Thursday, December 2, 2021
Dec. 2, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Planning, research vital when booking your cruise

By , Columbian Editor
Published:

If you’re reading this column today, that means I am on a cruise!

I don’t claim to know everything about the news business, but I will claim to have considerable knowledge about cruising. I think this is cruise No. 27 for me, in a string that began in 1987. So, since I am on vacation, I am going to take this chance to share a few of my observations.

First of all, most cruises still tend to go to the Caribbean or Alaska, but there are a lot more cruises to a lot more places these days. My wife and I like to sail on Princess Cruises. When we started cruising, the line had four ships. Now it has 17. And the ships are much bigger. My first ship — Royal Princess — was then one of the largest at sea, carrying 1,200 passengers. The current Royal Princess, the third with that name, carries three times as many passengers and is only the 25th biggest ship afloat.

We’re currently cruising in Southeast Asia. As larger, newer ships sail the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, the North American lines have reposition their older vessels to new markets such as Asia and Australia. That gives us a chance to be sailing today on Sapphire Princess, one of my favorite ships. It’s my third vacation on this beautiful, comfortable ship. If you’ve ever thought about seeing some of the exotic spots of the world, but are worried about all of the details of overseas travel, check into a cruise — the price might be surprisingly affordable. And it is so nice to have your fully air-conditioned oasis waiting for you after a day in a place like Jakarta, Indonesia.

If you haven’t been on a particular cruise line, do a little research before you book. (This can be as simple as looking at a few YouTube videos of the ships you’re considering to see who and what’s onboard.) If you like a lot of choices, like zip lining and ice skating, book a large ship on a mainstream line like Royal Caribbean, Carnival or NCL. If you think “nice jeans” are a thing, don’t book a cruise on fancy Cunard. If you like less-visited ports, book a smaller ship like Pacific Princess.

Look at the ship’s deck plans before you choose a cabin. Some vessels involve a lot of walking. If that’s not your thing, get a cabin near the elevators. If you go to bed early, don’t room above the disco. If you go back-and-forth to the pool all day, don’t book on Deck 5.

First-timers: You won’t get seasick. Cruise lines don’t have billions in annual sales thanks to people who are willingly nauseous.

Be sure to understand the real price. When I started cruising, the cruise fare included airfare, transfers to and from the airport to the ship, and sometimes even a pre-cruise hotel. Now those cost extra. So do taxes, port charges and gratuities. And once you are onboard, you’re likely to spend money on things like drinks, photos, internet access, shore excursions and specialty dining. That’s not a bad thing, but be aware that no $479 cruise is actually going to cost you only $479.

It sounds silly, but make sure you understand which ports the ship is visiting and what hours you will be in port. If you want to visit a port’s Saturday market, don’t go there on Tuesday. If you want to go to the Caribbean, don’t book a cruise to the Bahamas.

Some of my favorite ports that I have visited over the years: Komodo Island, Indonesia; Tallinn, Estonia; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Sitka, Alaska (I got engaged there); Castries, St. Lucia; and Devil’s Island, French Guiana. Of course there are many dozens of ports to visit. The important thing is to get out there and see them.

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