Are you dreaming of hitting the high seas aboard a luxury liner? If so, a fabulous cruise might be just what you need. Cruises are a popular vacation option for travelers and January to March is one of the best times to book a cruise. With nearly 50 percent of all cruises booked during this period, known as wave season, the cruise lines ramp up their marketing and promotions to entice potential passengers.
“Many people, especially first-time cruisers, are not aware of the breadth of cruise experiences that are available to accommodate their travel desires,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders Network, one such seller of cruises in North America. “River cruises and ocean cruises can offer a variety of different itineraries and onboard atmospheres, but there is always something for everyone.”
Whether it’s for a cruise in the sunny Caribbean or breathtaking Alaska, historical Europe or South America — many of the industry’s most-respected brands feature some of their best offers during wave season. This includes all types of cruising experiences, ranging from deep water ocean vessels to small luxury ships and river cruises.
Here are some tips that help travelers narrow their cruise choices so they can take advantage of special wave season offers.
What type of ship is best. Large, oceangoing vessels that travel to the Caribbean and Alaska are like floating cities, with lots of choices for dining, activities and entertainment. They’re great for families with children. River cruises, like the ones that ply Europe’s waterways, are smaller ships and provide a more intimate experience. They can travel close to the center of cities and towns. Onboard activities emphasize the cuisine, history and culture of the destinations.
Culinary adventures. These cruises make sure the food is as appealing as the destinations. With innovative partnerships with well-known chefs and culinary experts, the cruise lines offer a way to immerse oneself and deepen one’s understanding of a region by taking a journey that feeds the senses with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of local and authentic flavors. Expanded onboard cuisine options to shore excursions will often focus on flavorful, regional ingredients, cooking styles, demonstrations and tastings.
Journeys that quench thirst. Whether it is aged wines, craft beers or fresh cocktails, many people travel to experience the fine taste of local beverages. Certain cruises offer an opportunity for tastings and to learn from mixologists, sommeliers or famous brewers either onboard, during shore excursions or both. These cruises provide opportunities to try different selections that bring the rich history and culture of the people alive. Travelers may tap their own beer, blend their own wine, or explore a region rich in the history of the local vineyards.
Expedition cruises for the explorer. For adventurers who would enjoy smaller ships that can travel to more remote destinations, they may love an expedition cruise. These ships, equipped with sturdy, inflatable boats called Zodiacs, take vacationers to the shore for land-based excursions or to spots in the water for activities such as deep-sea snorkeling or diving. Smaller ships also allow passengers to disembark more frequently, often with two or three landings or shore excursions per day for unique sightings and adventures.
Multi-family ocean adventures. Family-oriented cruise lines have ships that offer fabulous children’s programs that have a mix of fun and educational activities. Some have water slides and roller coasters, bungee jumping and zip lining, as well as art and cooking courses that the whole family can enjoy.
For teens, there are exclusive areas where they can play games, watch movies, learn to be a DJ or just relax. Teens also tend to make good use of the pools and sports facilities with the new friends they meet on board. The kids’ clubs and teen lounges are off-limits to adults, but there are lots of other spaces for the mature members of the group to enjoy, including the ship’s fitness center, spa, theaters, lounges and casino. Most ships also have adults-only spaces.
Additional price savings and travel tips. When travelers are flexible on travel dates, they may find it is less expensive to sail on one date versus another. Additional savings can also be found on airfare. While it’s not always feasible depending on the destination, one can save even more by leaving from a port close to home. For those traveling long distance, it is always advisable to arrive to the port city at least a day before the ship sails. This gives vacationers a chance to explore the port before departing, and also relieves the stress and worry should they experience flight delays or even misplaced luggage — all of which can add to the expense of the trip.
Whether one is a veteran cruise passenger thinking about that next trip, or a traveler who has always wanted to go on one, now is the time to start planning a voyage for 2019.