Booking a cruise? 18 questions to go over with your travel agent

Sandy Fenton | Special to PennLiveBy Sandy Fenton | Special to PennLive

Sandy Fenton Cruise
Sandy Fenton with the Regent Seven Seas “Navigator” in Puerto Rico (Submitted by Sandy Fenton)

So you’ve finally decided this is the year you are going to take that much deserved cruise vacation.

Good for you! And by the way, you’re not alone. According to the Cruise Line International Association, 22-million passengers will cruise in 2015.

I’ve had the great pleasure and good fortune to have cruised over 100 times. I am always asked for my expert cruising advice.

Never before has there been such an extensive offering of ships, cabins, itineraries, amenities, onboard activities and once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences. Depending upon your interests, passions, lifestyle and the size of your pocketbook, just about every type of dream vacation at sea is yours.

If you’re curious about ancient world history, fascinated with fine arts, interested in learning new culinary skills, need to unplug and relax or just enamored with the glamour of the golden age of travel, there is a cruise ship for you.

To make the most of your choices, talk with a trusted and reputable travel agency that has in-house cruise experts. It’s your vacation, your money, and you want the best cruise vacation for your dollar.

Here are 20 questions to go over with your travel agent before making any commitments:

1. Where and when do you want to go?

2. Do you want to fly or drive to your point of departure?

3. Do you have a favorite itinerary?

4. How long do you want your cruise to last? 3-5 days? 7-14? Over 2-weeks?

5. What type of accommodations do you want? An inside cabin, a veranda stateroom or a luxurious suite with butler service?

6. Will you be traveling alone, as a couple, with a family or a group? If you are traveling with a family, how old are the kids? Do you have teenagers? Will you need baby-sitting?

7. What type of onboard activities and entertainment do you want?

8. What type of shore excursions interest you, and when do you make these bookings? The cruise lines have come a long way in expanding their port excursions, and the most popular and unique tours fill quickly.

9. Do you prefer a smaller, more intimate vessel or a gigantic mega liner with all the bells and whistles – or something in the middle?

10. Do you want a port-intensive itinerary with overnight stays or several relaxing days at sea?

11. How important is your dining experience? Many cruisers, myself included, consider the dining experience one of the cruise highlights. Choose carefully as every cruise line is different.

12. How important is personalized service, amenities and attention to detail? I have found the quality of service varies from line to line, and even among ships from the same line.

13. Are you celebrating a special occasion?

14. Do you want an all-inclusive cruise experience where all alcoholic and soft drinks, tipping and specialty restaurants are included in one price?

15. Do you (or someone you’re traveling with) need medical care or special assistance? ¬†A good rule of thumb – the larger (and newer) ships carry more medical staff and equipment.

16. What should you pack – casual and/or dressy clothes – for all ages?

17. Do you need a passport? If you don’t already have one, get one. If you have one, be sure it is updated.

18. Last, but not least, what is your cruise budget?

There is a cruise perfectly suited for you and your family – and now is the time to take advantage of the savings and added values offered by the cruise lines.

Sandy Fenton is a travel expert and host of “Let’s Talk Travel with AAA,” which airs every Saturday

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