How To Choose Your Cruise

Blue skies.  Sun shining.  The smell of salty sea water filling the air.  Waves upon waves lapping at the sides of the intensely massive ship you are standing on.

Yes, cruises are a fantastic and cost-effective way to have an all-inclusive, hands-free and worry-free vacation.  Summed up – cruises are EASY and FUN!  The great thing about going on a cruise is that you can make it as adventurous or laid-back as you want.  In fact, the biggest decision you will have to make when cruising is which cruise line you will be traveling on.

So, to help guide you with this choice, here is a list of 5 of the top cruise lines complete with their prices, atmospheres, types of travelers, quick reviews and loyalty programs.  Why have I included loyalty programs?  Because cruises are like tattoos.  Once you go on one, you will most likely want to go on another.  So comparing loyalty programs is actually a good idea and could pay off down the road.

Therefore, THE TOP 5 POINTS you will want to compare when selecting a cruise line are:

  • Price
  • Atmosphere
  • Types of Travelers
  • Loyalty Programs
  • Ports & Destinations

Also, if you are planning on traveling somewhere tropical, you should definitely check out my Ultimate Tropical Vacation Packing List.  Because, especially on cruises, being prepared and packing properly is extremely important as you won’t be on the mainland to purchase replacement items for things left behind.

Here are 6 of the top cruise lines you may want to consider…

CARNIVAL
carnival

Price:  Budget-friendly. 
Atmosphere:
Fun, family-oriented.
Loyalty Program:  Fair.  Start earning decent rewards on your third cruise. 
Best For:
Families & Friend Trips.

The family-friendly cruise line.  If you will be taking children or have large or multiple age gaps between those cruising with you, this is your cruise.  There truly is something for every age group on the Carnival Cruise ships.  While other cruises may have more of a variety of activities for select age groups, Carnival appeals to all.  Carnival cruise ships have bars, casinos and nightlife for adults and couples.  They have pools, waterslides and live performances for families.  And they even have daycare disguised as “clubs” where you can drop your children off to mingle with other children under staff supervision so that you may go participate in an adult activity with your spouse or friends.  Oh, and the food?  Uhm.  Prepare to gain a couple pounds.  The food is delicious and served buffet style 24/7.


DISNEY

disney

•  Price:  Budget-friendly.
•  Atmosphere:  Youth-oriented.
•  Loyalty Program:  Good.  Automatic enrollment into loyalty program after first cruise.  Start earning good perks after first cruise.

•  Best For:  Families with young children.

This epic name speaks for itself.  Did you know Disney has a cruise line?!  A lot of people don’t!  Disney has it’s hands in so many different business pots that it’s cruise line often gets overlooked.  If you are traveling with children and are looking for a family-friendly staff atmosphere at every turn, then look no further.  As they do on land, Disney cruise lines cater to family, especially children, at sea.  You can expect to see characters dressed up, Disney-themed EVERYTHING and music from your children (and your) favorite Disney movies playing on deck.  Even if you are traveling sans children, a Disney cruise would be sure to bring out your inner child and may just be the reset you need from your corporate life.


NORWEGIAN

norwegian

Price: Less budget-friendly.
Atmosphere: Personal paradise.
Loyalty Program:  Good.  Automatic enrollment after first cruise.  Start earning perks and rewards after first cruise including discounted rates for future cruises.

Best For:  Couples and lone travelers.

Norwegian Cruise Line boasts a unique feature – studios for single travelers!  Since it advertises for lone travelers, single sailers needn’t feel strange or out of place.  There are sure to be many other lone travelers on this cruise line.  This is also a fantastic cruise line for couples looking for a romantic or adventurous get-away.  Norwegian is all about enjoying your own personal paradise.  Dress up, dress down, party all night or slow down.  If you are traveling alone or as a couple and don’t want as much family or children traffic as some of the other cruise lines, this is probably the cruise line for you.


PRINCESS

princess.gif

•  Price:  Less than budget-friendly.
•  Atmosphere:  Adventurous luxury.
•  Loyalty Program:  Great!  Discounted rates for future cruises, onboard spending money after booking future cruise and plenty of other perks and rewards.

•  Best For:  Couples, Older Families & Friend Trips.

Princess Cruise ships have lounges and activity centers exclusively designed for teens. Those in combination with their learning and discovery centers make this a great cruise line for families with teenagers.  The large variety of cruises, ports, land excursions and nightlife also make this a fantastic cruise line choice for friend trips or adventurous couples.  Princess Cruises also has, in my opinion, one of the best loyalty programs out there.  Those in the loyalty program enjoy discounted rates for future cruises and several limited-time offers throughout the year.  Currently, the limited time offer is $600 onboard spending money after booking a future cruise.   Also, once in the loyalty program, a host will check-in with you throughout the cruise to ensure your comfort, satisfaction and that you are aware of all of your benefits while onboard.

 


SEABOURN

seabourn

•  Price:  Expensive.
•  Atmosphere:  Luxurious.
•  Loyalty Program:  Great!  Fantastic awards.  This is probably the best loyalty program but you definitely pay for your perks through the traveling fares. 

•  Best For:  Wealthy singles, couples and families.

Luxury.  Sheer luxury.  Classy.  Think gold-lined staircases and a black-tie affair.  If budget is not in your vocabulary and/or you have a lot of extra cash to spend, then you should check out Seabourn Cruise Lines.  Seriously, only check it out if you think you can afford it.  You cannot unsee these gorgeous, luxurious beasts.

A letter to my 16-year-old self.

Dear 16-year-old Kala,

Hello.  It’s you.  Your future 27-year-old self is putting fingers to keyboard to reach out to you.  I know you desperately wanted to know me just 11 short years ago.  I know you wish you had the answers and you wish you could just take a glimpse into the future.  You probably want to see what you look like at 27, if you are successful and if your life has turned out the way you had always imagined it would.  I know you want the reassurance that each and every decision you are making right now pays off in a big way.

Well… I can tell you this… Your life didn’t turn out the way you planned it.

At all.

Like, not even remotely close.

Those 5-year, 10-year, 20-year plans you had for yourself?  Yeah.  It’s admirable that you  set expectations for yourself, your future and everyone in it – but you forgot to factor in one thing – life.  It’s adorable that you think as long as you check the boxes (graduate high school – check!  go to college – check!  meet future husband in college – check!) that everything will go according to plan.  But it doesn’t.  At least not for you.

Let’s have a quick recap shall we?  Because it wasn’t too long ago that I was you and we made this beautiful life plan.  It goes like this – graduate high school, go to Purdue University, graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, find your future husband at Purdue and fall in love, get married shortly after graduating high school, enjoy a fulfilling nursing career, pop out three beautiful kids (preferably in the order of boy, girl, boy) and then live happily ever after.  Happily ever after entails remaining married until death, having very low financial stress, taking vacations to exotic locations once every two years and enjoying watching your children grow into adults and having children themselves.  Oh, yes, and retiring at 65 to spend every morning thereafter sipping coffee and reading the newspaper on your wrap around porch swing with your husband next to you.

Alright.  What did we learn here?  Lots of detail.  Lots of chance.  Lots of rolling the dice and just hoping everything works out.

Now, let me recap for you what your life has looked like so far.

You graduate high school – that is one box you checked.  You went to Purdue but you only went for a year.  You succumbed to the pressures of drinking and partying.  Your grades were embarrassing.  So, you moved back home.  You went to a local community college and you were very dedicated to your academics from that point on.  You traveled – A LOT!  You went to NYC three times, Connecticut, New Jersey (the Jersey Shore to be exact – AND you were on the show – you were blurry and in the background but you were on the screen for three seconds behind Snooki and JWoww), Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Chicago, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach just to name a few.  Not bad for a Hoosier girl, right?   

nyc

Posing in Times Square.  This is your second trip to NYC.  You discovered that Manhattan is one of your happy places.

jerseyshore

On the Boardwalk at Seaside Heights, NJ.

Lets see – you graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services Administration, started a great career serving the mentally disabled population and made pretty decent money.  You dated several men that you thought would turn into husbands but they didn’t.  You were left heartbroken at the end of every relationship.  You have been cheated on by every single man you dated in your life except for one but he wasn’t that great to you either.

You are still unmarried at the age of 27. 

But you did have a child – you have the most beautiful daughter.  She is almost 2 now.  One of those men that cheated on you?  Yeah, he is the father.  You got pregnant about two years into the relationship and when she was only eight months old, you left the emotionally abusive relationship and became a single mother.

So yeah, your life has turned out NOTHING like you planned.  At all.

And I’m so glad it didn’t.

Yes.  Obviously there are some things that I wish had turned out differently – but you should see the woman you are at 27!

You are bold. 
You are daring. 
You are brave.
You are confident.
You are free-spirited and loving.

You are still slightly overweight from your pregnancy but you LOVE yourself.

You are all of these things because of how your life turned out.  You are everything you have always wanted to be because you didn’t get what you thought you wanted.  You went through a lot of hard times and were pushed up against the ropes more than you would have liked but you came through every single time.  And you surprised yourself at how strong you were.  You never knew it.  You were privileged when you were young – you never had to be strong when you were 16.  But since then, you have survived a lot of disappointments, dropped balls and missed opportunities and you are now stronger because of it.  I absolutely adore myself and I don’t think that would have happened if I would have been granted everything on your life plan. 

You ran two half-marathons.  I don’t think I told you that yet.  You pushed yourself, you created yourself and you are so incredibly happy.  You found people that love you, support you and fill your life – you are lucky enough to call them friends.  And you have been blessed with the best.  You aren’t lazily going through the motions and checking the boxes just because that is what your 16-year-old self decided you wanted.  You genuinely appreciate everything you have because you have had to work so hard to have it. 

And your daughter?  Please.  She is literally everything.  She is sassy, intelligent and loving.  And she is beautiful.  I won’t go into too much detail here because I wouldn’t want to spoil what is easily the best thing that ever happened to you.  All you need to know is that you now know what it feels like to unconditionally love someone.  And you wouldn’t trade that beautiful baby in for anything – not even for the perfect life void of all struggle.

So go ahead, young me.  Make your intricate life plans – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  At least it gives you somewhere to set your sights – you must always have goals.  But please do not panic when things don’t go your way.  You will always make the best of it and find happiness in the imperfections.  You are on a journey of discovery – if everything goes perfectly the way you plan it, you fail. 

So take a deep breath, young 16-year-old me.  Nothing turns out the way you want it to.  But you wouldn’t want it to anyways.  These next 11 years are going to fly by.  You are about to love this ride. 

Love always,

27-year-old Kala