There’s no denying it, cruising is big business. CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association predicts that 27.2 million passengers will take a cruise in 2018, and with so much demand, the cruise lines are busy commissioning more and more new ships. This year sees Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Carnival Horizon, Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Bliss, and many more take to the seas. With so much choice, and so many cruise lines, what’s the best way to choose, and is it possible to get a good deal? Well, if you’re thinking of setting sail on your very own cruise adventure this year, here are my top tips for booking a cruise.
1 Last minute or book in advance?
To be honest, both have their own advantages. If you’re prepared to be flexible, it can definitely pay you to get a last minute cruise deal, but you might have to compromise on your first choice of destination, stateroom or even a specific date. If it’s important to you to get exactly the cruise you want (say, for example if you’re planning a family holiday and are tied into school holidays) then book early – holidays outside of school term time get booked up very fast.
2 Sign up!
Cruise lines often give out some fab deals to their registered customers. If you’re considering sailing with a particular cruise line, make sure you register to receive their email updates and offers.
3 Think about your cabin choice
If you’re likely to spend a lot of time in your stateroom relaxing, or eating breakfast on the balcony, it’s worth splashing a little of your budget on your stateroom. I think, though, especially if you’re travelling as a family, you’re not likely to be squished into your room for that long, apart from when you’re heading to bed, so maybe consider a cheaper, inside cabin, and leave yourself more budget to choose an awesome itinerary or state of the art ship.
4 Make sure you know what’s included
Booking a cruise for the first time can be a bit confusing. It helps to make a list of what’s included, then you can compare your choices to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Look out for onboard drinks packages, all-inclusive deals and whether flights are included or extra.
5 Consider a specific cruise travel agent
Cruise travel specialists know their stuff, and often secure exclusive tempter offers like onboard spending money or perks like free drinks or even room upgrades that nobody else will have. They can also advise on itineraries and ships that will best suit your needs – they tend to have visited most of them so will have insider info.
6 Don’t discount the super luxe option
You might think that you can’t possibly afford a high end luxury cruise, but often the luxury cruises will have much more included in the price: meals, drinks, excursions, even door to door transfers. On the larger ships, certain staterooms or suites will come with their own perks, like pre-dinner cocktails or even their own exclusive onboard areas or dining rooms. Again, this is where a cruise specialist will be able to help.
7 Stay and cruise
Get a different experience by maybe taking a slightly shorter cruise, but staying a couple of days in port either before or after your holiday. Book a Disney Cruise Line stay and cruise experience and you can spend a few days at Walt Disney World before heading off on a relaxing cruise (check out my Disney stay and cruise diary here).
8 Sign up on board
If you go on your lovely cruise holiday and absolutely adore the experience, consider booking your next cruise while you’re onboard. Most of the cruise lines have specialists on board who will help you get the best deal, and there are always incentives to booking there and then.
9 Head to the spa on port days
When most people are off exploring, cruise spas often offer their best deals to tempt people in when it’s quiet. Don’t sign up for anything on the first day – there are always new offers available after the first couple of days.
10 Strike out on your own
Worried that the excursions will be expensive, or don’t fancy being squished into a coach with your fellow passengers? Why not strike out on your own? Read about my own experience of cruising a different way on Royal Princess.
As always, if you’re considering booking a cruise holiday and want any help or advice, feel free to drop me an email or a tweet. I’m happy to help if I can!
This post was created in partnership with ROL Cruise.