Summer is a great time to go just about anywhere, but its the only time to go North. An Alaskan cruise will give you some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the world. The ports will be more low-key and laid back. A Caribbean cruise is great year round. Summer time is less popular so the deals are better. But if you want to escape the cold, winter is a great time.
Once you pick a time, then decide on a Cruise that fits your price range and your interests. There are many themed cruises (singles, family, music, sports etc). Ports of call vary greatly- from great shops to wonderful beaches and scenery. One web site that can help you get a good deal, and help you plan a cruise vacation is Cruise Critic.
Now that you've booked your cruise; do a little planning before you leave . One thing I decided after my first cruise is that if at all possible, I would not start my cruise vacation the same day the cruise ship leaves the port . There are several reasons to get to the port city early. You do not have to live in a northern city to be affected by the weather. If your flight is delayed you might miss the boat. Then there's always the chance of a mechanical breakdown (the airlines seem to us this a lot laately). Although for me, it was getting up at 3AM, racing to the airport, eating on the run, worrying about our luggage being lost (one was), then going through the boarding process very tired. This went well, but it was just one more thing to do.
By the time we had unpacked, we were so exhausted that we could not enjoy our first day. By getting there at least one day early, you can see some of the city, relax, sleep in, then take a cab to the port. If, however, you still arrive late and "miss the boat", check with the cruise line to see if there's space on the next cruise, before you spend extra money trying to get to the first port.
Another tip: 2 way radios. Chances are, while on board, you will have to pay extra roaming charges to use your cell phone. Two way radios will let you keep in touch with the rest of your family when on opposite ends, or floors, of the ship.
More than likely, you will use the ship's pool, and / or go to the beach at at least one of your shore excursions. A diaper bag works great for this. The new ones are very fashionable and do not even look like a diaper bag. They are water proof with several different compartments to carry all your needs for a day at the beach.
You will reach your cabin long before your checked bags do. Pack necessities in your carry on, that you may use right away; a book, swimsuit, sunglasses, sun block, light clothes, a camera etc. Then sit back and enjoy the scenery until your luggage arrives.
Want your cabin to smell like home? Bring fragrance beads or an air freshener, these are a lot safer then candles, which are not usually allowed.
Some ships are so big and the hallways all look a like; its hard to find your cabin, especially for young children. Bring a balloon or something else to put outside your cabin door so you can see it from a distance.
Bring gift bags – why, you ask? Put together some things that are unique to where you are from. Then present them to the crew members you have a lot of contact with. Some of the things I thought were; locally made candy bars, post cards showing scenes of my home town, coins, and hats from local sports teams. They enjoy the gifts and you get some great service. I gave one to my favorite bartender. After that my drinks were almost "too good".
I know a lot of people are still afraid that they may get motion sickness . It does happen, but with all the new technology built into cruise ships it happens far less than you think. If you are still worried, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening. When you book, try to get a cabin as close to the center of the ship as possible (think of a teeter totter … the end go up & down, but the center of the board severely moves). Bring candied Ginger; it's a good preventive and remedial for motion sickness. Motion sickness patches are available by prescription, so talk to your doctor. You can also get motion sickness pills over the counter at a drug store. If you are worried about it, take one before you get on board. Chances are, after the second day you will have your sea legs and seriously know you are on a ship.
After you book the cruise, the cruise line will probably tell you that you should book your shore excursions though their website before they're "sold out". There are some advantages to doing this, and is less stressful. If, for some reason, there's a change in schedule by the cruise ship, your money will be refunded. The disadvantages are, by ordering it directly, it's often a lot cheaper. Also, you might enjoy just going into the port city and just wonder around. While on board you might hear something about the port that really interests you. Last but not least, sometimes doing the "Tourist Thing" can be a lot of fun.
Well, I have given you a lot of reasons now to start planning your Cruise Vacation and some tips to do ahead of time. Next time I'll give you some tips on what to do while on board.