For many people, the time may be right to take a cruise.
Whether it’s a short sail from Florida to the Bahamas; a journey to Alaska from Seattle; a seven-night escape from Miami to the Caribbean Islands; a Gulf of Mexico trip; or a bucket-list cruise through Europe — traveling on the high seas may be worth it.
And pre-planning can make all the difference to the quality of time spent.
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Here are a number of factors to consider.
Decide what’s important for a cruise vacation
Although value for cruise travel is a top consideration, other factors should guide a cruise choice, say industry experts.
“The top tip we always give when [people are] booking a cruise is don’t book based on price alone,” Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic based in Denver, Colorado, told Fox News Digital.
A swimming pool on board the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship is pictured above. Cruise lines are offering great values and unique experiences today, according to travel experts. (Associated Press)
“Great deals can be tempting,” she said, “but the most important thing is that you find a ship that is a good fit for you and your travel needs.”
As part of the research, McDaniel recommends looking into offerings such as cabin types, onboard activities, entertainment and dining options.
“Those tend to be the features of highest importance that can really help deliver a top-notch experience,” she said.
Another tip: Take the time to read reviews from other travelers in order to get a true picture of what it’s like onboard, said McDaniel.
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For example, people can filter reviews at Cruise Critic, “so you can find travelers who are most like you,” she said.
Consider driving to your cruise port if that’s an option.
Another decision to make is whether a priority is the destination or destinations that you’re visiting — or if it’s the ship itself, she noted.
“If you’re looking for more immersive experiences on land and are less concerned about the flashy options onboard, look for a smaller ship,” McDaniel suggested.
“But if you’re looking for a full adventure onboard, those mega ships will fit the bill perfectly,” she said.
Making the most of a travel budget
Cruising can offer great value, say experts. Much is included in the price, including cabin, meals and entertainment.
Pictured is the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship. “While we’re seeing inflation significantly affect prices on things like airfare and hotels, we’re seeing a much smaller increase in base cruise fares,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. (Daniel Hakim/Associated Press)
“You can get even greater value by finding deals that include some of the extra costs you might incur along your journey — things like Wi-Fi, gratuities, cabin upgrades and onboard credit that you can use toward things such as specialty restaurants or the spa,” said McDaniel.
You can also consider driving to your cruise port if that’s an option, she noted. Ports are located throughout the U.S., not only in Florida.
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“With the cost of airfare [rising], you can completely eliminate it just by sailing from a nearby port, whether [it’s] a port like New York, Baltimore, Galveston, Los Angeles or others,” said McDaniel.
Is inflation impacting cruise fares?
Cruise travel prices are “quite comparable” to what industry experts have seen over the past few years, McDaniel also said.
“Newer ships tend to be larger, with more over-the-top amenities.”
“It’s interesting: While we’re seeing inflation significantly affect prices of things like airfare and hotels, we’re seeing a much smaller increase in base cruise fares,” she said.
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“So, when you’re looking for a true value in your vacation, a cruise is probably one of the best travel values available.”
Some amenities are surprising
Mega-ships today feature activities that include bumper cars, surf simulators, roller coasters and go-kart racing, said McDaniel.
“They’re constantly one-upping one another, many times to attract families,” she said.
Cruise ship shown on left, and the Bahamas shoreline shown on right. The Bahamas is a popular cruise destination, according to travel experts. (iStock)
Cruise lines are also frequently raising their dining game.
“Specialty restaurants might be a new concept to new cruisers who think meals onboard are limited to the buffet and main dining room,” said McDaniel.
“While those are certainly available, most ships also offer a selection of specialty restaurants that provide a level of choice that seriously surprises people,” she added.
Specialty dining options range from sushi restaurants and steakhouses to restaurants led by Michelin-starred chefs.
The specialty dining options range from sushi restaurants and steakhouses to restaurants led by Michelin-starred chefs, she said.
What are the benefits of a newer ship?
If you’re looking to experience the latest and greatest, a new cruise ship is likely the best option, said one travel professional.
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“Newer ships tend to be larger with more over-the-top amenities,” Sally French, a travel expert with Nerdwallet who is based in San Francisco, told Fox News Digital.
“They’ll typically offer far more to do beyond simply dining, lounging on the deck or playing games inside,” she said.
“That’s good for restless travelers seeking an active vacation but who still want to experience cruise life,” French also said. “It can also be a reason for repeat cruisers to keep coming back.”
A Norwegian Spirit cruise ship is shown. “Newer ships tend to be larger with more over-the-top amenities,” said Sally French with Nerdwallet. (iStock)
One new ship is Norwegian Prima offered by Norwegian Cruise Line. A visit to its website reveals that it has activities for all ages: a Galaxy Pavilion offering virtual reality activities, a three-deck go-kart racetrack, plus water slides for thrill-seekers, among other ways to spend onboard time.
The staterooms on Prima are uniquely designed.
“Our guests will love the thoughtful, upscale design of Norwegian Prima. She truly looks like nothing we have ever seen before,” Harry Sommer, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line and based in Miami, Florida, told Fox News Digital.
“Newer ships tend to be larger with more over-the-top amenities.”
“She boasts our most spacious staterooms-to-date,” he continued. “Our inside staterooms are 20% larger than the fleet average and our balcony staterooms are 17% larger.”
For those willing to splurge on a Norwegian Prima cruise, there’s “The Haven,” a ship-within-a ship enclave of staterooms.
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“Guests [of ‘The Haven’] can enjoy the brand-new infinity pool with epic views and the two hot tubs on the second floor of the sun deck, as well as elevated cuisine in the three-meal-a-day restaurant, Haven, and an outdoor patio,” said Sommer.
The Haven is available on several ships of Norwegian’s fleet, he said.
A water slide on a cruise ship is pictured. Today, ships offer things to do like go-karts, virtual reality activities and water slides, said Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Harry Sommer. (iStock)
Another noteworthy offering on Prima: The Indulge Food Hall, with 11 different culinary offerings and both indoor and outdoor seating.
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“Nights on the ship are just as fun,” said Sommer. “What Norwegian does so well is entertainment. Prima shines in that category with live shows like ‘The Price Is Right,’ ‘Summer: The Donna Summer Musical’ and ‘Noise Boys.’”
Norwegian Prima is offering huge discounts right now plus free excursions, free Wi-Fi and free open bar, said French of Nerdwallet.
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“It’s rare to find deals that good, so this might be a good year to finally consider a cruise,” she said.