With an array of cruise lines offering a dizzying number of different ships and itineraries, it can be tricky to find the best cruise for you. Here's what you need to consider when comparing cruises.
What size cruise ship?
Cruise lines often have a variety of cruise ships of varying sizes in their fleet. Large ships carry just under 2000 to over 5000 passengers. Mid-size ships carry between around 400 to 1700 passengers. Small ships can carry fewer than 100 passengers and up to several hundred.
- Large ships have more amenities, activities and services, featuring swimming pools and slides, gyms, family activities such as kids' clubs, multiple restaurants, and entertainment options such as shows and musicals. They tend to visit bigger ports and travel popular itineraries.
- Mid-sized ships have fewer options when it comes to activities and amenities, although they'll still generally have several options for dining and entertainment.
- Smaller ships tend to have less public space, fewer entertainment and food options, but also tend to be luxurious, offering fine dining. They're also able to access more exotic ports.
What type of cruise?
River cruise or ocean? Sailing solo or with your family? Up for an adventure or more interested in being pampered? With so many different types of cruises out there, how do you choose the most suitable type for you? See CHOICE's guide to types of cruises for the full breakdown.
Best time to cruise
The best time to cruise will depend on what you want to see, whether you need to stick to school holidays for your vacation, and your budget. See CHOICE's cruising on a budget and top cruise destinations guides for more information.
How to choose the right cabin or stateroom
Your room on a cruise ship is called either a cabin or stateroom. Depending on the cruise line, there may be dozens of different categories of rooms, but there are four basic types:
- Inside rooms tend to be the smallest and don't have a window facing the outside.
- Outside or ocean view rooms are similar to inside rooms, but they may be bigger, and feature a porthole or window to the outside.
- Balcony rooms have an outdoor deck or veranda.
- Suites tend to be larger, with some offering separate rooms for sleeping and living quarters.
The location of your cabin or stateroom is also something to consider. You're likely to get a choice of a higher or lower deck on the aft (back of the ship), midship (middle of the ship) or forward (front of the ship).
- Higher decks are more centrally located to entertainment and have better views, so tend to cost more, while lower decks tend to be cheaper, have added stability and are among the first to debark on port days.
- Midship rooms are good for those who get seasick, as they tend to be the most stable, particularly on lower decks.
- Forward cabins may be oddly shaped and can get noisy when the ship drops its anchor.
- Aft cabins may be noisy or vibrate due to engine and machinery noise, but have the bonus of views of the ship's wake.
How to find the best price and save when on board
When comparing cruise ships, check what's included in your fare. On some liners, gratuities, special restaurants, activities and on-shore excursions cost extra, while on others they're included in your base fare. Make sure you're comparing like-with-like. For more information, check out CHOICE's guides for first-time cruisers and cruising on a budget.
Tips for using online cruise comparison sites
While cruise comparison sites are useful tools that may help you find good deals, they aren't always all they're cracked up to be. Here are some tips to ensure you get the best possible deal.
- Check for better fares directly with the cruise liner.
- While some sites offer lowest price guarantees, these may not include offers that give you extras like onboard credit or vouchers, so read the fine print.
- Before booking with a site, check it's legit by reading online reviews and checking the ACN or business name on ASIC's register to ensure it's registered in Australia. This will make it easier to assert your rights if you need to.
- If you're booking through a third-party site, consider using your credit card. While the site may charge a fee, you'll have access to a charge-back if things go wrong.
- There are many cruise liners out there and comparison sites may not compare all of them, so use a few different sites to figure out your options.
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