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The huge ships that are sailing onto the travel market are getting bigger and grander. Packed with features, attractions and amenities that literally ‘blow your mind’. Each cruise line operator is seeking out those ‘WOW’ factors that will entice you to select their cruise ships for your next cruise holiday.

The dilemma is selecting and matching the best cruise ship and itinerary to your personal requirements. Being able to compare all the ships, itineraries and discovering the best value cruise for you on the market can be daunting. Using a travel agents first-hand experience, knowledge and expertise will help you selecting that perfect cruise.

Crown Princess Cruise Liner in Ajaccio, Corsica

Price is the comparative tool that most people will use to select their cruise. In my experience, this is by no means what you should be basing your cruise holiday on. Yes, price is important, but there are many factors that is going to make your cruise holiday a memorable experience. You need to select the best cruise which will give you good value and provide the type of cruise holiday that fulfils your dreams, not anyone else’s.

So, I thought I would share with you what we do to compare different cruise ships. This is how we grade each ship, and this enables us to determine the positive and negative aspects of each particular ship, their ethos, service, amenities, products and overall package. This then helps us when we are assisting others to select the most suitable cruise holiday for them. We use a range of criteria, including:

Cruise Price

Here I am looking at value for money not just the overall price of the cruise or cost per day. What are you getting for your money, what is included in that ‘lead in’ price and what do the extras cost. Additional costs may include: drinks and or drinks packages available, speciality restaurants, shore excursions, wellness centre, ‘adults only’ retreats etc.

Many cruise lines overwhelm you as soon as you step aboard, trying to ‘upsell’ various products and services for your cruise. They clearly think from a sales perspective this the best time to pounce on unsuspecting guests. Some ships go as far as offering a ‘welcome drink’, as if it is complimentary, and then charging for it.

I would settle in and after reviewing the ship then make decisions about what additional items you may or may not need for your cruise. Understanding what is included in your package is important to avoid unexpected charges at the end of your cruise.

Cruise Itinerary

The first decision is where do you want to cruise. Do you want to sail the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Baltic, Trans-Atlantic, Australasian, Asian or a Round-the-World cruise. The climate, events and other personal factors will determine the route.

Once the route is selected you need to compare the itineraries of the cruise ships offering that route. Which ports will the ship calling into and how long do you have to explore. How many days are there at sea between the various ports.

Cruise Staff

I want my cruise to be with well trained, neatly presented and pleasant staff and that includes everyone from the captain down to the cleaner. Staff can make or break a cruise holiday. No-one wants to be stuck with poorly trained, rude, or inefficient staff. For me the staff are an integral part of my cruise. I want to be around staff that are pleasant and make me smile and feel welcome.

Cabins

Whether you are selecting an inside cabin or splashing out on a superior suite or penthouse; you expect it to be Awesome. The quality of the bed; the furnishings, fixtures, and fittings need to be appealing. The room needs to be clean and serviced regularly. It’s your personal refuse, your one place where you can close the door to the world at any time on your cruise holiday to chill and just be you.

Many people say that an inside cabin is great cause you will be spending your time using the ships facilities and you will only sleep in the cabin. They have advantages with no windows it is nice and dark, and you do get a good night’s sleep. However, if your budget permits, consider upgrading to a balcony cabin. There is nothing nicer than sitting on your balcony with a drink and watching the world go by in privacy.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Balcony Room on-board the Norwegian Getaway

Food

Choice, quality, variety, presentation, attention to detail and consistently good service is the mainstay of an Awesome cruise holiday. Beware many cruises now promote ‘celebrity’ restaurants, often with a cover-charge, so they are an ‘extra’ and may not be included in your package. The quality of food varies between each cruise operator, some cruises like Cunard set such a high standard it’s unbelievable.

Fine Dining on-board Cunard’s Queen Mary II

Drinks

If you enjoy alcoholic drinks and most of us on holiday will be knocking back a few, make sure your cruise travel agent advises you on the various packages available on the different cruise liners. I always steer my customers towards an ‘all-inclusive’ cruise option if they enjoy their drinks.

Drinks can add a hefty additional expense to a holiday and if you are on a budget it will be constantly at the back of your mind. Knowing that the cruise holiday you have selected is an ‘all-inclusive’ option takes the sting out of the tail at the end of a cruise holiday.

P&O Azura Poolside Bar

Excursions

What I love about cruising is the variety of destinations one can visit. In port, you can generally do your own thing, select an organised tour arranged by the cruise line or remain on-board. If you are wanting an organised tour book it as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Excursions organised by the ship crew are generally well managed, guided and you know what you are getting. Most importantly they take responsibility to getting you back to the ship on time. If the bus is delayed, the ship will wait. If you are doing your own thing you may miss the boat.

Doing your own thing is clearly much cheaper and you decide what you want to see and do. Ports such as Ajaccio in Corsica, where the ship literally docks in the town is awesome, you simply stroll off the ship into town. In Barcelona, the walk into the city is a lot further, but there are free shuttle buses. Just keep track of time when you are doing your own thing, if you miss the ship’s departure, you will be racing to the next port to get back on your cruise. The ship will not wait for you.

Staying onboard while most of your fellow passengers are off on an excursion has benefits. The ship is much quieter, and it gives you an opportunity to enjoy facilities and amenities which are less crowded. Just check which facilities are open as some may close on excursion days.

Shore Excursion in Marseille France

On-board Entertainment

The appearance, size, comfort, and quality of the entertainment venues. The variety of the entertainment being presented and the quality of the shows and performances on offer, are all important.

All these factors vary between cruise line operators, so if shows and entertainment is a big factor for your cruise holiday, choose the cruise that will offer the best type and quality of entertainment.

Activities

Modern cruise ships are creating and offering activities that are certainly providing that ‘WOW’ factor. From Flight and Formula One simulators to Waterparks and the latest IT technology for gaming and other activities. Expect some remarkable features and activities on the newer cruise liners.

For the younger generations the new cruise ships are remarkable, not just in size, but in what is on offer. A word of warning, if you are travelling without children and not bound by school holiday season, cruise out of season, it’s so much more pleasant.

Formula One Simulator on-board MSC Meraviglia

Fitness Centre

It may not be everyone’s idea of what a holiday should contain, but for lots of us, we want to stay in shape, especially with all the delicious food around.

Gyms vary depending on the cruise and is influenced by the size which will affect the quality of the gym as well as the activities on offer. Most cruise ships will have a personal trainer available, normally at an additional cost. Many fitness centres will offer various classes and events throughout the cruise.

Wellness Centre

Why not pamper yourself, it’s the perfect setting for a massage, sauna and other treatments. Some of the ships offer amazing spas and facilities.

Kids Clubs

What can one say, if you are travelling with children, this can make your holiday so Awesome. Most kids kick and scream the first day you take them to the Kids Club, but normally after the first day, they have made friends and then you fight to get them out.

Again, the quality and service available depends on the chosen ship, but most cruise ships offer incredible kids clubs broken into different age groups. Make sure this is one of the first things you do when you get on-board; book the kids in.

Retail Shops

Lots of folk like to buy mementos of their trip. The variety, price and display of merchandise on sale, the shops presentation and customer service should result in a pleasant customer journey.

I often find that the closer to the end of the cruise the sweeter the deals may become. The downside is that if you are buying branded clothing they may have run out of your size.

Ships Appearance

Like buying a car, a house, a piece of furniture or jewellery; we want the ship to be appealing and to our liking. Some ships I find really ugly, while others I think are so beautiful.

The décor and finishes are personal. For me if the ship is well maintained and kept clean I am happy. Nothing worse than dirty public toilets. My biggest irritation on ship is dirty windows, spoils the view. I understand they cannot be cleaned every day, but I have been cruises where it seemed they seldom bothered to clean the windows.

The Cruise ‘WOW’ Factor

No matter what it is; the ‘WOW’ factor will be what I will always refer to when thinking of a particular ship. It could be the pool areas, the staff, the entertainment, the dining experiences, the rooms, the activities, anything that when I saw it, or experienced it, I thought – ‘WOW’.

Promenade on-board MSC Meraviglia

So, when I grade a ship and later recommend a cruise these are some of the important factors that I am going to consider. I want to match my clients with firstly; what I believe will be the most suitable cruise company; secondly, with a specific ship, thirdly, the ideal itinerary and finally that we get the best value for money to ensure that they enjoy Awesome Cruise Holidays.

‘Cruising is Awesome’, just ensure you board the right ship, to fulfil your dreams.

Welcome Aboard P&O

Please do follow us, share our post and let us know if you need any assistance with a cruise holiday. Watch out for my next blog post, a ship review of MSC Magnifica.

Awesome@Travel