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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Cruise Holiday Checklist for Plain Sailing

As Australia prepares for its biggest cruise season ever, the International Cruise Council Australasia has come up with some tips to help holidaymakers choose the right cruise for their next vacation.

More international ships have put Australia on their ‘must-visit’ list than ever before this summer – including Royal Caribbean International’s impressive Rhapsody of the Seas, Holland America’s Statendam and Amsterdam and Cunard Line’s legendary QE2 and brand new ocean liner Queen Victoria.

Cruise Council General Manager Brett Jardine said the busy summer cruise season reflected growing demand for cruise holidays in Australia and worldwide. Mr Jardine said the Council’s 23 member cruise lines had 30 new ship builds planned over the next three years, with ships ranging from large ocean cruise liners to small expedition ships and river cruise vessels – giving potential passengers even more variety.

He recommended potential cruisers head to the Cruise Council website, to start researching their holiday.

“Our website provides information on each of our members and the different types of cruise product they offer – from river cruising in Europe to ocean voyages around the world,” Mr Jardine said. He said the Council had 10 simple tips for people planning a cruise holiday:

1. Research – take a moment to think about your perfect cruise holiday and decide how much time you have, how much you can spend and who you will travel with. This will make it much easier to decide which cruise holiday is for you!
2. Ship – modern-day cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes offering a wide variety of cruise holidays to suit everyone, from small luxury vessels cruising Europe’s rivers to megaliners offering a huge choice of onboard activities like rock climbing and dance lessons.
3. Destination – if you have a particular destination in mind, chances are that there’s a cruise ship that goes there. As the popularity of cruising holidays grows, so too do the number of destinations that ships visit each year – from unspoilt South Pacific ports, to the historic cities of Europe and the exotic cities of Asia.
4. Season – compare your availability with the best time to travel to your preferred destination. Places like Alaska are only accessible during the Australian winter, others like the Caribbean are great to cruise to year-round, while kids love to travel with playmates the same age during school holidays.
5. Knowledge – make sure to speak with a cruise expert to help you organise your dream cruise. The Cruise Council website’s Travel Agent Search will put you in touch with an accredited travel agent in your local area.
6. Cabins – when it comes to your home-away-from-home, think about what sort of holiday you want. If you plan to spend little time in your cabin, opt for a smaller, inside cabin and take the savings with you as extra spending money. A larger cabin might suit a longer voyage or for a little luxury, choose a private balcony and soak up the incredible views.
7. Dress – cruise passengers often look forward to the chance to dress up on their holidays. Some cruise lines have very casual dress codes while others can be quite classy, particularly on formal nights. It’s a good idea to check dress codes for the cruise ship you select.
8. Deals – book as far in advance as possible to get the best deals and choice of cabin on your cruise holiday. And don’t forget if you are travelling with a group of friends or family there may be special group deals.
9. Packages – cruise lines offer a host of services designed to take the stress out of planning your holiday and save you money. Many will offer special deals on flights and accommodation in the cities where your cruise begins or ends, as well as transfers to the ship.
10. Paperwork – taking out comprehensive travel insurance is a must to ensure any hassle-free holiday. Before you book, make sure your passport is current for at least six months after the date you return home and also check with your travel agent or cruise line if any visas are necessary.

“Our other recommendation is that travellers leave their day-to-day worries on the dock when they board their ship and focus on relaxing to make the most of their cruise holiday,” Mr Jardine said. “Your cruise ticket is also your ticket to leave the grind of the real world behind for a true holiday.”

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