There you are, watching TV one chilly night, when you see the commercial. People having more fun than should be legal, all while sailing gorgeous ships to beautiful locations, and all you can think is, “I want to go to there.” But it can’t be that easy, right? Planning a cruise has just got to be a lot of hard work, you tell yourself.
Well, stop listening to yourself and instead, listen to us. Because we’re going to tell you just how easy this whole thing is, and we’re breaking it down into 10 steps so simple, [insert the name of the dumbest person you know here] could do it!
1. Pick a cruise
That sounds simple but the fact is, this might be the most difficult part of the entire process. Why? Because every line is different. And generally speaking, each cruise line has a variety of ships that cater to different types. If you happen to work with a travel agent who knows your likes and dislikes, they can help point you in the right direction. Otherwise, the Internet is chock-full of resources that’ll help you figure out exactly the right cruise for you. (Of course, in our minds, there really is no right or wrong answer, as long as you’re on a ship!)
2. Map out your payment plan
If you happen to have enough money to pay for your trip in full when you book it, you can skip this step and head directly to the courthouse to file the paperwork allowing you to formerly adopt us. Otherwise, it’s probably a good idea to find out when your final payment is due and mark it on the calendar. Then, figure out if you want to pay the whole tab off on that date, or maybe come up with your own payment plan.
3. Take a look at the available shore excursions
As they say, “No matter where you go, there you are.” But once you’ve actually arrived there, you might want to do something (although nothing says you have to get off the ship at all!) Check out the itinerary of your particular sailing and decide what you might want to do in each port. Generally speaking, there will be a pretty wide variety of excursions offered through the cruise line or outside sources, which can often be cheaper. One thing to note: If booking through anyone other than the line on which you are sailing, make sure the agency you use offers a guarantee that they will have you back to the ship on time. Our preferred company? Cruising Excursions.
4. Make your pre and post-trip transportation plans
If you are sailing out of a port in your backyard (or homeporting), this basically means, “Ask someone to drop you off and pick you up again in a week!” But if you are going to be traveling by plane, train or automobile to the port, figure out your travel time. Do you need to fly in the night before, which would mean booking a hotel near the port? And make sure to leave plenty of time between the time you will be disembarking and the time your flight home departs!
5. Plan your meals
Now, to be honest, this isn’t really necessary. You could easily just board the ship and spend a week grazing at the buffet. We’re not here to judge. But on the off chance that you might like to explore some of the other edible options, head to your ship’s web page. Some lines offer traditional dining (meaning you pick a time at which you will have dinner each evening) while others specialize in anytime dining. Also, be sure to look at the specialty restaurants to see if you want to maybe indulge in a night at one of the ship’s signature restaurants (which cost extra).
6. Track your cruise’s price
You wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve booked a trip months in advance only to later find out that, for whatever reason, the price dropped. If you stay on top of this sort of thing, many lines will offer upgrades or on-board credit to offset the price difference. But remember, they aren’t likely to ring you up and tell you that the price dropped… they are a business, after all! So you need to keep an eye on the price, whether yourself or by registering with a site like Cruiseline.com.
We have yet to meet the person who has managed to pack exactly the right amount of stuff. Either they take too much or too little, never nailing the perfect balance. So rest assured, you won’t either. And while there are people who freak out about packing and spend hours, days or even weeks planning their outfits, we’re big fans of a more relaxed approach. Yes, you might need some dressier clothes if you plan on partaking in the ship’s formal night. And we recently compiled a list of small items you’ll be glad you packed and which will fit in your suitcase’s nooks and crannies.
8. Prepare your documents
This is kind of important. While you could theoretically get on board the ship without a stitch of luggage, you definitely will not be able to board without your passport (or other approved identification) and the boarding documents you can print out on the website of your chosen cruise line. Make sure that when you head to the pier, you’ve got your documentation someplace convenient. Nobody wants to be that guy holding up the line while he digs through three suitcases looking for his paperwork.
9. Have a blast!
Once you’re on board, do anything and everything (within reason) that you want… or absolutely nothing at all. Consult the daily activity guide so you know which events you really want to hit and when they’ll be happening. But at the same time, don’t forget to leave yourself plenty of time for lounging by the pool or sipping cocktails at the bar or just stare off into the ocean and contemplate life, love and the meaning of the lint in your navel.
10. Start planning your next cruise
“Once people sail with us,” says Carnival Cruise Line’s managing director of sales, Mike Julius, “we know they’ll be back. Even people who didn’t want to go on a cruise, maybe they came with other people, finds out that it’s not at all what they might have expected.” So don’t be surprised if before your first cruise has even ended, you’re already planning your next adventure!