Six questions you need to ask before booking a cruise

Woman looking at ocean from cruise ship

Sarah Marinos

Posted April 04, 2022

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

Cruise ships abound in onboard entertainment options to choose from.

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 they are popular with people who want to immerse themselves in a region. 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. Cruises to Norway, for example, might include an opportunity to kayak in the fjords. Choose your shore tours as soon as you can after booking your cruise to get your pick of experiences.

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. Themed cruise itineraries are also popular, such as comedy-themed cruises or those linked to sporting events.

Ocean behind a cruise ship

Both the destination(s) and the journey are important on a cruise.

What kind of cruise is it?

Check each ship's features to find out what type of passengers you're likely to be sharing the ship with. Some cruise lines offer kids' clubs and water parks during school holidays, which are ideal for family groups. Others are focused on luxury dining experiences and spa treatments that may appeal more to couples. Still others promote on-board parties that go late into the night for younger crowds.

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.

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