Family Travel

Picking the right cruise vacation

We cruised on the Norwegian Sun for our very first cruise experience.
We cruised on the Norwegian Sun for our very first cruise experience.

For the last seven days, my husband and I were fed, pampered, entertained and welcomed on the Norwegian Sun cruise headed to the Eastern Caribbean. We had an amazing experience. Going into it, I figured I would have a million stories about how it changed our relationship to be on a trip together without our children for the first time ever. Well, I did come away with those stories, but I have also decided to share our cruise story from the point of view of a first-time cruiser. What can you expect upon embarkation? Where can you save a little cash? How much should you pack? I will address our trip in detail to provide you with some information that will hopefully help you have the best cruise experience possible.

We decided several months ago that in honor of our fifth anniversary, we were going to take a trip sans kids. In the late winter we began researching locations and it became pretty apparent that in order for us to truly relax, we were going to have to be out of the touch. We needed a place where we couldn’t use our phones or iPads or even be tempted to pay for these services, so a cruise it was.

It took us away from cell towers, allowed us to explore several different locations and gave us downtime on our sea days just to hang out together.

For our honeymoon five years earlier, we spent some time in Mexico so this time, we figured we would take an eastern Caribbean cruise. We scoped out the boats. Being our first cruise, we quickly figured out that the boats have a lot to offer, that made the decision a little tougher. Did we really care if there were rock climbing walls and watersides?

People were telling us that Carnival was geared toward families and wasn’t quite as fancy as the others. We considered some of the others, but we were drawn to the freestyle cruising option of Norwegian. It meant we could eat when we wanted and where we wanted. Everything was on our time. Isn’t that what you want on vacation? Maybe we didn’t want to eat dinner until 9 p.m. It didn’t matter, it was all up to us.

The Norwegian Sun offered us plenty of things to do on the boat and when it came to excursions.
The Norwegian Sun offered us plenty of things to do on the boat and when it came to excursions.

Then it was just about selecting a boat. We had considered the Epic, which is a new Norwegian boat, but we heard it is in the¬†Mediterranean¬†right now. We finally decided to go with the Sun. It isn’t Norwegian’s largest boat, but as two adults cruising for relaxation, it didn’t need to be. We needed a room, a place to lay out in the sun and a few food options so we wouldn’t get bored. That boat offered exactly what we needed.

And more.

There was never a time on the boat that we were bored. We had two full sea days at sea and at that time, we utilized the spa, sunned on the pool deck, played some shuffle board and napped. I will eventually go into more detail exactly what we did on the boat. Let’s just say the boat met our needs and the staff went above and beyond to make it easy to book the cruise, embark, enjoy the ride, meet all of our excursion expectations and made it easy to get off the boat when the cruise was over.

When picking out the cruise you plan to take, consider what you need and then analyze cost. Granted we didn’t travel with children, but if we did, I think I would have paid more for more “kid friendly” amenities. It wouldn’t have to be as expansive as a Disney cruise, but honestly, there wasn’t even a kids show on TV regularly in our stateroom, where as other lines offer movie theaters, watersides, and really active kids programs.

Know your travelers
Are you travel with kids?
Do you want child-care options?
Whee do you want to travel?
What type of dining works for you?
Are you willing to go at a set time and share tables or are you looking for intimacy?

Once your figure that out, start looking at the price. Remember that you do get what you pay for when it comes to travel so draw a line at what you want to spend. From there, consider what you will give up. You might be able to get on a cruise with amazing children’s programs but an inside stateroom rather than a balcony. Consider what is important to you.

For us, the trip was about spending time together, relaxing and doing it relatively affordably so we could still enjoy excursions. That is why the Norwegian Sun wax our first choice.

So what are you looking for in your next vacation?