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Vacations can be exhausting. Passports must be checked for validity. Flights need to be booked, and while you're searching for the cheapest possible flights, you know the fares are only going to go up.
And then there's the airport. Checking in, hauling carryon and kids through security, removing shoes and belts, taking laptops out of bags, and then repacking everything as the business travelers wait impatiently in line behind you.
Next comes the flight. You're crammed into a small space in an uncomfortable seat, forced to deal with rude passengers who recline their seat into your lap without notice.
Lastly you have the pushing as everyone tries to get off the plane at once and the long wait for your baggage, followed by the desperate search for a taxi.
Finally you arrive at your hotel exhausted, jet lagged and starving. Happy holidays!
Cruising is the fastest growing part of the travel industry, and around 24% of Americans have cruised at least once before. More and more people are realizing that vacations should be about relaxation, and as the TSA and airlines continue to make flying as difficult as possible, going away for the holidays can seem far too stressful and expensive.
Cruising is different though. There's a reason why it's so addictive.
Picture an alternative scenario: In nine months the whole family is going on vacation, so after doing some research you find an amazing cruise around the Caribbean, or maybe Hawaii, perhaps even New Zealand. After paying your deposit, you have months to pay off the remaining balance of the cruise, unlike when you purchase flights which must be paid in full immediately.
Finally it's the departure date, and you arrive at the terminal excited and ready to board the ship. Your bags are taken care of, and all that's left to do is have a glass of champagne and explore your new home.
Every day you're treated to a different show, the gourmet cuisine is delicious, and the children are having fun in the kids club while you relax by the pool.
You only unpack once, and every morning you wake up somewhere new, choosing to either stay onboard and enjoy the ship facilities, or explore Kona, or Port Villa, or Sydney.
The friendly staff are there to help you with whatever you need, whether booking tours for each destination, or giving you directions around the ship. On the last day you wake up, pack, and drive home, feeling rested and relaxed.
With increased competition comes lower prices, and cruising is the most economical way to travel. Once you factor in flights, accommodation and insurance, you're spent thousands of dollars before you've even left for your vacation, and that's not counting food and spending money at your destination.
Early bookers can often find cruises for less than $100 a day based on double occupancy. Carnival and Norwegian Cruise lines have incredible deals on Caribbean cruises, and in April Carnival were offering four-night cruises for $38 per night (plus taxes), while Norwegian occasionally advertise a four-night Bahamas cruise on the Norwegian Sky for just $42 a night.
With the average American only entitled to two weeks of vacation time a year, it's important to use it wisely. From the moment you step onboard a cruise, everything is taken care of, leaving you with more free time to relax.
You're extremely unlikely to get bored on a cruise. The newer cruise ships are like floating cities, with everything you need onboard.
On the ship you'll find a library, cinema, spa, hair salon, pubs and nightclubs, cafes, internet access, medical facilities, and plenty of stores for shopping.
You can expect a wide range of choices for dinner, including international cuisine options like Japanese and Mexican. If you're the healthy type you can work off all that food in the onboard gym, which will usually offer classes or personal training sessions.
The nightly entertainment is fantastic, with Broadway-style shows, Cirque du Soleil performances, singers, and comedians from America and abroad. The kids will be kept entertained as well, and will be delighted with the kids club and swimming pools. Some ships even have rock climbing and waterslides.
Many cruise lines will offer past passenger discounts to reward customer loyalty. You can often be entitled to some incredible discounts, as well as perks like onboard credit, preferential boarding and disembarkation, and room upgrades.
Arguably the best part of cruising is the limited amount that you need to open your wallet once onboard. When you book a cruise you know that 90% of your vacation is paid for upfront. Your accommodation, food, transport and entertainment onboard the ship are all included in the cost of the cruise.
Often gratuities and drinks packages can also be pre-paid, and you can even book spa treatments for sea-days, and day tours for each destination before you board the ship. This means you can better estimate exactly how much your vacation will cost, and don't need to worry about budgeting onboard.