All deck plan pages include basic statistical information, such as:
- year built, vessel class and sister ships (among the fleets of all lines).
- total number of cabins, plus number per type (Inside, OceanView/RiverView, Balcony, Suite).
- capacity - passengers (normal and max/double occupancy) and crew capacity.
- number of passenger accessible decks, number (in any) of swimming pools and whirlpools (hot tubs), passenger elevators, water-slides.
- On some ships is additionally provided information regarding name origin/meaning, service history, fun facts.
Many lines, especially river cruise companies, offer bonuses such as free flights, pre-paid gratuities and on-board credits when you book and pay several months in advance. You also have the benefit of booking your preferred deck plan and cabin and if you are planning a family cruise during school holidays, always the busiest times, booking at least six months ahead is almost essential.
If you are looking for less busy cruises, whether ocean-going or river, it is best to book in shoulder or low seasons. These vary according to destinations – in Australia, for example, the peak season is the Christmas school holidays and for European river cruises, you are looking at April to October. River cruises in Europe start operating in March and usually go through to December; Christmas-market cruises are becoming increasingly popular but the cold weather doesn not appeal to everyone.
While we are talking pre-cruise homework, taking out cruise-specific travel insurance is advisable; even if you are not leaving Australian waters, Medicare and private-health policies do not cover medical expenses, which can be enormous on cruises. A good policy will also cover your expenses for cruises that are cancelled, unforeseen flight delays that mean you miss the ships departure and pre-paid port excursions that might have to be missed because of weather or sea conditions.