Thursday, October 2, 2014

How To Plan a Cruise

You Haven't Lived Until You've Cruised...

You've heard friends talk about their cruise vacations and how great a time they had, and you wonder what's it all about. More and more people are discovering the all-inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation.   This month, in conjunction with CLIA's National Cruise Vacation Month, we are writing a series of articles to help you become more familiar with cruise vacations.

Planning Your First / Next Cruise

The diagram above shows some of the decision points that factor into your final selection of a particular cruise sailing.   At first glance, it may seem to be a bit daunting, and perhaps that is what has kept you away from taking a cruise up to now.  We can work with you to demystify the process.

We highly recommend that you work with a professional travel agent, that specializes in cruises, to plan your vacation.   As a CLIA certified Master Cruise Counselor (MCC), we've taken the time to learn about the industry, the cruise lines, the destinations, all the changes that occur year after year, and through our personal experiences, can ask the right questions to find the cruise that best meets your desires.  The MCC certification isn't a one-time event, it is an ongoing commitment, of our expertise, which we need to renew year after year, much like your family doctor. 

Asking the Right Questions

Think about other travel that you have done ...  When planning those trips, you had certain criteria in mind that ultimately factored into what became your vacation or business trip.

Who's Going, What are their Ages, When Can you Go

In many cases, you are locked into a specific date or period of time (such as when the other travelers can get off of work, or when the kids are out of school).  Once a date is selected, the pool of possible cruise destinations may shrink.   For example, if you wanted to cruise in December, you won't be going to Alaska, as that season goes from May - September.

Are Certain Ports a Must, Are you Driving or Flying to Port

We'll look at destinations in more detail in another post, but that is one of the key determining factors in planning the actual sailing.   Let's assume that you want to meet a long lost relative in a foreign country...   that would become a must-see port of call and could become your primary deciding factor.

If you are fortunate enough to be within driving distance to a cruise port, departing from that port may dictate the length of cruise and destination(s) possible.  Even if you are flying, each port has certain destinations that are within sailing distance for a given length of a cruise.

Do you Have any Preferences

You may have some cruise lines, that you are familiar with, and want to sail on.   This may be a trip with the family who loves Disney characters or Dreamworks characters and the cruise line becomes the most important factor in your planning.

Finding the Right Cruise at the Right Price

After discussing all the options within the framework of your wants, the final decision will most likely involve what's available within my budget.   Our goal as your agent is to find you the best value for your vacation dollar.  Note that doesn't necessarily equate to the lowest price.   If the lowest priced cruise doesn't have any of your top requirements, then that cruise isn't for you.  You wouldn't buy a car that you didn't like, and you shouldn't purchase a cruise vacation that you won't like either.

Starting the Planning

We have many tools for you to begin your cruise research.   We are highlighting them throughout the month as we look at cruising, which we fell in love with personally some 30+ years ago.  This blog, our Facebook page, and our website are your building blocks.   We have a cruise finder on all these sites which can give you an idea about the destinations that are possible within the desired time frame.  The best tool that you have at  your disposal is the phone.  An interactive conversation is the best way to uncover your wants and desires and funnel them down to possible candidate cruise sailings.

Are you new to cruising?   Start by reading our Cruise Rookies page.  We'll be posting several more articles this month, but if you can't wait, we suggest you next visit our NCVW mini-site.  You can also search our Blog for past articles.

Follow us on Twitter: @ChrisPappinMCC  Pinterest: CruiseWithChris Pappin and Facebook: CruiseWithChris Pappin Cruises Inc for more ideas.  Sign up for our eNewsletter to get updates.

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