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 Booking Your First Cruise

Tom and Mary Milano
First decide the length of your cruise and where you want to go. Then read as many reviews as possible of ships sailing in that area. Log onto and find out what is being said about those ships. For your first cruise booking, you will feel more comfortable dealing face to face with a local cruise agent. For a person who has never booked a cruise, it's sometimes difficult to know what questions to ask. A local cruise professional can help you through this process. Check with friends that cruise. Ask who they would recommend. Arrange a meeting and be prepared to answer the following questions. 

Where you want to cruise and for how long? 
Do you have a particular ship in mind? [If not, the agent will help you decide.] 
What kind of accommodations, [cabin] would you like? [The agent will help you decide.] 
Do you like to dine early or late or would freestyle be more to your liking? 
Do you have any special food requirements, such as vegetarian or kosher? 
Do you want the cruise line to arrange for your air transportation? 
Do you want cruise insurance? 
Do you have a passport? 

It's always wise to get a second quote. Get a quote on the same exact accommodations from another agent. It's usually better to book early than late. Good agents will protect your price by checking to see if the rates have fallen since you booked. If the cruise line has a sale on your cabin category, they will have the cruise line make a price adjustment. Booking early will also increase your chance of being upgraded. Upgrades are done on a first-come, first-served basis. Book early, then sit back, relax and let your cruise agent earn his or her commission. 

The Best Time to Cruise: 

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. The season you chose to cruise will determine the cost of your ticket. Cruise lines, like most business, set their pricing by supply and demand. If you book in the busiest seasons, the price is the highest. If you book in the slowest vacation periods, the price tends to be lower. Ask your cruise agent what months are the most expensive and the least expensive to cruise. There may be a considerable variance in price. 

Cruise Insurance: 

It's a good idea to have Cruise insurance but it is not required. The cost is based on the price of your cruise tickets. An average figure would be around a $100 per adult. In general it covers your investment if you have to cancel your cruise, if you have an emergency medical expense, baggage loss, travel delay and so forth. There are a number of plans with different coverage. Have your cruise agent explain the various policies that are available. 

Just about everyone agrees that obtaining a third party insurance policy is preferable to purchasing the cruise line's own policy. This protects you should the cruise line itself fail.  Many cruisers that experienced losses with Commodore, Renaissance, American Hawaii, U.S. Cruise Line, Premier and so on will testify to this fact. For an in-depth look at cruise insurance and to find out if you are a likely candidate for insurance, check out this article.

What Are You Expected to Tip on a Cruise? 

In back of each cruise brochure is a list of suggested tips for the various servers. The amount is usually $3.50 a day for cabin steward and waiter, $2 a day to the assistant waiter and $.75 a day for the Maitre`d. For a couple of the cruise lines, the suggested tips come to approximately $150 for a week.

How much you tip is up to you. Many servers receive as little as $100 in wages a month. Your tips are very important to them. They go out of their way to pamper you and cater to you and like most cruisers you will probably tip them more than the suggested rate. Many of the cruise lines have gone to adding the gratuity to your ship board account relieving you of having to seek out the various people that have served you on the final evening to deliver their tips.  Folks seem to like this method better.

Do You Have to Tip if You Get Bad Service?  

On some cruise lines tipping is at your discretion. It would be very unusual to have such bad service that you wouldn't want to tip. If you find your service less than desirable, tell the Maitre`d and he will take the necessary steps to see that things immediately improve for you. 

You might like to try the tipping suggestion that our Contributing editor's Tom & Mary write about in their Millennium Review. It has proved very successful and is being used by many of their readers. It is a proven method for getting the best possible service. 

What is The Difference in Cruise Lines and Their Ships? 

This can be answered in a number of ways. I think a good way to describe how they differ is by making an analogy. First, lets look at the ships of one cruise line. Cruise lines and their ships are like families. In a family that has five children, you will usually find that they are similar in appearance, but each has a slightly different personality. The ships of cruise lines are like that. Each ship of a particular cruise line has its own personality. It is usually determined by the performance of the officers and the crew to the degree they cater to and pamper their guests. Like the personalities of members of a family, some are more outgoing and congenial than others. 

As for cruise lines, they cover a much broader scope. There is a cruise ship for whatever type atmosphere you enjoy. Certain cruise lines cater to the younger, party crowd. Some cater to an older clientele. Others appeal to the intellectual set. While still others, cater to every spectrum of our society. The trick is to find the right cruise line and the right ship. That's why you need a good, knowledgeable cruise professional. Your cruise agent can help you decide what is the right ship for you, They can offer this service as all they do is sell cruises.  They know the cruise lines and have seen the ships and are familiar with the average passenger make ups.

A Must Read for First Time Cruises:  Why you Might Want to Consider Taking Your First Cruise

This is an article written by our Contributing Editors Tom and Mary Milano, that answers many of the questions you might have about cruising. Tom & Mary made their first cruise in the summer of 1996 and became passionate cruisers. They cruise five/six times a year and have made 30 plus cruises. They devote their time and energies helping first time cruisers. Read their most informative and insightful article and find out why they call their cruises "Honeymoons." 


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