Planning Your Cruise

Over 10 million people take cruises each year. And no, they’re not all on board those big ships you seen on TV. In fact, there are many different types of cruises:

  • Family cruises
  • “Geek” cruises
  • Knitting cruises
  • Murder-mystery cruises
  • Music-themed cruises
  • Singles cruises
  • Small boat adventure cruises
  • …and so on! There really is a different size, theme, style cruise for everyone.

WHN TIP: Choose a Cruise That Suits You

If you are a physically active person, look for cruises that make a lot of port-calls (are at a new place daily, or every other day), book on a ship with those crazy facilities like rock climbing and ice skating. But if that is less your thing, don't worry about it over-much. In 15 cruises of anywhere from 7-16 days, I've yet to be bored.
- Jacqueline Church Simonds, frequent cruiser and publisher of Happy Sails: The Carefree Cruiser's Handbook

Your Preferences

Make a list of your preferences, ranking your preferences by priority and note areas where you might be flexible.

The Basics

  1. Number of people traveling and their ages
  2. What is your budget?
  3. How long would you like to travel? (6-8 days is usually the most common length offered)

The Boat

  1. Size of cruise ship
    • number of passengers
    • overall size
  2. Type of cabin
    • size of the bed – single, queen, king
    • number of occupants
    • location on the ship - porthole, balcony, etc.

The Destination

  1. What time of year or season would you like to travel?
  2. Preferred destination(s)
    • hot climate
    • cool climate
    • international
    • domestic
    • nature
    • urban
  3. Will you drive or fly to the cruise ship’s embarkation point?

Which activities are most important to you? Below is a starter list, ships vary:

  1. Casino
  2. Excursions
  3. Family activities
  4. Movies
  5. Onboard Entertainment
  6. Shopping
  7. Sports – dancing, golf, tennis, aerobics, swimming pools

Decide which amenities are most important to you – below is a starter list, ships vary:

  1. Babysitting/Child Care
  2. Beauty Salon
  3. Fitness Center
  4. Internet
  5. Laundry
  6. Spa
  7. TV

Other Things to Consider

  1. When would you like to eat dinner? (most ships have seating arrangements which are split into early or later seating)
  2. Do you like to dress up? (some ships have a dress code)
  3. List any additional needs (dietary preferences, babysitting or child care services, health concerns, etc.)

Start Your Search

  1. The Cruise Lines International Association has a cruise finder, which you can search by destination and/or cruise line. You can also search by activity or theme (think families, singles, golf, etc.).
    • The Cruise Lines International Association also has a list of major cruise ships – complete with photos and a list of amenities.
  2. Still haven't found the right cruise?
    • Do a few online keyword searches to find a cruise that suits you (e.g. “Caribbean + scuba diving + cruises + families)
    • Meet with a travel agent – they can also suggest cruises that might meet your needs and budget.

Decided on a cruise? Read our Booking Your Cruise article for top advice on making your vacation reservations.

Updated: 5/2009