Dreaming of Next Cruise Season? Start Planning Now!
Did you know you can book many cruises as far as 18 months in advance of your preferred departure date? In fact, it’s better to book as early as possible for popular sailings (especially those scheduled during peak cruise season throughout late spring, summer, and early fall) to ensure the best availability.
That means if you’re hoping to go on an Alaskan cruise next August, for example, the clock is ticking and now is the time to book! Here are a few things to consider as you start planning your dream cruise vacation.
1. Narrow Down Your Dream Destinations
Different destinations have varying cruise seasons, so you’ll want to have a location in mind and plan accordingly. Cruise Critic offers a handy timetable so you can reference the best window of opportunity for your preferred trip. Here are a few of the most popular destinations that typically have cruises embarking from Seattle:
- Alaska and Canada: June through August
- Hawaii: late December through April
- Mexican Riviera: February to mid-April
- South America: November through March
- Australia: late November to March
- Caribbean: late June through August; February to mid-April
If you’re a first-time cruiser or just want to reduce the stress involved in self-planning, booking through a travel agent could be your best bet.
2. Choose The Right Cruise For You
Both the cruise line and the destination you choose will ultimately help set the tone for your trip. For instance, did you know Alaskan cruises tend to be a popular choice for older demographics (especially retirees and/or senior citizens)? Certain cruise lines also have a reputation for being family-friendly — including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian, which each offer onboard activities and other options geared toward young children and teens. Do some research to ensure all travelers in your party have a blast after setting sail!
3. Make Travel Arrangements To Your Departure Port
Once you’ve settled on your dream destination, found an ideal cruise line, and booked your voyage, it’s time to coordinate travel to and from your departure port. If you don’t live within driving distance of the port city, shop for flights early to avoid last-minute price hikes and complete your travel plans with peace of mind.
Especially if you’re already paying for airfare to and/or from the port city, plan to arrive a day or two before setting sail and squeeze in some pre-cruise or post-cruise sightseeing. If you’ll be embarking from Seattle, don’t leave without seeing the world-famous Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, CenturyLink Field (home of the Seahawks), and other can’t-miss attractions — all within reach on a guided city tour. Finally, make the journey easy on the whole family with a convenient cruise transfer shuttle directly from your hotel to your departure port.
4. Start Thinking About What You Want To Do At Each Port Of Call
You aren’t required to de-board at every port but, at the very least, you may likely find yourself wanting to get your bearings after sailing for several days. Once on shore, you’ll have the day to explore the port town and surrounding areas via a guided or independent tour. Check with your cruise line or travel agent if you’re interested in a ship-sponsored shore excursion. These tours offer built-in perks such as peace of mind (your ship won’t leave without you!) and necessities such as ground transportation coordinated for you in advance.
If you prefer to explore via an independently operated tour provider or on your own watch, cruise line websites will often have tips about recommended companies and activities at port. You can also do your own research by browsing travel websites or destination-specific guidebooks. If you’ll need to rent a car, do so well in advance, and check to see if you’ll need to acquire an International Driving Permit.
Regardless of the tour method you choose, you’ll usually find a mix of full-day and half-day itineraries to choose from, some of which are rigidly structured and some which allow varying degrees of free time. Common shore activities include sightseeing at historical and cultural locations, spending time at the beach, souvenir shopping, active pursuits such as snorkeling or hiking, and eating and drinking at local restaurants and bars. If a port requires a visa, your cruise line will typically arrange this for you.