Five Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise

Our  Five Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise is perhaps more relevant than ever as cruisers continue to trudge through tough economic times in search of memorable cruise vacations.

Our goal is to travel smart — and not break the bank. After all, it’s one thing to get a great deal on a cruise (and there are plenty of deals these days), but it’s another to budget so tightly that you extract any possibility for pleasure on your cruise. Yes, inside cabins are cheaper than balcony cabins, but balcony cabins can be much more rewarding.

Of course, only you can know how much moolah you’re willing to part with for the best possible cruise vacation. So balance your budget against our recommendations. No one is asking that you break the bank, but you may want to consider our six tips, which we have found can make the difference between cruise vacations that are memorable and others that fail to measure up to all you had hoped they would be.

1. Balcony Cabins Are Best

You’ve heard the argument time and again that as you’re only sleeping there, inside cabins are a better value. Perhaps, but if you enjoy a room with a view, book a balcony. From my balcony, I have watched the sun paint pastel on the morning sky during the three-hour transit of Stockholm’s archipelago. On another morning, I dined on coffee and croissants as our ship glided past a captivating landscape to Kotor. I’ve pulled back the curtains to gaze on glaciers in Alaska and admire the fjords of Norway.

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. You only get one shot at seeing some of the world’s greatest attractions  from the balcony of your stateroom. Book a balcony and step outside for a breath of fresh air and views that will last a lifetime.

2. The Cruise Begins With Business Class

Gone are the days when flying was an elegant (or even tolerable) experience — at least in economy class. If you can afford it or if you can find a creative way to make it happen, book yourself in Business Class when flying long distances. Business Class is where the vacation begins. You’ll experience faster check-in, faster security clearance (at some airports), lounge access, comfortable on-board seating, and most times, refined dining and service.

Of course,  you’ll need to weigh the benefits against the costs, but if it’s within reason, book Business to begin your vacation before arriving at the ship. Alternatively, book what the airlines are calling Economy Comfort, Economy Plus or Economy Extra, which can be had for a reasonable incremental cost (and often for free with certain loyalty programs).

3. Small Ships Offer Big Value

Big ships offer tremendous variety and activity, and for families, those huge floating resorts may just be the ticket. But small ships carrying 800 or fewer passengers often provide better value. Small ships call on ports that big ships can’t reach. With only a few hundred passengers in port rather than a few thousand, you’re not part of a mass tourism experience, plus you get to see destinations that you can’t visit on big ships. Another plus for small ships: They are like small towns; you get to know to everyone.

On big ships, you may meet friendly people and never see them again for the entire cruise. On small ships, however, you’re likely to develop lasting friendships with like-minded people. One more plus for small ships: They are more inclusive than big ships. That could be worth a few hundred dollars a day, and certainly it can be comforting to know what your costs are before setting sail as opposed to being taken by surprise at the end of your cruise.

4. Book Your Next Cruise On Your Current Cruise

Cruise lines know that they have a captive audience when you’re on their ships, so they typically offer incentives for booking your next cruise during your current cruise. You’re not likely to miss the cruise line offers while on board, but if you do, check with the on-board sales consultant for savings you might not otherwise get ashore.

5. Pre- and Post-Cruise

Explore and enjoy the cities where your cruise begins and ends by adding on at least one hotel night. First, you’ll get to experience a great destination — and recover from jetlag. There is the additional advantage that booking a pre-cruise hotel night practically assures that you — and your luggage — arrive at the ship on time.

It’s good to build in an extra day just in case flights are delayed due to inclement weather — or your baggage gets misdirected. And post-cruise stays alleviate the dreaded end-of-cruise and back-to-real-life feeling. There’s the effort and expense to get to the great cities of the world where your cruise begins, so why not make the most of the experience by adding a few days to your vacation?