Six questions you need to ask before booking a cruise

Woman looking at ocean from cruise ship

Sarah Marinos

Posted September 02, 2019

So many cruises, so little time…So how do you pick the perfect voyage?

From a short trip within Australia to an international adventure exploring cosmopolitan cities – cruise options can be overwhelming. Where do you go and how many days do you spend at sea? Do you want a quiet escape, a family experience or a party at sea? Asking your travel agent or cruise company these questions will help you choose your cruise

Top view of a cruise ship

How long will I be on board?

Cruises can range from a two-night escape for two to an indulgent and luxurious three-month world trip. Some cruise operators also offer breaks for a week or two that are specifically targeted towards families who want to get away during school holidays. “Short cruises are perfect for first-time cruisers as they give you a taste of a holiday at sea. Longer cruise holidays are destination-rich so are popular with people who want to immerse themselves in a region,” says Sture Myrmell, President of Carnival Australia. Longer voyages usually include more days at sea, allowing more time to discover onboard entertainment and activities.

How many land stops will there be and what can I do on land?

Look carefully at how many days you will be in port and at sea. Some people love waking up in a new location every morning but if you want to slow the pace, a day at sea every now and again is ideal for sitting on deck and sipping a cocktail at sunset. “Look at shore tours on offer in the ports you visit,” says Sture. Princess Cruises has an Across the Ditch local culture and cuisine program in New Zealand while cruises to Norway include an opportunity to kayak in the fjords. “Choose your shore tours as soon as you can after you book your cruise to get your pick of experiences,” says Sture.

How do I choose an itinerary?

As a starting point, explore cruise operator websites to see what’s on offer and to begin to narrow down the kinds of destinations you are interested in, and the length of cruise you are looking for. Then talk to a cruise specialist about the destinations and timeframe you’re interested in and find out what is provided on board and the ports the ship visits. “Consider the balance of port days versus sea days and keep an eye out for overnight stays which give you more time to discover destinations,” says Sture. Themed cruise itineraries are also popular, such as comedy-themed cruises or those linked to sporting events.

Ocean behind a cruise ship

What kind of cruise is it?

Long world cruises attract travellers with more time on their hands while shorter cruises during school holidays are usually family focused. “Look at each ship’s features. Some cruise lines offer multiple kids clubs and water parks, which are ideal for family groups. Others are focused on luxury dining experiences and spa treatments that may appeal more to couples,” explains Sture. Some cruise companies target a younger party-loving crowd, too. So find out what type of passengers you’re likely to be sharing the ship with.

What facilities are on board?

Cruise ships can offer everything from ballroom dancing and art classes to live music and waterslides. Check out dining options to ensure there is something to suit everyone’s tastes – some ships offer world-class dining while others have more casual eateries too. Look at the spa and gym facilities and if you’re travelling with children, see what the kids’ clubs offer. Some cruises offer bespoke experiences like whisky tasting sessions, too. 

What’s included and what extras will I pay?

The cost of your cruise usually covers all accommodation and main meals plus most onboard entertainment and activities. Some restaurants onboard though will charge extra for specialty foods, like a choice cut of steak or special desserts. Alcohol and drinks are often extra and you may also pay extra for room service orders between certain times. Classes and courses on board may incur a charge and you can also expect to pay extra for in-cabin babysitting services.

Sail the high seas, take a luxury European river cruise or explore the ancient waters of the Kimberley Coast. Whatever you choose, save five per cent on cruises as an RACV Member.
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