Cruise Planning – Step 3: The Finer details

The third step in planning a cruise is decide on the final details.

This is the icing of the cake in the process of planning a cruise.

Armed with the basic cruise wish list, and aware of the budget, the third step, and the true trick of finding the perfect cruise is in paying attention to the details and by doing the research to find out which cruise ship and cruise line offers the best solutions for the finer details like the accommodation, dining opportunities, fitness and spa facilities, entertainment and shore excursions.

The Cabin
Choosing the right cabin/suite/stateroom is paramount. This is the one space on board that you can escape to - to call your own. If it is not exactly what makes you comfortable - the trip will be miserable.

An important point to consider is the size of the cabin.

Most cabins/staterooms are small. But some are smaller than others. If space is an issue, you may want to consider upgrading to a suite where separate living and sleeping areas, even if only separated by a curtain, can give the illusion of more space. A balcony too can make a cabin/stateroom seem twice the size - another space to step into that is all yours.

The location of the cabin is equally important.

If you prefer early nights with a good book, make sure your cabin is not located anywhere near the disco. In fact, if noise is an issue for you, have a good look at the deck plans and make sure you are not near anything that could be potentially noisy. Stay away from any points where people collect, like at the elevators, or the laundry room.

If you are prone to motion sickness, chose a cabin in the middle of the ship where the movement is least noticeable.

If you don’t like to feel confined, do not chose an inside cabin, even if it is cheaper. “Cabin fever” is a very real complaint and can ruin a cruise. If you’re partying all night, however, you may not even know half the time that your stateroom has no window!

Many cruise ships offer different ways of feeding the troops.

Some still favor the traditional two-sitting dining room where you eat either at 5:30 or 8pm - no late comers admitted. Others offer this standard but also provide alternative dining options, such as speciality restaurants and buffets. Others still, like Princess and Oceania, offer open seating dining in their main dining rooms. A few of the smaller ships, like Windstar offer a more flexible dining system where you book your table for a time that best suits you at a venue that suits your mood.

Dress code at dinner is another important finer detail to consider. Some cruise lines suggest a “resort-casual” dress code that suits those who don’t want to be "gussied" up every third or fourth night. It also makes packing for the cruise a good deal easier. For others, however, the formal nights are what make the cruise something special. Most cruise line web sites and brochures are very clear about what their dress codes are.

For those with special needs - vegetarian, low fat, low sugar etc - most cruise lines offer a variety of alternative menus

Make sure you know what your cruise ship offers and that it suits you the best. Many a cruise has been ruined because the dining options were not what were expected.

Fitness and Spa Facilities
If a fitness regime is important to you, even while on vacation, be sure to find out what gym and spa facilities are offered.

If you are on a large ship and the gym has only 3 treadmills, know that you are going to have to get up at 5 in the morning to get your workout.

If you like to jog before breakfast, find a cruise ship that has a jogging track, or if more community minded activities appeal, make sure that the ship you chose offers step classes, or yoga, pilates or group sessions. Most do.

Some cruise lines offer extensive spa facilities, but many of them charge a premium for them. If being pampered and pummelled is an important part of the cruise for you, it is worth taking the time to investigate the spa prices and finding those ships that offer special spa packages.

Entertainment varies considerably from cruise lie to cruise line and from cruise ship to cruise ship. Some offer lavish Las Vegas style shows each evening with lots of color and noise and splash. Others offer headliners and Broadway stars while some, particularly the small ship cruise lines, will feature entertainment in the form of lectures and presentations about the ports of call.

Shore Excursions
The second largest expenditure on a cruise – the shore excursions – is, for many, the reason for being on the cruise. All the more reason to make sure that the cruise you pick offers the best selection of the type of excursions you may be interested in.

Some cruise lines offer an online look at their excursions which offers you the chance not only to see how their prices compare with other cruise lines, but to be able to book the excursions ahead of time. One less thing to worry about when you get on board.


On to the next step: 4: Booking the Cruise

 Cruise Planning

• 1: planning the budget
• 2: the cruise wish list
• 3: cruising the finer details
• 4: booking the cruise
• 5: before you sail
• 6: before you leave home