Cruise is becoming a popular option for family vacations. The feeling is magic when you wake up every morning, you are in another country or city you have never been. Cruise is like a floating star hotel for tourists to explore the world.  I have taken cruise vacations twice before: Bahamas cruise and Alaska cruise.  Personally, I prefer cruise trips compared to all-inclusive resort trips in Mexico or Caribbean because of the excellent cuisines on the cruise and the opportunity to explore more new places. Also, cruise can take you to remote areas where no planes or roads can reach there or places with inconvenient flights connections.  


1. Best Time to Book Cruise

Most cruise lines have free cancellation policy until 90 days before departure date. By that time, the cruise lines will have a clear picture how many passengers confirm their commitment. Cruise companies will run promotions around that time until one month before departure depends on the vacancy rate. I recommend people to keep monitoring the price through the year. Some cruise lines offer promotion one year before departure, but I found most prices are very likely to drop.


2. Book Directly with Cruise Lines or Travel Agents

Like all-inclusive resort bookings, cruise price is the same everywhere you book. The only difference is some travel agents may give you OBC (On-board Credits), it varies between $25 USD to $200. OBC can pay towards all expenses (e.g., liquors, gratuities, excursions, services, etc.) on the cruise which is an extra bonus for your trip. Cruise line may offer OBC, but usually in a small amount or none. If you cancel the cruise for any reason, travel agents will charge you cancellation fees (varies amongst travel agents), even though cruise lines have no charge for cancellation prior to 90 days of departure date. Another advantage booking directly with cruise lines, you may receive free upgrade if the cruise fares drop. My recommendation is to check the OBC for both cruise lines and travel agents, and make your judgement based on the amount of OBC.

3. Gratuities

Gratuities are mandatory and would be collected by the number of people in the room. Cruise lines usually charge about $15 per person per day regardless the age. You will see the gratuities charge on the cruise bill in the last day of your cruise journey. If you travel with many people in the room or small children does not require much services, you may request a waiver form from the front service desk on the cruise. 

3. WiFi

There is no free WiFi anywhere on the cruise. The WiFi subscription is very costly about $20 USD per day. Some cruise lines have promotions to waive the WiFi charge sometimes during the year. You may take advantage of this offer to book the cruise. If the cruise lines sail through developed countries (e.g., US – Alaska, Canada – Victoria, etc.) you may find local restaurants, coffee shops or city libraries for free WiFi when you get off the cruise.

4. Excursions

Cruise lines offer excursions for land-tours or on-shore activities which are pretty pricy. You may do your self-guided tours and find local agents’ offer. The big advantage for booking excursions with cruise lines is they will wait for you if tour buses get delayed, which is secure for your remaining journey with the cruise. OBC to pay towards excursions booked with cruise lines.

5. Type of Rooms to Book

It really depends on your travel budget, the number of people in the cabin. ages of passengers and their physical conditions. Sea view rooms are more expensive, especially with a balcony. The middle section of ship is steadier and more comfortable to prevent sea sickness. My recommendation is to check the floor map at the time of booking. It is smart to pick a room far away from elevators or common traffic areas. If you have severe sea sickness history, the best option is stay at inner room on lower floor. Also, purchase a sea band ($15 CAD or $10 USD) at local pharmacy and it works for most people.

6. Cruise Lines and Route Selection

There are several popular regular cruise lines (e.g., Celebrity, Norwegian NCL, Holland American, Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Costa, etc.) and many other luxury cruise lines (e.g., Seabourn,  Crystal, Viking Ocean, Azamara, Silversea, etc.). Amongst all regular cruise lines, Celebrity is the best and most expensive, followed by Holland American, MSC, Princess, Carnival, NCL, Costa and Royal Caribbean. Holland American has more senior passengers. NCL, Costa and Royal Caribbean have more younger children. Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale are world’s largest cruise ports, so the price is cheaper if you departure from these three locations. Norway, Alaska, Caribbean Islands and Antarctica are not easier accessible by plane or in remote areas, take cruise would be a good option to explore the adventure. South America is the most expensive continent for flights in the world, so taking cruise would help with the travel budget.


 NCL GEM Bahamas Cruise (2015) 

Review: overall it is a great cruise except the room is tiny.

  • Food (★★★★): Large selections of foods (e.g., Western cuisine, Chinese, pub style, BBQ, etc.). No free lobster meals are available. There are six free restaurants for cruise passengers
  • Restaurant Service (★★):  Reservation is not required (first come first serve). It is always packed by people at the entrance for long waiting time. However, the waiters/waitresses are good. 
  • Room Size ():  very tiny bedroom and washroom, not be able to move around. Small TV with poor signals. 
  • Room Service (★★): Only one employee responsible for room cleaning. Most of the time room was not cleaned and prepared in a timely manner. 
  • Cruise Condition (★★★★): In very good condition. I like the design and decoration in public areas.
  • Billing (): One week after my cruise, I noticed a room charge of $6 USD on my credit card by NCL. I phoned the customer relation team to ask about this and I was told a beer charge for the room. We did not take any drink from the room fridge. It was not easy to persuade her to waive the charge, but at the end she agreed to waive it.
  • Entertainment (★★★★): lots of activities you can do on the cruise. 

Cruise passed by Liberty Statue in NYC

One stop in Orlando: chose NASA as excursion for $99 USD 

Demo room at NASA

NCL Cruise Private Island Beach in Bahamas

NCL Cruise and Beach in Bahamas

Crystal Clear Sea Water in Bahamas

Government House (Georgian Colonial Architecture) was built on the top of Mount Fitzwilliam in 1801. It is the residence of the Governor General of the Bahamas. 

The famous Atlantis Hotel in Bahamas

Grand Pacific: Main Dining Room on NCL

The Swimming Pool on NCL Gem

Dessert on the NCL Cruise

Main Dish on the NCL Cruise

Please check my page for Bahamas


 Alaska Cruise - Holland America (2019) 

Review: overall it is a great cruise except the room is tiny.

  • Food (★★★★★): Large selections of foods (e.g., Western cuisine, Asian,  BBQ, etc.). Free lobster meals are available on the second last day. 
  • Restaurant Service (★★):  Only one restaurant is required for reservation. Reservation is required, so I reserved the same time for the whole week. 
  • Room Size (★★):  Large room with couch and lots of space. 
  • Check in (★★): Fast check in process. No long waiting time. 
  • Cruise Condition (★★★): In good condition. I like the design and decoration in public areas. It is not a new cruise and public area is not that big. 
  • Billing (★★): Accurate billing without any issues. 
  • Entertainment (★★★): lots of activities you can do on the cruise. 


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