Planning a Cruise Itinerary

Plan before you pack!

Many people choose vacation destinations based on activities and attractions. When choosing the perfect cruise itinerary, however, passengers not only need to consider the destination, but also which cruise line to take, when they plan to cruise and how long the ship will be docked at various ports of call in order to adequately prepare for a wonderful getaway.

Choosing the Cruise Ship

The first decision to make when choosing the perfect cruise itinerary is which ship to set sail on. Different cruise lines have very distinctive personalities, and passengers should try to match their vacation expectations with the line they choose. Basic characteristics of major cruise lines are as follows:

  • Carnival: Family-friendly, active and energetic with excellent children's activities in a Vegas-like setting.
  • Royal Caribbean: Superior sporting facilities onboard in a family-oriented atmosphere.
  • Princess Cruises: Glamour that appeals to a sophisticated crowd but with plenty of fun and excitement blended into the traditional cruise experience.
  • Norwegian: Well-known for innovative dining and a more casual atmosphere without sacrificing quality.
  • Holland America: A laid-back yet sophisticated line emphasizing the traditional cruise experience.
  • Disney Cruise Line: A specialized modern line themed around Disney memorabilia with exquisite children's activities and adult flair.
  • Celebrity: A blend of refinement and culture while still offering fun and exciting activities in a less frenetic atmosphere.
  • Costa Cruises: Fun and festive with an emphasis on Italian heritage for both dining and entertainment.
  • Cunard: A classic line paying tribute to the golden age of cruising with traditional, elegant ships befitting the line's lengthy history.
  • Radisson Seven Seas Cruises: Stylish and elegant with a tendency toward a more casual atmosphere without sacrificing traditional pursuits.
  • Windjammer Barefoot Cruises: Casual and carefree, ships with both engines and sails take passengers on unique cruising adventures.

In addition to considering the unique characteristics of the line, passengers should note that larger ships typically offer more modern facilities with a wider variety of onboard options. This can be a crucial point for longer cruises when passengers will be spending several days at sea with only the distractions of the ship itself for excitement and entertainment.

Cruise Itineraries: When to Set Sail

Choosing the perfect cruise itinerary starts with choosing when to set sail. The departure date can be influenced by special events such as honeymoons, birthday celebrations, or holidays. Destination weather can also be a factor: from June through November, the Caribbean can be affected by violent hurricanes, making cruise passengers think twice about putting their vacation plans at the mercy of the waves.

The busiest cruise season is from May through September for a variety of reasons. Most families vacation while children are out of school, and it is also the busy wedding / honeymoon season. Passengers who wish a more laid-back, quieter itinerary should consider sailing in the off-season if possible.

Several types of cruise itineraries are only available at certain times of the year. If your perfect cruise itinerary includes sailing among Alaskan glaciers, note that the Alaskan cruise season only operates during summer months. The Hawaiian cruise season, on the other hand, is busier outside the typical summer months. Caribbean, Mexican, and Bahamas voyages are available year round from a number of departure ports and for voyages of varying lengths.

Cruise Itineraries: Destinations

Tropical destinations are popular.

The biggest key to choosing the perfect cruise itinerary is selecting the right destination. Tropical itineraries are the most popular, particularly Western Caribbean Cruises and Bahamas Cruises. All Caribbean itineraries will give passengers plenty of snorkeling, sunbathing, and other warm opportunities, which can be a luxurious getaway from day-to-day aggravations back on land. Exotic itineraries such as Bermuda Cruises or southern Caribbean voyages that include stops in Aruba or Curacao have similar opportunities but with fewer crowds, creating a more relaxing atmosphere.To choose the best destination, potential passengers should research ports of call before selecting a final itinerary. Caribbean islands differ greatly in their variety of natural wonders, famous sites, and historical significance. By researching the ports first, not only are passengers well-versed in what awaits them on their cruise, but they will have a better idea of what out-of-the-way sites to visit and how to avoid problem areas. While some destinations may seem more exciting than others, passengers should also consider how long the cruise ship will be docked at that port. More popular destinations such as Nassau and Cozumel often permit cruise ships to stay docked for a full day or more, while other ports may only have ships docked for a few hours, greatly limiting the time available for sightseeing or shore tours.

For more unique voyages, many passengers consider Alaskan, Mediterranean or Hawaiian itineraries, but they are not the only options. Many cruise lines offer New England voyages, particularly in the fall when passengers can tour brilliant foliage in different locations. European cruises offer a chance for passengers to visit cultural centers and historical centers of power while reveling in the luxury of a cruise. Depending on what your desires are, there is a perfect cruise itinerary for you.


From decadent Caribbean voyages to exotic passage to more isolated ports of call, choosing the perfect cruise itinerary is never easy. Prospective passengers should consider the type of cruise ship first, because much of the vacation will not be spent at the actual destination, but onboard the principle transportation. When to cruise can also affect the itinerary selection, and with so many destinations available, moderate preliminary research is necessary to narrow down the options. With proper preparation, however, passengers can easily choose the perfect cruise itinerary for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

Planning a Cruise Itinerary