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There is nothing like an amazing vacation. Cruises can offer the perfect getaway for couples, singles, and families. Prices range to suit the budget-minded consumer as well as those with more to spend.

How to Choose

* Cruises offer quick getaways such as a last minute weekend trip or long excursions lasting over 100 days. During this time there will be superb cuisine included as part of the package as well as plenty of entertainment onboard and on the shore at wherever your destination may be. Entertainment ranges from sports and recreation, live music and performances, gambling, spa treatments, and more.

* If you choose a specialty cruise, you can pick the theme: Food & Wine Lover's, Murder Mystery, Health & Fitness, Holiday, Family, Golf, Personal Finance, Romance, Swing, Gospel, Opera, Salsa, History, Cultural, Nature Lovers' and much more.

* Choose your cruise carefully depending on whether or not you want a casual or formal environment, something family oriented, romantic, or where you can meet other people. Also consider what size ship you want to be on. Some host less than 100 people, while others are jam packed with a few thousand. Remember that very large ships can't always dock in all destinations, nor can they traverse certain areas, such as the Panama Canal.
** Casual: Windjammer Barefoot Cruises
** Family: Carnival, Disney Cruise Line
** Adults Only: Seabourn
** Caribbean Pampering: Windstar

* When selecting a room, know that inexpensive cruise cabins are often lower on the ship and are smaller and lack much sunlight. While cost will drop significantly with smaller rooms sometimes rooms on lower decks tend to be noisy. However, a balcony cabin is at the height of luxury. Outside rooms are almost always preferred but they will cost more.

Deals, Pricing and Booking

* Keep in mind that while cruises are all-inclusive, covering room, board, food and entertainment, those prices don't include extra fees for excursions, spa treatments, and other amenities. Always check the details before committing and inquire about tipping policies as well as extra fees that aren't included in the initial price.
** Extra possible fees: port charges, taxes, air travel from initial destination, single occupancy fee, shore excursions, liquor, phone calls, laundry, etc.
* Cruises go just about all over the world, but if you want a deal, try for the more frequented destinations such as the Caribbean and Alaska.
* Older ships usually ask for less money.
* Less frequented ports will cost quite a bit less to leave from.
* Repositioning cruises - that is, cruises where the ship moves from one part of the world to another, for example from a summer in Alaska to the winter in the Caribbean - are frequently discounted, but offer less shore time and more sea time. If all you want is a getaway, then this could be a good choice for you.
* Inaugural cruises can sometimes come at cheaper prices with more special treatment.
* Look for "group rates". This doesn't mean you have to hang with the group, but the trip gets prepurchased for resale to several individuals at a lower cost.
* Prices vary according to demand. If you find a deal at 2:30pm and you wait an hour the price could very well sky rocket within the next hour, so once you find something that sounds good, you should try and book as quickly as possible.
* If you know when you want to go but find that the prices are too high, check within a week before and after your preferred date to see if you can get a better price.
* Booking in advance (at least 130 days) helps save money as does booking cruises for off-peak times. For last-minute bookings, expect slim pickings during peak seasons.
* Peak periods tend to be over the major holidays, as well as Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day weekends. Look for deals either slightly before or after these dates to find better prices.
** Usually early January, May, and December are the best times to find better deals for the Caribbean.
** Alaska, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe are best during late summer or early fall.
* Avoid booking Caribbean cruises during hurricane season: June through early December.

Major Cruise Companies

* Royal Caribbean Cruises
* Carnival Cruises
* Norwegian Cruises
* Celebrity Cruises
* Princess Cruises
* Disney Cruises
* Holland America Cruises


International Resources

Le guide des croisières