There are hundreds of cruise ships allocated to more than 20 major cruise lines, from these you can choose from thousands and thousands of different itineraries covering the globe.
So when you've decided you're ready to pack your bags and choose a cruise, how do you decide which is the best for you?
With so many cruise ships and companies and itineraries to chose from, how do you know which is right for you? Image credit: Alecia Hylton/sxc.hu
Use these hints as a guide.
Step 1:Pick Your Destination Always choose your destination first then the ship second. Alaskan and Caribbean cruises have long been mainstays, but cruise lines are adding itineraries to unexpected places everywhere.
Once you know where you're going, look at the specific port and itineraries. Alaskan cruises, for example, ships tend to follow one of two different routes. The Inside Passage itineraries run round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver and port in southern Alaskan ports like Juneau and Skagway while Gulf of Alaska itineraries, which sail farther north, are typically one-way trips from Vancouver to Whittier or Seward, or the reverse.
Know when to go. Going at off peak times can save you a considerable amount of money. Image credit: Geri-Jean Blanchard/sxc.hu
Step 2: Choose When To Go Choosing to go when it's 'shoulder season' can offer you some great savings and may be more appealing than high season as it'll be less crowded as well.
Step3: Which Cruise Line? Do a bit of investigation as some cruise lines are targeted to an older demographic, some younger, some for families with small children, etc. Choosing the wrong one can make a big difference in how you experience your holiday.
Some cruise lines will have dress codes, some have assigned seating for meal, others are far more casual. Some are more child friendly than others. There are plenty of online cruise forums where passengers leave reviews to guide you in finding one that's right for you such as cruisecritic.com
Alternatively speak to a travel agent specialising in the area to ensure you've selected one where you'll be comfortable.
Daily room rates are not the only amount you'll pay when booking a cruise, so plan accordingly. Image credit: The Stock Exchange
Step 4: Know Your Budget You'll find rates for your stateroom advertised, typically per person. Remember also to factor in airfare to and from your embark/disembark destinations. Additionally gratuities can be pre-paid, but will be an extra cost to consider, as is alcohol onboard and excursions while you're in port.
Many cruise lines will give added bonuses or discounts for booking well in advance, so if you're keen to get a great deal, itís never too soon to start planning.
When you choose your room consider your destination. Do you need an outside balcony? Will you be spending time on it for some quiet relaxation or are you cursing to enjoy the ship's amenities such as pools, shopping, dining and more.
Step 5: Organise to Arrive Early and Stay Late If you can manage it, try to arrive early and/or stay on after your cruise. There are a few benefits to this. Ships and flights do not wait for each other. And as cancelled and delayed flights have become common, itís wise to arrive at your starting port at least a day before you are scheduled to set sail.
Following these few tips will ensure you are able to choose the right cruise and possibly save a few dollars in the process.