Many cruisers book cruises based on a general destination, such as the Caribbean along with the bargain price that attracted them to booking the cruise. Sometimes the booking takes place even before the cruiser even investigates the ship or ports of call. Knowing this information before arrival at the ship will enhance the cruise experience.
Numerous sources of information exist that will help you learn more about the ship. Some sources even help you find others going on the same cruise so you can make some cruise friends ahead of time. Some sources are great and filled with highly accurate information while others are filled with rhetoric and a push to sell cruises and shore excursions. Other sites have lots of information but with the good is just as much bad and misleading information. Knowing how to pick the best source of information can be a challenge. The internet is filled with opinions and unchecked claims which can be misleading.
The best place for information about a specific ship is the cruise line’s own web site. Each cruise line has a website with deck plans for each ship. Many of the sites offer quite a bit of information about various venues around the ship. Some even have photos of all key venues. If the information needed is layout of the cabin that in nearly universally available on the cruise line web sites. That is not to say your cabin layout will be an exact match to the diagram, because many are a mirror image of the cabin layout diagram. They are though generally the same size, just with beds, counters, and doors on the opposite side. The balcony generally is the same even on mirror image cabins.
Examples of ship layouts can be found at each of the following web sites. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Cunard, Carnival, and Disney all do a good job of providing quite a bit of information about the ships in their fleets. The information is there in part to allow guests to choose cabins based in part on location of the cabin within the ship.
Some websites have been created by individuals with more information about cabins on various ships, be it a class of ship, each ship in a fleet or some similar grouping of ships. These usually have photographs and comments from passengers who have sailed in those cabins or suites previously. Personally when we booked two Royal Family Suites on Enchantment of the Seas a few years back, we were able to find a set of photos someone posted who previously cruised in the cabin, of the cabin we were going to use. It helped build excitement for the trip as I was able to circulate the link to the pictures among family members ahead of the family reunion at sea. These kinds of finds though are somewhat rare and are the exception not the rule, because it takes a bit of time from one individual to build the site and maintain it, which is typically all done on a volunteer basis.
To get answers to specific questions about your cruise, amenities offered to you on the ship, etc. generally again going to the cruise line website is the best option. Most cruise lines have a FAQ section on their website full of useful information. (One good example is Disney Cruise Line.) Often it’s found in the “plan your cruise or pre-cruise” section(s) of their web site. The information there is provided by the cruise line thus generally more accurate than what you will get from general information cruise related chat sites.
A number of “chat boards” exist where folks chat about cruising asking questions and providing answers/advice. These sites offer mixed information, depending on who is answering and their actual level of expertise. These sites often are filled with opinion about how it should be done instead of how it is done. More likely than not if you post a question eventually you will get an accurate answer, but you may not know what answer is correct. Of course then you have to decide what answer was correct.
Among the best information from the general chat about cruising sites is help finding “off line” tour operators. Not all tour operators are on the web or sell thru cruise lines. Some of the best are hidden gems found thru word of mouth. Thus, if finding a special king of shore excursion is key to a fun and fulfilling cruise experience, these general information web sites may help you find that special tour operator.
The cruise line website is a great second source of information. First consult with a trained and CLIA certified trusted travel agent who booked the cruise for you or will be making the booking booking. Once you look in these places for information then move to the various websites for more information. Alternatively, once booked it is a good idea to chat with fellow cruisers on various sites where such chat is made possible so when you get aboard you already know of a few other passengers.
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