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ALL ABOUT CRUISES AT SEA
by Ted Cookson
Published in July 2003
A walk though part of Silversea's 382-passenger Silver Whisper, 65-second video clip
The top reasons to take a cruise at sea are
1. You only need to unpack once during a cruise.
2 Your basic holiday budget can be predetermined.
3. A cruise can offer you exceptional value since accommodation, meals and evening entertainment are all included for the same package price. (Airport transfers and shore excursions are normally not included and are charged separately.)
4. A cruise can offer you exceptional variety since your ship will continually move to new destinations while you eat, relax and/or sleep.
Do you think that cruising might be worth a try? If so, asking yourself the five questions below will put you a step ahead in ensuring that your cruise turns out to be one of the best holidays of your life
1. WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CRUISE AT SEA?
Many Cairo-based holiday makers find it most convenient to take Mediterranean cruises as the airfare is inexpensive and typically the flying time to the ports of embarkation is minimal. The most frequent Mediterranean cruises are in the Aegean Sea. In addition to such popular Greek Islands as Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Rhodes, these cruises sometimes include Kusadasi, the port for the world-class Greek-era ruins at Ephesus near Izmir. On longer cruises Istanbul can be included. Aside from the Aegean, there are also cruise possibilities nearby in the western Mediterranean, in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea and elsewhere in Europe. Of course, for those willing to travel farther afield, cruises operate worldwide. Asia, the Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, the Caribbean, South America, Alaska and even Antarctica now are all common cruise destinations.
2. FOR HOW MANY DAYS WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL?
On a global basis, the widest choice of itineraries can be found for 7-day sea cruises. However, in the Aegean Sea, for instance, short summer cruises of 3 and 4 days exist. Longer 12-day Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona to Venice, for instance, also operate during the summer season.
3. WHEN WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL?
It is often easiest to find a cruise itinerary which will fit into your time schedule if you plan to cruise between May and early October. This is the busiest time of the cruise year because that is when school is out and when families head off on vacation. By the same token, bear in mind that dates around Christmas, New Year's and Easter can also be sold out in advance. So do plan your cruise early.
4. WHO WILL ACCOMPANY YOU?
Are you planning to take a cruise for a honeymoon or perhaps as a second honeymoon? Is your cruise intended as a long weekend away to relax with your spouse with no phones, an interesting novel and lots of afternoon naps? Is your cruise intended as a week of fun in the sun with the kids? Or is your cruise intended as a wild run through the Greek islands with a friend while sightseeing and bargain-hunting for souvenirs?
5. WHY WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A CRUISE?
Would you prefer a cruise which visits more ports with less sea time or a cruise which visits fewer ports with more sea time? Would you prefer an active cruise that is fun-filled or a cruise which is more relaxed and quiet? Sometimes cruise lines also offer theme cruises featuring various types of music, sports or singing legends, authors or world leaders.
Once you have thought about these five questions, then it is time to consult your travel agent to obtain help in choosing your cruise. Why contact a travel agent rather than booking directly with a cruise line? Travel agents understand travel. Many travel agencies employ an agent who knows about cruising in general and about the various cruise lines in particular. And you pay nothing for the travel agent's help in selecting the perfect cruise for you. The travel agent will help you to identify the cruise line and ship which best match your needs.
If you don't work with a travel agent, then you'll find yourself having to contact a number of cruise lines to obtain all of the information you require to make your decision. Many cruise lines actually prefer that you use a travel agency for this purpose; and travel agencies are set up to deal directly with you, the traveler.
Cruise prices do fluctuate, and travel agencies can often find you the best deal. Just remember to shop for value rather than for price. Because a cruise experience can vary markedly between one ship and another, some ships may not be right for you at any price. Your travel agent can help you find the cruise holiday that is right for you at the best price. That is value.
Today the largest cruise ships can hold in excess of 3,800 passengers. These so-called mega-ships are floating resorts which are destinations unto themselves. They offer not only a vast variety of activities but also top quality entertainment. The smaller a ship, the more intimate its surroundings and the smaller the crowd in your ports of call. And the smallest ships retain the ability to sail into smaller, more exotic ports.
Unlike the cabins portrayed on the television series The Love Boat, most cabins on today's ships are fairly compact. But, since most passengers spend relatively little time in their cabins, cabin size usually becomes secondary to one's overall experience on board.
A cabin's location determines its price. Price is determined by whether a cabin is inside (without windows) or outside (with windows). Price is also determined by whether a cabin is in the middle of the ship (where sometimes less motion is felt), situated toward the front (where sometimes more motion is felt) or toward the back of the ship (near the engines). Outside cabins cost more than inside cabins. The higher a cabin, the more it will cost. And cabins located in the middle of the ship will sometimes cost more.
Single cabins are available by paying an extra charge called a "single supplement." Depending on the cruise line and the demand for a particular sailing, this supplement can range from 10% to 100% of the price per person in a double cabin.
Many ships offer cabins that can accommodate up to four people through the use of upper beds, or berths. While such an arrangement makes for less privacy and accommodations can be tight, this is a great way for families to economize. Note that cruise lines have age limitations for children occupying a cabin on their own. Also, if you are used to sleeping in a double bed, many cabins with single beds can be arranged in a double-bed format. Just ask your cabin steward to pull the beds together and to make them up as a double bed.
Dress requirements on a cruise are often an issue of concern for first-time cruise passengers. Most 7-day cruises have two formal nights. One will be the night of the captain's cocktail party when you will have the opportunity to meet the captain and to have your photo taken with him.
Men, you should pack a tuxedo if you own one. But if you don't own a tuxedo, don't worry. Depending on the cruise line, between 40% and 60% of male passengers just wear a dark suit on formal nights. So you won't feel out of place in a dark suit. And, in a pinch, a pair of grey slacks and a blue jacket will do.
Ladies are sometimes hesitant about taking a cruise because they don't feel that they have appropriate clothes for the formal nights. Most women wear a cocktail-length dress or other appropriate evening attire such as a dressy pants suit. While long dresses are acceptable, they are certainly not necessary. Forget ultra-formal long gowns such as you would see at a wedding. Make it simple. Be practical and comfortable.
Finally, consider a pre- or post-cruise stay and/or tour in connection with your cruise. This can be an economical way to further explore such exciting cities as Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rome, Venice, etc.
ABOUT TED COOKSON: Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world! He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club). A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi. Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at: Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301. Fax 2359-1199. E-mail: email@example.com. Web site: www.eptours.com.
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