The Norwegian Jade in San Marcos Basin, Venice
Thinking about cruising? This article is for those persons that are considering taking to the seas but have never done so. The experienced cruiser is welcome to make comments at the conclusion but for newcomers there are a number of criteria to consider. Remember, all cruise lines and their cruise ships are not created equal.
First, decide where you want to go when you start considering cruising.
How many bars and restaurants are onboard? If you plan on using the main dining room on the ship for your dinner (and perhaps lunch or breakfast) then you typically choose an early dinner seating (usually 6pm) or a late dinner seating (usually 8pm). A lot of passengers enjoy this arrangement because they get to know the persons assigned to their table during the evening dinners during the voyage.
I have to admit, that we’ve met other couples that we’ve kept in contact with even when the trip is over when we’ve chosen this option but frequently, especially when we are aboard a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, we prefer the Freestyle dining which they pioneered.
You go to the dining room anytime during the serving hours and you are seated either by yourself or if it’s crowded you can choose to sit with others. Many cruise lines are offering a similar arrangement with their own variations implemented. When thinking about cruising keep this in mind.
How many of those restaurants are premium ones? A few years ago it started out that there were just 2 or 3 specialty restaurants aboard the cruise ships that you paid an additional charge to dine in. However, over the last couple of years they have expanded to have a lot more. Some ships have premium dining outlets that start at $10 per person.
Reservations are typically required and the cuisine is frequently excellent. It’s like having a wonderful meal in a high class French, Japanese or Italian restaurant for a nominal fee of approx. $25-$50 depending upon the venue For example; you’d pay far more for Filet Mignon and Lobster at a restaurant on shore.
Our ship was moored nearby the Moby Vincent, a fun Italian cruise ferry that operates out of Livorno, Italy near Florence
When thinking about cruising is your preference for fewer children (or more) on your cruise? We are retired and prefer to have fewer children aboard when we are thinking of cruising. Some cruise lines such as Disney and Carnival cater to families that travel together on the sea. If you are planning to travel with children then those companies are a good starting point for you.
If you are thinking of cruising and want to have a quieter trip where children are certainly present but not in large numbers, then some of the other lines such as Norwegian and Celebrity might be your choice. Most cruise lines have child care centers where children are kept amused while their parents are active elsewhere. Simply look at the on-board amenities available on each ship and you can choose wisely.
When thinking about cruising remember that most ships today are non-smoking and only have designated areas for smokers although some cruise lines like Norwegian do still allow smoking on their suites with balconies.
Some cruise lines have a smoking lounge or cigar bar that is ventilated and cordoned off from other public areas and many of the casinos have smoking areas. If you smoke that is something you would have to check on if you are thinking of cruising.
When you take a land excursion you can frequently overlook the harbor and see cruise ships moored. This is a view while on our tour out of Marseilles.
When thinking about cruising find out what shore excursions are offered? You can check the excursions offered for your destination of choice on the websites of the cruise lines. You can either purchase the excursions prior to your voyage, usually at a discount, or book the excursions on board. Some excursions fill up quickly but it has been our experience that we can sign up a few days beforehand while on board.
There are numerous other vendors besides the cruise lines that offer escorted tours and they often have better prices but keep in mind, if something goes wrong and (for example) the bus breaks down…the ship will not wait for you to return.
You will be responsible to get yourself to the next port of call to meet the ship. If you are adventurous and decide you want to make your separate plans you can do so. Many ports are very close to town where you can grab a bus or cab inexpensively.
I was tempted a few times but a few years ago we had a bus break down in Cairo on the way back from Saqqara and had to wait for a replacement bus which made us an hour late for the ship’s departure time.
The captain was waiting on the gangplank, the engines were running, the harbor pilot was aboard and the tugs to pull us out from the dock were hooked up and ready to go…they only waited for us because it was the Cruise Line excursion and they always wait for your return. Since then, I’m not tempted. When you are thinking about cruising this is a valid point to keep in mind.
Below is a photo of Star Princess moored in Venice
While thinking about cruising be aware there are scads of options. Brochures or online information is very informative giving you details about the theme of a particular cruise. This will give you an indication of the ages of many passengers.
If it is lauded as a great cruise to celebrate Frank Sinatra and you’re 20 years old, that might not be your cup of tea. We’ve found that as long as there is no theme involved and we book when children are in school, it fits our needs. The passengers then tend to be a good mix of young and old with fewer children.
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