Whether you are setting sail for the first or the 40th time, matching your trip to your personality and passions begins with a few simple questions.
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Do you love the thrill of the big city, or do you prefer the charm of small towns?
Larger ships tend to head to bigger cities, while smaller river boats often visit the nooks and crannies of the world.
Does your perfect vacation involve relaxing poolside or hitting the town?
If your main goal is relaxing and disconnecting, pick a cruise that has as many days at sea as possible. If you want to see the sights, choose a cruise with lots of ports on the itinerary and longer stays in those ports—even occasional overnights.
Do you need a daily dose of entertainment?
Investigate onboard offerings in advance to make sure your cruise will keep you engaged, whether you prefer live music, Broadway-style shows, lectures, movies or arts and crafts.
Are you a landlubber thinking about testing your sea legs?
Smooth, enjoyable sailing is generally ahead. Today’s ocean liners have stabilizers that keep travel steady. They’re also able to reroute if bad weather is on the radar.
Are you a people person, or do you prefer marching to your own beat?
Larger ships are perfect if you require tons of kids’ programming or love more entertainment options, like bars, nightclubs and large-scale Broadway shows. Smaller ships provide more intimacy and personal service while still offering plenty of choice and amenities.
Do you love wildlife and adventures in nature?
If scenic views, outdoor activities or flora and fauna are essential to your dream trip, cruises are a great way to access such hard-to-reach natural wonders as Alaska’s Inside Passage or Norway’s breathtaking fjords. Select itineraries and shore excursions that focus on the picturesque and panoramic.
Is the Food Network your go-to channel?
Select a line where the focus on food is the main course—whether it’s celebrity chef-branded restaurants, curated cuisine themes or itineraries that visit food cultures of the world.
Is the kitchen your Zen zone?
Look for cruises that feature onboard show kitchens, cooking classes and food-focused shore excursions.
Do you start talking about your next meal before the last bite of your current one?
Some lines offer traditional seated dining, with a specialty restaurant or two for variety. Others have a dozen restaurants that offer more cuisines but may require advance reservations.
Table for two?
Choose a cruise—large or small—with flexible dining, where one or more restaurants take reservations or will always accommodate a table for two.
Want your own space?
Private balconies are all the rage these days, and they remain one of the most intimate spots on any ship. Some ships will even serve an alfresco candlelit dinner on your balcony for a quiet couple’s evening.
Breakfast in bed?
Choose a ship that offers more than just basic room service.
Do the kids or grandkids enjoy making new friends?
Choose a larger line and a ship that traditionally caters to children with kids’ zones and lots of organized activities.
Curious about what to expect come suppertime?
Most cruise lines offer traditional and flexible dining. You choose! Talk to your Travel Counselor about the best options for your family’s wants and needs.
Do you like to pursue activities with the kids or grandkids, or do you want to drop them off at the children’s club each morning?
If you want to go ashore with the children, consider an itinerary with lots of family-friendly shore excursions. If you’ll be going your separate ways, make sure your ship has kid zones with lots of activities.
Are you all about the city experience?
Then the type of cruise that might be best for you are European river cruises and Mediterranean and Baltic cruises featuring mainland cities.
Do you love the museums of North America?
Choose the type of cruise that features the major cities of the Northeast United States and Eastern Canada—including popular fall foliage cruises.
Do you believe the best way to learn about a new culture is through its food?
Then the type of cruise you’re after will feature lots of food-focused ports and shore excursions—like cruises to tasty Italy and Spain, for instance.
Lynn and Cele Seldon have spent the past 25 years covering all aspects of travel writing and photography. They focus on travel within the Southeast US and the Caribbean, cruise ship travel, soft adventure (including scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, and boating), and culinary travel. Their work has appeared in more than 500 publications, including: Southern Living; Cruise Travel; TrailBlazer; Outside; Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel; Scuba Diving; Porthole; USA Today; and many AAA magazines.
Rose Stadt, AAA Travel Counselor, Vallejo, Calif.
More and more people want to customize their escorted trips with longer stays in certain cities or visits to specific sites. I make sure the independent pieces fit seamlessly with the tour.
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