18 August 2010
“Love-- exciting and new. Come aboard…we’re expecting you.” Do those words ring a bell? If you’re over a certain age, they do. The theme song from the hit 80’s TV show The Love Boat was part of an effort designed to hook people on the romance of cruising. And it worked.The Love Boat generated over a billion dollars in revenue for Princess Cruise Lines, the line portrayed on the show. That spurred growth in the industry and made what had once been an experience only for the super rich, now available to average families.
In fact, cruising has become a very economical way to travel. Travel off-season or at the last minute, and it is possible to find cruises for as little as $60 per day, which is amazing when you consider that that price includes lodging, entertainment, unlimited food practically all day, and transportation to fun and exotic locations.
For example, I searched online for a hotel/flight package for seven days in Hamilton, Bermuda, leaving from Washington Dulles. For two people, the quote was $4600. Keep in mind that that includes no meals or entertainment. In contrast, I found a 7-day Celebrity Cruise leaving from Baltimore to Bermuda for only $1800. And a cruise specialist could probably get you an even better deal than that.
What cruise line to choose? Veteran cruisers quickly learn what line they prefer, as the lines all have their own “personalities,” if you will. If you prefer an older, quieter crowd, or if you’re the type who thrives on a quiet place to curl up with a good book, you may feel more comfortable on a cruise line like Holland America, Celebrity, or Royal Caribbean. On the other end of the cruise spectrum is the Carnival line, which chose the slogan “The Fun Ships” for a reason. If you like a younger crowd that enjoys partying and a more casual atmosphere with fewer formal nights, you may feel more comfortable on Carnival.
Carnival is especially known for its extensive kids programs, designed to keep your kids occupied most of the day (and evening). You can even check your kids into Camp Carnival while you’re in port and go enjoy a private excursion of your own while your kids engage in activities ranging from building a volcano, to charades, to Play Stations, mini golf and treasure hunts.
Here are just a few cruise tips we’ve picked up over the years:
• Unless you’re dying for a view, go for an inside cabin. It’s the cheapest and we find we sleep like babies in the pitch black. This is especially true on Alaska cruises, where it may stay light for the most of the night (but do bring a night light!)
• Remember, on most lines, alcohol, specialty drinks, and room service are extra. Keep track of these “extras” or risk a nasty surprise at the end of the cruise.
• Most cruise ships charge a standard daily fee of $11-$15 dollars a day for tips.
And here are a few recommended items to bring along:
• Clip lanyards to carry your room card around your neck. Aside from acting as your room key, they also let you charge things on board, so you can leave your wallet in the room.
• Empty water bottles for shore excursions (beats paying high prices on shore just for water)
• Alarm clock (most staterooms don’t have one)
• Ziploc baggies for taking snacks from the ship to eat on shore, hold seashells, and to carry wet swimsuits
• Seasickness pills and pressure wrist bands for rough days at sea
• Travel sized containers of laundry detergent. Some lines like Holland America have no laundry facilities; others, like Carnival do, but charge $3 per load for detergent
• Headphones for plugging in to the exercise equipment in the gym so you can watch TV while working off those pounds from the midnight buffet
For more tips, check out the excellent website www.cruisecritic.com. Then go out and have a great cruise…and tell them I sent you.