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Summer's not Over: Go on a Cruise!

Planning your  cruise can be a challenge for those who either haven’t traveled much or who haven’t taken an organized tour or vacation. How do you plan your cruise? Family and friends often get together to discuss where they want to travel or vacation next. You might have heard cruise tales from and seen (or been subjected to) cruise vacation pictures taken by your family and friends, or read in magazines and the Web about how much fun (and economical) cruising can be. If you want to “take the plunge” and go on your first cruise, where do you start?

Who is going on the cruise?
All age groups are welcome and planned for on a cruise ship. You will be able to find a cruise that will give any age group from toddler to great grandmother a memorable vacation. Friends of mine with teenagers often say they have found it to be the best family vacation yet. If you don’t have kids or don’t want to be around them while on vacation, there are some cruise ships that are almost adult only or won’t have many children.

How Much Are You Prepared to Spend?
There used to be a “rule of thumb” that you needed to budget about $100/day/person (exclusive of airfare). That rule still seems fairly reasonable, although many cruise ships now charge extra for items that used to be included in the fare. You can decrease your budgeted cost some by shopping around or by having more than two persons per cabin, being conservative and booking early (more than nine months in advance), being a risk-taker and booking late (less than 2 months in advance).  The minimum price on a”mainstream” cruise line for a Caribbean cruise seems to average about $500 per week.

How Long Is Your Vacation?
If you have less than a week, you are probably restricted to the Bahamas, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, or a “cruise to nowhere”. A “cruise to nowhere” allows passengers to cruise for a long weekend out of port into the ocean and then return. No ports of call are made by the ship, but you can get a feel for what a cruise is like.
A week’s vacation will open up the Caribbean to you, and depending on where you live you can even get to Europe, Hawaii, Alaska, or the South Pacific.

Where Do You Want to Cruise?
Choosing a cruise destination is often the most difficult decision for future-cruisers. Below are listed some of the options for cruise travelers. Remember that the earth is over 3/4 covered with water. This means that you can reach every continent and many countries via cruise ship. Even land locked locations such as central Europe, Russia, or the Yangtze River in China can often be reached on a river cruise.

What Type of Cabin Do You Want/Need?
Cabin selection is normally a function of how much you want to spend. However, many cruisers will book the cheapest room available at the time of booking, preferring to save their money for shopping or shore excursions. Deck plans for most ships are available in hard copy from the cruise line, travel agent, or you can view them online. If you book early enough, you will sometimes get an upgrade to a better cabin. You might also note that on most ships a cabin mid-ship and on a lower deck will “ride better” in rough seas than one near the bow or on a higher deck.

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