Choosing a Cruise: 20 Common Questions Answered

080716-PeterD-flickr-Cruise.jpgIf you’ve considered taking a cruise vacation only to come down with cold feet come booking time, you’re not alone. There are simply a dizzying array of decisions that need to be made in regards to the cruise line, the ship’s itinerary, the ship’s vibe, and whether you want to splurge on that private balcony or not. Of course, repeat cruisers will tell you that what they love partly about cruising is the ease of the trip itself—so once you’ve made these informed decisions at the start of your planning, the actual cruise will be a breeze.

Below are just a few typical questions from travelers on our Forums when they are in that preliminary stage. By knowing your personal preferences to these questions you’ll be better able to select the cruise that is just right for you. Are you a veteran cruiser? Please feel encouraged to share your experiences in our Cruise forum or on the discussions mentioned below.

Have a question about your upcoming cruise? Post it in the Cruise forum.

I found a great deal, but what additional costs should I expect?
“My experience has been the quoted price does not include port tax. We are looking at a Carnival for $599 and port tax is another $289. As for add-ons above that it would be whatever you want to spend. You can eat for free, do not gamble, and don’t drink then you are going to get by pretty cheap.” — jamesr3939| View all responses

Is a cruise to Antarctica truly a trip of a lifetime?
“A few days ago, as we were reminiscing about our trip, hubby came up with the perfect description of our experience: SHOCK & AWE. With that in mind, and knowing that there are no words, pictures, or videos that can do justice to the reality of what we experienced, let me start at the beginning and try to give you a small glimpse into what turned out to be the most fabulous adventure of our lives.” — eenusa | View all responses

What may annoy me on my cruise?
“Getting off the ship is my number one downer. Sitting and waiting is not fun. Why do we have to wait our turn? Just let me grab my own bags and get off on my own. If all 3,000 people wants to get off all at once, so be it.” — Eschew | View all responses

Will we receive an awful cabin if we don’t have one assigned to us before our trip?
“I was told I might get an upgrade if I chose not to get room allotted at time of booking so am hoping I do…it will be a nice surprise!”–greynomadnz | View all responses

Has anyone cruised French Polynesia?
“Pacific Princess has five 10 day cruises out of Papeete from the end of October into December 2009. The Tahitian Princess is doing the same in the fall of 2008.” — Paulchili | View all responses

What cruise line would you recommend for culture vultures?
“It looks like you are Oceania, Regent, or Silversea or Crystal potential clients. There are no downfalls going with these cruise lines other than some of them will cost you an arm and a leg.” — spurs | View all responses

What benefits are there for repeat cruisers who stick to one cruise line?
“Usually the perks aren’t much for the first few cruises. You may just have a cocktail party instead of a lunch. It is held in the showroom usually and they pass champagne and wine around with a few canapes. It is always very crowded as there are lots of repeaters. When you have done more cruises with them you do get extra perks but it takes awhile.” — traveller69 | View all responses

Should I book on a larger ship if I’m prone to seasickness?
“It really doesn’t matter what size your ship is if you have rough seas you will feel movement. Have been to Alaska on Diamond Princess and Royal Caribbean and both were great. Did transatlantic on VOS and 15 days were smooth as glass. Coral Princess and Serenade of Seas were awesome for Panama Canal.” — fosterag | View all responses

Which European cruise itinerary will allow me to see the most?
“Maybe our mistake with the Baltic was trying to do most of our port excursions on our own and maybe we should be hiring private tours to get the most out of our tours. Would you recommend one Mediterranean itinerary over another when it is important to be culturally enriching?” — patricia1961| View all responses

Do you pick the cruise line or the itinerary first?
“We generally opt to cruise the Caribbean as we prefer land trips overall and cruise primarily for the onboard experience. Since the ship is the reason we cruise, it is the first consideration.” — kfusto | View all responses

Should we upgrade to a larger cabin?
“If money is no object then go for the extra room. Its much nicer, esp. for a 12-day cruise.” — jacketwatch | View all responses

We want a balcony; which deck should we opt for?
“Cruised Diamond Princess to Alaska. Choose the highest deck with balconies (can’t remember the name) because they are more private. Lower balconies jut out some so you can see people from above.” — fosterag | View all responses

Would my older parent enjoy a cruise?
“I think if I can present all of this too her as a piece of cake, something we can do at a leisurely pace with no jet leg, and maybe see her great-grandchildren along the way, she’ll decide it’s more fun than sitting home.” — zeppole | View all responses

How long before date of sail should we expect our cruise documents to arrive?
“Do not know about Holland America Line, but make sure there actually are documents. I was surprised to see that on Princess cruise last month everything was on-line – no papers arrived.” — gail | View all responses

What is the best Alaskan cruise?
“Won’t weigh in on lines, but I’d say look for a cruise that includes a south central Alaska stop (Seward or Whittier) rather than just Inside Passage…and then add a land package.” — repete | View all responses

Is there a website that will show me what cabins remain available on a particular cruise?
“No website exists that shows which staterooms are already booked on any cruise that you may be interested in. As others have pointed out, you can use other websites to get a (partial) list of some staterooms that may be available, but such lists are not exhaustive..” — Tom1863 | View all responses

Is formal dress required in the dining rooms?
“If you hate formal nights like I do, try sailing Oceania or Azamara cruises. They each have great “small” ships (around 700 passengers) and NEVER have formal nights. They call their dress code “country club casual” – any nice shirt and slacks will do for men.If you want to wear a jacket/tie – “suit” yourself. They also have great itineraries.” — Paulchili | View all responses

Will my family enjoy a Disney cruise?
“My husband and I and our two kids (then 4 1/2 and 8) were accompanied by their grandparents and aunt, and everyone had a wonderful time. The Oceaneers Club (ages 4-7) and Oceaneers Lab (ages 8-12) for the children were fantastic. I highly recommend the cruise for you and your family–there’s truly something for every age, together and separately.” — ZMP | View all responses

What are the best Alaskan cruise excursions?
“We LOVED the helicopter flight to walk on a glacier (Juneau). Also enjoyed whale watching (Juneau) and sea kayaking in Ketchikan. In Skagway we rented a car and got to see much of the same scenery as the train trip (much cheaper).” — allthom1122 | View all responses

What’s the best way to find cheap airfare for transatlantic cruises?
“The cruise line air is the most cost efficient although they may take you on a roundabout route.
I have just returned from a transatlantic cruise and I planned a second trip in the fall so that I could book a round trip flight. One way flights back from Europe to the US (if that is your route) cost more than a return trip!!!” — Philbill | View all responses

Photo credit: Photo by flickrized