Planning a cruise can be a daunting task. After all, you have to decide where to go, when to go and what kind of ship will work best for you and your traveling companions. There is a truly dizzying array of options these days when it comes to cruises; indeed, there are cruises geared toward just about every demographic and sensibility imaginable. Wading through all of the options can be seriously confusing, but don’t despair: there is a way to make planning a cruise easier and more efficient.

By taking a handful of key things into consideration – and making conscientious decisions about each – your cruise will be planned as easily and painlessly as possible.

Photo Credit: Teresa Robinson

Who’s Going On The Cruise?

First things first: you need to determine who is going on the cruise with you. If your traveling party includes children, for example, that will weigh heavily on your ultimate decision. If, however, the group is comprised strictly of people over the age of 50 or so, a whole different array of options will appear. Should your group include people of different age ranges, don’t worry – there are plenty of cruises that can accommodate a wide range of ages and tastes. Outline precisely who is going on the cruise, write down their basic needs and wants, and move on from there.

How Long Will You Have To Travel?

The window of time that you have available for a cruise also places a critical role in terms of which cruise you’ll be able to go on. If you have ten to fourteen days, for instance, the world really is your oyster and you’ll be able to take your pick from among a global range of tempting cruise itineraries. However, if you only have around a week to work with you’re going to have to restrict yourself to somewhere in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico. By determining how much time you can dedicate to cruising, you can seriously narrow down your list of options in many cases.

How Much Are You Willing – Or Able – To Spend?

As with many other forms of travel, your available budget is going to play a huge role in terms of which cruises you’ll be able to consider. Depending on how much money you have at your disposal, your available cruises might consist of top of the line ships with the finest in amenities and services, or more pared down ships with fewer frills – but plenty of great features, nonetheless. Remember, too, that while cruises are generally all inclusive they usually require additional spending for extras and other things; plan accordingly.

Where Should You Go? What Do You Like To Do?

Next up: geography. Based on the amount of time and money you have, take a look at your available options in terms of where to go during your cruise. What kinds of interests do you have in mind? Does luxuriating on a remote beach sound like your kind of vacation, or are you the kind of person who thrives off of a bit more excitement and adventure? Is sightseeing at famous port cities important to you? Answering these and other questions can help you figure out which part of the planet to focus on when searching for the perfect cruise.

Dining, Dress Code and Other Considerations

For some people, a huge part of going on a cruise is getting to dress up and enjoy fine dining. Others, though, prefer more casual affairs and buffet-style meals. Figure out which group you roughly fall into, then weed out the cruise itineraries and ships that don’t meet your specifications. After all, you’re going to be spending the majority of time on board your ship – it ought to have the kind of atmosphere that you’re going to enjoy. This is just one more way to narrow things down and to arrive at the absolute best decision when it comes to selecting a cruise line and itinerary.

When Are You Going?

If you are restricted to a particular season or time of year, make sure that you do your research and that the ports of call and region of the world you’ll be visiting is experiencing decent weather at that time. The last thing you need to do is spend the majority of your cruise facing harsh, unpleasant weather. It doesn’t take very much time to figure out what the best places are to visit during any given time of year. Do a bit of digging, figure out what your options are and go from there.

Cruise Ship Amenities And Entertainment

Finally, sit down and make a list of what every member of your traveling party would optimally like to enjoy while on the ship. Are live shows and entertainment super important? Perhaps some of your companions absolutely can’t do without a decent spa. If dining is at the top of the priority list, look for ships that are well regarded for their cuisine and their dining options. If children are going along for the ride, make sure to rule out any ships that don’t have enough practical things to keep them busy and happy. Take a close look at the description of any prospective ship; scan reviews and guides carefully to ensure that the ship you settle on has precisely what you need.

Without a doubt, your cruise is sure to be a success – especially when you take the time to take every detail into consideration.