If you’re planning to go on a cruise, then you might not know just how difficult and stressful planning for such a trip can be. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned cruise veteran, there’s almost always something you forget; even as you’re leaving your house, there’s a good chance there will be something you’ve left behind. We’ve put together some tips on how to plan a cruise trip so that this doesn’t happen to you. Here are 25 tips on how you can plan the perfect cruise.
1. Pick your destination
It wouldn’t be much of a cruise if you didn’t pick your destination, now would it? Take a look at some of the most popular cruise destinations and decide where you want to go. It might be a good idea to select somewhere that’s a little more out-of-the-way so that you can enjoy a less packed trip.
2. Research your destination thoroughly
Researching your chosen destination is just as important as choosing it in the first place. You might have heard some amazing things about the place you want to go to, but there may be problems you haven’t heard about with your destination, so make sure you’re doing your research.
3. Ask family and friends for recommendations
If you’re struggling to choose a cruise trip destination, then one top tip for how to plan a cruise trip is to ask your friends and family about it. Either ask them where they’ve been if you know they’re cruise travellers or ask them where they would go if they were given the opportunity to embark on such a trip.
4. Choose where to depart from
Cruise trips depart from several different locations. It’s important to select the right departure port so that you know the trip you’re going on is everything you want it to be. Some departure ports are more affordable than others, while other ports might be located closer to your home.
5. Take your party size into account
While you’re planning for your cruise trip, make sure you’re taking your party size into account. Different trips might have different stipulations depending on how many travellers there are, so if you’ve got a larger party size, certain options may be open or closed to you.
6. Decide how long you want to go for
Some cruises only last for a few days. Others can last for weeks at a time. Think carefully about how long you want to be on the cruise for before you book. Would you rather go on a cruise with an overnight stay, or do you want to be at sea for the whole time that you’re on the cruise?
7. Consider overnight stays
Many cruises will stop at ports for overnight stays, giving you the opportunity to visit the local area and sample its culture. This may or may not be an option in which you’re interested, so make sure you’re incorporating this into your booking decisions. Some people, after all, prefer simply to stay on the ship.
8. Put your itinerary together
Once your cruise is booked, it’s time to start thinking about exactly what you want to do while you’re there. Different cruises will offer different activities; there will almost always be a mixture of leisure, sightseeing, and entertainment available, so pick from the choices you have and put together a nascent schedule.
9. Don’t be afraid to change it
Once you’ve spoken to your party, and once you’ve all had a little time to think about the cruise you’re going on, you’ll probably want to change some elements of your itinerary. That’s completely normal, and it should be encouraged. Think of your schedule as a changing document rather than a stone tablet.
10. Think about time
If you still haven’t made a decision, don’t worry; there’s no single answer to the “how to plan a cruise trip” question, so you’ve got plenty of time to think about it. One of the factors you should incorporate into your decision is time; winter, for example, is a great time to go on a Caribbean cruise due to the weather.
11. Consider your dietary preferences
Another factor in planning your cruise trip should be whether or not you’re able to eat the local food. There may, for example, be a prominent ingredient in a country that you aren’t able to eat due to allergies or intolerances, and even if you try to avoid that ingredient, you may encounter it in trace amounts.
12. Establish your budget
Your budget is an extremely important element of your cruise trip planning process. How much money do you have to play with? That will determine how long you go for, where you travel to, and what kind of ship you travel on. Conduct a thorough, honest inventory of your finances before you book anything.
13. Don’t forget extras
It’s not just about the amount you’re paying for the cruise itself. You’ll also need a generous fund on top to pay for things like staff tips, Wi-Fi, and drinks. Many cruise trips will also charge extra for taking trips ashore once the ship is docked, so make sure that you haven’t forgotten this when you’re planning your finances.
14. Choose the right cruise line for you
While there are certainly better and worse cruise companies out there, it’s important for you to make sure you pick the line that’s appropriate for your personal circumstances. Some lines might appeal more to you than others, so while you’re researching your destination, be sure to look closely at the line you’re booking as well.
15. Pick the right ship
Just like cruise lines, some ships won’t be right for you. Many cruise lines, for example, will run cruises on top-of-the-range, modern cruise ships, and those will set you back much more, but they might also contain amenities that are crucial for your enjoyment. Spend some time choosing the right cruise ship.
16. Look past the advertised rate
When cruise companies try to entice you with amazing cruise deals, they’re often hiding a veritable novel’s worth of small print. Look closely at the terms; you might find that the offer you’re taking advantage of only applies in certain circumstances, for example, and that the real trip you’re booking is actually going to be much more expensive.
17. Choose your stateroom carefully
A stateroom is a cabin in which you’ll be staying on a cruise trip, so make sure you choose the right one. There are different sizes and types of stateroom available depending on what you want; you could, for example, opt for a smaller room, or you could go for something a little more spacious.
18. Think about the view
One of the best things about going on a cruise trip is the view; the vast, formless ocean before you, twinkling in the sunlight. If that’s important to you, then make sure you pick a room with a good view. There may also be rooms without such a view available, and you could get a pretty significant discount if you pick one.
19. Consider travelling off-peak
We’ve talked about the time of year that you want to travel, but what you may not know is that many cruise trips are cheaper if you book at off-peak times. If you want to know how to plan a cruise trip as best you can, then looking at off-peak trips, which are usually less packed and less expensive, is definitely a good option.
20. Brush up on restrictions
After the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, cruise ships and liners had to adapt their programs and approach in order to stay in business. As such, you may find that some cruise trips don’t have the same conditions they may have had prior to the onset of the pandemic, so incorporate this into your research.
21. Book at least six months in advance
When it comes to booking your trip, six months is the absolute bare minimum that you should leave before you book. While you will find last-minute vacancies on cruises, you’ll usually find that they’re snapped up quickly, while booking in advance will allow you to peruse the cruises and their differences at your leisure.
22. Reserve activities
Unfortunately, just being on the cruise trip doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll be able to attend every event. Many cruise ships now have incredibly high-profile talent by way of entertainment, so you should try to reserve any activities you want to engage in by using the cruise company’s website.
23. Book shore trips ahead of time
Again, just like entertainment, you may find that you have to book shore trips ahead of time if you want to get a place on them. Shore trips are extremely popular, just like cruise trips themselves, so if you can, book your place on these trips so that you can guarantee you’ll be allowed to explore.
24. Fly to your port early
If you’re travelling from a port to which you need to fly, then think about doing so early. This will mean that you don’t miss your trip, which can be devastating if it happens (and the ship almost certainly won’t turn around for a single passenger). Book a hotel if you absolutely need to, but just make sure you’re there when the ship leaves!
25. Pack what you need
Naturally, you should pack what you need for a cruise trip. That means as many changes of clothes as necessary, as well as medications, relevant documentation, and anything else you need. Don’t forget to pack entertainment like games consoles or e-readers, too!