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Top 10 Reasons to Cruise

  • Travelers who haven't yet tried a cruise tell us that popular cruising myths like "I'll get seasick" and "I'll feel claustrophobic on a ship" are among the reasons they've not yet crossed the gangway.

    At the same time, compelling lures, like commercials you see on TV of families sliding down onboard waterslides or of couples gazing out to sea from their private balcony are tempting. Friends who have cruised and who come home from holiday just raving about the experience make it sound even more tantalizing.

    If you're among those who are considering a first cruise but haven't yet taken the leap, Cruise Critic editors and members highlight what they love most about life at sea.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 1

    A Cruise Vacation Offers Great Value

    Cruises offer great value for your vacation dollar because the fares include nearly everything you'll need for a fantastic trip: food, accommodations, daytime and evening entertainment and transportation between destinations. We regularly see fares on mainstream cruise lines for under $100 per person, per night, which is astonishingly cheaper than you'd spend on land for a hotel, dinner and a show. On some lines, kids even sail free or at discounted rates when sharing a cabin with two adults. Looking for luxury? Upscale lines are even more inclusive, with alcohol and soft drinks, gratuities, shore tours, onboard spending credits, and even flights bundled into the fare.

  • 2

    See Multiple Destinations, Unpack Only Once

    On a cruise, you unpack once and your floating hotel takes you from city to city or from island to island and there’s no need to mess with train or ferry schedules, or lug your suitcase along cobblestone streets. Every morning, you'll wake up in a new place. Can't decide between St. Lucia and Barbados, or Italy or Spain? Why choose? Pick an itinerary that visits all the cities on your wish list.

  • 3

    Cruise Ships Are Family Friendly

    From tots to teens, grandparents to grandkids, cruises are fun for all ages. If you're struggling to find a vacation that your 5-, 10- and 15-year-old will all love -- and that has adult activities, too -- ships now have extensive kids' facilities, split by age. Teens have their own cool hangouts, far away from the play areas for the little ones (and certainly a nice distance from parent-friendly pools and bars). How can you not love a trip that features video games and swimming pools, while offering time for families to be together at dinner or on shoreside excursions? And parents can even sneak in a romantic dinner alone, by taking advantage of late-night hours in the kids' club.

    Photo: Royal Caribbean

  • 4

    Cruise Ships Come in All Shapes and Sizes

    The ideal cruise ship for one person may be a mega-ship outfitted with onboard rock-climbing walls and outdoor movie theaters, while another will prefer an intimate ship with an upscale ambience and someone else will want the seafaring experience of a masted tall sailing ship. Luckily, all those different types of cruise ships exist. From French Country Waterways' 12-person river barges to Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. More options range from the luxurious Seabourn Odyssey to the minimalist sailing ships of Star Clippers and even to ice-strengthened expedition ships like Hurtigruten's Fram.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 5

    Ships Offer a Variety of Onboard Activities

    Today's cruise ships are designed to keep everyone happy. Want to pamper yourself at the spa while your spouse hits the casino? Or lounge in the sun reading a book while your family plays basketball. You can go to an educational lecture, a wine tasting, a computer class or a dance workshop; paint pottery, play bridge, learn a language or do yoga; dine at a casual buffet, a fancy sit-down restaurant, a sushi bar, a diner or a steakhouse; and watch a movie, a comedy routine, a song-and-dance show or live music performance. And if all you want to do is nothing while the ship sails from port to port you can do that, too.

    Photo: Cruise Critic

  • 6

    Cruise Vacations Are Easy to Plan

    Because cruise vacations package together transportation and accommodations, they're very easy to plan. Pick your ship, itinerary and cabin, and away you go -- no searching for hotels in your price range, no coordinating travel between cities. You can even get your travel agent to arrange your airfare for you -- or choose a departure port within driving distance to eliminate that extra planning step. Groups also find cruises a cinch to book. Cruise lines have plans in place for group travel, eliminating the hassle of coordinating your 20 family members and friends from around the country who want to vacation with you. Book enough cabins -- and you'll get extra perks, including a free fare!

  • 7

    Ships Are Floating Cities

    If you're concerned about being stranded in the middle of the ocean, relax. Cruise ships are like floating cities with everything you could possibly want onboard. Today's vessels are outfitted with Wi-Fi, cell service and satellite TV so you can stay in touch with the real world during your cruise (if you even want to). Onboard shops sell the toiletries you forgot to pack, medical centers can provide meds or a doctor's services if needed, and laundry facilities let you wash your clothes mid-cruise so you don't need to over-pack. Of course, there's also the fun stuff like gyms, multiple restaurants, movie screens, spas, swimming pools, theaters and discos. And in the rare emergency, there are always enough lifeboats for everyone onboard.

  • 8

    Cruise Vacations Can Be Exotic

    Always wanted to visit Asia but are nervous about the language barrier? Curious about the Middle East, but nervous about country customs? A cruise is one of the best ways to see the most exotic and foreign destinations in this world in an easy way. Itineraries offer calls at major cities and picturesque villages, all of which will be regional highlights, so you don't have to do the research on the best places to visit in an unfamiliar destination. If you're uncomfortable with independent sightseeing in a new locale, simply take a ship's tour with English-speaking guides. Or team up with more experienced travelers you meet online or onboard to share a cab or private guide.

  • 9

    Cruising Is Romantic

    Anyone who's watched "The Love Boat" knows that there's a romance to sea travel. The wind in your hair, the vistas of endless ocean, the stars twinkling above all set the mood for love may be clichés but they’re real experiences onboard! If you want to rekindle the spark with your sweetie, a cruise vacation provides plenty of together time -- sharing side-by-side lounge chairs by the pool, a table for two at dinner, dancing in the evening or sharing quality time onshore. Cruise lines also have special packages for honeymoons, vow renewals and weddings onboard and onshore.

    Photo: michaeljung/Shutterstock.com

  • 10

    Cruising Is Social

    If you love to meet people from around the country -- and the world -- cruising provides a wonderful opportunity to make new friends. Even before you embark, you can connect with cruisers on Cruise Critic's Roll Call forums and create groups to go on independent excursions. Onboard, you'll meet people at your dinner table, at the piano bar or by the pool. The person seated next to you might be from Paris, Texas, or Paris, France; London, Ontario, or London, England. Kids can find playmates their own age during youth activities, so they're not always with adults or their older or younger siblings. Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? We have proof that many long-term relationships begin during a vacation at sea.

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Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
Secrets the Cruise Lines Don't Tell You
Cruise ship life can be a little mysterious. Your choices aren't always spelled out in black and white. The more you cruise, the more you pick up on the unofficial secrets the cruise lines don't tell you -- which give you more options, let you save money and generally allow you to have a better time onboard. Maybe it's knowing what your cabin steward is able to bring you or what the off-the-menu items are at the bar or dining room. Or perhaps it's a tip to getting a good deal on an onboard purchase. But why wait to figure these things out the hard way -- possibly after you've missed your chance? We trawled through all the great advice on Cruise Critic's Message Boards to bring you some of the worst-kept cruise secrets ... at least among our readers who love to share. But whether you're a first-time cruiser or an old sea dog, you might find there's something here you didn't already know.
Cruise Packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.