Cruise tips and tricks

A cruise can be an ideal vacation for seniors who have the time to get away. 

Cruising can be an ideal vacation for people of any age, but particularly for seniors. Cruises combine all-inclusive meal packages with accommodations, breathtaking ports of call and prearranged activities, so vacationers do not have to lift a finger for days on end. Cruising also can be a social activity, meaning voyagers can meet with other like-minded people and enjoy the nautical experience together.

Cruise Lines International Association, a global organization advocating for the cruising community, found that 25.8 million passengers expected to take a cruise in 2017, and various cruise companies invested more than $6.8 billion in new ocean vessels.

Whether a person is new to cruising or is a seasoned ocean or river traveler, there are always techniques to try to score great deals or further enjoy the experience. Consider these tips and tricks, courtesy of Royal Caribbean, The Cruise Critic, the Travel Channel and other vacationing experts:

Research the ships and not just the cruise lines. Cruise lines each offer their own amenities and are known for certain features. One cruise line may be a better match for young singles, while others may cater to families or seniors. In addition, certain ships may have their own special features such as water slides, athletic events, casinos and more. Choose a ship that meets your needs.

 Arrive the night before. There’s no need to rush to the port to board the ship. Extend the vacation a little further by arriving a night or two before and checking into a nearby hotel. Some hotels may offer free parking or shuttle service to the ship.

Choose a close port. Select a port within driving distance to avoid airline costs and the extra hassles of coordinating luggage and travel to the port.

Book dining ahead of time. Cruise ships often have a main dining room and also specialty restaurants. If you want a particular meal, make reservations before leaving port. Certain restaurants may offer discounts or perks, such as a free bottle of wine or premiere seating.

Understand what’s included. Cruise ships have many foods and drinks that are included in the packaged price. Certain branded items, such as specialty coffees or ice creams, may be available at an additional charge, as are premium drinks. But chances are you can find a free, similar version elsewhere on the ship.

Explore special discounts. When shopping for a cruise, see if there are discounts available for seniors, teachers, people in the military or those who belong to certain clubs. Cruises often love to incentivize, so it pays to ask about discount pricing.

Make a list of activities. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the offerings on a cruise ship, so much so that there’s some stress over trying to fit it all in. Recognize that you can’t see or hear it all, and prioritize what’s important to you. Make sure you have plenty of time to relax.

Book at the right time. Cruises may be more available after Labor Day when kids go back to school and the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas when others are too busy to travel.

Cruising can be an ideal vacation for travelers who are savvy enough to do their research.