, Costa, Carnival, Seabourn) have a $70 US per barrel policy. The bottom line is that when you book you may not be charged a fuel surcharge, but if the cruise line decides to implement, they can, and you will have to pay. You cannot cancel your cruise after any penalty period and receive your money back if you wish to cancel because of this charge. It's a new fact of life about cruising these days, and be prepared to pay if the oil prices are high.
If you booked and paid at a time when the surcharge was in place, most cruise lines will give you an onboard credit of the amount you paid or the difference if they eliminated or reduced the surcharge.
Definitely. It is true, we make a commission for selling it to you, but even if you buy it somewhere else, do not take a chance. We have seen someone literally lose over $100,000 as they got sick in the wrong place. While the odds are you will never need insurance, if you don't have it and you need it you will be extremely annoyed with yourself for not buying it. It's only a small part of your vacation cost and do the right thing and put insurance in your budget. Some credit cards have some coverage, but be very careful to check to see what they actually cover. We remember an instance when a gentleman declined insurance as he claimed he was covered by his card and had to cancel since his wife got ill – and he lost the complete cost of his Panama Canal cruise as the fine print in his credit card policy would not cover him. Losing the cost of your trip before you go would be upsetting, to say the least, but could be only a fraction of what it would cost you if you got sick while on vacation. We've heard the horror stories and we've seen happy outcomes for people who have had insurance. Do yourself a favor: have a stress free vacation and buy at least medical insurance and take a serious look at combo packages.
Some people, saying all that, cannot qualify for RBC type insurance due to age or pre-existing conditions. Before you book, make sure you talk to your agent to look at all options, which may include more expensive cruise line offered coverage.
We always recommend insurance, whether from a company like RBC or through policies offered directly from the cruise lines. There are dates in which a portion or all of your deposit or even full payment becomes non refundable. We will talk to you about your options for cancellation or medical coverage. If you book any cruise or travel with us and have to cancel there is a $100 per booking service fee that will apply. If this should happen, we are happy to offer you a $100 credit on your next booking as long as it is made within 12 months of your cancellation. The credit has a “one time” transfer. You can't book and cancel multiple times.
We have emergency numbers for you to call if you run into any flight, hotel or cruise problems.
Unfortunately this is a part of the travel industry that people don't like much. You could buy a seat on a flight for $1000 and are part of 80% onboard that paid that amount. The person next to you may have paid $800 and part of 10% that paid that amount. There also may be 10% on the same flight that paid $500. This is all about yielding, and the airline (in this case) cannot go back to the people who paid $1000 or $800 and refund them the difference so everyone pays the cheapest fare of $500. The airline would go bust if they did. This generally holds true for hotels and cruise lines too. When you book you will get exceptional value compared to what is available at that time. The reality of things is that the price could go up or down at any time and getting an adjustment with some cruise lines and travel suppliers is unlikely, but on occasion can happen. The terms and conditions often allow a legal way out for them if they lower prices on stateroom categories or promotions that technically are not exactly the same as what you originally bought. In other words, sometimes we can help you get a lower price if this happens, but it may be out of our control. Our advertised package prices rarely allow any price adjusting.
It's true the economy has been in a slump lately and there are often deals to be had if you wait right to the last minute. The problem is that you may get a great last minute cruise deal, but the flight went up, or vice versa. Exchange rates can fluctuate and make a difference. You simply have to be happy with the price you buy your vacation for and not get upset if a very few people save a bit more than you did – you have already done very well and are getting a much better deal than the vast majority of other passengers. Also remember, prices go up just as often as they go down as its all about supply and demand.
Be very careful to read all the terms and conditions and do not book until you are comfortable with them. While there are plenty of terms that you should review before you book the key ones are:
• Passenger names on the booking must be identical to your passports (which you must have if taking a flight or going to countries that require them). Please take your time and double check that names are correct and surnames are surnames, etc.
• all passengers must be legally able to enter and leave all the countries on the itinerary
• your passports are valid for six months after the last day of your vacation
• any visas or vaccinations for any countries on the itinerary are your responsibility to get
• you understand that there are strict booking policies and once you decide to book you are clear of the cancellation and refund terms
• you read all the hotel, airline and cruise lines own terms and conditions and you agree to them
We know there are a lot of ways to book travel these days and we appreciate your business. It is our goal to deliver exceptional value in a very up front honest way.
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