By: Ilana Schattauer – Life Well Cruised
As a Travel Agent that specializes in cruises, I’m often asked for my very best cruise booking tips. What cruise should I take? When is the best time to book? Where should my cabin be? And of course, should I book with a travel agent?
I’ll be giving you my best advice and all my insider tips!
1. When should you book?
Book as early as possible. I know this sounds cliche, but it is really true. By booking several months, or even a year or more before your cruise, you’ll get the best choice of cabin and you’ll be assured of availability. It may come as a surprise, but many cruises are completely booked even a few months before the sail date. So if its a dream cruise, book early, you won’t regret it!
By booking early, you’ll also get the best value. Most cruise lines offer a refundable deposit up until about 75-90 days prior to your cruise (do check the cruise line policy). Up until that date, cruise lines will honor a lower price and make price adjustments. This is amazing! Most of the time your lowest rate is the early booking fare, but in case there’s an awesome promotion, you can still benefit!
2. How do I get the best deal?
Cruise pricing has changed a lot in recent years. When I first started selling cruises, it was pretty easy to see cruise fares and compare. Cruise line pricing was pretty standard. Now, many cruise lines offer cruise fares with various perks as part of promotions from time to time. You may be able to get free Beverage Packages, Dining Packages, wi-fi packages, free gratuities or extra onboard credit.
Some of these have tremendous value! My advice is to always compare what you are getting, and of course what you need and enjoy. Look at what is included, and what may cost you extra, and calculate the value for you. A cruise that seems “more expensive”, may save you money and provide you with a better quality of cruise vacation. It’s worth checking.
3. What is the number one mistake I see cruisers make?
One of my most practical pieces of advice for cruisers is to fly in at least one day early. It may seem like if you catch an early flight, you have plenty of time to get to your ship. However, every year I see clients missing their cruise or “just making it”. They recount the stories of panic as they frantically assigned roles to one person to grab the luggage, while the other flagged a taxi and called the Cruise Line. This just isn’t how you want to start the very first day of your vacation.
By arriving at least 1 day early, you have a chance to unwind after a day of flying (which is always more stressful than we imagine) in a beautiful port city. If you have the time, make this an extra vacation day and explore. Then wake up the next morning, get into your cruise wear and be ready to start your cruise refreshed and enjoying every moment!
4. What is the “best” cruise for new cruisers?
This is so personal, but I do have some guidelines. Check out the cruise line, whether in a physical brochure or on the cruise line website, and see what cruise line speaks to you. Where do you feel the most “comfortable”?
If pictures of couples dining, having a drink with friends, and going to the spa appeal to you, then a cruise line that focuses on this is the best fit. If photos of the young and young at heart zip-lining or heading down see-through waterslides makes you smile, look at cruise lines that will offer this experience. There is no right or wrong here, but choosing a cruise line that fits your expectations of a fantastic cruise, is very important.
5. Why should you look at the cruise ship, and not just the cruise line.
This is a follow up to the last point and its a word of caution. Not every cruise ship in the cruise line’s fleet offers the same experience. I have heard from cruisers who have been disappointed that an older and smaller ship in a cruise lines’ brand, did not meet their expectations. It doesn’t mean the service will be bad or that you won’t have a good time, but the ship itself will be a good part of your experience.
Take a look at the size of the cruise ship, the year it was built, when it was last refurbished. Check as well on what activities and entertainment it offers to make sure its in line with your cruise preferences.
6. Which type of cabin is best?
Should you book a suite, balcony, ocean-view or inside cabin?
That depends. Are you looking for the lowest price so you can put your money towards excursions and other vacation experiences? Then choose an inside cabin. Do you hate not having a window and worry that you just might feel claustrophobic? You’ll be happier in a cabin with a picture window or even a balcony. Do you want even more space to relax and feel at home? Then a mini-suite or suite is the way to go.
Personally, I love a balcony and the extra space it provides. A glass of wine and some pre-dinner appetizers on my private balcony with a sea view, nice! Truly it’s a simple thing, but for me life doesn’t get better than that!
7. What’s the best cabin location?
Location, location, location, right? If possible, choose a mid-ship cabin for the most stability on the cruise ship. I also like the aft section, where I have found there was minimal difference from mid-ship. If you are prone to motion-sickness, try and avoid cabins that are far forward, as they are more likely to be affected during rougher seas. This is one important reason to book early – choice of cabins!
I always like to let new cruisers know that most ocean-view cabins are on lower decks. Why you ask? It’s very simple, because cruise ships use their upper outdoor space for balconies. So if you like a window, there’s a good chance it will be on deck 1,2 or 3. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but many people express a preference for being higher up. I have cruised in ocean-view cabins on deck 2, and have felt no difference in motion from upper decks and quite enjoy it.
8. When can you snag a bargain?
Sometimes cruisers just want to know, when is the cheapest time to cruise or when can I get a really, really good deal? Cruising during shoulder seasons in popular destinations such as Alaska and the Mediterranean can wield you some significant savings.
Caribbean cruises have been known to offer their least expensive rates during the Fall to pre-Christmas season. Do keep in mind that this may mean that your cruise itinerary can be affected and modified due to hurricanes.
Repositioning cruises will often have longer sailings that offer the best deal in terms of cost per day.
9. Do you want to know a secret that avid cruisers know?
Book your next cruise, while on this cruise. Yes! If you’re enjoying your cruise and you think you would like to do it again, consider booking on board by putting a reduced deposit on a future cruise. Often you can decide on the cruise once you get home with the help of your travel agent. Most cruise lines offer nice advantages for booking onboard, usually in the form of onboard credits. Do check the cruise line’s terms and conditions.
10. Should you book with a cruise travel agent?
I think so, and you know what? Cruise lines think so too. Cruise lines will let you know that there is absolutely no monetary advantage to booking directly.
Travel agents that specialize in selling cruises often have special offers, on top of any cruise line promotions, that are to your benefit. This might be extra on board credit, a specialty dining voucher or discounts. On top of that, you’ll benefit from someone who has expertise and who can offer you advice on more than one product. There’s value in that.
I hope these Top 10 Cruise Booking Tips Straight From a Travel Agent have been useful and can serve as a guide as you are planning your future cruise. If you’ve enjoyed the article, please share on Facebook and Twitter so your friends and family can enjoy too, or Pin for later on Pinterest.
This article was written by Ilana Schattauer from the website LifeWellCruised.
Ilana is a cruise enthusiast, cruise blogger and travel consultant working in the cruise industry for more than 12 years. She believes that we can have amazing travel experiences, all while enjoying ship life, of course!
You can follow Ilana on her blog at LifeWellCruised.com
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Lucy here! I hope you enjoyed reading as much I did and found these cruise booking tips helpful. Ilana is a great blogging friend and as you can see she knows a thing or two about booking a cruise. Over on her blog, a Life Well Cruised she has lots more helpful cruising tips, so check it out.
Until next time, happy cruising!