By Marguerite Cleveland
Cruising is a very popular vacation and each year the cruise lines up their game with new ships launching each season. While very popular it can be a pricey option for travel especially as military families we can rarely plan a year out to get all the great free offers. So how can you snag the best deals?
The first thing to do is…
Plan your trip based on where you live.
You want to pick a cruise that leaves from a port within driving distance of your home. This saves a fortune on airfare especially if you are traveling as a family. There used to just be a few U.S. departure ports but now there are so many choices. When you are stationed on the East Coast, this is when you want to travel to Bermuda, the Bahamas or the Caribbean. You can depart from New York, Bayonne, New Jersey, Boston, or Baltimore. In the southern states try Charleston, or five different cities in Florida. For Caribbean, Mexico and South America you can depart from Tampa, New Orleans or Galveston, Texas. From the West Coast you can cruise to South America, Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska. Departure ports include San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. All these departure ports are within driving distance of many military installations.
For many military families your only option is to book last minute. This can help you end up with some great deals. Living near Seattle I watched cruise prices to Alaska for 2 years and leaped when I found a great deal three weeks out from the departure date. Track the prices on cruises you are interested in so you know a good deal when you see it.
People often book the lowest priced inside cabin but often the last minute deals will give you upgraded cabins as the less expensive sell out first. For me a balcony cabin is worth it as I like to get away from all the people and have some privacy. Other people I know book the cheapest cabin as all they do is sleep in the cabin spending all their time using the ships amenities.
A few insider tips. Make sure you have the proper documents. Every time I have cruised I have seen people turned away because they don’t have the proper documentation. This often occurs when only one parent is traveling with their children. Plan to arrive at the port of departure as early as you can. Ships typically depart around 5 p.m. but processing begins as early as 11 a.m. You won’t be able to board right away but the lines are usually shorter and you can get your bags packed. Make sure to put swimsuits and sunscreen in a carry on bag for warmer trips. This will give you almost a ½ day more on your cruise. Once you board around 1 p.m. you can have lunch and explore the ship before it departs. Many of the amenities and often the pools will be open.
I want to take a cruise to Mexico out of San Diego. Where is your dream cruise destination?
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com