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Cruise options expanding

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Shorter cruises, bigger bang for your buck, and less smoke!

Pick 'n' mix deals add value. Cruise lines continually introduce new onboard experiences, but these often include added costs. To offer greater value, cruise lines have introduced pick-your-own deal packages.

What this means for cruisers: These packages allow cruisers to try different onboard experiences – from drink packages, to onboard credits for use towards specialty restaurants, spas and shore excursions.

Short cruises are already available, but now cruise lines such as Fred. Olsen Cruise Line and P&O Cruises will increase the number available in 2014. And, while short two- to four-day cruises have typically been reserved for older ships, in the US new ships are introducing short cruise offerings – including Norwegian Breakaway, which will offer two-day sailings from New York.

What this means for cruisers: Short cruises are an ideal taster for new cruisers, and a great introduction to new destinations and lines for existing cruisers.

In 2013 five cruise lines announced changes to onboard smoking policies, and more lines are expected to follow in 2014. Disney Cruise Line, Cunard, P&O, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn all revealed that they would ban some, if not all, smoking on balconies by 2014.

What this means for cruisers: In a Cruise Critic survey, 54% responded that smoking should be banned on balconies and in cabins, and 24% said it should be banned on all areas of a cruise ship. For smokers, it will be more important than ever to become familiar with smoking policies prior to boarding.

Savvy cruisers are booking shore excursions online, prior to embarkation, often through independent tour operators rather than the cruise lines.

What this means for cruisers: This competition will benefit cruisers by delivering more excursion choices, and more unique offerings. Examples include Disney Cruise Line's family archeological digs in Athens, and Azamara's red carpet event at the Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

The popularity of river cruises continues to rise and the fleets are expanding offering cruisers more choice, particularly when it comes to pricing.

What this means for cruisers: The good news is that as the industry becomes more competitive, there will be more options available. Cruisers will be able to select all-inclusive cruises, or a la carte options, resulting in more choice and better value. For example, Scenic Tours includes tours, meals and all drinks, whereas lines such as Emerald Waterways will offer a less-inclusive cruise option, to which you add tours and extras as you wish.

Thanks to www.cruisecritic.com for the survey information!

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