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.
The Best Way to Visit Europe!
The best way to visit the capitals of Europe is on a River or Barge Cruise. Motor Coach trips have you packing and unpacking as you check in and out of different hotels each evening. River cruises, like ocean cruises, move you from city to city unpacking only once. The newer river vessels are as modern as the new ocean vessels with several differences. They are much smaller averaging approximately 70 – 150 passengers and there is absolutely no motion. The newer vessels have “French Balconies” enabling passengers to feel the excitement as the vessel cruises past the cities and castles.
River Cruises navigate most of the major waterways of Europe as well as other rivers of the world such as the Nile, the Amazon, The Mississippi, the Columbia and the rivers of China and Asia. We cruised the Danube and the Elbe and docked in major cities like Budapest, Vienna and Prague as well as smaller cities like Dresden Passau and Melk. The entire trip was marked by phenomenal scenery in every direction and great time ashore. These vessels stop in the heart of the city and so much is within easy walking distance. Some river cruise lines include a shore excursion at each stop and all offer them as options. Because these cruises are all-inclusive, they are far less expensive than independent travel and you have ready access to experienced guides throughout the trip.
Barging is yet another unique experience. As with the river, barges traveling throughout the canals of Europe were a major avenue for moving goods from the rural agricultural areas to the major cities. These barges were originally powered by horses that walked along both sides of the canals. The barges left only an inch or two on each side between the barge and the canal walls. Today’s barges are powered and designed for comfort and range from 4 passengers to 30 depending on the canal. Because they are small, they are intimate very much like chartering a yacht for the ocean. They have their own crew, Captain and chef. They move only a few miles per hour so passengers can step off at any time onto the former horse paths. Simply grab one of the bicycles, ride into a small village and then catch up with the barge and board again.
Meetings, Incentives & Groups
Both the river cruises and the barge cruises are perfect for individual or group corporate incentives or for charter. Planners who think out of the box and are looking for something different should look into these options. Family groups and simply groups of friends find the barge cruises offers a “private” vacation that gives them the advantage of influencing the trip. We recommend European Barging for your European River and Barge Cruises. Click here to inquire about European river and barge cruises. It is important to use Promo Code #EURO1 when calling or using the online form.
When Should I Book?
Shore Excursions should be booked prior to boarding your cruise ship whenever possible. A few years ago it was not possible to book shore excursions in advance, but today’s technology now makes this possible. As a result, many individuals and groups now pre-book their excursions. That in turn results in the most popular excursions being sold out by the time you board and go to the Shore Excursion Desk. This is particularly true of Alaskan cruises because seeing Alaska almost demands leaving the port of call for trips by seaplane, helicopter, river raft, motor coach, or deep-sea fishing and whale watching, etc. The ports of call are themselves interesting, but there is nothing like boarding a small plane that lands on the glacial lake for a salmon bake onshore. Shore Excursions can be booked directly with the cruise line or through independent operators.
Why Use an Independent Operator for Shore Excursions?
Independent shore excursion operators use the same ground handlers that are used by the cruise lines. The difference is that their pricing tends to be considerably lower. Their sites are also more easily maneuvered than the cruise line sites. Because these operators use the same ground vendors, their tours are often identical. What IS missing is another layer of profit added by the cruise lines. Prior to booking your shore excursion through the cruise line, you owe it to yourself to review and compare the two resources, by clicking here. Another major benefit is that you are provided with a toll free number and someone to speak with. It is one thing to view the tour descriptions and another entirely to be able to speak with an experienced tour agent and ask questions. Many times planning the vacation is as much fun as the trip itself. Take the time to explore all of the things you can do in your ports of call by viewing our link to Port Promotions.
Why Book Shore Excursions At All?
There are some ports that offer plenty of activities to enjoy on your own. Most passengers end up shopping. One caution regarding shopping; all ships offer Duty Free Shopping onboard. Pricing onboard is often lower and the quality is usually superior and comes with a guarantee. Shore excursions are certainly not a necessity. This is certainly true in the Caribbean where ships often spend a full day on a private island. For many, a day on the beach is all that is needed and is often a major highlight of a cruise. But if you want to go deep-sea fishing, diving, jet skiing, golfing or on a snorkeling trip, it is good to book in advance. Booking shore excursions is certainly recommended in South America, in Europe and in any location where you do not speak the language. However, prior to booking any shore excursion, make sure that they are not already included in your cruise rate. Many of the luxury cruise lines tend to include some shore excursions or even excursions in every port as part of your cruise cost. The same is true of certain River Cruises in Europe.