Top Tips for Booking a Cruise
Booking a cruise for the very first time is a lot of fun, but it can also be a mammoth task if you’re completely unfamiliar with this type of holiday. With that said, I wanted to offer some tips on how to make booking your first cruise as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
- You need to find a cruise line that will work for you depending on what you’re looking for. As an example, if you’re travelling with young or teenage children, I’d suggest you look at something like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines or Carnival Cruise Lines. These are all perfect for keeping everyone entertained, although watch out for additional extras that you need to pay for onboard – food is included with all, but there are costs for many other facilities and experiences, such as speciality dining options, drinks, spa services and some onboard venues.
- If you’d like to cruise without having to endure the hassle of an airport, then you’ll be pleased to know that many cruise lines offer departures from ports across the country. P&O Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Saga Cruises (over 50s), Cunard, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Celebrity Cruises ALL offer no-fly cruise options.
- Looking for a five-star plus holiday at sea, then let me introduce you to the big boys of the luxury cruise market. Firstly, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are both six-star luxury and with Regent, everything is included in the cost of your fare – even your shore excursions! Other luxury cruise lines include: Silversea, Seabourn, Cunard Line, Ponant, SeaDream Yacht Club and Oceania Cruises.
- If you’d like to embark on a holiday at sea without any screaming kids, adult-only choices at your disposal are plentiful. Saga Cruises are for those over 50 only, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines operates a selection of adult-only voyages and lines such as P&O Cruises even offer adult-only ships. Your travel agent can advise on what would be the most suitable for you, just let them know you wish to enjoy a child-free holiday!
- Adventure travel is hugely popular, but you might not realise that you can do some epic cruises to places such as Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands and the Arctic. These are known as expedition cruises. You can enjoy all the modern conveniences of a luxury ship, but the added benefit of more time ashore and last-minute itinerary changes if something of interest is spotted or can be achieved. Check out Hurtigruten, Ponant, Silversea Expeditions, G-Adventures, Un-Cruise Adventures and Lindblad Expeditions.
Now that we’ve explored the basics of which cruise line to choose (although there are others that we haven’t covered that you should still check out with your travel agent) it’s time to give you some tips on the best way to book.
- A travel agent is your best friend, especially if they have a dedicated cruise department. You can look online for tips and ideas, but always trust your travel agent to offer the most up to date information, prices and special offers. Sometimes, your travel agent can even offer a better deal than the cruise line directly.
- If you’re offered the option of buying a drinks package, TAKE IT! Some lines, such as MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian add service charges to EVERY drink you purchase and it can sometimes be as high as 15%. This soon mounts up, especially if you’re a family of 3,4 or more. The cost of the packages may seem expensive with some lines, but they are worth it. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has packages from as little as £10pppd – cheapest in the industry.
- ALWAYS take out travel insurance with a trusted insurer. If you are unlucky enough to visit the medical centre onboard, you can pay out up to £100 just to see the doctor and any prescribed medications can sometimes be 4 times the cost of those back at home in the UK. A minor injury could end up costing thousands of pounds, so never leave home without insurance.
- Your cruise line will offer organised excursions that you can book pre-cruise and while you’re onboard, but do a little research before you leave as you might find that you can get a very similar excursion much cheaper by using an independent company. There are many options out there, I tend to use CruisingExcursions.co.uk as they cover a wide variety of destinations. One thing to always remember though is that if you book an excursion through the cruise line and that coach is late back to the ship, the ship must wait for it. If you go ashore independently and are delayed, there’s a high chance your ship will sail without you – bear this in mind if looking at long tours that take up all your port time.
- Once booked, sit back and enjoy the countdown. I rarely meet people that cruise and don’t like it, so chances are you will return home and feel the need to instantly book something else. Booking early always allows for the best discounts, most incentives and the chance to pick your cabin. If you can’t book early, I’d suggest you find the cruise you wish to do and just keep checking it every week, you never know, the price might drop substantially and you could treat yourself to a few spa treatments onboard with the saving.
I hope my tips help and HAPPY CRUISING!