Booking a Cruise
Over the last 25 years the price of cruising has continuously be dropping. On a personal note, the most expensive cruise I have been on was our first cruise we took 25 years ago.
After some 25 cruises, let us share what we have learned about cruising in general and booking a cruise.
Getting the best deal available
Looking back to that first cruise, we did not overpay, the reason it was more expensive was because cruising 25 years ago was not the same as it today. In an effort to increase usage, the cruise industry has found that people would rather pay less and have a lower level of service. That is true for me, even though we loved the high attention and high level of service we got 25 years ago, with the price of cruising so low, it allows many to travel several times a year.
Should I use a travel agent for book on-line
there is no difference in price booking direct, or through a travel agent. I personally have done both and I prefer to use an agent and here are the reasons
- If you travel with a group, more than 1 cabin, getting your cabins and meals together is much easier when booking through an agent. The last cruise we took, was with family and they booked theirs on-line and was told to just tell the Maitre d’ to put us all together on the first night of the cruise. Well the ship was full and the only time we could all be together was at 8:30, which was 9:30 our local time, and we had 4 children, 2 of whom were under 8. Waiting until 8:30 to eat was not easy. Several days, we would hit the buffet at 6:00 and eat a light meal, and still go to dinner at 8:30. If we would have booked the cruise through an agent, the price would have been the same and we would have had rooms next or near each other and the meal would have been together at the time we wanted
- Upgrades – The last cruise booked, was for my wive’s birthday and when I booked the cruise I told the agent that we wanted a balcony. We have stayed in balcony units several times and from past experience they are not all creased equal. My budget sense told me to get the cheapest of everything, but my agent told me that by paying an extra 100 per person would upgrade the balcony to unit to premium class, well worth the extra $200
- General Travel tips – When dealing with foreign ports, airline connections, upgrades, ship vs ship information, our cruise agent has been a treasure trove of valuable information.
Picking a location and a ship
We had sailed on all the mail cruise lines, from small older boats to the large new boats and the very small bear foot cruises and frankly we loved them all. Some maybe a little more than others, but we are there for the sun, the views and getting away. Here are our tips on picking a port and destination
- Use common sense – If you are taking kids – travel when other families will travel, spring break etc. During those times the boat will be full of kids. My favorite family cruise by far has been leaving from California ports during Spring Break or Fall break. There are kids everywhere. My favorite family cruise live is Carnival. they offer a texting plan on board, so you can keep in touch with your kids no mater where they are on the boat.
- What do you want to do – I love to scuba dive, so many of my destinations are based on dive locations. Sometimes I want to do nothing, but read in the sun, eat and be entertained. Each cruise line has their strengths and each port and itinerary have a variety of strengths and options. My favorite dive itinerary has been any port and any ship that ends up in Roatan, Honduras. If it includes Roatan, it will also include several other great dive locations as well. When we want to just get a way and do nothing, we go with price and weather.
- New Large Ships vs. the older fleet – We have been on the large 3500 passengers ships a few times and love them, but they are pretty limited to what ports they can go to. When we first went cruising we studied each ship, how old it was, when was it last remodeled, etc. Now we look at the price, where it is going, and it ratings.
- Cabins – Our first several cruises were all out-side or balconies and of course thought that we never want anything else, until one day we wanted to book a last minute cruise and found a killer price on one of the large ships, but the only thing they had left was an inside cabin and we fell in love. You could sleep in or take a nap anytime you wanted because there was no light unless you turned it on. Since then we have booked more inside cabins then outside, we love balconies but usually don’t want to pay double the price. In fact when you meat folks that have 50 or more cruises under their belt, they usually stay in in-side cabins.
- Family Cabins – The cruise lines are geared for families, in fact we have been upgraded to suites more then once when we took our family, just let the agent know what you need and get their advice on how best to take care of your family needs
Just like everyone else, the first couple of cruises, we did some type of excursion every time we got off the boat, after a few cruises we found ourselves not even leaving the boat every time. Shore excursions, on-board, drinks and gambling is where the the cruise ships make all their money. we have gone on several cruises that cost us less then $1,000 for two, they is no way they will pay the bills, so I understand that they have to make it up somewhere else.
When it comes to shore excursions, the rule of thumb is that it will be more convenient to book through the cruise company; preferred ship departures etc., but you will typically pay up to double what the same excursion would cost if done privately. Sometimes the convenience is has been worth it to me. I get what I want with no worries. But if you traveling on a budget, do your homework, figure out what you want to do and shop for it before you go.
To find the best last minute deals, sign up to receive cruise deal specials — including Cruisedeals.com, Cruise.com, Best Travel Deals, and Discount Cruises are just a few that will send you last minute cruise deals. Cruise lines and agencies are also a good source of deals.
Book Ahead for High-Season Cruising.
For certain dates and destinations, last-minute cruise deals are a tough find, especially if you want your pick of cabins. Summer travel and school holiday periods book up early, particularly for cabins that sleep three or more and are in demand by families traveling together.
Luxury cruises also put forth their best prices early. Oceania and Regent Seven Seas usually bump up rates every three months.
It’s also best to book river cruises early. Not only are choice itineraries likely to sell out as the sail date draws closer, but the price is also likely to jump, not drop.
Be your own best-price advocate. Before you’ve booked a sailing, do some research on typical rates for the cruise you have in mind, and check back frequently (we mean daily, at least) to see if the fare has dropped. Don’t have the time to obsessively watch cruise pricing like stockbrokers watch the Wall Street ticker? Check out Cruise Critic’s bargains page, which will let you see when fares are dramatically reduced so you can get the best price for your sailing.
Ask for Cash Back When Fares Change.
If the cruise fare changes after you’ve booked but before you’ve made your final payment, it’s possible to take advantage of the lower rate. Enlist the help of a travel agent who can monitor pricing after you’ve booked. If the fare plummets, you can request a rate change, cancel and rebook at the lower rate or request the difference in onboard credit. What you’re entitled to varies by cruise line, but it all leads to more money in your pocket.