Shopping for a vacation cruise can be fun and exciting. And the options can be overwhelming.

Before you dive into the ocean of possibilities, here’s a short checklist of things to remember and ask about.

We know: Checklist Before you Shop for a Cruise

1. Before you cast off, think airfare.

Not surprisingly, one of the most expensive items on a cruise vacation can be the airfare getting to the ship. Check to see if it’s included. If not, figure in the cost.

2. Think season and climate.

You usually get better deals in the off-season, but will the cold or heat make you miserable? Check what the weather and waters are like at the time of year in the location where you’re headed.

3. Ship Size

Are you a big ship person, or a small ship person? Think of the number of people on board, and the size of the ship. This will determine the amenities on board (number of swimming pools, gyms, dining rooms), as well as the chance of running into and getting to know people.

4. Programs and Parties and Amenities

Cruises are generally aimed at particular audiences (families, young people, older people, Americans, Europeans, etc.) Ask the cruise company or your travel agent to help you determine if the programs and activities onboard are right for you. Don’t wind up with a boat full of folks playing shuffle board, when you like salsa dancing or gambling.

5. Food

Ask about the meal service. First, find out what kind of food is served and try to surf the web or ask friends or your travel agent how good (or bad) the food is.

Think about attire. Some ships require formal wear. You may or may not want to dress for dinner.

Then, think about how the food is served. Some ships have meal ‘seatings,’ where you eat at a particular times, often with the same group of people. And some ships have a more flexible restaurant style menu service with open seating.

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