The pandemic has transformed the cruise business. For example, there are more last-minute options that are intended to tempt people to book quickly. "Previously, cruises were booked long in advance," says Frank Riecke, Managing Director of the cruise portal Cruise Advisor.de. But now even those who make last-minute decisions can make bargains. However, those interested should not act in haste. Because when booking, whether planned for the long term or spontaneously, there are a few pitfalls to avoid.
The first problem that potential cruise travelers face: the supply is huge. "If you are booking a cruise for the first time, it can make sense to get advice from a travel agency so that you don't get overwhelmed by all the online offers," says Alina Menold from the Lower Saxony Consumer Center.
Package tours have also become more popular. Flights and cruises are booked together here. If you choose the arrival and departure package via the shipping company, the local transfer between the airport and the ship is usually included.
"The advantage is that in the case of delayed flights, the guest does not have to worry about missing the ship and having to bear the travel expenses," explains Frank Riecke. The shipping company will take care of booking an alternative flight for the passenger, if possible. Without an inclusive flight, you should find out in advance how to get from the airport to the port of embarkation and, if necessary, plan a buffer of a day or several hours.
Consumer advocate Alina Menold advises a critical look, especially when it comes to package tours: Is the offer for a 14-day Caribbean cruise really cheap? If you book online, you should take a look at the imprint. If this is incomplete or contains strange-sounding information, you should look elsewhere. Online ratings and testimonials from other travelers can provide information about shortcomings or advantages.
In addition, when booking a cruise - as with any other purchase - it is extremely important to read the fine print, says Menold. Because here are important details. The shipping companies have different price concepts: Some offer an all-inclusive tariff, which also includes all drinks. Other shipping companies may incur additional costs.
"It can be worth booking a drinks package in advance," says Frank Riecke. However, if you only drink a little alcohol, it can be cheaper to have the drinks billed individually on board.
The consumer advice center advises dealing with the Covid 19 regulations of the booked shipping company in good time. "This way you can take care of it early enough, for example if you are still missing a vaccination or if a (quick) test needs to be translated into English," says Alina Menold.
As with other trips, she recommends ensuring that you have adequate insurance cover. Travel cancellation insurance is just as important as international health insurance. "In addition, travel interruption insurance can make sense if, for example, you fear that seasickness will put you out of action."
According to the consumer advice center, cruise tourists are more concerned about the high costs of mobile phone and Internet use at sea. This is because land mobile networks do not cover sea areas, and the EU roaming regulation and roaming travel packages only apply to land.
The expert recommends deactivating the automatic network selection function in your own device as a precautionary measure, otherwise the mobile phone will dial into the strongest available network. "And unfortunately that's mostly the expensive on-board network."
You should first find out which satellite network operator is supplying the respective ship. “In this way you can check whether your network operator at home has concluded a roaming agreement with him for the ship network,” says Menold. This agreement also regulates the prices for maritime services. "You should also ask if it is possible to book internet packages from the shipping company and how much they cost."
In addition to the size of the ship, the choice of cabin can also be decisive for a successful holiday at sea. "If the cruise includes many days at sea or if you want to enjoy peace and quiet, it is often worth investing in a balcony cabin," says Frank Riecke from cruise consultants.de. For busy passengers, however, the cheaper inside cabin can be an option.
It is also important for many travelers from Germany to be able to communicate in German on board. "Then the guests will feel particularly comfortable with the German-speaking shipping companies such as TUI Cruises, Aida Cruises, Phoenix Reisen and Nicko Cruises," says Riecke. If foreign languages are not a problem, you have more choice, including providers such as MSC Cruises, Costa Crociere, NCL or Royal Caribbean.
If you are unsure whether a cruise is the right form of travel at all, you can start with a mini cruise. Many shipping companies offer introductory tours from three days at sea.