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6 Expert Cruise-Planning Tips From Travel Agents

This year, 24 million passengers are expected to take a cruise, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Vacationers can choose from family, luxury cruises and river cruises or embark on a unique gulet excursion. There are hundreds of cruise options to choose from, so putting together a trip can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to make the process easier and more enjoyable:

Start early: One of the best tips for cruising is to book as far out in advance as possible. “This ensures clients select itineraries and cruise lines that best match their desires and needs,” said April Brown-Miller, travel specialist with BroMil Consulting in Newport News, Virginia.

Choose quality over price: Of course, budgets are a big concern for many travelers, but it’s important to find the right cruise line for you. “Many people focus too much on price and do not understand the difference between the cruise lines, even the mass market ones,” said Chris Caulfield, vacation specialist with CruiseOne in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. “For example, they may just want the cheap inside (room), but show them an outside that will cost a little more but gives them added benefits like an on-board credit that offsets that extra cost. In turn, they end up with a better experience and return happy.”

Cruise off-peak: The cruise season is typically mid-March to late September, and rates from October to late February tend to be lower in price and ships don't always fill to capacity. Prices can also be significantly higher at holiday time, so check the calendar when booking. “If you are going to travel with kids, remember there will be more crowds and higher prices when the kids are out of school,” said Chuck Flagg, franchise owner of Cruise Planners.

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