Whether your idea of a vacation is to sleep until noon and while away afternoons sipping margaritas by a pool or wake up early for a nonstop day of sightseeing, there is a cruise for you – one that fits your budget, too. “Cruises today cater to every kind of traveler,” said Judy Perl, a cruise specialist and the founder of the travel consultancy Judy Perl Worldwide Travel. Gone are the days, she said, when a cruise vacation was only about midnight buffets and spending a half-day at a port before moving on to the next one. Here, she shares her top tips for finding a trip to suit your travel style.
Match a cruise to your interests
If you have a die-hard interest – be it fitness, art history or wine – find a cruise that matches this passion, Perl said. “There are so many specialized cruises, and your chances of having a successful cruise vacation are that much higher when you pick one suited to what you like to do,” she said. A river cruise down the Rhone in Burgundy from a company like Uniworld or AmaWaterways, for example, is a great pick for oenophiles. Similarly, on SeaDream Yacht Club, exercise enthusiasts can go ashore with the cruise director on beach runs and hikes in destinations such as the British Virgin Islands.
More time on shore or at sea?
Some travelers like cruises because they enjoy spending time on the ship itself; for others, the appeal of a cruise may be having the chance to explore multiple destinations without the hassle of packing and unpacking numerous times. If the latter is more your speed, Perl suggested a cruise ship that spends multiple days in a single port instead of one that moves from port to port or is at sea for more than a day. Several lines, including Azamara Club Cruises and Crystal Cruises, offer such itineraries.
A big ship means more amenities
If you want multiple dining options and features like swimming pools, a big spa, a movie theater and a casino, cruise lines with large vessels, such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, are the way to go. “These ships have several thousand passengers so they have a lot of bells and whistles to cater to them,” Perl said. With ships that have fewer than 500 passengers, expect fewer amenities – there may be only one or two restaurants, for example – and limited entertainment choices. But there are benefits to smaller ships, including shorter lines when embarking and disembarking, less-crowded public areas, and more intimacy and personalized service – akin to staying at a boutique hotel.
Work with a cruise specialist
A travel adviser who knows a lot about cruises can help you navigate the many options on the market, and many don’t charge a fee for their service. Find one on Virtuoso.com, a global luxury travel network, or AmexTravel.com, a global travel network with 9,000 agents.