caribbean-cruiseYou want to take a cruise vacation, but how do you pick the ship? You’re the cruise planner in the family so first, consider the type of ships. They run the gamut from small yacht like ships to mega-liners holding over 3000 passengers. The small ships normally do not have constant activities throughout the day while the mega-liners schedule loads and loads of things to do. Choose your type of ship by whether or not you want time to yourself or if you want to be entertained. When considering cruise travel keep the following things in mind.

A small ship, 500 or fewer passengers, will have small musical shows in the evening while you will be free to do as you please during the day. This type of ship is for an intimate cruising experience. Being on a small ship is like staying at a beautiful bed and breakfast versus being at a large chain hotel. A smaller ship can also go to less frequented destinations due to its ability to maneuver in tight spots.

A mid size ship, 500 to 1000 passengers, will usually have local groups come on board while in port and perhaps a piano player or a duo. An advantage to a mid size ship is that lines seldom form and when the do they clearer quickly.

Now, your mega-liners will boggle your mind with activities and entertainment. There are ships out there that have skating rinks and rock climbing walls! When you are on these ships, be sure to carry around the pocket size layout of the ship that will be in your cabin on day one. (Get additional ones at the purser’s deck). The disadvantage of these ships is that they are crowded and you will have to stand in long lines. One important thing to know is that some of the really large ships cannot fit in some of the docking facilities therefore making it necessary to “tender” into port. The tender is a life boat that constantly goes from ship to shore. This is important if you are handicapped or afraid of small boats.

Cruise Tip: When in a large port like St. Maarten where it is necessary to tender in to shore and back to the ship, be sure you get on the tender that goes to your ship. There may be as many as 8 ships in port and it would be easy to board the wrong tender after a long day of sun and surf. It could make it quite dicey if it is near the time of departure for your ship.

Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you want an intimate laid back voyage? Are there any facilities that are important to you like spa packages, healthy exercise, or culinary delights, cultural experiences? These are essential questions when planning cruise travel.

Cruise Tip: The Spa Experience. Use the cruise to take a spa vacation while your kids are entertained and your spouse is learning about new Computer techniques. Yes, you can have a spa experience with all the treatments that you have at a traditional spa and the spa cuisine. All of the top lines have healthy alternatives on their menus and some of the spas are state of the art, many of them managed by land based spas. So not only will everyone be entertained, but you can experience that long awaited week at the spa. I have read many cruise reviews that love the spa experience.

If you have a tendency to be seasick, book a mega-liner, you will reduce the chance of that malady. On the really big girls you hardly know you’re moving. (Ships are always referred to as she, her or Lady i.e., the QE2 is known as the grand old Lady of the Seas).

The type of ship should always be considered to get the most enjoyment from your cruise. Rule of thumb is that the larger the ship the more amenities while the smaller ships are more personalized. We took a cruise on a luxury small ship to the Greek Islands and by the second day everyone knew our names and the service was stellar.

One other consideration is the number of ports that you visit. A ship that stops in a port everyday can be tiring, besides it’s nice to spend a day or two at sea. If you are going back to a port previously traveled, stay on the boat. It’s terrific to have the ship all to yourself. These are also good days to visit the gym or schedule a spa treatment, there’s hardly anyone using the equipment or the spa personnel.

Common sense tells you that the longer the trip the older the passengers since they have the time and resources to take long voyages. Ships are very different, from the all day partying of Carnival, to the quiet laid back ultra luxury of SeaDream Yachts.

Cruise Tip: Maiden Voyages come with all the bragging rights but you might want to rethink that, especially if you are a first time cruisers. On maiden voyages the crew is “unseasoned”. They don’t necessarily know where everything is or how everything works and this can cause delays in service. Sometimes a cruise line will borrow a staff from another ship to sail the maiden voyage of a new ship and train the staff. Same thing applies, this is a new ship and everybody is learning. Better to let the ship break in for at least six months before choosing her to sail. Construction delays can put a new ship off schedule so don’t book a month or two out from the announced Maiden Voyage, since you might then find yourself on the Maiden Voyage. There exists a chance of things going wrong like the plumbing or the electrical.

The same thing applies to a ship that is coming of dry dock or “refit”. Many things can and do go wrong. Have your travel agent check to see if the ship has just been refurbished and if it has, pick another one.

Equipped with this information you should be able to find the ideal ship for your cruise vacation. So what are you waiting for? Call your Travel Agent and Set Sail!

Happy Cruising!