What do they say?
How to read them...
by Linda Coffman
Some armchair brochure
browsers get caught up in "crystalline waters" and
"historic wonders"... is there anything in between? Well,
There are embarkation ports. A
close-by, or relatively close-to-home embarkation port might mean
you can drive to port or at the very least find convenient (and
possibly cheap) airline flights. Look for "homeland
cruises" and "convenient departure ports" described
in the brochures.
"All-inclusive" is a
misnomer that is very rarely, if ever, found in a cruise brochure.
Think "nearly" and re-read the fine print.
"Floating resorts" refers
to cruise ships that feature everything from rock-climbing walls and
miniature golf courses to facilities and activities that appeal to a
wide range of age groups. Think "Mall of America" afloat.
These are usually the biggest and most modern vessels at sea. Other
ships may be a bit older, but that doesn't mean they are less
well-equipped to offer the expected amenities, activities, and
"Choices" are highly
ballyhooed, especially when it comes to dining. It's your vacation
and you should be able to choose where to eat and what to wear,
within reason. On days when you've been ashore, are simply pooped,
and don't feel like dressing up, it's nice to have the choice of
casual dining versus the more prim-and-proper option of dressing up
for a meal in the restaurant.
"Gourmet" dining... do we
have to say it? Unless the cruise is on a smaller, extremely
exclusive (and expensive) ship, meals are more likely to resemble
very good, high-quality banquet food than the made-to-order meals of
shoreside gourmet establishments. There is definitely gourmet dining
at sea, but not on every ship. If you are sailing with more than a
couple hundred fellow passengers, keep an open mind and don't expect
"Fine" dining is more
like it. However, does it come with a price tag? Some alternative
restaurants carry cover charges ranging from nominal to hefty.
"Spacious" is in the eye
of the beholder. Only the top category accommodations on many ships
afford the spaciousness of an average hotel room. Look for stateroom
diagrams and the square footage of your chosen stateroom category,
which may or may not be indicated in the brochure.
"luxury" are, again, in the eye of the beholder. Nice, new
beachfront chain hotels do not equal Ritz Carleton properties. A
typical Las Vegas resort is not the same as a Miami Beach deco-era
resort, although each has its own appeal to different tastes.
Determine your priorities and make your ship selection carefully.
"Fun" is subjective. No
one goes on a vacation not to have fun.
Aside from our vision and fantasies, a brief description of
ports of call and shore excursions is a practicality. Ports and
itineraries are an important factor in most travelers' cruise
selection. Port-intensive cruise line brochures tend to offer a tad
more insight and more shore excursion descriptions than their
contemporary fun-in-the-sun cousins.
"Rack rate" fares are
never the bottom line. Expect to pay much less than brochure rate,
often as much as 50% of the published price.
Brochures and, more
recently, cruise line websites are excellent tools for
decision-making and planning. Use them wisely to realize the most
satisfying cruise travel experience.
Keep an open mind when charting
your cruise vacation course. Conditions can change, particularly at
sea. Be prepared for modifications in itinerary as well on board
amenities. For the latest information and answers to your questions,
consult a trusted travel agent.
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