As more and more of us take to the seas for our holidays, Which? Travel looks at what you need to know before jumping aboard.
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Whittle down the myriad options by deciding what kind of cruise you want.
For instance, do you want a large, lively ship with countless amenities, or would you prefer a sedate, smaller ship that can access the ports that larger ships can't?
Also think about if you would like a cruise where you're at the same dining table (with the same waiter) with fixed seating times throughout the trip, or one where you can dine in any restaurant at any time?
Would you prefer a ship that caters mainly for British passengers? More than 93% of Fred Olsen, Saga and Thomson’s passengers are British, and all purchases are charged in pounds sterling, as are those on P&O ships. You're more likely to see North Americans on most Princess cruises and onboard purchases are in US or Australian dollars.
Are you likely to be travelling alone? P&O's Azura and Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic are two new ships that have a limited number of dedicated single cabins, but they tend to book up many months in advance. Saga told us that its ships have a high number of solo cabins, and on some cruises there are no single supplements to pay.
Getting a good deal
Cruise agents are often able to give a better range of discounts or deals than would be on offer by going direct to cruise lines. Many companies offer early or online booking discounts.
Of course, if cabins aren't selling so well, then you could pick up a better bargain near to the date of departure. Although this is a gamble, if you’re flexible about dates, the cruise line and destination, then a late deal is worth considering.
Look out for little extras included in the price that most other companies don’t offer – these could be worth a lot. For example:
- Saga's cruise price includes a shared car home pick-up service to the embarkation port, luggage porterage, and even travel insurance.
- At certain times of the year, P&O offers free car parking at Southampton, free coach transfer from home and free child places.
Once aboard, consider paying upfront for wine, soft drink or ice-cream packages if you're likely to indulge in these.
You could save money on excursions by doing your own exploration, but allow plenty of time to return to the ship, as it won’t wait for latecomers.
When comparing cruise deals, check exactly what is and isn't included in the holiday price.
- Will you have to pay extra for the air fare or any port charges?
- Will you have to pay for transfers between ports and city centres?
Additional medical and internet fees
Although kids' clubs and gyms won't cost extra, spa centres normally will.
You will usually be charged to see the ship doctor, and internet fees on ship computers can be very high.
Saga provides free transfers when the city centre is more than 450 metres away.
Many cruise line pricing policies are far from 'all-inclusive'.
Most ships will offer free tea, coffee, water and juice from dispensers in buffet halls, but alcohol and soft drinks usually cost extra.