5 Best Senior Cruises

Researching flights, finding places to stay, and looking up things to do in the area you’re visiting are the most stressful parts of planning a vacation. Plus, most of the time, you only get to experience one destination at a time.

With a cruise, not only do you get to hand off all the hard work to someone else, but you also get to experience multiple destinations in one trip. While these two factors might be appealing to just about anyone, they are especially appealing to seniors looking for the perfect vacation without any of the hassles. To help you find your own perfect seniors getaway, below are five cruise lines offering the best senior cruises for 2020.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

For those looking for a more luxurious cruise experience, Regent Seven Sea Cruises offers four all-suite ships traveling to more than 450 destinations around the world. These destinations include the Panama Canal, transatlantic, South Pacific, Alaska, and the Mediterranean. Your payment includes airfare, accommodations, meals, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, gratuities, and most shore excursions. For a little more, Regent offers more extensive shore excursions, such as behind-the-scenes tours of world-famous attractions, immersive cultural experiences, and culinary tours.  You can end each day with dinner served to you by the onboard pool.

A high 1:1.5 staff-to-passenger ratio, ship-wide accessibility for passengers with disabilities, and entertainment tailored to your interests and abilities make Regent the perfect senior cruise experience.

Source: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock

Holland America Line

With hundreds of cruises to countries across the world, seniors are bound to find something up their alley aboard Holland America Line. Besides plenty of onboard activities, such as music and performances at the variety of onboard venues, Holland also offers hands-on and demonstrative culinary classes where you can brush up on your cooking skills.

You may even be lucky enough to board one of Holland’s two ships that offer BLEND. BLEND is the world’s only purpose-built wine-blending venue at sea. You can even create an individual blend of wine from up to five barrels of single-vineyard red wine grown and produced at the Chateau St. Michelle winery in Washington State. Before indulging in wine, you can fill your stomach at any of the five specialty onboard restaurants. These restaurants offer cuisine ranging from Italian to Asian to French. Holland also prides itself on being among the most disability-friendly cruise lines in the industry with plenty of support and available arrangements for wheelchairs, scooters, and other disability issues.

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Oceania Cruises

Hop on any one of Oceania Cruises‘ six luxury ships and enjoy itineraries ranging from 22 days to 180 days all around the world. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you can choose one of Oceania’s smaller ships. These ships stop in less-visited ports, such as the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and Komodo Island in Indonesia. Oceania partners with tour operators in these less-popular areas to give unique onshore excursions highlighting the local culture, history, and cuisine. Similarly, Oceania also offers plenty of on-land bucket list tours like snorkeling with the dolphins in French Polynesia, hiking in the Amazon, exploring the markets in Nice, and even visiting Mount Everest.

If staying on board is more your thing, you can enjoy dinner venues offering everything from Asian to French delicacies. You can also brush up on your own culinary skills by taking some cooking classes. Finally, you can start/end your days relaxing at one of the onboard spas and fitness centers or experiment with Chinese medicine and Buddhist meditation.

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Viking Cruises

If you’re not interested in things like onboard casinos and want a more authentic, cultural seniors cruise, then Viking Cruises might be more up your alley. They offer classes, events, excursions, and activities catering to virtually any interest you can think of. This includes history, art, science, local culture, and cuisine.

Without even leaving the ship, you can go enjoy an authentic Scandinavian thermal experience at the snow grotto, take in a lecture or TED Talk, take cooking classes at The Kitchen Table, and watch a 3D film in the Explorers’ Dome. Off the ship, you can go hunting for truffles in Provence, attend a ballet or opera from the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, or visit a small family farm outside the Norwegian town of Bergen for an additional fee. These examples represent just a few of the possible itineraries available across Europe, Asia, and other destinations. Pricing includes meals, beer, and wine during lunch and dinner, port charges, Internet access, lectures, activities, and one shore excursion in every port.

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Avalon Waterways

Similar to Viking, Avalon Waterways offers the perfect seniors cruise for those wanting cultural immersion over standard entertainment and amenities. For example, common cruises for seniors include Paris to Normandy’s Landing Beaches along the River Seine, Tulip Time Cruise for Nature and Garden Lovers through Holland and Belgium, and a two-week Magnificent Europe itinerary from Amsterdam to Budapest along the Danube and Rhine. Thanks to Avalon Choice, a feature introduced in 2019, passengers on European itineraries can select between three types of excursions every day, depending on interests and ability level. These include:

  • Classic, which covers the traditional history and heritage of a destination with a local guide;
  • Discovery, which is more hands-on and interactive with the local culture, and;
  • Active, which offers tours for the more eager and physically active.

Avalon’s pricing covers all meals, sparkling wines at breakfast, regional wines and beer with lunch and dinner, enrichment activities, entertainment, and shore excursions with local guides. To top it all off, Avalon equips its ships with elevators for easier accessibility.

Source: Bjoern Wylezich / Shutterstock

5 Best Senior Cruise Discounts

With delicious cuisine, diverse entertainment, and relaxed accommodations, cruising from country to country is the perfect way to spend the best years of your life. To help you find the best possible cruises at the most affordable pricing, below are the five best senior cruise discounts to take advantage of in 2020.

Norwegian Cruise Linelavish

Generally speaking, seniors are eligible for $100 off select cruises and a five percent discount off all Norwegian cruises booked at least nine months out. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a uniquely relaxed experience, ignoring most of the usual cruise restrictions like dining times and dress codes. This way, seniors can enjoy a more relaxed experience on the sea usually only reserved for more expensive, luxurious cruises. Cruises aboard Norwegian Cruise Line last anywhere from three to 21 days and sail across Alaska, Cuba, Hawaii, and many other places.

Check out this sample discounted Norwegian Cruise: 7-Night Europe Cruise. It features a 68 percent discount off its list price of $2,199. This deal includes a departure from Barcelona, Spain, and stops at Naples, Italy, Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy, Livorno, Italy, Cannes, France, and Palma De Mallorca, Spain.

Other Possible Discounts

  • Free at Sea Exclusive – Save 30 Percent on Cruise Fares, 50 Percent off Deposits, Free Beverage Package, Free Shore Excursion Credit, and Up to $50 Free Onboard Credit
  • Reduced Rates
  • $100 Free Onboard Credit through American Express Gold Card Destinations
  • American Express Cruise Privileges Program Offers Up to $300 Free Onboard Credit plus Extra Bonuses
  • Latitudes Past Guest Benefits – Priority Check-In, Onboard Discounts, and Complimentary Dinner
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Royal Caribbean

While you have to call Royal Caribbean to see what specific discounts are available (1-800-256-6649), seniors 55 years or older are eligible for discounts aboard select Royal Caribbean cruises. That said, more discounts become available the closer a trip is to departure. Aboard Caribbean cruises, seniors can enjoy an adults-only retreat, spa, library, and card room, along with language classes, dance classes, scrapbooking, and guest lectures. There are also facilities for the deaf/hard-of-hearing and blind/visually impaired.

Check out this sample discounted Royal Caribbean cruise: 4-Night Caribbean Cruise. It features a 68 percent discount off its list price of $834. This deal includes a departure from Galveston, Texas and stops at Cozumel, Mexico.

Other Possible Discounts

  • Buy One Get One 60 Percent Off Cruise Fares, Up to $100 Free Onboard Credit, and Reduced Rates for Avoya Advantage Members
  • Royal Suite Class Offers Free Gratuities, Free Beverage Package, Free Wi-Fi, and Complimentary Specialty Dining
  • Free Family Fun Package
  • $100 Free Onboard Credit through American Express Gold Card Destinations
  • Crown & Anchor Society Offers Cruise Discounts, Reduced Rate Upgrades, and More for Past Guests
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Celebrity Cruises

Glass dining rooms, formal foyers, libraries, bars, lawn games, live entertainment, above-and-beyond staff, and casinos make Celebrity Cruises the quintessential senior cruise experience. Also, there are facilities for the deaf/hard-of-hearing and blind/visually impaired. If you provide enough notice in advance, in addition to qualifying for certain senior discounts, Celebrity Cruises can even customize your cruise to meet your individual needs.

Check out this sample discounted Celebrity Cruise: 7-Night Alaska Cruise. It features a 57 percent discount off its list price of $2,198. This deal includes a departure from Seattle, Washington, and stops at Ketchikan, Alaska, Juneau, Alaska, Skagway, Alaska, and the Alaska Inside Passage.

Other Possible Discounts

  • Up to $700 Free Onboard Credit, Free Gratuities, Free Beverage Package, and Free Unlimited Internet for Avoya Advantage Members
  • $100 Free Onboard Credit through American Express Gold Card Destinations
  • Active and Retired Military Save Up to $200
  • American Express Cruise Privileges Program Offers Up to $300 Free Onboard Credit and Extra Bonuses
  • Captain’s Club Benefits – Free Upgrades, Free Internet Plus More for Past Guests
Source: Shutterstock

Silversea Cruises

While not specifically for seniors, Silverseas Cruises offers such discounts as 10 percent off fees and a $500 onboard credit for people who book their cruises far in advance. Silversea Cruises offer spacious, oceanview suites with butler service and private verandas and voyages to over 900 destinations on all seven continents. Transportation to and from port towns, as well as the inclusion of gratuities in your fee, make Silversea the perfect relaxing getaway for seniors.

Check out this sample discounted Silversea Cruise: 7-Night Alaska Cruise. It features a 38 percent discount off its list price of $10,200. This deal includes a departure from Vancouver, Canada, and stops at Ketchikan, Alaska, Juneau, Alaska, Skagway, Alaska, Sitka, Alaska, and Hubbard Glacier, Alaska. The cruise ends in Seward, Alaska.

Other Possible Discounts

  • Up to $500 Free Onboard Credit, Free or Discounted Airfare, and Save Up to $1,000 for Avoya Advantage Members
  • Free or Discounted Airfare for All 2020-2022 Silversea Cruises Booked Thorugh Avoya Travel
  • $100 Free Onboard Credit through American Express Gold Card Destinations
  • American Express Cruise Privileges Program Offers Up to $500 Free Onboard Credit and Extra Bonuses
  • Save Up to 10 Percent and Gain Access to Special Events for Venetian Society Members
Source: Shutterstock

MSC Cruises

Enjoy a seniors cruise on a budget aboard MSC Cruises. While they don’t post their discounts publicly, you can call them at 1-877-665-4655 to find out what senior discounts are available. Even without a discount, MSC offers Caribbean itineraries for less than $300 per person. For a family-centric trip, MSC also offers free sailing for kids under 11 and even kids 12 to 17 on certain trips.

Check out this sample discounted MSC Cruise: 7-Night Caribbean Cruise. It features a 69 percent discount off its list price of $898. This deal includes a departure from Miami, Florida, and stops at Ocean Cay Msc Marine Reserve, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Cayman Islands, and Key West, Florida.

Other Possible Discounts

  • Free Unlimited Beverage Package, Free Wi-Fi, and Up to $100 Free Onboard Credit for Select 2020-2021 MSC Cruises Booked Thorugh Avoya Travel
  • Reduced Rates on Select 2020-2021 MSC Cruises Booked Thorugh Avoya Travel
  • Up to 20 Percent Off Cruise Fares and $50 Free Onboard Credit for MSC Voyagers Club Members
  • $100 Free Onboard Credit through American Express Gold Card Destinations
Source: TTL media / Shutterstock

5 Reasons to Go on a Senior Singles Cruise

It’s not hard to imagine why hopping on a luxury cruise ship and sailing around the world is attractive to most people. Sunny skies, catered food, beautiful accommodation, and a new destination to explore every few days are just a few of the driving forces behind the 30 million people hopping on cruises every year. However, on top of everything that comes regular cruise, senior singles cruises come with their own perks.

To help you decide if a senior singles cruise is right for you, below are five reasons to go on a senior singles cruise.

Find the One

Meeting new people is hard enough as you grow older. Finding new romantic partners is even harder. There are all sorts of reasons for this, prioritizing time with friends and family being the main one.

Senior singles cruises are a non-intrusive way to get to know other people who are looking to date. You have a longer period of time — anywhere from days to weeks to months — to more naturally get to know people. This is unlike other forced single events, such as a one-night social gathering where you have limited time with each person. Plus, the longer you interact with people, you get a better sense of how people actually are. What better way to get to know someone than sailing across the ocean and exploring new countries with them? With a better understanding of someone’s real character, you can better decide if you want to pursue them romantically.

Source: Shutterstock

Meet New Friends

As we grow older, our priorities tend to point more towards the family and friends we already have. As a result, meeting new people tends to fall by the wayside.

Even if you don’t come away with a romantic connection, senior singles cruises can then be a great way to meet new people in your later years. This is because unlike non-singles cruises, where people tend to come with their partners, families, or friends, singles cruises by definition have more people by themselves. When people are by themselves, they are more likely to try to meet new people. Plus, if it works out, the connections you make onboard can continue after the cruise is over. As you spend time with these people after the cruise, you can also join their other social circles. Depending on your cruise, there’s a good chance that the people you meet are from different parts of the world. By making friends with these people, you can open up all sorts of travel opportunities to visit them in different countries all around the world.

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Visit Multiple Locations

Why spend all the energy, time, and money planning a trip to one destination when you can explore multiple destinations over the course of one cruise? Cruises are one of the easiest, affordable ways to travel to and explore multiple locations over the course of one vacation. For instance, instead of traveling to just China, you can travel across all of Eastern Asia. A cruise of Easter Asia will likely stop in different countries, including China, every few days.

With cruises offering itineraries to just about anywhere in the world, you’re bound to find a senior singles cruise setting sail to a destination you want to visit. Plus, cruises eliminate the stress involved in booking flights, transportation on the ground, accommodation, and even food over the course of your vacation. All you have to do is board and follow port country deadlines, as everything else is conveniently taken care of.

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Try Different Things

As we get older, opportunities to try different things can become fewer and farther between. This is usually the result of a lack of access and convenience. Fortunately, activities aboard cruises check both of these boxes.

With plenty of activities, classes, and lessons aboard cruises, there are all sorts of different new experiences to be had on a daily basis. There’s also a tendency for us to focus solely on relaxation when on vacation. While there’s nothing wrong with this, cruises provide the opportunity to squeeze in some self-development among your relaxation. For example, after spending a few hours by the pool, you can brush up on your cooking skills. Afterward, enjoy your self-made meal with a glass of wine. In this sense, cruises are the best of both worlds. They make relaxation and self-development equally as convenient and accessible.

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Refresh

Monotony and the negative feelings associated with monotony affect us all. While the feeling of being stuck or bored can happen at any point in our lives, retirement, less energy, and fewer opportunities can all make these feelings more present in our older years. To counteract this, a senior singles cruise is the perfect opportunity to refresh.

From waking up in a new country every day to sipping on your favorite drink overlooking the horizon to ending your day in your suite’s hot tub with a personal butler waiting on you, the opportunities for relaxation and refreshment on a cruise are endless. More generally, you can meet new people, hear new perspectives, try different things, and generally disconnect from your everyday life. Any one of these things — let alone all of them combined — can help you refresh and return to your life after the cruise filled with new motivation.

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Top European Cruise Deals

European cruises offer you the opportunity to experience several destinations in one trip, on a budget! This is because accommodations, travel, and food are included in the cruise travel package. Follow along as we round up the top European cruise deals that will offer you an experience of a lifetime.

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International is one of the largest and most affordable cruise lines on the market. They have 20 ships in operation sailing to 260 ports in 68 countries across six continents, including many European cities. A quick search on their website shows 3-night European cruises across Italy and Spain for as low as $469 USD per person (before taxes and fees). From the perfect vacation with your family to a romantic getaway with your partner, there’s something on board to accommodate all kinds of trips.

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Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises‘ 10 beautifully designed ships, on-board food options, diverse itineraries, and kid-friendly activities make it perfect for family getaways. As explained on their website, among other things and places,  you can enjoy the sun-kissed beaches and irresistible food of the Mediterranean, explore the dramatic landscapes and natural wonders of Scandinavia, tour castles and monuments in the British Isles, or stroll along the shore of the world’s oldest lake in Russia. As an example, Celebrity offers 7-night cruises across Italy and Greece for as low as $989 USD per person (before taxes and fees).

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Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line may be known for its more luxurious cruise ships, but they also offer plenty of affordable European cruises as well.  What’s even cooler is that Norwegian ignores typical cruise ship rules such as assigned dining times and dress codes, allowing for a much more relaxed experience usually only reserved for more expensive, luxurious cruises. A sample itinerary with Norwegian is a 2-week cruise across Ireland, France, and England for $985 USD per person.

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Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises offers friendly getaways for passengers 18 years and older. They offer 17 ships, plenty of on-board food options, and an array of other activities and workshops like cooking lessons, history lectures, poolside movie screenings, and magic shows. You can find 7-day Mediterranean cruises across Italy and Spain for as low as $712 USD person.

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Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line offers cruises that both adults and kids can enjoy. Adults can enjoy the many activities and amenities that make up Carnival’s party at sea, and kids can enjoy Camp Ocean, Circle “C”, and Club o2, all of which cater to different age ranges. There are also rope courses, mini-golf, ping-pong tables, volleyball, soccer, basketball, and plenty of other sports options to keep people of all ages entertained. Itineraries cost as low as $689 USD per person (before taxes and fees) for 8-day cruises across Italy, Sicily, France, and Barcelona.

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Holland America Line

With options for both kid-friendly and non-kid-friendly ships, Holland America Line is a super affordable way to get exactly the kind of cruise experience you’re after. Adults can enjoy the refined atmosphere and low passenger-to-crew ratio that Holland America Line has become known for whereas kids can enjoy sing-along story times and even ice cream eating competitions. You can set out to sea for as low as $699 USD per person (before taxes and fees) for a 14-day cruise across Portugal and Italy.

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MSC Cruises

Free sailing for kids under 11 (and even kids 12 to 17 on certain trips), affordable itineraries, and plenty of adult-activities make sailing with MSC Cruises the perfect getaway on a budget. Parents can relax in the adults-only pools while kids enjoy theaters showing 4D movies — essentially a combination of a rollercoaster and a normal movie theater. Passengers can enjoy 4-day cruises across Germany, France, and the UK for as low as $239 USD per person (before taxes and fees). It’s worth noting, however, that MSC caters primarily to European cruisers and there are only a few departure ports in North America.

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Costa Cruises

Hop on a Mediterranean cruise for cheap with Costa Cruises, a member of the Carnival family. Based in Italy, Costa Cruises offers family-friendly amenities, as well as activities like dance classes and theater productions for adults. Most of their smaller ships offer a more intimate, quieter experience, while their larger fleets offer a more festive, livelier atmosphere. Regardless of the ship you choose, they guarantee one crew member for every three travelers for the best possible attentiveness. You can sail with Costa Cruises for 10 days across Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany for as low as $849 USD per person (before taxes and fees).

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Seven Seas Cruises

Supporting up to 750 passengers per ship, Seven Seas prides itself on a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio. This means that passengers are supported and attended to by crew members at a level that’s almost unmatched by any other cruise line. With some of the largest on-board accommodations available on the sea, all 375 suites include spacious balconies, marble bathrooms, walk-in closets, interactive flat-screen TVs and unlimited Wi-Fi. Plus, you can enjoy eight dining areas that range from the casual Pool Grill to Asian creations at Pacific Rim. Daytime activities include cooking demonstrations, lounging by the pool, and relaxing at the library, while nighttime entertainment includes casino games, cocktail lounges, and shows in the Constellation Theater. Offering more luxurious cruises to its passengers, you can find 7-day cruises offered by Seven Seas across Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Germany, and Denmark for as low as $1278 USD per person per night (before taxes and fees).

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8 Tips To Help Plan Your Cruise Excursions

A cruise vacation is a lot like dining at a buffet. You get to sample what you like- and you’ve got numerous choices laid out before you- far more than if you’re ordering a la carte. The same traveling principle applies when you’re cruising. You’ve got your time on-board filled with seemingly endless options for dining, entertainment, activities and leisure. But when that ship pulls into port, your options multiply with excursions. While waiting until you dock for inspiration to strike may appeal to your sense of vacation leisure, planning ahead around your excursion time will only maximize the fun factor, namely by helping you choose planned excursions that meet your needs or deciding to tour on your own.

1. Know What’s Out There

While you are no doubt aware of your ship’s itinerary, what do you know about the ports? Where is the port located in the city in relation to some of the attractions that are of interest to you? Is it a safe area to wander? What is the climate like? What currency(ies) is accepted? Your cruise line will offer and/or endorse lots of excursions. They tend to be a little bit pricier than independent touring, but take a lot of the guesswork out of planning your time ashore, by organizing your time, providing your transportation and considering all of the individual details in a given port.

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

2. DIY Tour?

Maybe you’re just interested in wandering and seeing where the day takes you. Or maybe you feel like you know enough about a given location to make your own arrangements. Take some time to determine what specific activities you might be interested in and what some of the details are surrounding the port that you’re visiting. Where is the port in relation to downtown and/or points of interest? Is the city that you are visiting safe to wander around on your own? Are there attractions that you might have to line up for an extended period of time if you’re not part of a group? Are you looking simply for a stretch of beach to catch some rays for a few hours? Maybe you want to go for a snorkel or a sail? Perhaps you have very specific interests in the area that would be better addressed by an individual guide. In all of these instances, it may behoove you to organize your own cruise excursion then to hook in with your ship-sponsored tour.

Artesia Wells / Shutterstock.com
Artesia Wells / Shutterstock.com

3. Organized Tour

There are certain circumstances in which it is a particularly good idea to book your excursion through an organized tour company- either through a ship sponsored tour or through a reputable travel company. For instance- if you are a first time cruiser, you would likely benefit from the support that an organized tour can provide. There are often excursions crafted to give you a flavour of your destination, which is appropriate to the small window of time that you’re spending in port. If you are travelling in a port where you feel that you might encounter language or safety issues, you may want to take advantage of having strength in numbers as well. If your cruise line specializes in a certain area or activity, you could benefit from their niche knowledge to really enhance your experience.

ppl / Shutterstock.com
ppl / Shutterstock.com

4. Read the Fine Print

When booking an organized excursion, make sure you read through the tour description thoroughly. How long can you expect to spend on a bus shuttling to and fro? What is the weather policy (rain or shine)? Is the excursion a full day or a half day? How many activities should you expect in the duration of the tour? Is there free time to wander, or is every minute accounted for? Are you the appropriate audience for the tour (i.e. family friendly, romance, ecoadventure, etc.)? Is food and/or drink included with your tour? For all-inclusive tours (i.e. a pass for the day to a hotel or attraction, are there hours of use limitation- especially when it comes to food and drink availability. Most cruise excursions are non-refundable, so make sure you fully understand what you are signing up for.

cruise map reading

5. Walkathon or Chill Out?

What is the level of activity involved with going on a particular tour?  While some tours may more obviously advertise the level and type of activity involved (ziplining, hike in the volcano, trek through the rainforest, etc etc.) but be aware that some tours might require physical endurance that is less obvious. For instance,  a walking tour of the city seems harmless enough, but what kind of terrain are you going to cover? Cobblestone or uneven streets? How hilly is the area? It’s no fun to be huffing and puffing when you’ve planned another experience altogether- at least in your mind.

steep cobblestone street

6. Tap Into Resources

You can scour the internet for excursion reviews and check out advertised ship sponsored excursions, but some of your most knowledgeable resources will be on board your ship. Your cruise ship will have excursion specialists that can help you determine which excursions are best suited to you, as well as likely provide first-hand knowledge from their own experiences. Other ship staff can probably provide you with reliable first-hand tips as well, particularly if you are hunting out “best-kept-secret” type spots. Chat them up.

Photo by: Pixie Dust Travel
Photo by: Pixie Dust Travel

7. Pack Smart

You will have spent a great deal of time planning your packing for the duration of your vacation, including your luggage and a carry-on for when you embark the cruise. Use the same detailed focus to pack a carry bag for your excursion. Remember essentials like sunscreen, bottled water, a small umbrella, camera, small snacks (if you’ve got access to them) like granola bars and small bills in the locally accepted currency for tips. Depending on where you are traveling, bring a bathing suit and towel- and a good beach read. You may find yourself near a beach with a few minutes to spare, and will be glad to have these extras.
packing suitcase

8. Budget

There are a couple of areas to budget when planning cruise excursions: money and time. With ship sponsored excursions, you are going to pay more- but you are essentially paying for reputation and transportation, as well as the activity(ies) itself. One decided benefit with ship sponsored excursions is that they guarantee arrival back at the ship before departure. If you are going on your own- either for a wander through the port or with a local travel company for your excursion, make sure that you budget your time accordingly. More than one cruiser has been left stranded on the dock watching their ship sail off into the sunset because they were running late during their tour.

american money

The Best Ways to Avoid Cruise Ship Rip Offs

The biggest surprise to first-time cruisers is often the bill at the end of the cruise; sometimes even coming in at more than the all inclusive cruise price you already paid. Cruise companies, like any other big company, are out to make money and with thousands of people on a ship, they have certainly found the best ways to get people to spend.

1. Shore Excursions

These cruise lines will push these sanctioned shore excursions on you from the moment you walk onto the ship until the moment you disembark. From booklets to announcements to showings on your TV in your cabin they want you to book their shore excursions. The hook they use is the guarantee that you are back on the ship in time; as these cruise ships don’t wait around for stragglers. Often offering a variety of excursions they are easy to book through ship staff or your television and often easier for families with small children or those who have not thought ahead. Although these shore excursions can be tempting make sure you do your research ahead of time and only choose ones you really feel will be amazing. Or, even better, connect with a local tourism company ahead of time to arrange an excursion, as these are often less expensive and more interesting. Alternatively, rent a car or grab a taxi and go exploring on your own.

horseback riding beach

2. Alcohol

Cruises may be ‘all-inclusive’ but they are missing one big item that most people look to be included and that is alcohol. Prices of drinks are fairly outrageous on all of these ships as they can truly charge whatever they want. And don’t think about trying to bring your own alcohol on board; cruise companies have rules about how much can be brought on board from home and anything you buy from a port of call will be kept for you until the last day. With most cruise lines now on a cashless system it’s all too easy to swipe your card and forget that you’re paying $10 for a beer that normally cost $3. One solution is to refrain from drinking but cruise-goers often like to party so that’s really not a good option. Some cruise liners offer alcohol packages that you can purchase before hand or once you are on the ship and if you like to indulge this may be the best bet for you. Make sure to read the allowance you can bring on board before packing and bring the maximum. Other ways to cut the cost of alcohol are to have your drinks when you are at the Ports of Call where you can pay local prices, attend the happy hour parties on deck or simply drink the cheapest thing you can find.

Cruise drinks

3. Soda

It’s not just alcohol that costs money to drink; fountain pop is also not a free thing on most cruises and families with kids can expect to see a big invoice at the end of the cruise if they allow the kids to drink it. Not only are you paying upwards of $1.50 per soda but you are also tipping on top of that. For the big soda drinkers or families with kids that won’t be able to avoid it, most cruise companies offer an all-you-can-drink fountain card; similar to the plans they offer for alcohol. It can only be used for one guest so keep that in mind when you look at pricing. The best option; stick to the widely available juice and water that is free. Not only is it free but it’s likely healthier for you than pop.

soda bottles

4. Photo Shoots

Cruise staff seem to be clicking cameras everywhere, from the pre-boarding picture to the fancy dinner picture to the jumping in the pool picture. Capturing your every move and convincing you to buy these photos is an important part of the cruise line’s hook to grab more money from you. These photos are put on display in a special viewing area every night of the cruise and there is plenty of helpful staff to make sure you go home with some. Chances are you have a camera with you, or at least a phone that snaps pictures and more than likely you can find someone on deck to snap a picture of you and your partner in the sunset on the top deck. Sure the ‘professional’ pictures may look nice but once you’re home and the trip magic has worn off, we promise you’ll regret spending $40 on a picture of you in front of a fake buoy that says the cruise line’s name on it. Instead, snap away yourself and take as many pictures as you want for free.

Cruise selfie

5. Casino

Everyone knows that you lose money at the casino and on-board the cruise ship is no different. It still takes your money every chance it gets. The days at sea are often long and guests may find themselves heading up to just play ‘one game of blackjack’ or throw $10 in the slot machines. Before you know it hours have passed and not only have you racked up a drink bill from the bar but now you are $200 in the hole. Bright lights, loud music, and the sounds of the machines are all reasons to avoid the casino; along with the fact that you will almost certainly lose money. Instead, head to one of the many free activities on-board such as the pool, the basketball courts or take in a show. If you do feel like gambling set a limit and play within it.

Casino slot machine

6. On-board Activities

Speaking of on-board activities; it turns out that aren’t all free. More and more cruise companies are offering a-la-carte activities such as cooking classes, wine tasting seminars and yoga classes. Again it’s easy to swipe that card and not realize how much money you are actually spending. Make sure to read the fine print and be aware of how much each activity costs. As an alternative, stick to the free activities on-board mentioned on the previous page. It does pay to know what is included when you book and what is not. For example if you are a big exercise lover and yoga or Pilates class is something you want to do every day; it is worth checking out which cruise lines offer them for free or at a lower price. If you want to take part in extra activities plan ahead and make that a priority when deciding which cruise line to book.

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

7. The Internet

If you simply cannot tear yourself away from the World Wide Web for your cruise duration you can expect to pay BIG bucks to gain access. Plans and prices vary between each cruise line but you will generally pay at least $1 a minute for their extremely slow satellite service. If you do have to use the internet a lot it would be worth checking out plans ahead of time. The only real solution here is to unplug for the week, or however long. Prepare coworkers, family and friends that you will not have internet access while you are on your cruise and enjoy a week or two not answering texts or emails. If the urge gets too strong we suggest hooking up to WiFi at one of the ports of call where it’s much cheaper and sometimes even free.

cruise wifi

8. Alternative Dining

Cruise ships used to include all dining in their all-inclusive packages until they learned that they could make more money by including alternate dining options that cost passengers extra. These premium dining venues offer more variety, different themes, a greater wine selection and sometimes a celebrity chef branded venue. If you want a full lobster dinner or a premium steak the only place you might be able to get one is at one of these restaurants. Stick to the all inclusive restaurants if you are on a budget. The main dining areas often change their menu daily so guests have a variety of options. Make sure to explore the ship for various small eateries that are often forgotten about. When you are already paying for the food, why pay extra for something as simple as a steak or a brand name that you can visit back home?

Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com
Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com

9. Onboard Shops and Boutiques

What better way to fill up a whole deck of a ship than pack it full of shops and boutiques; all in a place where people have endless hours to shop. The shops and boutiques are full of luxury products, tempting offers and of course lots of deals; often with no tax and duty free prices. Daily specials along with ‘secret’ parties make it tempting to stock up on items you actually don’t need. Try and stay on the outside of the shops and peer through the windows. If you have something in mind you do want, make sure to research the price before you go to make sure it’s actually a good deal. Keep in mind the taxes you may have to pay if you’re crossing through customs after the cruise. Stick to exploring the other areas of the ship rather than just the deck that house all the shops.

aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com
aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com

10. Single Supplement

If you are planning on traveling solo this is one thing you must be aware of. Cruise ships are mostly set up to accommodate couples and families and the price per person you see advertised is always based on double, triple or quadruple occupancy. A solo traveler is subject to pay the room rate for two people even if they are traveling alone, although some companies give a discounted price. For example if the room rate is $800 per person based on double occupancy, some companies will charge a single person $1600. Different cruise companies charge differently and solo travelers are encouraged to check their options before booking. A way to avoid this fee is to travel with a friend or family member; or find a third party to match you with a cabin mate. But for the dedicated solo traveler there are new ships being designed with single rooms so do some research; Norwegian Cruise Lines is a great place to start.

american money

11. Spa and Salon

Most cruise companies (especially the new ships) come loaded with luxurious spas that beckon you to enjoy some pampering on your vacation. We understand, the urge can be strong (we like to treat ourselves too). Just be aware of how much these spas charge and watch out for pushy sales people that want you to buy their products. Also be aware of the gratuity that is automatically added onto your bill. If you cannot resist spending time at the spa, then sign up for the discounted spa treatments offered on port days or special treatments that they offer once you are on board; but if you really want a deal then don’t wait, as they sell out fast. Make sure to tell them that you are not interested in purchasing any products at the beginning of the treatment and don’t be afraid to be firm about it.

Spa

By being aware of these money grabbing techniques you can be in charge of what you spend your money on. There is nothing worse than ending a cruise on a sour note because your invoice is twice as much as you thought it would be. One thing to keep in mind when you book a cruise is that it’s not truly as all-inclusive as most resorts are and you will likely spend extra money both on and off board. However, if you budget accordingly and follow the tips above we promise your cruising vacation will leave a lasting memory.

The Best/Worst Cruise Lines In The World

Seated in the lap of luxury, surrounded by sparkling waters as far as the eye can see, exploring a new port each day…the experience of an ocean or river cruise is something you won’t soon forget. While few people would probably turn down a cruise no matter what provider it were with, there are definitely some cruise lines that have built a reputation as being better than others. Cruiseline.com provides real reviews from actual travelers and assigns each cruise line an overall average rating based on these customer reviews. Let’s take a look at the 15 best and worst cruise lines out there as ranked by passengers:

Best: AmaWaterways -4.5

If you’ve never heard of AmaWaterways you’re going to want to do some research as they are the highest ranked cruise operator on this list. A leader in the River Cruise industry, they have a fleet of 20 ships which offer multi-day excursions throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. If your idea of a perfect cruise is one with less crowds, you’ll enjoy the fact that AmaWaterway’s largest ships only hold 164 passengers. You won’t find the mega cruise liners of the Ocean Cruise company’s here. Small and intimate is the name of the game. AmaWaterway received an average 4.5 stars out of 5 with reviews highlighting the comfortable, spotless state rooms and excellent service and dining. The only drawback we can see here is the price which can start at $3,000-$4,000 for a 7 night cruise, however those who’ve paid the price obviously say it’s worth it.

Best: Disney Cruise Line -4.3

Widely regarded as one of the best family cruise lines in the world, it’s no surprise to see Disney Cruise Line near the top of this list. This leader in family fun brings the magic of the Disney Parks experience to the high seas with their fleet of 4 ocean liners. With sailing destinations including Alaska, Caribbean, Bahamas, Canada & New England, California Coast, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama Canal and Transatlantic, it’s almost guaranteed there’s a destination to suit your family. Cruiseline.com awarded Disney Cruise Lines an excellent average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 with experts advising this cruise line is great for travelers with children but probably less fun for romantic honeymooners. The costs are generally higher than those of other family-geared cruise lines but this seems to get you massive state rooms, baby-friendly amenities and incredible Disney activities according to the review site.

Disney Magic Cruise

Best: Celebrity -3.9

In addition to its high customer satisfaction, Celebrity Cruises has also been voted the “Best Premium Cruise Line” for 7 consecutive years as per Travel Weekly Reader Awards. With 10 ships and 3 classes ranging in occupancy from 3046 on the high end, all the way to the intimate 98 passenger Celebrity Xpedition, you’re likely to find a ship to suit your needs. Favorite destinations include Australia and New Zealand, Bermuda, Hawaii, Europe, Galapagos and South America. Cruiseline.com gives Celebrity 3.9 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews -of which, 64% were couples. The rating site describes this cruise line as perfect for couples, families and groups who want style and comfort without luxury-line prices. Some of Celebrity’s most memorable accomplishments are being the first to grow real grass on board ships and building an extensive on board art collection.

guroldinneden / Shutterstock.com
guroldinneden / Shutterstock.com

Best: Holland America -3.8

Holland America has been taking cruisers to historic and exotic destinations around the world for over 140 years. Their fleet of 15 spacious and comfortable mid-size ships offer more than 500 sailings each year and include destinations on all 7 continents of the world. In April 2016, the cruise line is adding a new 2,650 passenger ocean liner to their fleet which will be the first of its kind for Holland America. Cruiseline.com gives the cruise line a very good 3.8 stars out of 5 and advises this line is generally geared for multigenerational families or older more seasoned travelers as it focuses on professional service and relaxation over sporty recreational and flashy childrens activities.

Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com
Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock.com

Best: Oceania Cruises -3.8

If you consider yourself a foodie who loves to travel, you’ll want to check out the offerings of Oceania Cruises. Formed in 2002, with a current fleet of 5 ships including 3 former Renaissance vessels, they are the world’s largest upper-premium cruise line. In 2016 they plan to add a 4th ship to their mid-size class for a total fleet size of 6. Oceania received a 3.8 star overall rating by reviewers, of which 76% were couples. This reaffirms the review sites claims that this cruise line is best suited for sophisticated couples and friends who appreciate great wood, wine, art and service. Details like Ralph Lauren designed suites, on-board cooking school and wine pairing restaurants make this cruise line all the more enjoyable.

EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock.com
EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock.com

Best: Royal Caribbean -3.8

Royal Caribbean cruises may just be the best option for families right after Disney Cruise Line -and for significantly less money. With 7 classes of ships and a total fleet size of 25 (soon to be 25 in 2016) there’s guaranteed to be a ship size to suit your style. Royal Caribbean received 3.8 stars out of 5 based on thousands of customer reviews. Surprisingly, 53.3% of these were by couples and 15.8% by families with older children. This cruise line has made their mark in the action and adventure cruise market as ships are jam packed with amazing things to do including one of the best offerings of sports activities out there. This cruise line is definitely one to check out for the adventurous family or couple who likes non-stop action.

Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com
Yevgen Belich / Shutterstock.com

Best: Princess Cruises -3.7

From starting with a single ship in 1965, Princess Cruises has grown to an 18 fleet cruise line that carries more than 1 million passengers each year to destinations all over the globe. The customer blend is a mix of families and young couples looking for a quality mid-priced experience and older couples looking for a more sophisticated, relaxed approach to cruising. The cruise line was awarded 3.7 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews and has been noted for excellent kids programs like Science on the Sea (created in partnership with the California Science Center) and new release movies shown poolside on huge LED screens -with complimentary popcorn of course.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

Best: Carnival Cruise Lines -3.6

Just squeaking into the ‘Best’ category by .1 of a star, Carnival Cruise Lines are definitely known as ’the fun ships’. This cruise line has built a reputation for offering non-stop fun in the form of parties, karaoke, comedy shows and wacky contests and entertainment. Carnival’s fleet of 24 ships are loud in color and volume with music pumping, adults letting lose and kids having a ball. This is definitely a cruise line for partiers, extroverts and boisterous families with young children. With an overall rating of 3.6 stars, the reviews on Cruiseline.com are generally favorable for this family favorite. If you’re looking for a good price and a good time Carnival Cruise Lines may be your best option.

Worst: Avalon Waterways -3.5

Avalon Waterways is leading the European River Cruise market with their fleet of 25 ships. If you’ve ever dreamt of traveling Europe, seeing a different city each day and experiencing local sights, you may really enjoy Avalon Waterways. However, if you enjoy making your own itinerary, following your own time frames and being in control of everything you see and do, this cruise line is not for you. Another 0.01 of a star rating and Avalon would have moved out of the ‘Worst’ category, but with a 3.5 star rating on Cruiseline.com it lands on the better side of our worst list. Complaints from passengers include such issues as slow wifi on board, a very noisy dining room, little independent exploration time during shore days and food that doesn’t quite compare to that of large ocean cruisers.

Avalon Waterways

Worst: Norwegian Cruise Line -3.4

There are many things that Norwegian Cruise Lines is doing well; for example they were the first cruise line to introduce flexible dining options, they offer supplement-free studios for single cruisers and they have one of the youngest fleets of any major North American cruise line out there. Though still a popular choice, Norwegian received a 3.4 star rating from customers on Cruiseline.com. Complaints from passengers include the small size of cabin rooms, an excess of smoking areas on board and too many specialty food restaurants (that cost extra) with little focus on food quality.

Kostas Koutsaftikis / Shutterstock.com
Kostas Koutsaftikis / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Viking River Cruises -3.4

With a massive fleet of 40 longships and 23 other vessels, Viking River Cruises has firmly planted themselves as having the most river cruise vessels of any company in the world. That being said, the cruise line is a popular choice if you’re looking to see the sights of Europe, Russia, Asia or Egypt. Like other river cruise companies, Viking will be enjoyed by those who enjoy not having to plan anything on their own, but may not be a great option if you enjoy setting your own schedule. The company received a 3.4 star overall rating from customer reviews on Cruiseline.com and it’s important to note that over 81% of reviews came from couples… which shows you the demographics of this cruise line. Some complaints from passengers include last minute itinerary changes, small cabin rooms and expensive rates.

Jordan Tan / Shutterstock.com
Jordan Tan / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Costa Cruises -3.2

Originating in 19th century Genoa, Costa Cruises still maintain some of their signature Italian flair -although not quite to the extend as the old days. You’ll still find Italian favorites like thin crust pizza, Italian charcuterie and perfectly cooked pasta on board, but you’ll also find many partiers and screaming children aboard these ships as well. Costa’s 15 ship fleet has become a popular choice for budget cruisers, party-seekers and young families; thanks to frequent promotions like ‘children sail free’. The majority of Costa’s passengers are European which could be a reason that these ships have many designated smoking areas. If you’re looking to breathe fresh air and be surrounded by fellow americans, we suggest you look elsewhere. The 3.2 star rating on Cruiseline.com is the result of reviews claiming staff can be unhelpful and even rude, food is lackluster and overall quality has decreased over the years.

Ivan Smuk / Shutterstock.com
Ivan Smuk / Shutterstock.com

Worst: American Cruise Lines -3.0

American Cruise Lines specializes in river cruises that tour the historic waterways of the United States with their fleet of 7 small cruise ships. Occupancy ranges from between 150-50 passengers depending on vessel so whatever ship you’re guaranteed an intimate cruising experience. While the staterooms are described as some of the largest in the industry, the primary complaint with American Cruise Lines is the extremely expensive rates. You could easily enjoy a luxury-level ocean cruise for less cost and get a longer experience. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for a low 3 star customer rating from Cruiseline.com; for this price guests expect a lot and unfortunately it’s just not there.

CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com
CristinaMuraca / Shutterstock.com

Worst: Star Clippers -3.0

Star Clippers offers cruisers a completely unique experience, very different from the typical ocean liners of the big cruising companies. A fleet of 3 tall ships sails the seas and allows guests to enjoy a true sailing experience combined with the comforts and luxury of modern cruise ship. Sounds great right? Well this experience definitely isn’t for everyone so it’s important to do your research and decide if this is right for you or you may end up like some of the unhappy passengers in the reviews who complained about the ‘child-unfriendly’ nature of the ships, the abundance of stairs and no elevators, or the rocky motion of the ship causing seasickness. All of which were probably contributors to the 3 star rating.

Alvov / Shutterstock.com
Alvov / Shutterstock.com

Worst: MSC Cruises -3.0

MSC’s fleet of 12 ocean liners provide budget-conscious families and passengers a more European cruising experience than some of the other big cruise companies out there. Expect ships to be full of families since children up to 11 years old sail for free and those between 11-17 sail for a reduced rate. You may be surprised to see a popular cruise line such as MSC on the bottom of our worst list but the customer ratings speak for themselves. A 3 star overall rating was due to reviews which list issues such as lackluster food, dingy outdated rooms and countless reports of poor customer service with few English speaking staff members.

NAN728 / Shutterstock.com
NAN728 / Shutterstock.com