Everything is called luxury, everyone tells you that you're going to be pampered and spoilt, and everyone claims that they offer the very best value for money. So how do you know which product will suit you? Here are our top five tips for first time luxury cruisers...
1. Speak to a specialist agent
Number one, and potentially the only tip you need, is to go to a specialist professional cruise agency. Not just a cruise agent, but one that specialises in luxury cruise: Mundy Cruising is your perfect choice, with 50 years' experience of selling top-of-the-range holidays at sea to discerning travellers.
2. Work out what's important to you
Tell your agent all about yourself, your preferences, tastes, likes and dislikes. If the agent you are speaking to is not prepared to invest the time to find out all about you, they are not going to be able to help you find the perfect cruise for you. Remember, it's not just about where you want to go, but also about the style of holiday you prefer. Do you like small hotels or spacious resorts, a relaxed style or quite formal service, lots going on or plenty of peace and quiet, fancy dining and the opportunity to dress up, or lots of different food choices and a laid-back dress code? How important is a spa, or a gym? What is the make-up of your party - do you need different facilities for different age groups?
3. Choose the right accommodation
Make sure you are getting the right accommodation. It is sometimes tempting to go with the lowest fare, but this can be a false economy: talk through the options with your agent. More space, added benefits or additional inclusions can all make an upgrade a great and cost-effective option for you. If you are planning a long cruise, why not take a look at the ship in advance? If it comes into a UK port your agent should be able to assist you in getting on board. You might even opt for a short cruise on the ship you have in mind - not only will you be able to make sure it's right for you, but you also may benefit from onboard booking and past passenger reductions that effectively cover the cost of your 'taster' if you go on to book a longer cruise - peace of mind and a bonus holiday all in one!
4. Customise your cruise
Don't be afraid to amend the package. When you are buying a luxury fly-cruise, the likelihood is that the cruise will be packaged with scheduled flights and possibly an overnight stay in a luxury hotel; flying at a different time of day, or even a few days earlier, upgrading to Premium Economy, Business or First Class, and taking superior accommodation if you have a hotel stay are all quite feasible. If the cruise line itself doesn't have the flexibility, your agent should be able to create the perfect bespoke package for you; check they offer ATOL protection to give you total security.
5. Book excursions and restaurants ahead of time
Once your cruise is booked, take the opportunity to plan ahead. It will add to the fun, and enhance your trip. Check out the shore excursions, discuss them with your agent, and book them early if they are right for you. Don't feel obliged to take the cruise line's excursions though - talk through the options with your agent. Book the ship's speciality restaurants in advance, and see if there are any cost-effective packages which might interest you.