It is somewhat appropriate that this tip on ocean cruising is first appearing today — the day that I am beginning a 73-day Grand Africa Voyage aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam (pictured at left). We are scheduled to visit 21 countries and 26 ports before returning to our origination port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is my 46th cruise, and certainly the longest one I’ve been on. Thirty-one of them have been cruises where I was on as a speaker (a really nice gig, for sure), but this one will be purely a fun and relaxing time, especially in a nice (aren’t they all?) suite.
Traveling on an ocean liner was, of course, the only way to cross the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean before airlines added intercontinental routes to their schedules. Most depictions of those sailings highlighted the glamor and glitz of the First Class passengers, somewhat as depicted in the movie Titanic. Not that any cruising passengers want their cruise to end the same way.
Unlike river cruising (which will be covered in another travel tip), ocean cruise lines can present a variety of offerings as most ships have cabins ranging from inside (no windows) cabins; cabins with a window to the outside view; cabins with a verandah (aka, balcony), and all the way up to various types of suites. And there are sub-categories within each of those, all of which can have their own set of amenities. Typically common to all passengers, regardless of the cabin type, are the included meals and activities on the ship. These, of course, can vary depending on the cruise line or the ship as I have heard of some ships charging a small fee for the evening show, but that the fee included one drink.
Not for everyone are the cruises that are “All Inclusive.” These are typically very high-end cruises on smaller ships where “everything” is included in the price. The drinks and the higher quality meals and entertainment aren’t “free,” per se. You’ve already paid for them in the price. The difference is just that you don’t pay for anything separately, and there is usually no limit to what you have. I’ve been on a few of them (as a speaker), and they’ve been a bit dressier in the evening (sport coat and possibly tie for the men). If you want to splurge and indulge, trying one “all inclusive” cruise might just the ticket (pardon the pun) for a very special gift, anniversary, etc. [If you’d like me to help you find that perfect cruise, All Inclusive or not, fill out the brief form my travel advisor site]
While it might seem that there are dozens and dozens of major cruise lines, there are actually only a few of them, but many fall under the same ownership. It does get confusing, and ownership changes are not unusual. I am not listing EVERY cruise line as it would be a very long list; these are the the main ones for most U.S. travelers. Under the main holding company or ownership, the cruise lines are ranked by passenger count in recent years.
CARNIVAL CORPORATION & plc
> Holland America Line
> P&O Australia
ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP
> Royal Caribbean
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE HOLDINGS
> Regent Seven Seas
And there are many more lines including TUI, Disney, Crystal, Viking, Windstar, MSC, etc.
The best advice is when you want to book a cruise, work with a travel advisor, particularly one who specializes in cruises, as that person will be able to find the best cruise (and amenities) for you.
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Happy Travels — Thanks for reading!
Stuart Gustafson, America’s International Travel Expert®