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How to choose the right cruise for you

Cruising has evolved over the years and now appeals to all generations. You can still take part in the traditional pool deck entertainment, card games and quizzes, but maybe you would prefer to experience other activities as well such as Broadway style shows, fine dining, health spas or maybe a round of golf?

Cruises are the new dream holiday and what better way to relax than on a luxurious ship, sailing to intimate Caribbean islands, fascinating European City destinations or, if you have time on your hands, a World cruise with everything taken care of for you.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy enriching travel regardless of age is by taking a cruise. But with so many cruise line options, itineraries and amenities to choose from, it can seem overwhelming – especially if it’s your first time. So Free Spirit has put together these useful top tips to help make your experience plain sailing.

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Top tips for planning your perfect cruise holiday

Choosing where: Cruising removes some obstacles that can make some holidays seem like hard work, such as language barriers. If you like to explore, consider a cruise itinerary with plenty of time ashore in exciting ports across Europe. If you prefer to relax and make the most of the ship’s entertainment on board, consider a transatlantic crossing or even a World cruise. Caribbean cruises are great if you like island-hopping, sandy beaches and all-year-round good weather.

Choosing when: Consider a route with the best weather for that time of year. In summer, Europe is at its best. In winter, the Caribbean and Africa are still delightfully warm. Shoulder seasons can offer bargains and may be even more appealing than high season or when the kids are on school holidays.

Choosing size: Getting the size right will have a huge impact on your cruise experience. Cruise ships come in a variety of sizes: the biggest ocean ship can carry over 6000 passengers and most river cruises can carry around 150. Large cruise ships offer a wider variety of entertainment, dining venues and on-board amenities. Smaller cruises are intimate, with a more attentive service and sophisticated atmosphere. However, if you have mobility difficulties, a smaller ship may not be as easy to navigate around.

Choosing cabins:
If you intend to spend much of your time relaxing, consider a larger cabin with a balcony, although this can be an expensive luxury in winter as you may not use it. Are you a social person and like meeting new people? Do you wish to make the most of every port call and pre-booked excursions? Then consider a smaller inside cabin and save more of your budget for your tours.

Choosing value: This all depends on which experiences you enjoy. Like good food? Look for a cruise line with a focus on culinary quality. Like fine wine and spirits? Consider a cruise that offers all alcoholic drinks included in the price. Like exploring? Look for those cruises that offer free, unlimited shore excursions in each port of call. You will need to factor-in gratuities if they are not already included in the cruise cost; you don’t want a shock when settling your bill on the last day. Also, many cruise lines give big discounts for booking far in advance, so it’s never too soon to start planning your cruise.

And finally… choosing who to cruise with: Consider which cruise line suits you and all your travelling companions, to ensure everyone has a great time. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Cunard and Fred. Olsen – a traditional experience for all ages including seniors and singles.
Celebrity Cruises, Cunard and Norwegian – suitable for food lovers of all types of tastes.
Crystal – an intimate and upscale cruising experience on a variety of ships around the world.
Norwegian – takes solo cruises to a whole new level with unique accommodation.
Voyages of Discovery – best suited to senior explorers who enjoy comfortable surroundings.
Royal Caribbean – offers a vast array of cruise experiences everyone in the family will love.
Viking River Cruises – striking countryside and ancient towns, all viewable along the river.

Please note that Free Spirit is not linked to, or responsible for any external websites mentioned in this article.

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Cruise travel insurance for medical conditions

Before you sail away into the sunset, you’ll need to purchase cruise medical travel insurance to protect you on your trip. It is particularly important to get your medical condition(s) covered, and we suggest you arrange your cruise insurance for pre-existing medical conditions to start as soon as your holiday is booked. This will ensure you have cancellation cover for your pre-paid costs.

One of the other main benefits of cruise travel insurance is that you will be covered for emergency medical expenses. Without this, if you become unwell on a cruise ship you could potentially incur huge medical costs, for example, if you had to be transferred to the mainland by emergency helicopter or even repatriated back to your home country.

Free Spirit cruise travel insurance makes it easy to get the protection that’s right for you. Not only does it ensure your medical conditions are covered*, it also includes key features such as personal luggage if it’s lost or stolen, delayed departure and loss or damage to medical aids. If you select Super Duper, there are additional policy benefits with end supplier failure and journey disruption cover.

You can purchase a Single Trip policy* up to 12 months in advance or if you are travelling on more than one cruise or holiday within the next year, you could save money with an Annual Multi-trip policy*.

* Subject to medical screening

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Some cruise operators such as P&O Cruises make cruise travel insurance a condition of their contract, so it’s worth checking with your own cruise line for their specific booking contract conditions.

Where ever your cruise adventure takes you, have a great trip!