find a cruise

Planning the Perfect Cruise Vacation

Finding the Best Cruise Options

Trying to find a cruise that's suits your needs can feel overwhelming. For seniors, this can be tricky, as you want to ensure the accommodations fit your lifestyle and travel speed. Luckily, finding the best cruise deals online is just a search away.

These things to think about will help you evaluate your options and plan a cruise that'll be the unforgettable experience you hoped for.

Where to Take Your Cruise

Do you imagine yourself on a luxury ship in the Mediterranean, on a party boat to the Caribbean, on a foodie cruise in Scandinavia or on an adventurous expedition cruise in Antarctica? Perhaps you want something more local, where the focus is on the history, such as aboard a Chicago River cruise. The first part of planning a cruise is deciding on the destination, and when it comes to cruises, the sky is the limit.

While Alaskan and Caribbean cruises have long been mainstays, there are options around the world, including South America, Asia, the Indian Ocean and well beyond.

The destination is probably the easiest part of your decision as you probably have at least a few places in mind. When it comes to cruising, you can actually choose multiple destinations you'd like to visit.

The time of year you plan to go may have some impact on your decision, too.

For example, if an Alaskan cruise is what you had in mind, you’ll need to go between May and September due to weather constraints. The Caribbean is generally available all year round, and because the region is so vast, it’s broken up into three general areas, so you’ll want to decide which islands you’d most like to see according to the region: Western Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico), Eastern Caribbean (U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico) or Southern Caribbean (St. Lucia, Guadalupe, Dominica, Grenada, Aruba, Curacao).

There may be places you hadn’t thought about for cruising too, such as the British Isles. Luxury vessel Hebridean Princess is based in Ireland and Scotland and offers several voyages that combine the two, featuring highlights like castles, distilleries and charming villages.

Cruceros Australis specializes in expeditions throughout Patagonia, such as its four-night cruise from Punta Arena, Chile to Cape Horn, Argentina which includes excursions to national parks and glaciers.

When to Go

When to go is also an important part of picking a cruise. If Alaska is your top pick but you’d rather not go when everyone else does, you’re limited to May and September, when kids are in school but the weather is mild enough that cruising is possible.

Oftentimes, the shoulder season is the very best time to travel, with discounted rates as well as fewer tourists to get in the way of your view.

Keep in mind that hurricane season in the Caribbean is from June through November, and while you’ll be able to get the biggest bargains this time of year, there is a slight risk that your trip will be affected by a hurricane. You can increase your odds of smoother sailing by choosing the Southern Caribbean, which doesn’t get hit by severe storms as often.

How Much Time Do You Have?

How much time you have can make a big difference in the number of options available to you. Some cruise lines, like Carnival, specialize in shorter cruises, from three to seven nights, while others, like Oceania, rarely offer anything shorter than 10 nights.

Luxury, Budget-Friendly, or Something in Between?

Just like hotels, you’ll find cruises that range from economy to high-end. How much luxury are you looking for?

Do you want to have a cabin with a window or a balcony to enjoy the view of the sea, or is a small inside cabin with no window worth the money you’ll save?

Is food a top concern? Some lines, such as Crystal and Oceania, specialize in fine dining options and have even hired big-name chefs.

Be sure to consider additional fees on top of your cruise fare. While most include on-board entertainment, meals at main restaurants and some activities, you’ll probably have to pay extra for alternative specialty eateries, drinks, gratuities and other times such as on-board Internet access and shore excursions.

Some luxury lines do include everything, but be sure to look into all of those details to avoid unexpected charges.

Cruise Line Personality

Each line has its own personality, appealing to a different type of traveler. For example, if you’re traveling with kids, Disney Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean cater to families, while fun-loving partying types may want to choose Carnival.

Celebrity, on the other hand, tends to draw style-conscious, quieter passengers. Perhaps you're looking for an even more specific experience than that. There are some seriously interesting themed cruises out there that you can take your pick from as well.

Ship Size

The size of the ship can make a big difference too, from boutique vessels to mega-ships. The larger the cruise, generally the more entertainment, dining and amenities you’ll have, which is usually the best choice for families with young children.

Couples looking for an intimate experience with more attentive service and luxuries will generally do well with smaller luxury lines.

First, consider where you want to go. The Caribbean is a popular destination for cruises, and there’s a reason why — it’s great for families, couples and singles alike.

Caribbean cruises are very relaxing because there isn’t a ton of pressure to get off the ship early to explore. If you’re someone who tends to get cabin fever or just likes to explore, you’ll want to choose an itinerary with plenty of time off of the ship in exciting ports such as those in Europe, South America, or even Africa.

Cruising removes obstacles that can make international vacation planning complicated, such as transportation and language barriers, making it one of the easiest ways to enjoy exotic foreign destinations.