For couples, choosing the right cruise is crucial, because there’s nothing worse than a vacation that ends in petty arguments. Your cruise selection can make or break a vacation—and test the mettle of your relationship. To make sure that doesn’t happen, select an itinerary, cruise line, and ship that make sense for both of you. Here, we offer tips for navigating the cruise-selection process in six simple steps that will help make your vacation as stress-free as possible.
Step One: Pin Down Your Travel Dates
Are your travel dates flexible, or do you need to book a cruise during a specific time period? If your dates are flexible, the sky's the limit and you can book passage on just about any voyage. Figuring out which voyage can be daunting, but it's a lot less complicated when your travel dates are fixed, since you’ll have fewer options to sort through. To get an idea of the itineraries offered during your vacation dates, do a search at a online travel site like Vacations To Go or CruiseCompete.
Step Two: Select an Itinerary or General Destination
Maybe you’re considering a Western Caribbean cruise, or you just know you want to go someplace warm. If you can’t decide on a specific itinerary—like the Italian Riviera—at least narrow down your choices to one region, such as the Mediterranean, and consider the types of activities you’re both interested in. If you want an active vacation with lots of ports to visit, don’t pick an itinerary with several days at sea. Discuss your idea of the perfect cruise with each other. One of you may want to book a more active expedition-style voyage while the other is hoping for a relaxing spa vacation. Try to strike a balance between what you both want out of your next cruise vacation, and you'll avoid choosing an itinerary that is boound to displease one of you.
Step Three: Time for Self-Assessment
You’d think the next logical step in selecting a cruise would be to determine a cruise line, but hold off on that. First, it’s time for some honest self-assessment. What is your travel style as a couple? Do you require pampering, or are you more DIY types? Are you looking for a peaceful, romantic cruise so you can spend quality time together and reconnect, or are you looking for go-go-go adventure? How do you feel about crowds? Would you prefer an intimate ship or a city at sea? How do you feel about traveling alongside families? Now that you’re armed with an idea of the experience you’d like to have onboard, move on to cruise-line selection.
Step Four: Consider the Cruise Line
Now focus on the cruise lines that offer itineraries to your preferred destination during the time frame you have in mind. If you’ve never cruised before, you might think that all cruise lines are basically the same, but that’s not the case. The cruise industry is segmented into luxury lines offering a truly all-inclusive experience, premium options, mass market, expedition companies, and small ships and yachts. What’s included in your cruise fare on each line will differ, as will the vibe on the ships themselves. You’ll need to read up on the lines you’re considering to determine the best match. Fodor’s cruise line reviews are a good place to start.
Luxury lines like Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Crystal Cruises generally have fewer children onboard, offer spacious suites (many with butler service), complimentary wine and liquor, extensive restaurant options, and world-class spas. Premium lines like Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Oceania Cruises, and Windstar Cruises offer high-end service but the experience isn’t fully inclusive. You’ll often pay a cover for specialty restaurants and things like gourmet coffee and gelato. Mass market lines, like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, also offer incredible suites plus tons of onboard activities ranging from rock wall climbing, water slides, surfing, and more.
Step Five: Pick the Ship
Once you’ve honed in on the cruise lines that are the best match for your personality as a couple, compare their respective ships sailing the itinerary you’re interested in. Take a look at the number of passengers per vessel, the cabin categories that are available, and the cruise fare.
Step Six: Grab the Right Cabin
Selecting the right cabin is often overlooked, but don’t make that mistake. Peruse the cruise ship’s deck plan and determine the location that would suit you best. Do you plan to spend a lot of time in the spa? You might want to book one of those spa cabins many cruise lines offer that includes an upgraded stateroom with special access to the spa—Celebrity’s AquaClass cabins and Carnival’s Cloud 9 Spa Staterooms are two examples. Even if you’re not all that picky when it comes to where you lay your head at night, be aware of any external issues that could affect your cabin. Steer clear of any stateroom directly under the theater, nightclub dance floor, or restaurant.
Follow these simple steps and you’re bound to find the perfect cruise for your next romantic getaway.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.