Booking a cruise can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the world of cruising. You’re deciding on a lot of aspects of your vacation with just a single booking: where you’re staying, what type of cabin you’ll have, where you’re going, and who you’re traveling with. To help answer some questions you may have on how to book a cruise, we’ve put together this Q&A guide.
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A Complete Guide on How To Book a Cruise – Insider Tips, Tricks, and Advice
How old do you have to be to book a cruise?
To start off, you might be wondering whether you’re even old enough to book a cruise on your own. While each cruise line has its own policies, generally you must be at least 18 years old to take a cruise without an older adult for sailings that don’t visit (or depart from) a port in the United States.
For sailings that originate in or visit the U.S., you must be at least 21. Married couples that are sailing from the U.S. but are under 21 are generally an exception to this rule.
How do you book a cruise for the first time?
There are three primary ways to book a cruise. You can either go through the cruise line directly, through a travel agent, or through a third-party travel website.
Book with a travel agent
When booking a cruise for the very first time, we highly recommend finding a reputable travel agent that specializes in cruising to help guide you through the decisions that come with making a cruise booking. A cruise is more of an all-in-one experience than most land vacations. Instead of booking separate parts of a trip like your hotel, meals, activities, and transportation, many of those things are all included in the booking of a cruise.
That’s one of the great things about it — once you’ve made those initial decisions and booked your cruise, it’s often much more straightforward than a land-based trip thereafter! A travel agent can help you make the best choices all throughout the process — including choosing a destination, cruise ship, and stateroom type. Travel agents also often have access to discounts and perks that you won’t get booking on your own.
Book directly with the cruise line
If you’d like to handle things yourself and/or already have a good grip on how cruising works and what type of vacation you’re looking for, booking directly through the cruise line can be an easy and great option. It cuts out the middleman and allows you to have full control over your booking from start to finish.
Most guests book on the cruise lines’ websites, but you can also call the line to make a booking. Online, you’ll be prompted to make an account with the cruise line. Once you have a sailing booked, you’ll be able to access details of your reservation from there.
Book through third party websites
A third option on where to book a cruise is to go through a third-party website such as Avoya Travel or VacationsToGo. These websites are a great way to search for your perfect cruise because they gather together sailings from lots of different cruise lines and allow you to easily filter, sort, and compare them.
Further, you could use these sites as a research tool to then either book through a cruise line yourself or through a travel agent, or you can still book directly on these sites. They have experts you can talk with about your sailing much in a similar way to having your own travel agent. They also might offer deals that you wouldn’t get booking on your own.
When booking a cruise can I make payments, or do I need to pay upfront?
Before you officially hit the button and book your cruise, you can choose whether you want to pay all at once, or whether you want to just put down a deposit and then make payments leading up to the sail date. The final payment is typically due one to three months prior to the cruise, depending on the cruise line and the type of stateroom you booked. If you’re booking after the final payment date for your particular sailing, you’ll have to pay the full cruise fare at the time of booking.
Many guests choose to make payments on their cruise bookings because it gives them more flexibility when it comes to being able to cancel or take advantage of a price drop. If you choose to cancel before the final payment date, most cruise lines will refund your deposit and any payments you’ve already made. Or at the very least, you’ll be refunded everything you’ve paid except the deposit.
The other benefit is that if you notice the cruise fare has gone down since you booked your particular sailing and cabin category, you can often call the cruise line to request a stateroom upgrade or ask them to lower your fare to match the current price.
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What’s the best way to book a cheap cruise?
To get the best deal on a cruise, we highly recommend searching for cruises on aggregate sites such as Cruise Critic, Cruiseline.com, and VacationsToGo. These third-party travel websites allow you to use lots of criteria to search for a cruise within your chosen parameters and provide search results from multiple different cruise lines. You can then sort by things like ‘price – low to high’ or ‘price per night, low to high’ to look at the very best deals for cruises that are currently available for booking.
If you know which cruise line you want to sail, you can do a similar type of search on that cruise line’s website, sorting the results based on price.
In a case like this, it can also pay to build a relationship with a travel agent. Inform them that you’re interested in cheaper cruises and they can keep an eye out for deals that they come across. And as mentioned before, they also may have access to deals that aren’t available to the public.
How do I book a cruise for my family or a group?
When planning a cruise for extended family or a group that will be divided into multiple cabins, the biggest suggestion we have is to book as far out as you can. If you’re looking to have connecting staterooms or ensure that your cabins are at least near each other and in your preferred area of the ship, the best way to do this is to book before the ship starts filling up. This is especially imperative if you’re sailing with several other people but plan to share a stateroom, as larger multi-bedroom suites are in short supply but high demand.
When trying to put together plans for lots of people, this is where having a travel agent can pay off even more. They’ll keep everything on track and organized, helping you pick the best ship, staterooms, and dining plans that suit everyone’s needs and preferences.
Of course, you can also make these bookings on your own either through the cruise line or on a third-party website as well. If you want to have cabins that are near each other, make sure you don’t book a guarantee cabin. It may be a bit cheaper but it also means that the cruise line will decide where on the ship you’ll be. Make sure you select the exact cabins you want at the time of booking.
How do I book a solo cruise?
If you’re a solo traveler looking for how to book a cruise but haven’t yet chosen a cruise line, consider whether you’d like a studio cabin or a traditional cabin that would normally hold two people. Some cruise lines are more accommodating of solo travelers than others with no single supplement fee, solo cabins, and exclusive events and lounges.
Price could be a major factor in your decision-making process, as some lines require you to pay 200 percent of a single fare, while others require just 150 or 100 percent — the extra amount over 100 percent is known as the single supplement fee.
For the actual booking process, you can use any of the same methods discussed above. During the search for a cabin and the booking process, you will be required to put the number of people who will be in your cabin, which is where you’ll select “one.” It will then show you available cabins and how much they will cost.
How do I book back-to-back cruises?
A back-to-back cruise is essentially an extended voyage that you create by taking two consecutive cruises in a row on the same ship. There are a few ways you can book a back-to-back cruise. Some cruise lines sell select itineraries that are actually a combination of two separate voyages, such as a 14-night sailing that’s actually a combo of both a seven-night eastern Caribbean cruise and a seven-night western Caribbean voyage. In that case, booking the “back-to-back” sailing is as easy as booking any other singular cruise.
In most cases, to book back-to-back cruises you just have to book both cruises separately. If you want the same stateroom for both sailings, you’ll need to go through the booking process on each sailing far enough to see which cabins are still open for both sailings. To get the best shot at having lots of cabin options and a better pick as to which cabin you’ll be getting for both cruises, book back-to-back cruises as far in advance as possible.
If you have the same stateroom for both voyages, you won’t need to pack up and take everything off the ship with you once the first sailing ends. On the last day of the first cruise, cruise lines have a special meeting point for those who are sailing back-to-back. You will still have to get off the ship with your passport and go through customs and then go to a waiting room in the terminal with other back-to-back passengers before getting back on.
If you’re switching cabins, crew members will usually be able to help you pack up your things to switch them over to the new stateroom. In both cases, you’ll have to disembark into the terminal with your passport to go through the customs process.
Can I book a cruise for someone else?
You are definitely able to book a cruise for someone else, as long as you have their necessary credentials for the booking process. Whether you’re booking for you and your whole family or are making a booking for someone else on a voyage you’re not joining, booking a cruise for someone else is easy.
You’ll need to know details like which cruise ship and cabin they want, as well as finer nuances like whether they’re going to want set-time or anytime dining. But as long as you have all of that information as well as credentials like their address, phone number, passport number, etc., it’s easy to make a cruise booking for someone else.
Do I need travel insurance to book a cruise?
The short answer here is no, you don’t need travel insurance to book a cruise. However, we recommend that you do have it in case the unexpected happens. There are rare instances where a cruise line might require that passengers have travel insurance to sail, but these are few and far between and if that’s the case, it will be made clear prior to booking.
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Do you agree with our advice on how to book a cruise? What other advice would you give first time cruisers looking to set sail? Drop us an anchor below to share your tips, tricks, and advice for booking a cruise.