FaceBook Icon
Follow TravelSmartest on Twitter
Cruises and Cruising for 2017
Cruising is Definitely The Way To Go
Cruises Are One of The Most Economical Vacations
Copyright 2017 Smart-Travelers.com.. All rights reserved.
Website Designed by QuickBizWebsites.com
In 2017, cruising is still one of the most economical and hassle free vacations available. You unpack your stuff once and then your resort travels from place to place. Cruising has changed greatly over the years. When we first started cruising in the 80's we were often the youngest folks on board. Its true that cruises started as elite vacations for wealthier retired folks, but that is not the case anymore. Yes, there are ships and itineraries that still cater to mature crowds, but there are also cruises that are focused on singles, couples and families. My family has been on over 24 cruises and I can honestly say they provide the best overall vacation experience. We've cruised many itineraries including the Caribbean, Bermuda, Hawaii, Alaska, Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. Each provide a totally different experience.
Cruise ships these days are basically floating, all-inclusive resorts. They now have Broadway-style shows, full waterparks, resort-style spas, well equipped workout facilities, multiple dining options, and even bumper cars and bowling. Yes, I said bowling! The ships keep getting larger and larger. The newest mega ship is Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and largest Allure of the Seas which is 1,187 feet long and weighs 225,282 gross tons. To give you an idea, the RMS Titanic was only 46,328 gross tons. The Oasis of the Seas is almost five times larger than Titanic. That is just insane! Size is not everything, but the larger the ship the more activities and options available. The price of the cruise not only includes your cabin, but also most of your meals, 24-hour room service, lots of activities on board and day/evening entertainment. Soft drinks, alcohol, speciality dining, spa services, gratuities, shore excursions and of course ship store purchases are not included. With so many cruise lines competing in a slow economy, you can find some remarkable deals. I've seen 7 day cruises as low as $300 to $500 per person. Try buying a hotel room, meals and entertainment for that price. And remember, a cruise ship will take you to a different port every day, offering some wonderful shore excursion options. If you haven't cruised before, its time you think about it. You too will be hooked. See Ship Track for real time ship locations.
Almost 2 Billion Dollar Cruise Ships (OMG!!)
With all of the different cruise lines its hard to know which is best for you and your family. There are dozens of cruise lines, but we have profiled the most popular for families below. Also, here is a link to Cruise Critic which provides the best cruise reviews. Here is also a link to all of the cruise ships under construction right now. Look at whats coming!!

First, you will need to think about where you want to go. The most popular destinations are the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico and Bermuda. These cruises leave from several USA ports and offer the best value for your money. If you have more time to travel, I also recommend the Mediterranean or the Baltic as they offer a way to see a large part of Europe during one trip.

Which Cruise Line and Cruise Ship is Best for Your Family

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival is one of the largest and most popular cruise lines. They have 23 cruise ships including the ship, Carnival Magic, which debuted in 2011 at 130,000 tons and saling from Miami. The Carnival Breeze, set sail in 2012 at 128,000 tons.. Carnival boasts itself as the "Fun For All. All For Fun". They cater to a younger family-oriented crowd, along with college-age kids during the summer and spring break. Carnival offers some of the best pricing of any cruise line with deals for several departure ports. Their newest ship the Carnival Vista launched in May 2016. In 2018 the Carnival Horizon will launch.

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity is one of our favorite cruise lines. It's a bit more elegant. They are still family-friendly, but also cater to couples and a mature crowd. You will find that both the food and service are a notch higher than most other cruise lines. They are part of Royal Caribbean International and operate 10 cruise ships around the world. Their newest ship, Celebrity Silhouette, launched in July 2011. At 122,000 tons, it will be the largest Celebrity ship. Their last ship, Celebrity Reflection, set sail in November 2012 at 126,000 tons and carry 3030 passengers.

Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean is probably our most favorite cruise line. They are a mix of the more elegant ships but also provide a number of activities and dining experiences. They control almost a fourth of the world's cruise market and currently operate 22 ships including the Oasis of the Seas which is currently the largest cruise ship afloat. Her sister ship, Allure of the Seas, started sailing in December 2010 with DreamWorks Animation characters. At 225,000 tons and each costing over $1 Billion these are two of the most expensive ships afloat and a absolute must see. The Quantum of The Seas is in service now with the Ovation of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas coming 2016.

Disney Cruise Lines
Disney cruise ships are an extension of their Disney World theme parks. Disney caters to families with a focus on children of all ages. The ships have kid programs that keep the little ones entertained, enabling parents to get away for a while. They operate four cruise ships, the Disney Magic, the Disney Wonder and their newest ship the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, that just finished its first cruise in January 2011. At 128,000 tons and a cost of nearly $1 Billion, this ship is sure to offer amenties appealing to all types of cruisers including the AquaDuck watercoaster which is the industry's biggest and most innovative waterslide.

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian, a.k.a. NCL, is also one of our favorite cruise lines that caters to almost all crowds. They operate 13 cruise ships with the 155,873 ton Norwegian Getaway now afloat and cruising! NCL advertises itself as Freestyle Cruising which enable you to choose how you dine. Although alternative dining is available on many other cruise lines, NCL was one of the first to offer open seating and multiple dining options. Some do have a cover charges. They have 2 ships coming in 2013 and 2014. The Norwegian Escape set sail in October 2015 and Norwegian Bliss will come in 2017 both are each 163,000 tons. The newest Norwegian Joy is set to come in Spring 2017.

Princess Cruise Lines
Princess is owned by the Carnival Corporation but is a different experience. Much like Celebrity, they are a bit more elegant and cater to both families and couples. We have enjoyed our Princess cruises and would rate them high among the cruise lines. They operate 18 cruise ships, with the Regal Princess being the newest, that depart from ports all over the world. You may remember Princess as they were the ship used for "The Love Boat" TV series. In 2017 they will launch a new ship at 143,000 tons.

Crystal Cruise Lines
Crystal is a high-end luxury line that caters to a more mature crowd. They operate 2 medium size ships named Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity that travel the world offering several different itineraries.
Picking A Cruise Line for 2017
Cruise ships, unlike some smaller boats, are equipped with what are called stabilizers that extend and retract to help keep the ship steady. These stabilizers are much like airplane wings or fins below the waterline helping the ship move through the water, reducing side-to-side rolling and making for a much more pleasant cruising experience. There are times when the oceans do get a little rough and if you are prone to sea sickness, there are products both over the counter (Bonine is the best!) and prescription-based that help considerably. Don't let the fear of seasickness stop you from taking a cruise. Of the 20+ cruises my family has taken I can only think of maybe one or two where anyone even felt slightly ill.

What about this Norovirus? It seems every time someone is sick on a ship we hear about it on the news. The reality is that the cruise line industry is one of the most inspected tourist industries. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) inspects and rates cruise ships on a regular basis. See ratings reports at CDC Vessel Sanitation Program. You are more likely to get sick at your local restaurant than you are on a cruise ship.
Seasickness on Cruise Ships
Here are a few tips and secrets we have acquired over the years of cruising. Keep them in mind when you are booking your cruise. Also, with the rise in gas prices some cruise lines are now charging fuel surcharges. Be sure to check with your cruise line before booking.

1) Resident Discount Rates - Many cruise lines offer resident rates for cruises departing from your state. These rates can be significant but you may need to ask to get them.

2) Book Guaranteed Rooms - When booking your trip, cruise lines sometimes offer what are called "guaranteed rooms". Basically that means, at minimum, you are guaranteed that category room, but are willing to wait for your cabin assignment. In many cases, this may mean you will receive a free upgrade. We've had great success getting upgrades.

3) The Upgrade Fairy - Yes, there are upgrade fairy's. When cruise lines have open cabins they will some times offer upgrades to existing bookings. They would rather sell upgrades then let the cabins go unused. The upgrade prices vary so don't jump on every offer.

4) Look for Departure Ports Near You - Nowadays, most cruise lines offer cruises from ports like Galveston, New Orleans, Los Angeles and all up and down the east coast. You might find it cheaper if you can drive to your port. Don't always assume you need to fly to Florida. Those days are gone.

5) Cruise Cabins - You will find that a large portion of the cruise cabins are exactly the same, with the only difference being which deck you're on and whether you're inside or outside. With the exception of suites with balconies, the outside rooms normally have one small window. My family has never seen the value in paying for a small window when you can always venture to the top decks and see the scenery. We also don't believe in paying to be on a higher deck. There is no special advantage between the decks, so consider booking the lowest-cost room availabe. Besides, you're not in your room all that much.

6) Past Passenger Pricing - Much like airlines, cruise lines have frequent cruiser programs. Many of them offer discounts and special offers to customers with status. You may also have other offers like free drinks, free dining and parties with the Captain. We have status with several and it has helped us get better pricing.

7) Military Discount - If you are active or retired military many cruise lines will offer you either special pricing or room upgrades. Be sure to let the cruise line know you are military. You may be pleasantly surprised.

8) Don't Forget Your Passports - As most cruises visit ports outside of the US, you need to make sure you have a passport. Nowadays, this even includes Mexico, the Caribbean countries and Canada. The process can take as much as six weeks, less if you pay for an expedite. Click here for US Passport office.

9) What Other Ships Will Be in Port - With so many ships sailing these days, its nice to know what other ships will be in port when you are traveling. Cruise TT provides a list of ports and ships. They even provide the total number of cruise passengers that will be in the port for a specific day. Click here for the Ships In Port information.
Cruising Tips and Secrets for 2016
If you are planning a cruise anytime from June through October and even into November, there is always a chance a hurricane may change your intinerary. Although hurricanes can form anywhere, they do tend to follow a line from Africa during August and September. Most cruise lines don't cancel cruises due to hurricanes, but they do reroute them quite often. This may mean you visit ports you didn't expect or even spend more days at sea while they steer away from the storm. In the event your cruise departure or return port does change due to a hurricane, it will be on your dime to change any independant air travel arrangements. Much like any resort, the cruise line is not responsible for weather delays or impacts. This is why its important to buy travel insurance when you book a cruise, especially during hurricane season. Most cover weather related changes as well as cancellation fees. So don't shy away from booking a cruise during hurricane season, just be prepared and buy travel insurance. Many cruise lines actually run some great specials during hurricane season so keep a lookout!
What About Hurricanes?
What's With The Past Cruise Ship Issues?
Okay, you have no doubt heard about the past incidents on the Costa line and the issues with Carnival ships like the Triumph several years back. Like you, these incidents have made us question cruising a bit. This reaction is normal after a major incident. We feel the same when we hear the tragic news of a major plane accident or bus crash. But lets remember, almost 16 million people cruised last year with several new ships contracted to be built in 2017. Is cruising still safe, absolutely! Like anything, there are going to be very isolated issues like these but they are extremely rare. Cruising is still one of the safest vacations you can take. Don't change your plans.
Quantum of the Seas
April 2014