How to choose your cruise

River or ocean, large or small ship, Australia or overseas: it’s not surprising that choosing a cruise has some travellers feeling all at sea.

Every cruise offers delicious food from dusk until dawn and seemingly endless onshore and onboard entertainment options. However, they also tend to differ when it comes to style and personality as well as the kind of passengers they attract.

While international destinations often come to mind when Australians think of cruising, it can be hard to beat a sailing trip closer to home. No passport is required for Australian sailings, you don’t have to learn a new language and there is no need to buy foreign currency. Local itineraries tend to be cheaper too.

Ocean cruises are available year-round in Australia, but you will find the biggest and best choice of ships during peak cruise season which runs from October to April. Bargains can be found outside the Australian school holiday periods, especially in November and February.

Whether you’re planning an ocean cruise in Australia or overseas, an industry-wide increase in ship sizes combined with the rising popularity of multi-generational cruising means you will probably find yourself onboard a mega-ship, such as Ovation of the Seas sooner rather than later.

‘Guarantee staterooms’ – where the cruise line allocates your cabin – might save money but you don’t want to leave your onboard accommodation choice to chance. If you’re unlucky and end up at the far end of a mega-ship, you could find yourself literally walking for miles. Study the deck plans to see which cabins are close to the elevators or your favourite venues and book your accommodation accordingly.

River cruises are popular with those heading overseas, and they’re not limited to Europe. The Mekong in Vietnam, the Nile in Egypt and the mighty Amazon are ideal for adventurous cruisers who enjoy more active shore excursions and getting off the beaten track.

Keep an eye out for the Early Booking Deals, which are regularly available on river cruise lines. These offer excellent savings and often include free return flights from Australia. While a river cruise can initially seem more expensive than an ocean cruise, sometimes the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best value. With complimentary excursions included at every port and everything from wine to laundry included in the many fares, a river cruise can be a surprisingly cost-effective holiday.

While booking early can be a good idea, significant savings are also available for retirees who can travel at short notice. With thousands of cruise ship cabins to fill around the world, there is sure to be one to suit you at some point during the season. Keep a close eye on trips with good availability, particularly as the departure dates gets closer, as these are prime candidates for deep discounting.

If you have always wanted to try a luxury line such as Cunard, but your holiday budget is smaller than your love of the finer things in life, you can always take a mini-cruise. These can be as short as just two nights or extend to three or even four nights. While a long cruise is always a pleasure, there is also something to be said for boarding a cruise for a good time, not a long time. Whatever your age, you’re never too old to kick up your heels and have fun.

Do you have any tips for booking a cruise? Why not share them with our members?

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