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Cruise Line Brochures
What do they say? How to read them...

Part Two       

by Linda Coffman

Buzz Words
Some armchair brochure browsers get caught up in "crystalline waters" and "historic wonders"... is there anything in between? Well, yes. 

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 entertainment.

"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 it.

"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.

"Elegance" and "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.

What else?
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.

Planning
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.

Back to —> Part One

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