How Relevant is Ranking when Planning your Cruise?
The ranking of the cruise lines may be of no value when in search of your perfect cruise. The ranking is generally accurate given the industry as a whole, but this has little to do with selecting a ship for your personal cruise or that of your group. Yes, we can begin a search by the initial categorizations and the process of elimination:
- If choosing a River Cruise, what’s size of river cruise vessel or river barge? What river in what part of the world
- If choosing an Ocean Cruise, would you want a motorized vessel or sailing ship ?
- Luxury, Premium or Standard ?
- Time of Year ?
- Length of Cruise ?
- Destinations Preferred ?
- Relative Value ?
- Business or Leisure ?
- Meeting or Incentive ?
3 Primary Considerations when you Begin Planning your Cruise
The first three things that need to be determined prior to considering any ranking are:
1) The length or cruise desired,
2) The time of the year and,
The length of the cruise is the most important issue because most cruise ships in the world cruise for 7 nights or longer. Cruises of less than 7 nights are mostly limited to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Cruises, if longer than 7 nights, are usually taken by retired people because the working class has difficulty leaving work for more than a week at a time.
The Time of the year is the second most important consideration, because 80% of the vessels normally in the Caribbean depart the end of March and early April for Europe, the Canadian Maritimes and Bermuda or trans-canal to Alaska. This leaves fewer options for those wishing to cruise from a U.S. port until they return in October or November. Ninety (90%) percent of the ships that remain in the Caribbean are Carnival Cruise Line ships.
Budget is the final primary consideration. A limited budget and a length of less than 7 nights quickly eliminates all of the Luxury cruise lines leaving “Premium” & “Standard” cruise lines as the only options and there are no Premium cruise lines departing from the U.S. for the six months other than in Alaska from May through September.
Only after these three considerations are addressed is it possible to consider the destination and itinerary desired and then select between the cruise lines and vessels that offer cruises in the region desired. If the destination is Europe on an ocean or river cruise, the summer months are your only option. The same is true for Alaska, Bermuda, the Galapagos or the Northeast United States. South America is only an option during our winter, which is their summer. Hawaii, Tahiti and areas of the South Pacific and the Pacific Rim offer cruises year round.
The next step is to find the best value within the budget. Now everyone has the option to search and book online, but cruises unlike air travel are not a commodity where a seat is a seat and the only difference is price and the color of the paint on the plane.
Why Use Corporate Cruise Consultant?
Each cruise line and each vessel within the cruise lines is different as are the categories of staterooms available. Those booking directly will never find all of their options because few know cruise lines other than Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian. Princess, Celebrity and Holland America and a few of the luxury lines such as Crystal, Regent, Silversea and Seabourn.
The only way to learn all of your options and to obtain the best rates continues to be through an agent who will save you hours of time and possibly a great deal of money. A good agent will be aware of the specials on all cruise lines, how to book a Category Guarantee”, Senior Rates, special residence rates for various states, the patterns and deployments of each ship and its alternating itineraries.
A good agent will know the on-board facilities and the average age of passengers on a given vessel and itinerary. If you are planning a meeting, you will need to know the available conference space, the AV, concessions, amenities, etc. If you don’t know what to ask, you are unlikely to find the answers online.
We have been booking individual Leisure Travel, Meetings, Conventions and Conferences on cruise ships since 1976 and it is a daily challenge to be knowledgeable about every cruise line, vessel and itinerary and all of the other variables necessary to determine the best options given an individual or group desired Length, Time of year and Budget. If you are ready to start planning your cruise, contact us today at (561) 625-8807.
Cruise vacations are great vacations because they are all-inclusive
– – Or are they?
It is true that cruises are basically all-inclusive, however, that refers to the basic cruise cost on most cruise lines. It is the incidental items that are not included and these nickels and dimes add up. Luxury cruise lines such as Crystal, Regent, Silverseas, Seabourn, Paul Gauguin, Seadream Yacht, Oceania, Azamara, Hapag-Lloyd, Ponant Cruises and others are all-inclusive and there are no extra charges for alcohol, shore excursions, specialty restaurants, soft drinks, bottled water, etc.
Therefore, when comparing the relative cost between Standard, Premium And Luxury cruise lines is very important to consider what is actually included in the ”all-inclusive” cruise fare. Standard & Premium cruise lines will charge extra for alcohol, soft drinks, bottled water, shore excursions, dining in specialty restaurants, etc. The staterooms on luxury vessels will be larger, have more amenities, will have luxurious baths and will have balconies without paying an up charge from a standard ocean view stateroom to a balcony stateroom. In fact the balcony stateroom on a luxury cruise line may be comparable to a suite on the Standard or Premium cruise line.
Avoid a shock on the last day of your cruise when the bill is slipped on to your stateroom door. You may find that what you have spent for alcohol, soft drinks, water, specialty restaurants, shore excursions and have spent in the casino and spa totals as much as you paid for the cruise itself. If you know you will drink a lot, purchase the unlimited alcohol package. Purchase the soft drink package and bottled water package rather than paying as you go if you know that you will consume a fair amount.
Shore excursions can now be purchased in advance by going on the cruise line website, selecting and booking the excursions you want. However, shore excursions can also be purchased in advance by clicking on the shore excursion link on this website. You will find that the cost for the same excursions with the same tour operators is considerably less expensive than purchasing the tours through the cruise line.
When not purchasing a luxury cruise, the basic price of your cruise includes accommodations, room service, food and beverage, taxes and fees, nightly entertainment, use of the fitness center, etc. There may be 7-10 restaurants on a ship, but you may only eat in some of them without a surcharge. Shops are a great value because they are duty free, but those nickels & dimes still add up. And then there are the art auctions, the casinos, massages, spa treatments, Bingo, wine tastings and gratuities.
Pre-pay your gratuities so you have a fixed rate usually less than $10.00 per person per day. You will pay a lot more if you pay the gratuities on the ship. Select the cruise line that is your best fit. Read “Cruises #101” and then the “Questions to Ask” and you will be well prepared to select the right vessel for you.
Now that you we’ve shown you where to look to decide which cruise line is best for you and you now know the what to look for when deciding on your best cruise vacation; why would you delay in booking?
Call us today at 561-625-8807 to book your best cruise vacation for Individuals or Groups.
The Joy of Vacationing on a Cruise
October, is National Cruise Month, and is officially here! With an opportunity to save big on your next cruise, you have an opportunity to experience the joy of cruising.
October has impressive events and deal offers in store for cruisers. You can find impressive saving deals and spending credits for cruise ships with offers of values of up to $500, suite upgrades and several other incentives. October’s National Cruise Vacation Month has a centerpiece event coming up between October 21st to 27th – the NCVW, having well over 5,000 cruise lines and travel agencies participating in it from all over Canada and the US. Several other cruise deals are to be announced in the coming days leading to the event. So, be sure to stay in touch with cruise lines and travel agents for latest updates!
Looking for vacations that offer glamour, romance, and meet your cruise needs completely? What you need is a getaway on a luxurious cruise ship. You will have the experience of a lifetime right from the moment you step abroad, indulging your whims with amazing hospitality, food and wine.
Life on a cruise begins right from the moment you set eyes on your cruise ship. Going on a cruise has several benefits:
- Spending hours at the airport or in a car is a very difficult way to start off a vacation.
- Cruises are easy travel methods for all those who wish to make their trip relaxing and hassle-free.
- A cruse is a great way to visit places all over the world.
- Cruises offer an array of activities to make vacationing entertaining.
- Cruise lines and travel agencies offer amazing vacationing deals.
Once you get to know your way around the ship, life on the ship will turn into a journey of fun and adventure.
Cruise lines offer you the opportunity to go on an exciting world tour. Here are some great locations to consider for your next cruise:
Off the coast of West Africa, the ideally placed cluster of Canary Islands boasts it’s amazing landscapes and wildlife to make your cruising experience an exceptional one.
Always a favorite destination among cruisers, Alaska offers awe-inspiring sights and activities that are exclusive to just this region of the world. Catch a glimpse of the marine life as you glide through the deep blue waters aboard your cruise ship.
Pristine sandy white beaches, glistening blue waters, exotic views and the best seafood – Bahamas has everything to make your cruise perfect.
Nothing compares to the amazing experience of sailing past Sydney’s iconic Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge.
Offering some of the most breath-taking sights in the world, a cruise to New Zealand should be at the top of your “must-visit” list.
Other cruising locations include the Caribbean, Middle East, Egypt, Mediterranean, Far East, Norway and several other locations worldwide.
Why Cruise Hawaii?
Tax Deductible Cruises
There are a number of advantages to cruising the Hawaiian Islands. One of them is Meeting and Incentive cruises for those companies that want their cruise programs to be tax deductible. The ships that operate in Hawaii by Norwegian Cruise Line are tax deductible because they are US registered. Most of the cruise ships in the world are foreign registered due the tax implications and other US regulations. As a result not only are meetings at sea in Hawaii tax deductible, but are deductible at twice the rate of a land based program. Due to the pricing policies of the cruise lines, the second occupant of a cruise is free other than port taxes and gratuities. In addition, cruises are all inclusive.
A Cruise Includes Multiple Destinations
Another major advantage is that the meeting planner does not have to select one island over another because a cruise visits all of the major islands with no time lost due to transfers. If the group is on a land based program and wants to include more than one island a day is lost just in the transferring. The group must first pack their bags in the first hotel, travel to the airport to arrive an hour prior to departure, take a 15 minute flight, collect their bags, transfer to the new hotel, check in and unpack. By this time at least a half a day is lost.
If the group takes a cruise, they have all of their food and entertainment covered, a complementary cocktail party and nightly entertainment. They leave port each evening and arrive in the next port early the next day. Many people have rental cars waiting at each port so that they can immediately begin touring the island on their own. The next time you plan a trip to Hawaii rather than decide between islands, see them all on a cruise. For more information, click here.
Group Vacations – A Shift in Family Vacations
Family vacations have changed dramatically in the past several years. The current economy has driven many families to one of two very diverse options. One option is cruises, which I will discuss in the next paragraph, and the other is vacation home rentals. We have personally seen a dramatic increase in the rentals of our vacation homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the summer of 2012. In fact, the months of June, July, and August of this year were completely sold out and the winter months are more heavily booked than ever before. July of 2013 is also half booked so the trend seems to be booking much farther in advance. Most of our bookings come through rental sites such as HomeAway and can be viewed by clicking on the New WaterFront Mountain Home or the Mountain Log Cabin. Still other requests are received from VRBO and FlipKey. I would recommend any of these. Many reservations are for anniversaries, graduations, and family reunions. Others come to participate in Floyd Fest and other musical events in the area and the world’s largest flea market in Hillsville, VA each Fall. People bring their pets and simply enjoy the opportunity to get away from home and spend time in a more serene environment in the mountains. They can fish, ride four wheelers and go horseback riding, mountain biking and boating.
Another area where we have seen a dramatic increase in families is cruising. Cruises also offer a great vacation opportunity for families. It is difficult for small children to remain quiet in a hotel and it is little relief for mom. Cruises offer so many activities for children that it is difficult for them to join the family for meals because they are having so much fun. The last thing the children want to do is stop playing. The cruise ship is a secure environment where the children are constantly supervised by others, at no charge, leaving mom time to simply relax. There is no cooking, no washing, no cleaning and someone even makes the beds! Disney is the Cadillac for kids, but all cruise lines offer excellent children’s programs, usually divided into one for tots, one for tweens, and another for teens.
Meetings at Sea
More and more corporations now permit their employees to bring their families, not only on incentive trips but also on meetings at sea. The company may not pick up the cost of the family, but the single supplement on cruise ships is 200% of the per person double occupancy rate. So if the company is paying for their employee in a single stateroom, they are actually paying for two people whether or not there are two people in the stateroom. As a result, the only additional expenses are for the third and fourth occupants and those costs are nominal. The opportunity to bring one’s family is a great perk. It does not interfere with the meeting activities since the newer ships have excellent meeting space that they provided no charge. And the family members have so many activities that those attending the meetings are not even missed.
The ability to bring one’s family and the lower pricing of doing so also increases the number of people who participate in a meeting, if attendance is not mandatory. Just the fact that a meeting is on a cruise ship increases participation. The evenings offer family centered activities and events as do the days ashore. A cruise enables parents to enjoy unique opportunities with their children when not in meetings. Some companies even set sales goals at various levels to enable their employees to bring their families at company expense. Cruises offer something for everyone.