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   Cruise Travel - Cruise News

Cruise Club is a free service, and when you join, you will begin receiving weekly updates including the latest cruise news and cruise specialsWelcome to this week's edition of Cruise News, the best place on the Web to find up-to-date information about cruises. To automatically receive Cruise News via email each week, join our Cruise Club.

For up to the minute news, stop by Cruise Talk anytime to post a message or find out what your fellow passengers and industry insiders are saying about a particular ship, cruise line or destination.

Cruise Views - February 20, 2006

Cruise Views  
This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver focuses on the many challenges facing first time cruisers.

The Big Question

One of the most challenging questions that we are faced with in the 'CruiseTalk' forum comes from fist-time cruise passengers. The question is "which is the best ship and cruise line". Now it's a very obvious question to ask if you have never experienced a holiday afloat, but a definitive answer is difficult to provide. It's a bit like asking; "what is the best car to buy". The answer is; "it depends".

If I was feeling pedantic, my answer might be "I recommend a Duplex Penthouse on the Queen Mary 2's 2007 world cruise". However, this is probably not the answer that the first timer is looking for - unless the first timer happens to be Bill Gates.

Choosing the right cruise depends on a wide variety of factors that only the person booking the cruise will be able to judge. There is now such a vast range of cruise lines offering different experiences, on very different ships, with different itineraries, at different prices that making a decision, or recommendation even, can be daunting.

So where do we begin? Well, certainly the budget available will be a defining factor for many of us. There is also the question of what type of experience are we looking for. Smaller ships offer a more intimate, refined and possibly more formal experience, with a price tag to match. In contrast, the bigger mass market ships are better for those looking for a more casual 'party' atmosphere and good value. Some ships are more suitable for mature passenger, some for the younger crowd, and others for families.

The ship's itinerary can also be an important factor. Are our first timers looking for a one week, two week or longer cruise? Are they looking for lots of ports of call or more relaxing days at sea? Would a transatlantic crossing with no ports of call, appeal? Do they want to cruise from their local port or do they want to do a 'fly-cruise', possibly to a more exotic destination? Are they looking for tropical island paradises or fascinating cities? What time of year do they want to cruise? It's important to remember that certain itineraries such as Alaska have a season (May to September) while other itineraries such as the Caribbean can be enjoyed all year around.

The ship itself can be an important factor. Some mega-ships are such amazing 'floating-resorts' that they can become a very important component of the overall holiday experience. As great as these floating theme parks can be however, will our fist timers happy with the idea of sharing a ship with 3,000-4,000 other people? Alternatively with a small no-frills ship like EasyCruise One, it is the ports and that are the main attraction and not the ship, which has very basic facilities.

If a person was going to buy a second-hand car, but knew very little about them, they would almost certainly seek the advice of someone who does. Curiously, some people have spent a similar sum of money booking a family cruise, yet do not really have a clue what they have booked. So if anybody is about to book their first cruise, I strongly recommend that they do the research first. If they don't, they could spend a lot of money buying the wrong experience.

So how do they do that research?

Well, they could collect the brochures and buy a guide books, but often times those publications are merely promoting the message developed by the cruise lines' marketing department. I suggest that those interested in getting an objective idea of what to expect to consult a variety of sources, such as the reviews provided by TravelPage.com readers and the experiences of forum members at CruiseTalk.

Our members have cruised on every major cruise line in the world and most of the minor ones to. They can tell you which ships have the best gymnasium or which ships have the best food, depending on your preference. I particularly recommend the vast collection 'Readers Reviews' that provide unfiltered access to the experiences of real people. And the best part is, all of this information is free and available to anyone, anytime.

Check out these great deals from CruisePage.com

Royal Caribbean - Bahamas Getaway from $129 per person
Description: Experience the beautiful ports of Nassau and Royal Caribbean's private island - CocoCay on a 3-night Weekend Getaway to the Bahamas. Absorb everything island life has to offer as you snorkel with the stingrays, parasail above the serene blue waters and walk the endless white sand beaches. From Miami.
Carnival - 4-Day Bahamas  from $229 per person
Description: Enjoy a wonderful 3 Day cruise to the fun-loving playground of Nassau, Bahamas. Discover Nassau, the capital city as well as the cultural, commercial and financial heart of the Bahamas. Meet the Atlantic Southern Stingrays, the guardians of Blackbeard's treasure.
NCL - Bermuda - 7 Day from $499 per person
Description: What a charming little chain of islands. Walk on pink sand beaches. Swim and snorkel in turquoise seas. Take in the historical sights. They're stoically British and very quaint. Or explore the coral reefs. You can get to them by boat or propelled by fins. You pick. Freestyle Cruising doesn't tell you where to go or what to do. Sure, you can plan ahead, or decide once onboard. After all, it's your vacation. There are no deadlines or must do's.
Holland America - Eastern Caribbean from From $599 per person
Description: White sand, black sand, talcum soft or shell strewn, the beaches of the Eastern Caribbean invite you to swim, snorkel or simply relax. For shoppers, there's duty-free St. Thomas, the Straw Market in Nassau, French perfume and Dutch chocolates on St. Maarten. For history buffs, the fascinating fusion of Caribbean, Latin and European cultures. For everyone, a day spent on HAL's award winning private island Half Moon Cay.
Celebrity - 7-Night Western Mediterranean  from $549 per person
Description: For centuries people have traveled to Europe to see magnificent ruins, art treasures and natural wonders. And the best way to do so is by cruise ship. Think of it - you pack and unpack only once. No wasted time searching for hotels and negotiating train stations. Instead, you arrive at romantic ports of call relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Holland America - Alaska from From $499 per person
Description: Sail between Vancouver and Seward, departing Sundays on the ms Statendam or ms Volendam and enjoy towering mountains, actively calving glaciers and pristine wildlife habitat. Glacier Bay and College Fjord offer two completely different glacier-viewing experiences.
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