There is more to booking a cruise than meets the eye and a recent survey of Cruise Holidays agents offers a revealing list of things first-time cruisers should not forget to do – ranging from before they book to important day-of-departure matters. The data, along with the most popular types of shore excursions being booked by travel agents at Cruise Holidays International, are part of a second wave of results from Cruise Holidays’ 2014 Cruise Trends survey.* Cruise Holidays is a network of cruise-specialty travel agencies based in North America, and its cruise experts across the United States and Canada participated in the survey.
Cruise Holidays agents were asked, “Do you have any top tips for someone who is about to book their first cruise?” The number one response by a significant margin was to heed the advice of a professional travel agent. “Our cruise experts have heard countless horror stories from clients who were burned by a ‘too good to be true vacation deal’ or who ended up on the wrong kind of cruise because they didn’t get proper advice before the trip,” said Kevin Weisner, Senior Vice President, Cruise Holidays International. “Some people think ‘Do-It-Yourself’ translates to savings, but the facts don’t support that thinking.”
“As for the second most important tip from our experts, the variety in dining and entertainment aboard large cruise ships has reached nearly dizzying heights. What first-time cruisers may not realize is that due to the popularity of these cruise amenities, you can’t always expect to just walk up and be seated,” added Weisner. “Our cruise agents can counsel their clients on exactly when and how to book these ‘can’t miss’ opportunities. With blockbuster shows such as Chicago, Hairspray, Rock of Ages and Blue Man Group rolled into the price of their cruise, it would be a shame to miss out due to a lack of proper planning, and the same goes for the specialty dining, which is often provided at a nominal cover charge.”
The third most urgent tip for first-time cruisers is to book at least some shore excursions in advance. Travel agents can often provide a wider array of options than what is offered by the cruise line, and they use tour or activity providers that have been thoroughly vetted for safety, quality and price.
Here is the Top 10 list of tips for first-time cruisers, according to Cruise Holidays International:
1 Book the cruise using a professional travel agent: 23.6%
2 Reserve specialty dining, onboard entertainment and spa appointments as early as possible to avoid disappointment: 14.6%
3 Book some shore excursions before leaving for your cruise (use a travel agent for best variety/additional options): 10.1%
4 Ensure legal documents are in order, including passports and visas (or other necessary I.D.): 9.0%
5 (tie) Get to know layout of ship as soon as possible to make the most of your time onboard: 5.6%
5 (tie) Plan to arrive at least one day in advance of cruise departure: 5.6%
7 Choose the cruise vacation that’s best for you, not just the lowest price: 4.5%
8 Complete cruise ship online check-in early; don’t wait until day of departure: 3.4%
9 (tie) Make sure to allow for some free time – you don’t need to schedule full-day excursions for every port of call: 2.2%
9 (tie) Budget for extras such as shore excursions, beverages and gratuities: 2.2%
9 (tie) Purchase travel insurance when you book the cruise: 2.2%
Cruise Holidays agents were also asked to identify the most popular types of shore excursions they book, and “general sightseeing tours” ranks first. However, vacationers may be surprised to learn about the diversity of options available. “With activities such as swimming with dolphins, local culinary experiences and even flight-seeing all landing in the top ten, it shows the variety of resources at our agents’ fingertips – they may be able to help arrange the excursion that makes the trip one the client will never forget,” added Weisner. “Some activities are heavily restricted in terms of number of participants, so only a select few guests will be able to enjoy some of the more dramatic trips. But no matter what kind of shore excursion clients choose, they are better off making arrangements in advance instead of waiting in line aboard the ship – that time would be better spent enjoying oneself.”
1 General sightseeing tours, primarily aboard a coach, car or train, with limited walking: 45.0%
2 Water activities, such as snorkeling or scuba: 35.7%
3 Soft adventure (including but not limited to zip lining, bicycling, kayaking, rafting, ATV tours, Jeep tours, rock or ice climbing, fishing, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding, golfing): 33.3%
4 City or historical walking tours with little or no time inside a vehicle (includes places of worship, museums, historic ruins as well as modern-day cities): 31.0%
5 Reserving a private vehicle and driver and/or private guide: 27.9%
6 Boat rides (including whale watching, glacier spotting, or leisure boat cruise/sail, dinner cruise): 16.3%
7 (tie) “Day at the beach” excursions primarily for sunning and/or lunch: 14.0%
7 (tie) Culinary or wine experiences: 14.0%
9 Cultural events (such as gold panning, watching a performance, visiting a perfumery, etc.): 8.5%
10 Flight-seeing (from airplane or helicopter): 7.8%
Respondents could choose up to three answers from a list of shore excursion options.
For more information about Cruise Holidays, or to locate a cruise professional, go to www.cruiseholidays.com, and click on “Locate An Agent” in the upper right-hand corner.
*Results are based on a survey of 133 Cruise Holidays agents from December 5 – December 22, 2013.
Cruise Holidays is a cruise specialty retail franchise, with franchisees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Cruise Holidays is also a distinguished provider of land tour vacation packages. Founded in 1984, Cruise Holidays is part of Travel Leaders Group, which is the largest traditional travel agency company in North America with approximately $18 billion in annual sales volume through over 6,000 locations.