How to Pick a Cruise

How do you pick the best cruise?

Knowing how to pick a cruise can help both novice and experienced passengers find just the right cruise vacation for their budget, schedule, and travel preferences.

Preliminary Research

Doing extensive research before choosing a cruise is essential. While most travelers investigate their destinations, cruise passengers must not only research where they are going, but also how they are getting there - namely, which cruise line and individual ship they are most interested in. Topics to research before making cruise reservations include:

  • Cruise Types: Some passengers may be interested in a regular mainstream cruise, while others prefer the extravagance of a luxury cruise. A lengthy river cruise is a more intimate experience for some travelers, or you may prefer a fun weekend cruise instead. For the truly spirited, adventure cruises offer unique and exhilarating experiences.
  • Cruise Line: Different cruise lines have vastly different personalities. Cunard Cruise Line, for example, exemplifies the sophistication of classic ocean voyages, while Carnival Cruise Line offers a modern party atmosphere aboard its Fun Ships. Understanding the differences between cruise lines can help you choose the best one for your perfect getaway.
  • Individual Ships: Even within the same line, different ships offer a wide range of different amenities. Larger ships may have more dining options and cruise activities, while smaller ships often have a more laid back ambiance.
  • Itinerary: Great care must be taken when planning a cruise itinerary. Even though a variety of ships may visit the same ports, they could be docked for different periods of time and offer different routes and days at sea. Western Caribbean cruises are some of the most popular itineraries, though Alaskan cruises and Mexico cruises are equally desirable. Less popular ports of call may have fewer itinerary options.
  • Ports of Call: Learning about the scheduled ports of call can help passengers become excited about visiting new places or decide to investigate different itineraries. Knowing the local currency, popular attractions, cruise shore excursion options, and other information can also help passengers make the most out of their limited time in port.
  • Departure Port: The initial departure port for the cruise can have an effect on travel plans. Some ports, such as the Port of Miami or San Diego, are much more convenient to large airports or other travel options. Learning about the port can also help passengers plan how to handle parking, luggage, checking in, and other essentials.
  • Cost: The cost of a cruise is one of the most important things to research before picking the right voyage. Not only is the fare price important, but passengers should understand what cruise price inclusions they need to be prepared for. Other expenses include gratuities, souvenirs, shore excursions, drinks, specialty dining, and other items that can make a cheap deal much more expensive.

Cruise Research Resources

It may seem overwhelming to research a cruise so extensively before booking, but there are many resources available to help passengers decide how to pick a cruise, including:

  • Official cruise line, departure port, and destination websites
  • Travel brochures and videos
  • Cruise travel agents
  • Cruise ship, line, and itinerary reviews
  • Cruise travel forums and informational websites
  • Cruise travel magazines and guidebooks

Savvy passengers will consult several resources while they are researching their cruise to be sure they have complete, updated information to make an informed choice.

How to Pick a Cruise: Narrowing Options

There are thousands of cruises setting sail around the world each year, and there are several questions passengers can ask to help narrow down their choices when they're picking their next oceangoing getaway.

  • Who is traveling? Some cruise lines are more suitable for families or teenagers, while others have more options for mature travelers.
  • When are we traveling? Caribbean ports are popular tropical getaways in the winter, while an Alaskan voyage in the summer is the perfect way to beat the heat.
  • What type of cabin is best? Interior cruise ship cabins can be small and cramped but are great for singles cruises or short vacations, while a more luxurious ocean view or suite cabin is perfect for a honeymoon cruise.
  • Is this cruise right for our budget? While some voyages can be very expensive, there are plenty of ways to find discount cruises. See Discount Cruises and Managing Money on a Cruise Ship for great tips on affordable cruise vacations.

Why is Research Necessary?


It seems like an awful lot of work to prepare for a cruise vacation, but that research will pay off in the end with a more enjoyable getaway. Unlike land-based resorts and vacation plans, if something is amiss on the cruise ship or you haven't picked the best itinerary for your interests and preferences, you can't change your mind or alter your route. Poor planning that requires changes or cancellations prior to sailing can result in hefty fees, and passengers who didn't do their research may spend more time uncertain, lost, and confused instead of enjoying the time they have on board.

Knowing how to pick a cruise helps passengers find just the right voyage for their vacation plans. Extensive research will help them choose the best cruise line, travel dates, cabin, and more to make their cruise a memorable, exciting vacation they can enjoy with confidence.

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How to Pick a Cruise