Friday, October 26, 2007

Cruising for a honeymoon?

If you and your hubby-to-be have decided on taking a cruise for your next honeymoon, great! Now, which one to choose? With so many cruise lines, so many ships and so many destinations, where do you even start?

Enter Cruise Critic. One site where you can find professional reviews, advice from real-life cruisers and even shop for bargains (though I recommend shopping around other sites and/or travel agencies before booking to make sure you're getting the best deal).

This site provides an overwhelming amount of different types of information, so know what you're looking for before going in. To start, use "Find a Cruise" to check out options that fit what you're looking for. This tool will sort itineraries by your style--for example, honeymooners looking for good cuisine. You can also sort by price, destination or cruise line.

Once you've narrowed it down to a few ships, start looking at specific reviews for those trips. The professionally written reviews are a good place to start to get a big picture of what the cruise offers, but remember that the writer probably got to stay in a big suite and took advantage of a lot of paid services on board, like spas, exclusive restaurants and pr icy excursions. You may find the member reviews to be most insightful. Browse through them, looking for red flags that may indicate likely problems. Not every traveler will have a good time, but multiple people having the same bad experience is pretty good warning sign. Also look for reviews from other travelers like you (for a honeymoon, advice from a young couple will be more beneficial than advice from a group of retired friends or a family with lots of kids).

After you've booked your trip, come back to the site before you depart to look at the reviews again. This time, pay attention to specifics. Jot down any tips, like which restaurant is the least crowded for breakfast or what the best time is to visit the shore excursion desk. Remember which paid excursions people liked the most, and which ones didn't make the cut. Take a look at what sorts of things people were able to do onshore without the benefit of a ship-sponsored trip.

Cruises can be a great idea for your honeymoon, but you'll have an even better time if you do your research in advance. Whether you work with a travel agent, book with a cruise line directly or find a bargain online, take the time to know what your sailing into for a romantic week or two of your life.

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