For first-time or novice cruisers, the hardest part is often picking which cruise line to sail on. And, while we want to tell you not to worry about it, the truth is that cruise lines are as different from one another as hotels. Here are four questions to ask your agent before you set sail:
What's the median age of the passengers?
Since some cruise lines cater more to retirees and others cater to families with young children, you want to make sure you end up on a ship that's a fit for you.
Is it busier this time of year?
During school holidays, many cruise lines see a massive surge in the number of children onboard, which can change the atmosphere. On the flip side, during the quietest times of year — like the week after Thanksgiving and the week after New Year's — the age demographic skyrockets as most travelers head back to work after their break.
How early does the ship quiet down?
If you like nightlife, you want to pick your line very carefully. Some ships offer dinner and drinks and maybe a show — and by 10 p.m. everyone is in bed, whereas other ships have nightclubs with dance floors that stay packed until the sun comes up. Make sure you pick a ship that fits your lifestyle.
How casual is the dress code?
While cruise ships in general have loosened up their formal nights, and it's much more rare than it was two years ago to see several black tie-required nights on a sailing, the policy does still exist on some ships. Be sure to ask how formal your ship is before you book, especially if you don't want to have to pack a tuxedo for him and gowns for you. The same is true if the true of you love to dress up. In that case, you'll want to make sure you pick one of the lines that leans hard on old traditions.