I’m a travel expert and these are the 7 key questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking


Many holidaymakers go on a cruise for the first time – then get hooked.

Before deciding if you want to discover what’s so addictive about them, heed the advice of Nicky Kelvin, Editor at Large of The Points Guy, who has narrowed down seven questions to consider before taking to the high seas on a floating hotel.

1. Do I prefer trips that are heavily planned out in advance or left up to serendipity?

Nicky Kelvin (pictured) has narrowed down seven key questions first-time cruisers should ask themselves before taking to the high seas

Nicky Kelvin (pictured) has narrowed down seven key questions first-time cruisers should ask themselves before taking to the high seas

Nicky says those who haven't ventured on board a cruise ship should consider if they like heavily planned trips

Nicky says those who haven’t ventured on board a cruise ship should consider if they like heavily planned trips

Nicky says: ‘There are some people who like to head off on vacation with no idea of where they will be or what they will be doing from day to day. They like the flexibility that comes with not having too much planned ahead of time. Others like to have their travel schedules mapped out in advance.

‘Sure, you will have some flexibility in what you can do on any given day of a cruise. But the broad outline of your trip is pre-planned and set in stone, such as the destinations you visit, when and how long you have in each port.’

Nicky says the advantage of having a pre-planned vacation is that it ‘takes away a lot of the hassle that comes with travelling’ as the cruise line has already done ‘all the heavy lifting of figuring out an ideal, multi-day getaway for you’.

2. Do I enjoy travel experiences that revolve around a single resort that offers lodging, meals and activities? 

Nicky says for some a cruise ship offers a 'contained' environment that doesn't leave enough opportunity to explore the outside world

Nicky says for some a cruise ship offers a ‘contained’ environment that doesn’t leave enough opportunity to explore the outside world

While Nicky says cruise ships will take you to ‘multiple destinations’, he claims what they offer ‘is closer to what you’ll find at an all-inclusive resort on land than any other sort of travel experience’.

The travel expert says: ‘Even during a very port-intensive itinerary on most ships, you likely will spend the vast majority of your vacation hours on board your vessel. Unless you book a rare overnight excursion, you will spend all of your nights on board your ship, and you’ll probably eat most of your meals on the vessel, too. On most ships, all or almost all of your evening entertainment also will be ship-based.’

3. Am I OK with crowds?

If you're not one for large crowds, Nicky says a cruise ship might not be for you. You could be sharing a trip with over 8,000 people, the travel expert notes

If you’re not one for large crowds, Nicky says a cruise ship might not be for you. You could be sharing a trip with over 8,000 people, the travel expert notes

‘There are plenty of small cruise vessels that are like boutique hotels, with just 50 or 100 rooms,’ Nicky says. However, he claims the ‘vast majority’ of cruise ships are much bigger and are often ‘packed with a lot of people’.

He says: ‘The world’s biggest cruise ships, such as the Oasis-class vessels operated by Royal Caribbean, often sail with more than 6,000 passengers apiece. And that’s not including the 2,000 or so crew members that are aboard the biggest cruise vessels. 

‘If you book one of these vessels, you could be sharing your vacation with more than 8,000 other people. These are very big ships, mind you, with lots of room to spread out. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas — the world’s largest cruise ship — has 18 passenger decks, quite a few of which are devoted to a seemingly endless array of family-friendly attractions, restaurants, lounges, bars and other venues that can absorb huge numbers of vacationers.

‘But if the idea of vacationing at a resort where you are one of thousands doesn’t appeal to you, you probably should stay away from most of the vessels operated by the major cruise lines. You might be better off with a land-based trip — or sailing on one of the lines such as Windstar Cruises or Ponant that specialise in more intimate sailings on very small ships.’

4. Am I comfortable touring as part of a group?

Nicky says many cruises offer group excursions, with some containing as many as 30 to 40 people

Nicky says many cruises offer group excursions, with some containing as many as 30 to 40 people

‘In some respects, cruises are very similar to group tours on land,’ Nicky says. He explains that you will likely be travelling with one group of people for your entire voyage and says ‘you may find yourself in a group setting for some or all of your touring ports’. 

Nicky says how much of a group-tour feel your cruise has ‘will depend a lot on which ship you are on and how you arrange your port activities’. 

The travel expert adds: ‘On river cruises and expedition cruises, in particular, off-ship activities often are generally done as a group. Group tours in ports are part of the package for which you have paid in advance. On traditional ocean-going ships, you generally have more flexibility to tour on your own in ports versus joining a group.’

5. Is ‘eating local’ critical to me when travelling?

While a cruise ship will visit many different ports, Nicky claims those on board will often miss out on enjoying local dishes, as ships sail away before dinnertime

While a cruise ship will visit many different ports, Nicky claims those on board will often miss out on enjoying local dishes, as ships sail away before dinnertime

Nicky claims that cruise ships ‘typically offer cuisine in their onboard restaurants that is in keeping with what their customers will find at home’. He says: ‘If you’re such a foodie that you couldn’t imagine visiting Barcelona without spending a night hopping between tapas eateries or visiting Rome without a dinner at La Pergola, a cruise might not be the best choice.’

While Nicky points out that you can try local foods during port calls, he says: ‘The reality of cruising is that many ships only visit ports during the daytime and sail away to their next destination before dinnertime. That means that your opportunities to eat locally will be restricted on many itineraries to lunchtime outings. 

‘When it comes to dinners — the main sit-down meal for many travellers — your options on many cruises will be limited to what’s available on board your ship.’

6. How important is being pampered on vacation to me?

A cruise ship is a great choice of trip for those who like being pampered. According to Nicky 'there is a level of service on cruise ships that is relatively rare in the travel world'

A cruise ship is a great choice of trip for those who like being pampered. According to Nicky ‘there is a level of service on cruise ships that is relatively rare in the travel world’

If you’re all about being pampered on vacation, Nicky says ‘a cruise might be a great choice’. He explains: ‘One reason that people who cruise once often get hooked, and do it again and again, is that cruise ships offer a level of pampering that you just don’t often see at comparably priced land-based resorts.’

For example, even on the ‘lowest-cost cruises’, you’ll have a room attendant.

Nicky says: ‘[The] room attendant is likely to get to know you by name and offer help with anything you need on board. 

‘She or he typically also will make up and clean your room at least once and sometimes twice every day — unless you request otherwise.’

He adds: ‘Cruise ship restaurants also are known for wait staff that will get to know you by name within a day or two of your arrival (if you dine at the same table every night) and make a real effort to go above and beyond to meet your every need. They’ll often get to know your favourite drink or dessert and have it ready to go before you even say something.’

Ultimately, ‘there is a level of service on cruise ships that is relatively rare in the travel world’. 

Nicky adds: ‘An entry-level cruise ship is likely to have a higher level of service than an entry-level hotel. A luxury cruise ship is likely to be even more over-the-top than a luxury hotel.’

7. Do I worry a lot about costs when travelling? 

If you're worried about finances on a trip, Nicky says a pre-paid cruise may lessen the burden

If you’re worried about finances on a trip, Nicky says a pre-paid cruise may lessen the burden

If you’re the type of person who wants or needs to know how much a vacation will cost before it occurs, going on a cruise ship is a great option, Nicky says. 

He explains: ‘Your ship will be providing a big chunk of all the services you will need on your vacation, including your room, your meals, your evening entertainment and part of your transportation. If you’re travelling with kids, the ship also often will offer all-day kids programs for no extra charge. For all of this, you pay one price far in advance of when you travel. You thus know what it’s all going to cost you – and have already paid it off – long before you leave your home for the ship. That’s wonderful peace of mind for many people.’

However, he says: ‘Not everything on your cruise will be included in the pre-paid fare. On mass-market ships, you’ll pay extra for drinks with your meals, to dine at some higher-end restaurants, for shore excursions and for the automatic gratuities that many lines add to final bills. These things can add up and result in some hefty extra charges on your credit card before you leave your ship. 

‘But the good news is that, even here, more lines are bundling things like drinks packages and gratuities into a booking package as part of promotions. You often can find a package deal from even mass-market lines where many of the “extras” on your cruise are included in the price you pay upfront.’





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