Are you ready to navigate some waves?
No not surfing. For the uninitiated, January means Wave Season, according to Cruise Critic
, the time when you will see some of the best deals of the season-upgrades, early booking promotions, shipboard credit and discounts.
This comes at the same time the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports that the cruise industry is booming, with 24 million passengers expected to set sail in 2016, including many families and more than a million kids.
The industry is upping the ante with ships that are themselves destinations with ever more sophisticated dining and entertainment venues, the chance to experience exotic locales and even volunteer.
But finding the right cruise at the right price for your family can be tough-especially if you are new to cruising. So many ships! So many itineraries! So many cabin types!
This is one vacation where it's wise to talk to a travel agent who is a cruise expert. You can find a CLIA-certified agent near your home here
. CruiseCritic.com is also a good place to get information.
-- Do we want a big ship with all the bells and whistles--water slides, climbing walls, specialty restaurants--or a more intimate experience? Even river cruises are becoming family friendly. Read my travel diaries
about our recent Uniworld family cruise in Germany.
-- Are there programs for your kids' ages? You don't want to get on board with a three year old to discover the programs start at age four. You don't want your teen to be unhappy because there is only one club for kids 12-17 (look for programs that divide middle school and high school kids.)
-- Do you want a ship with morning till night kids activities or do you want one that offers more family programming you can do together?
-- Do you want an itinerary that is heavy on sites or one that offers much more beach time?
-- If you are traveling with a multigenerational group, will the ship and the itinerary satisfy everyone's needs? (Ask about special reunion packages)
-- Do you want to be able to drive to your cruise ship? (There are more than two dozen ports in the U.S. to choose from.)
-- Are you set on dates or can you adjust if you can get a better deal ?
-- Are you the kind of family who likes to have everything organized in advance-including set mealtimes together-or do you prefer planning on the fly?
-- Do you care about your cabin-whether it has a balcony, an ocean view or is inside. (Tip: families with older kids often book less expensive inside cabins across the hall for them.)
-- Do you care about lavish entertainment, partying and gambling or do you prefer a quieter environment?
Now you are ready for the conversation with the travel agent.