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5 strategies for planning the perfect cruise

Docked Carnival Splendor.
Docked Carnival Splendor.
Photo Credit: Stefanie Cornwall

Whether you are an avid cruiser or a beginner there is definitely a strategy in place to make sure your expectations of your cruise vacation and reality of the vacation become the same. Let's walk through some things to consider when planning a cruise.

1. Price. This is the number one factor for me. Cruises to different locations, different cruise lines and different times of year are going to cost differently. Think about your budget when saving: what cruise line, time of year and where you'll be cruising when you start saving for your vacation. Cruise sales are often happening so book during a sale to score some free upgrades, perhaps some on board credit or even paid gratuities. CruisesOnly and Vacations to Go are a couple of my favorites sites to book a cruise.

2. Cruise Port. Where do you want to sail out of? If you want to take a cruise but also need to have it be convenient, then research the ports of call nearest to your home. Here in Kansas City our nearest port is Galveston, Texas. It is a nice port with close parking and a shuttle service.

3. Location, Location, Location. This phrase holds true in real estate and cruise planning. If you are in the mood for a tropical vacation start looking to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Hawaiian cruises. If you don't mind a little cooler weather perhaps you'd like to take an Alaskan cruise, a Fall foliage cruise along the Canada, New England border or even a cruise to Antarctica. If you want to learn about history and see some beautiful artifacts then try a Mediterranean cruise. Cruises will basically take anywhere you want to go in the world.

4. Ship amenities. Once you have a date, location and cruise port chosen chances are there will be a couple different cruise lines and ships offering that cruise. Browse the ships and see what they have on board. An older ship will have fun things miniature golf, a rock wall, a jogging track, an outdoor movie screen and more. The newer ships have some incredible activities on board such as water slides, ice skating, bowling, even a zip line. Really look into the ship options so you are happy with the amenities. The days "at sea" can be long without some fun activities keeping you occupied.

5. Be prepared with travel documents. If you are going international, you better get your passport application in the mail. If you are going domestic make sure you have some ID. Children will require birth certificates for identification if they don't have a passport. Make sure you read over all of the information the cruise line sends you so you are fully prepared to embark on a fantastic vacation.

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