Is a Cruise Vacation on Your Bucket List


When was the last time you took a vacation? Can you remember your last vacation? What is a vacation?

vacation (v-kshn, v-) n. 1. A period of time devoted to pleasure, rest or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee. 2. a. A holiday.b. A fixed period of holidays, especially one during which a school, court, or business suspends activities. The key words in the definition are pleasure, rest and relaxation.

There aren't many vacation experiences that can deliver all those things. If you have a cruise vacation on your list of things to do before you die, chances are you put it there because you heard that cruises can deliver a true vacation experience. The point of this blog is to help you move a cruise vacation up your bucket list. Helpful tips and links to answers to the most common questions are provided, so let's get started.

Why Cruise?

So you have been thinking about a cruise vacation or you've had it on your "to-do" list for a long time but cannot commit. What are you waiting for? Cruising can be intimidating for first-timers because it seems so completely different than many other vacations. Roughly only 20% of Americans have ever taken a cruise vacation, but over 40% of cruise passengers are repeat cruisers. Here are the top ten reasons why many first time cruisers become cruise enthusiasts:

VALUE. One price buys your cabin, dining, entertainment and more.

ROMANCE. Secluded beaches, en suite dining on a balcony overlooking the ocean and spa services for two are just some of the romantic pursuits available.

CUISINE. Tantalize your taste buds with gourmet fare that showcases exotic ingredients, old standbys like pizza and ice cream or spa cuisine for a healthy alternative. Depending on your mood, dine in a traditional ballroom setting, a small bistro or a casual eatery.

VARIETY. With over 200 distinctive ships, 3000 ports-of-call and an unbelievable array of places to see and things to do, there is a perfect cruise for you. For even more choice, consider a pre- or post-land tour.

ACTIVITIES. Fill your days with sightseeing, sports activities, cultural lectures, educational tours led by naturalists and historians or simply lounge by the pool and relax. At night, enjoy dance extravaganzas, musical revues, gaming or a quiet evening gazing at the stars.

SIMPLICITY. Don't come back from your vacation needing a vacation. Planning a cruise is simple; your CLIA-affiliated travel agency can handle all of the details. Once you're on board, nearly all expenses are pre-paid... talk about hassle-free.

NEW HORIZONS. Fall asleep in one destination and awake to a new horizon... and you only have to pack and unpack once!

FAMILY. Families love cruising. Children's programs, kid-friendly menus and tours of the ship will keep your children happy, while affording you some time alone.

PAMPERING. Regardless of your budget, all cruise lines pamper their guests with first-class service around the clock.

SATISFACTION. It's a fact that cruises have a higher percentage of satisfied customers than any other vacation experience.

Source: Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)

Where to Cruise? Cruise destinations are one of the top motivating factors for most cruisers. Virtually anywhere there is navigable water, from oceans to rivers, you can find a cruise to fit your desires. According to Marc Mancini, author of Cruising: A Guide to the Cruise Line Industry, geography plays a major role in the decision to take a cruise vacation because:

Cruise passengers often decide which cruise to take according to the destination(s), not the ship or the line. This is especially true of first-time cruisers.

Certain places are best experienced by ship because of access. For instance, to drive or fly from town to town in Alaska is difficult, expensive, or, in some cases, impossible. Cruise ships, however, get around Alaska's coastal waters easily.

Cruises allow you to visit multiple destinations in one trip. Whether clusters of islands in the Aegean Sea (Greece), Indonesia, and the Caribbean or several European, Middle Eastern or North African destinations in the Mediterranean. Air connections within island groups are often awkward and multiple destinations are prohibitively expensive.

Travelers often prefer to visit underdeveloped countries via a cruise for safety and security reasons. The ship is secure, the food familiar, the transportation dependable, and the lodging reliable.

Individual destinations go up and down in popularity from year to year, but the Caribbean as a whole remains the most popular destination, year after year.

More experienced cruisers develop their brand loyalty based on the experience they had on a particular cruise line or lines early on. Just as there are cars that fit every personality, the same can be said of cruise lines. Cruise lines can be divided into several broad categories such as small, medium and large ships or mainstream, premium and luxury classes. Within each class of ship there are several categories or grades of stateroom so it is possible to have a luxury vacation even on a mainstream ship. Information abounds on cruise review and cruise line websites to help the first-time cruise decide which cruise line to book after deciding on the destination.

Mainstream

Carnival Cruise Lines - Carnival's "Fun Ships" appeal to a wide cross section of passengers of various ages and backgrounds. Carnival's many itineraries, numerous dining choices and extensive kid's programs make it a popular family cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line - Introduced Freestyle Cruising - a more relaxed resort-style experience that has been a very popular draw for NCL; no assigned meal times or tables and choices of 10 or more restaurants on most ships. Launched the Norwegian Epic in 2010 which includes live entertainment by the Blue Man Group, innovative stateroom design and gourmet cuisine.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line - State-of-the-art ships, exciting itineraries, great youth programs and unique on-board activities such as rock climbing wall, Flow Rider surfing and even ice skating. The Oasis of the Seas is one of the world's largest cruise ships, a destination in and of itself.

Costa Cruises - Europe's number one cruise line; if you want a European experience, Costa's Italian crew and theme can deliver; Italian inspired ships.

MSC Cruises - Gracious Italian staff, personalized service, cuisine and unique itineraries make MSC another favorite European-style experience for cruisers.

Premium

Celebrity Cruises - Owned by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity provides a luxurious experience on its consistently high ranked ships. Gourmet cuisine on Celebrity wins frequent awards.

Holland America Line - A leader in worldwide premium cruising, HAL is known for its long (10+ days) cruises and its attention to detail onboard. Gracious attentive service, gourmet cuisine, wide range of itineraries, and great value for price paid make HAL a frequent winner of awards.

Oceania Cruises - One of the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the industry, smaller-sized luxury ships (684 guests) and destination focused itineraries make this an excellent value in high end cruising. Very comprehensive lecture and enrichment program at sea.

Princess Cruises - Worldwide itineraries on the largest and newest ships. Princess' Personal Choice Cruising provides passengers with a wide variety of options to customize their vacations.

Windstar Cruises - Its motto "180 from Ordinary" says it all. Windstar's small luxury sailing ships accommodate 148 t0 312 pampered guests. These are highly advanced "sailing ships" that are fully stabilized to offer a comfortable experience.

Luxury

Crystal Cruises - Crystal ships consistently earn top awards. Crystal's European hotel and dining staff provide a level of service that brings a loyal following of cruisers back year after year. From private verandas to elegantly appointed staterooms, Crystal is frequently recognized for its excellent value and competitive rates.

Cunard Line - Cunard Line has the distinction of its traditional British elegance, superb White Star Service, gourmet cuisine, and regular trans-Atlantic service that sets it apart from all other cruise lines. The name recognition and luxury of its Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 put Cunard in a class all its own.