Would you like to go on a vacation full of energy and fun, with a fun group of friends? Or go on a honeymoon full of romance and love? Or maybe you’re going on a family vacation to make this trip memorable for everyone? Do you like outdoor activities and can’t imagine yourself without sports? Or you – a traveler who wants to visit several countries and historic capitals of the world in one trip? It would seem that all this is totally incompatible and there is no universal recipe to combine such different types of recreation. However, there is such a recipe. In this article we will look at sea cruises and learn how to choose them and what to look for.
Where and when to sail?
With this question begins the search for any cruise. Understanding what you expect from the trip will help answer it. Sea cruises can be divided into three types:
Excursion sea cruises lay their routes through popular tourist destinations, allowing you to see the sights of several countries during the cruise. The most popular are the itineraries along the Mediterranean or along the coasts of Southeast Asian countries.
Relaxation cruises are designed to provide you with maximum comfort and relaxation, allowing you to forget the worries of harsh everyday life. Typically, their routes are in tropical seas, such as a trip to the Caribbean, to the Hawaiian Islands, or sea cruises in French Polynesia.
Expedition cruises, the route of which lies in places inaccessible to normal cruise ships. This is a small adventure in comfort. Often the cruise uses real icebreakers, or research ships, re-equipped for the comfort of the passengers. The directions of the routes are quite diverse. They can pass through the harsh northern seas, along the east coast of Africa, through Australia and New Zealand.
It is important to keep in mind that most cruising regions such as Northern Europe and Norwegian Fjords, Alaska, cruises around Europe and South America are available only in certain seasons. It is on the basis of seasonality that the cruise schedule is built. Cruises in Europe prevail in summer, America and Asia in winter.
As for the duration of the cruise, the most common duration offered is 7 days. Often there are cruises lasting from 10 to 14 days, but if you want you can find any cruise – from two-day trips to the exotic world cruises, lasting up to six months.
What to sail on?
Cruise liners deserve a separate close study. What is worth paying attention to when choosing a ship?
The size of a cruise liner most often determines its infrastructure. This is the most basic parameter, describing the liner. The bigger the ship, the more services it can offer. Generally cruise vessels are of three sizes. Consider their differences.
Large ships, with a displacement of 50 to 150 thousand tons, offer standard or premium class cruises. Most often these are 7-day and 11-day voyages. The peculiarity of big liners is that the entertainment program offered to passengers includes the most spectacular evening shows, a huge choice of activities and entertainment. The life on board the big cruise liners goes, as a rule, according to a premeditated program. It is difficult, for example, to go for a swim after dinner (decks are usually washed and pools are empty). Ordering champagne in an open-air Jacuzzi tub in the evening is quite problematic.
Medium ships have a displacement of 25,000 to 50,000 tons. Unlike large liners, medium ships are more maneuverable. This is a serious advantage when visiting small ports in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. Compared to small ships, medium-sized ships are more stable at sea, and they have a lot more entertainment and services on board.
Small ships, with a displacement from 2 to 25 thousand tons are preferred if you are looking for an intimate atmosphere. To this type belong the most luxurious cruise ships in the world, not giant liners, as it might seem at first glance. A small ship will suit you if you are not demanding to have a lot of entertainment, can make do with one good restaurant and do not want a lot of company, if it is important for you to have a late night swim, to drink champagne in a Jacuzzi, to feel the romance.
Personal space is an important characteristic of comfort when traveling on a cruise liner. To get an idea of the amount of space around you on board, divide the tonnage of the ship by the number of passengers and look at the resulting ratio. If it is less than 10, then the ship is very cramped, 10 to 20 – spaciousness is quite moderate, 20 to 30 – the liner is quite spacious, 30 to 50 – the ship is very spacious, over 50 – you will find yourself in the most spacious environment.
The year of the ship construction often gives an indication of its technical state. Also, the year of construction can indirectly give information about the ship’s equipment and comfort of stay on it.
Service standards. In general, the quality of service on board can be judged by the ratio of the number of passengers to the liner’s crew. The best service is provided on ships with not more than 2 passengers per crew member.
The general rule for all cruises – the higher the deck, the more expensive. Sometimes cabins at the bow and stern are cheaper than cabins in the center of the liner, which is due to the fact that in the middle of the liner the sea rocking is less felt.
There are a great many categories of cabins on a cruise liner, but they are all divided into 4 main types.
Interior cabins without windows, which are the most economical. They are suitable for those who plan to spend their sea cruise actively, spending most of the time on the shore or pleasure decks and coming back to the cabin only to sleep. In this case, the presence or absence of a window does not play a significant role.
Staterooms with a window are suitable for those who are used to natural light, but do not require more from the cabin. In this case, it is worth finding out where the cabin on the liner is located to understand what the window will be. If the cabin is located in the hull, the window is likely to be a small porthole. In the case of a stateroom with a full-size window overlooking the promenade deck, however, consider what the curtains most often mean. All staterooms with or without a window on a cruise liner are usually of the same size and design.
Staterooms with a balcony offer a different level of travel experience, a chance to be alone with the sea, the sun, and the wind. The secluded place will give its own bit of quite unique romance, strongly influencing the overall impression of the cruise. From your balcony it is more convenient to watch the liner enter or leave the port.
Suites give you the opportunity to travel with special comfort. There are several types of suites on any cruise liner. These staterooms differ, of course, in size and furnishings, located in the best, most comfortable places of the cruise liner. They are well equipped, and most often the price suites included, a number of preferences, such as meals separate from the general mass of the cruise liner passengers, sometimes the butler service, special clubs, lounges on board, and guaranteed special treatment of staff.
When choosing a cabin, it is also important to pay attention to what facilities and services of the cruise liner are located above the selected cabin. For example, if you don’t want to be bothered by the noise and hustle and bustle of evening life, it is better when there is no restaurant or disco located above the cabin.
How much does it cost?
When choosing a cruise, a superficial indicator of its quality is usually the price. It can often give an idea of what level of wealth passengers will make up the majority on a given cruise, as well as the comfort of the liner, what your stateroom, food and service will be like. But be wary of cruise companies that offer huge discounts: this can mean that the price was initially inflated, or there may be some reductaion in the level of service.
Pay attention to what is included in the price of your cruise and what you have to pay extra before the trip or on the spot. It is very important to pay attention to the comments in the detailed cruise description! Most often the price of a cruise includes all meals (full board, including in the cabin), excluding drinks or just water, tea and regular coffee.
As a rule, all entertainment programs on board the liner are free, as well as the use of deck equipment and sports equipment, including swimming pools, and vehicles for embarkation and disembarkation in ports where the liner is not docked at the pier.
Often port and fuel charges are paid separately (at the time of booking), as are excursions to ports of call. The exceptions here may be luxury cruises.
Tipping staff is most often included in your onboard bill, but in some cases you can pay it at the time of booking, if it is more convenient.
What can I save money on on sea cruises?
First, you should keep in mind that there is no concept of “burning tours” in a cruise vacation, on the contrary, cruise companies provide discounts for early booking, when you can determine the period of the sea cruise in advance. In this early booking discounts apply to both the sea cruise and related services, and can often reach up to 40-50% of the cost of the cruise.
Secondly, a number of companies offer free accommodation for children under 18 years old in the cabin with two adults. In this case children pay only port charges. Almost always a discount is given to the third and fourth passenger in the cabin, regardless of age. If you want to save money, you should consider traveling with friends.
Third, many cruise companies have loyalty programs and offer special prices on a number of cruises for those who have previously traveled with that cruise company.
Is it just the cruise?
An important enough detail is the vacation before or after the cruise. To the cruise program, it is often possible to add an additional vacation. Some travel companies sometimes offer cruise tours with package flights and beach vacations before or after the cruise. In fact, if you are very tired, is it possible to fully enjoy the new experience of a sea cruise? Sometimes it makes sense to relax by the pool, live the plant life for a few days and not run anywhere. After a little pause, the excursions and sea cruise shows are also perceived differently.
If you don’t worry about extra relaxation, you can miss out on seeing the port of departure. Some cities are worth spending a couple of days on them, because the next opportunity may not come soon.
Consider that the service on board the cruise liner will be in most cases better than in the hotel of similar stardom. So in order not to sully the impressions from the trip as a whole and from the cruise, the hotel is better to choose a star better than the cruise liner.
Registration of visas
We would like to single out visa processing as a separate line. For sea cruises there is its own special regime and procedure for obtaining visas. It is necessary to discuss this issue with the travel agency. Be attentive to the terms of granting and to a set of documents.
A few words about the excursions. Almost every cruise offers excursions in English and other European languages, but not always in Russian. You can buy them on board the cruise liner. If you want excursions in Russian, you must think about it in advance. You can either join a Russian group, where there is one, or order individual excursions. Some cruise ports are interesting, primarily because of its nature. The lack of a Russian guide is less felt there. There are places where group Russian excursions are a good and proper choice – where there are popular tourist routes to famous landmarks. In this case, it will be interesting to listen to a tour in your native language and you can save money when there is a Russian group on your chosen sea cruise. Where you may have already been and if there is a desire to plan a unique tourist itinerary, individual tours are preferable.
Sea cruises are truly an unforgettable vacation that Russian tourists have only recently begun to discover. Think back to your childhood dreams of sea travel and adventure. This dream is not so unrealizable. Give yourself a kaleidoscope of experiences from different countries and resorts, combined with the comfort that is not available with any other program, involving travel to several points of the tourist route.