Spring has arrived, but the rain clouds have not subsided. That means it’s time to start planning your next tropical getaway! While the ‘great American road trip’ is still the most popular mode of travel, more and more travelers are choosing to climb aboard a cruise ship or river boat. Here are some aspects of cruising to consider before you book your next trip.
- Luxury cruise lines started offering a more inclusive experience a few years ago by including everything from staff gratuities to specialty dining and shore excursions in the cost of the cruise, but larger cruise lines have also started incorporating some of these amenities as part of promotions.
- River cruising allows travelers to explore some of the most intriguing cities of the United States, Europe and Asia. The ships are smaller and provide a more intimate experience.
- Families are choosing to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries or hold family reunions on cruises, making for multi-generational cruising experiences.
Cruise Booking Tips
- Book through a travel agent! They work with cruise lines every day and have access to added benefits that are not available elsewhere. Also, if something does happen to go wrong, you’ll have someone to help you.
- Prospective cruise passengers should book early to take advantage of special promotions and secure their first choice of ship, itinerary, cabin location and sailing date.
- Before booking a cruise, consider your priorities. There are cruises to match every vacation type – from casual and laid back to formal, high-end luxury and nearly everything in between. A knowledgeable travel agent can help you identify your priorities and pick a cruise line, itinerary and ship to match your lifestyle, budget and destination interests.
- Book shore excursions directly through your travel agent when you book your cruise. If you wait until you get to your destination or onboard, your number one picks could be sold out.
- Fly to your embarkation port the day before the cruise, not the morning of departure. Cruise ships have firm departure times and won’t wait for a delayed flight.
- Check in online before leaving for your cruise. This will save you a lot of extra time at the cruise ship terminal.
- Pack any essentials you may need the first day of your cruise in a carry-on bag. It can sometimes take a few hours for checked luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
Cruising With Family
- Cruising can be a great value for family travel as many costs are included in the base price (including food, lodging, transportation, entertainment and activities, including children’s programs on many cruise lines). Cruisers can experience many destinations with only needing to unpack once, which limits the hassle of getting kids from place to place.
- Many cruise lines have lots of entertainment and activities that are geared towards kids and teens specifically – find one of these to guarantee that kids are entertained and engaged.
- Disney actually has a cruise experience as well, which is perfectly suited for families.
Safety Concerns While Cruising
AAA advises that travelers remain vigilant in looking out for their personal security. It can be easy to adopt a carefree vacation mind-set and forget about personal safety when on a cruise, so stay safe by remembering:
- The International Maritime Organization mandates global regulations for the safety and operation of cruise ships. In the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard has the responsibility for ensuring that ships in U.S. ports meet all international requirements for safety and security.
- Ships are required to hold safety drills within 24 hours of boarding new passengers. All cruise passengers, even seasoned cruisers, are required to participate in and pay full attention to the ship’s muster drills as evacuation procedures vary by cruise line.
- Before leaving, register all international travel with the U.S. Department of State’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov. This will enable the State Department to provide better assistance in case of an emergency.
- Travel with a small waterproof pack that can be easily secured around the body in the event of an evacuation. The pack should include passports, cash including local currency, a credit card, medications, a small flashlight, a cell phone, nutrition bars, and a bottle of water if possible. Prepare the pack upon boarding the ship so it is immediately accessible in the event of an emergency.
- Avoid participating in risky behaviors such as excessive consumption of alcohol and admitting strangers to your cabin, and report any concerns to ship security.
- Book all cruise vacations through a trusted travel advisor. If an emergency takes place before or during a cruise, a travel counselor can be a trusted ally providing critical, timely and valuable assistance.
For more tips, or to book the cruise of a lifetime, stop by the AAA store nearest to you and speak with a travel expert. To find a location near you or get more information, visit: https://wa.aaa.com/stores/store-locations