Which Cruise Should I Book?
Some of the factors going into choosing a cruise are clearly, destination, cruise line, embarkation port and boats. In this day and age when airline tickets are so expensive, luckily, there are more options than ever to cruise nearby. (Unless you live in North Dakota like we used to. Sorry friends!) Look into it, you might be surprised at how close you live to a cruise port. Cruise line is subjective as some people prefer the old-world formality of some of the lines, while others don't ever want to dress up or be told when to eat (if you are one of those people, book Norwegian!) Carnival is all about fun, while Royal Caribbean pushes the envelope with their ships. Even within the lines, the boats can be very different, so you certainly want to do a little research to find out exactly what is waiting for you on the ship.
How Do I Book?
I suggest using a travel agent. They don't cost anything and can find discounts that you might not know about. A good travel agent will learn your travel patterns, likes/dislikes, and even budget preferences. I always still do an internet search on Kayak or Expedia, just to get an idea of what to ask for.
When Do I Book?
It depends on how flexible you are. If you know what you want and aren't willing to change it, book as far out as possible. If you just want to cruise and want it cheap, book at the last minute, or whenever you decide you want to cruise. There is no hard and fast rule, but this is a good guideline.
Get a passport! It will allow your future vacations to be whatever you want them to be, and (most of all) can get you home in the case of an emergency. If you do decide to travel on a birth certificate, it must be an official certificate with a raised seal.
Different cruiselines have different sized rooms, but all should be big enough to suit your needs. If you think this will be an issue, pick a larger room or a line with larger rooms. The twin beds can almost always be pushed together, so don't worry about that. Bathrooms are small, but are usually just fine.
Included in your cruise fare is the buffet, meals in the main dining room, room service and usually several outcroppings of the buffet. More and more cruiselines are adding extra restaurants which require a charge, but certainly aren't required.
Sodas are usually not included (Disney is the exception), but you can purchase a soda package for around $6 a day which allows you access to all the soda you can drink at any bar or dining room. Room service will still charge for sodas.
All cruise lines have tipping guidelines, so go into the cruise thinking about the tips as part of the cruise fare. You can adjust the tips if you get bad service, but keep in mind that these employees pretty much work only for tips. Tips range from $10-$12 per person, per day.
All your entertainment is included with the exceptions of bingo, gambling, alcohol tastings and certain fitness classes. Expect to see comedy, stage shows, trivia, cooking demonstrations, pool games, dance lessons, game shows and more throughout the cruise, as well as unorganized activities like mini-golf, basketball, rock walls, and even ice rinks and ziplining.
This is just a brief overview of what we talked about. I plan on adding pages with way more information on all of these categories in the near future. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions, and of course, I hope you'll listen to the podcast when it is released tomorrow!