Last week, I shared a few of cruising’s top misconceptions. It’s not the type of travel for everyone, but I enjoy it for very different reasons than I enjoy more traditionally-based vacations, and millions of other people must enjoy it as well, based on the number of cruisers expected in 2012.
If you’re just getting started in the cruising world, here are a few of my favorite resources for sea-based adventures.
1) Vacations to Go
There are thousands of cruises every year, so finding the perfect fit for you means a lot of digging through options. Vacations to Go, an online travel agency, offers what I think is the best search engine. You can search by cruiseline, specific ship, date range, duration of sailing, ports of call, budget, or more – making this a very comprehensive tool. For basic searches, use their “Find a Bargain” option.
If you’ve ever wanted to sample the Hawaiian islands, you can search to find a great cruise for you. Just fill in the options you really care about and then click on “Show Me the Deals!” to see your search results.
Their engine will return up to 500 cruises, so if you are getting more results than you want to wade through, be more specific in your search. Usually, you can get a subset of a manageable number of cruises to look through.
Click to see more information on the specific prices for different room categories and the exact itinerary. Notice that the advertised price on the summary page is the price of the lowest-category room and that upgrading to a better room will cost extra (just like in hotels).
By digging into the details of each itinerary as well as reading information on the ship (more details on that later), you’ll be better able to find a cruise that suits you.
2) Cruise Compete
Once you have a sailing that interests you, Cruise Compete is one of the quickest ways to get price quotes. Cruise prices can vary significantly based on different promotions run through travel agencies, so it’s worth looking around for lowest prices and/or extra amenities. Sometimes every place will have the same price (as advertised by the cruiseline) and sometimes you can get a better deal.
Getting a cruise quote is quick and easy. Simply input the information you’re interested in sailing, and then sit back and relax while different agencies send you price quotes.
I’ve used two different agencies through Cruise Compete for my bookings, as well as Vacations to Go (highlighted above), as well as booking through the cruiseline, and all have been equally easy.
3) Cruise Critic
The last of the great cruise resources is Cruise Critic. This website has a little bit of everything, but frankly I think the articles are quite basic, making the two best parts of the website the parts where individuals can share: Member Reviews and the Forums.
The member reviews are great for getting a feel on which cruise line, ship, and itinerary will work best for you. Past cruisers share their experiences with accommodations, dining, excursions, onboard activities and even the nitty gritty like internet speeds, the cost of a martini, or which entertainers to watch out for.
The forums are even better, since they’re incredibly interactive and in a community that is friendly and welcoming toward newcomers. Start reading to get the hang of how cruises work and feel free to ask questions! You’ll easily find the answers on what tours are recommended in each port, what add-ons are worth the cost, and even which ships are the most eco-conscious.
Overall, these three websites are basically all you need to get settled with a great cruise – every step for finding a cruise, booking it, and then researching what to do while on vacation! Enjoy your time at sea…I do!