We're here to help you have the best adventure at the best price possible.
With that in mind, I present our 10 Commandments of Cruising.
When we get the itch for another cruise getaway -- usually this occurs shortly after returning home, unpacking and sorting all our photos and videos of our recently concluded trip -- we begin our search with key parameters in mind. Then, once onboard, we adhere to self-imposed rules in a bid to have the best, guilt-free time possible.
So, here you are . . .
10. Thou shalt not pay more than $100 per day per person per day for your fare. This commandment refers to the base price we set for the typical vacation. You usually can find sales in this price range or well below. If we have a very special occasion, we would consider more of a luxury cruise. We haven't done this yet, but we have talked about it for perhaps a big wedding anniversary or birthday, for example.
9. Thou shall book during a cruise sale. We always check deals during cruise lines' flash sales throughout the year or during wave season (big sale period between January and March). You also will find fantastic promotions when you book a future cruise while onboard your current cruise. Benefits might include extra onboard credit, lower prices, included beverage packages, included gratuities and lower deposits to book your cabin.
8. Thou shall use a travel agent. These travel pros can find you the best possible prices, help you monitor price drops and offer extra benefits for using their services. For example, our cruise travel agent always gives us onboard credit as a thank you. We often find she has had a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries placed in our stateroom as a welcome aboard gift, too.
7. Thou shall continuously monitor prices. If the price of your sailing drops, you almost always can get the lower price until about 90 days out from your cruise departure date. We use online price monitoring services and tools from CruiseFish.net (emailed prices alerts) and CruiseCritic.com's PriceDrop (email alerts). Your travel agent also should be in touch with you to help you secure the best price possible.
6. Thou shall ask along friends for even deeper discounts. The more the merrier. We always ask our friends and family to join us on a cruise. They don't always say yes, but when they do, it can mean a deeper discount. You travel agent can get better deals once a block of cabins are grouped together (usually eight cabins or more). This means better prices and more perks like extra onboard credit -- not to mention more fun when enjoying the adventure with all those familiar faces.
4. Thou shalt not take trivia time too seriously. Part of the entertainment options on your ship will be the daily trivia contests. We love to go to these and mingle. It's a fun diversion and a way to meet people from around the world while having a little fun during this natural conversation-starting competition. Just please remember that it's a friendly event. Too many times, we've seen people take this far too seriously, throwing fits, protesting scores, claiming others are cheating. Really, people, it's just not worth it for that souvenir pen or key chain that is at stake.
3. Thou shalt not hog sun loungers. This should be common courtesy and common sense, but serves as a constant source of frustration for cruisers. Don't be one of these rude people who rush out to throw towels and books on the loungers and then disappear back to your cabin or to the breakfast buffet for an hour or two before finally coming out to use your chairs â while many other ready-to-lounge cruisers get shafted. Cruise lines are doing their best to crack down and enforce "unoccupied lounger" rules, but we should know better.
2. Thou shall be considerate of your fellow cruiser. Sometimes, we all get a little caught up in thinking only about ourselves (see above No. 3). But cruise ships are large and some areas get busy. Please do not barge around the buffet as if the food is going to suddenly run out. Please use proper hygiene practices, too. This means using tongs instead of grabbing with your hands eating while hovering at the buffet. Please do not cut into lines or mass on the stairs so others cannot move around you. Please do not smoke in undesignated areas. Please do not let your children run around unsupervised and play in adults-only pools and hot tubs. This isn't meant to be scolding, but you need to be considerate because it's the right thing to do. We are all on vacation. Let's relax and have fun.
1. Thou shall venture outside your comfort zone. On Royal Caribbean ships, I recommend getting involved in Quest -- the fun adult-themed game played once during sailings. Dress up for the theme nights, try karaoke or get out there and dance. Enter a talent competition or poolside game. You might be shy, but you'll be amazed how much fun you had if you cut loose and jump into the fun.
Elsewhere in cruise news . . .
International Expeditions is offering free airfare for your bucket-list vacation to the Galapagos. Travelers get free airfare -- up to $1,000 -- on two small ship expedition sailings, January 30, 2015, and April 10, 2015. On IE's Galapagos cruises, you travel on the 32-guest yacht M/V Evolution, which offers a 2-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio led by three naturalist guides. The guides offer lectures nightly onboard and in the field while bringing cruisers within inches of giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins and other creatures.
In addition to daily snorkeling and hiking through deserts, rainforests and volcanic terrain, highlights include a visit to the volcanically active island of Fernandina to search for flightless cormorants and the largest marine iguanas. You'll also stop at the Charles Darwin Research Center, famous for its tortoise breeding programs, and explore Genovesa (Tower) Island, with an opportunity to swim, kayak and snorkel in the calm caldera of this partially eroded volcano. Prices for the 10-day Galapagos Islands cruises start at $5,298 per person and include accommodations, all excursions, most meals, transfers and tips to porters and waiters for included meals.
Carnival Cruises Carnival Pride has completed its Funship 2.0 upgrades, the line released the ship's schedule of winter seven-day sailings to the Caribbean out of Tampa, Florida. Carnival Pride started its winter season and sails Sundays from Port of Tampa to Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Costa Maya, Mexico. All of these locations are great stops, full of active opportunities, such as cave tubing, snorkeling and diving. The drydock upgrades include a large waterworks park with a super-fast waterslide as well as new dining and bar venues.
Princess Cruises announced a new onboard activities and excursion program in partnership with the company that owns Discovery Channel. Included in the Discovery at Sea program are Discovery, Animal Planet and Science Channel shore excursions. The outings will include panning for gold on a Gold Rush-inspired tour, getting up-close with each destinationâs native animals during Animal Planet tours and learning how popular foods and beverages go from farm to table on Science Channel "How It's Made" tours.
Thanks for reading,