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By Diane Robbins,

Are you thinking about taking a cruise? Whether it is your first cruise or your 30th cruise, decisions have to be made. While it is common to choose a cruise by price, in my opinion, that is not the best criteria. Actually, I put it last on my list of ten. A cheap cruise, without considering the other nine items on my list, can be a miserable experience. Thinking about items 1-9 first, and perhaps paying a few dollars more, can result in an experience that will have you cruising again and again.

Cruises 1) Where: Do you want to cruise the sunny Caribbean? Or the exotic Far East? How about the islands of the South Pacific? The old, classic cities of Europe? Or the lively, vibrant cities of South America?

2) When: Start by checking the typical weather in the area you’ll be visiting. For instance, hurricanes can be a problem, officially from June 1 to November 30, in the Caribbean. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are thinking about visiting South America, remember that the seasons are reversed.

3) How Long: If you are new at cruising and want to grab a 3- or 4-nighter for a first cruise, that’s fine (although cost could be the same as a 7-night cruise). But I’ve learned to appreciate longer cruises and typically won’t sail on anything less than 14 nights. With anything shorter I feel like I barely have a chance to unpack before I have to pack again.

4) Ship Size: Do you want a smaller ship where you might run into the same people again and again, or a larger ship, which offers more options? Crossing the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia, with several days at sea, I appreciated the larger Star Princess. On the other hand, sailing the Caribbean with my parents, I appreciated the coziness of the Holland America’s Maasdam, which made it easy for us to find each other.

5) Cabin Location:The first decision that needs to be made is inside or outside. If outside, and you really want a view, skip the promenade deck (where people can walk by and look in, and you’ll probably end up keeping the curtains closed). Check if the cabin has an obstructed view. Look at the ship’s deck plan to see what is above and near your cabin. Is it under or near the disco? Or under a sun deck, where you might hear the chairs being arranged by the crew at 6 a.m.? Is it near an elevator or staircase where you could be disturbed by other passengers’ conversations? Consider your destination when picking a cabin. One of the most exciting experiences we had on our Alaska cruise was when we looked out the window, straight down to the water, and spotted Dahl porpoises zipping back and forth under the ship.

6) Entertainment: What amuses you? Do you like big Las Vegas-type shows? A quiet piano bar? A library? An Internet café?

Cruise 7) Onboard Activities: Do you like tobe kept moving all day and into the wee hours of the morning? Do you like poolside games, or do you prefer movies and lectures?

8) Dining Options: Every ship will have a formal dining room and a casual buffet. The question is how many dining rooms? Are the dining rooms reserved seating, or can you walk in any time? Are there specialty dining rooms on board, and is there an additional charge to dine there? What are the dining options on formal nights if you don’t want to dress up? The larger the ship, the more options. On the larger Star Princess there were two main dining rooms. One was reserved seating and the other was walk-in. The Maasdam, a smaller ship, had one main dining room with reserved seating but also the option for their specialty restaurant, The Pinnacle Grill (additional charge).

9) Passenger Demographics: While all major cruise lines accept all ages, some lines cater better to certain age groups better than others. Look at cruise line advertisements. Do you see yourself in the picture? If you are traveling with children, Disney cruises and Carnival cruises are good options. Carnival also works for young singles and couples. Celebrity cruises are great for couples traveling by themselves. You’ll meet a lot of retired folks on Holland America cruises. Take a look at Regency for a lovely, luxury cruise for two.

And finally,

10) Price: I calculate the cost per day. What could seem like a big difference between two 14-night cruises, on a daily basis, might not be all that much. To save some money, consider sailing during the shoulder or off-season. For Alaska, that is sailing in May or September. For the Caribbean, that means sailing in the summer. Prices also typically run cheaper between Thanksgiving and Christmas and right after the New Year.

Related Orbitz resources:

Diane’s travel blog,, an Orbitz affiliate, is loaded with tips and reviews. She’s taken more than 25 cruises, having sailed to the Caribbean, Alaska, New Zealand/Australia, Mexico, Europe and Antarctica.

Tagged: Cruise, Top 10 Lists

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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