The best way to Book a Cruise On-line or With a Journey Agent
You have decided on a cruise for your next vacation and narrowed down the destination, the sailing date, the type of ship and the cabin type. What now? We’ll guide you through the best way to book a cruise.
Book a cruise yourself online
If you want to take the DIY approach to booking a cruise – great for those who have already done the research or are familiar with booking their own trip – you have two main options.
Via an online travel agency: Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) – such as Expedia Cruises and Travelocity Cruises – are websites that work directly with travel providers, including airlines, hotels, car rentals and of course, cruise lines.
In contrast to traditional travel agencies, consumers with OTAs can use booking engines to search for and make travel arrangements themselves without the help of a live travel agency.
While help is available if you have any questions throughout the process or after booking, you won’t get the same personalized service as booking offline through an agent with whom you develop a working relationship.
Trips booked through OTAs often require full prepayment rather than allowing deposits and installments. These types of bookings may also come with additional restrictions beyond those imposed by your cruise line. So be sure to read the fine print before buying.
Also note that several websites – Cruise Critic, Tripadvisor Cruise, and others – act as online aggregators of cruise deals available for online booking. However, after you find the sail you want to book, you will be redirected to your cruise line’s website or to a third-party website where you can do so.
About your cruise line: If you would like to sail on a specific cruise line, you can go directly to the line’s website to find and reserve your trip.
While there, you can book shore excursions and spa treatments, purchase beverage packages, make reservations for specialty restaurants, and make special requests.
Booking a cruise through a cruise specialist
If you want to book directly through your cruise line but the site is too daunting to use, or if you have any questions during the process, you can call the cruise line’s booking number to speak to a vacation planner who works for the cruise line.
Remember that they are not necessarily travel agents. Many of them have not yet cruised and only have access to information provided to them by the cruise line they work for. However, they can answer general inquiries and help with payment problems.
Booking a cruise with a travel agent
Contact a travel agent whether you are a newbie to cruising confused by the booking process or you simply want a professional to handle the details for you.
Travel agents, also known as travel consultants, are generally highly skilled and experienced individuals who can tailor your cruise to meet your specific needs.
They can bring you the latest deals and discounts offered by the cruise lines themselves. Plus, they can sometimes throw in extras like free bottles of wine or specialty dinners.
When it comes to finding a reputable travel agent, the first thing to do is to ask your travel-loving friends or family members for recommendations. You can also find travel advisors who specialize in cruises by visiting the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) website and searching under Find a Travel Advisor.
You can also try the “Find a Travel Agent” feature on the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) website, which works with agents who specialize in cruises.
Agents receive commissions from the cruise lines when they book, so most do not charge for their services. Those who charge fees generally keep the cost at a nominal amount. If something goes wrong with sailing, they can solve all of the problems for you, making it worth the investment.
Cruise booking tips
Do some homework. A cruise vacation can be a great investment. Before you buy anything – especially if you are booking a trip yourself – check out the latest deals and monitor the price drops on cruises for a few weeks to ensure you are getting the best rates. (Check out sites like CruiseFish, CruiseWatch, and Cruise Critic, or download the ShipMate app.)
Also, be sure to review your cruise line’s change and cancellation policies so you know what to expect if you need to change your plans.
Have your information ready. Have everything ready when you are ready to book. This speeds up the process, whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a travel agent.
Information required may include names, dates of birth, and passport information for all passengers in your party, and a credit card to process deposits or other payments required to make a reservation.
Call them. Sometimes lower prices can be obtained if you just ask. Cruise lines often have unlisted fares that are too cheap to advertise publicly. Call the cruise line of your choice to inquire or ask your travel agent about these types of promotions.
If it says “Call for Pricing” on a cruise line or OTA website it is temporary to keep scrolling, but don’t be lazy. Picking up the phone can save you a lot of money.
Book on board. One way to save on bookings is to book your next cruise while you’re still on the current one. All mainstream ships have future cruise advisors on board and can often extend special promotions like discounts, onboard credit, reduced deposits or free add-ons if you reserve your next trip before disembarking.
Do you want to maximize value and save extra money? Transfer your booking on board to a travel agent of your choice when you get home. He or she can further personalize the experience and potentially get even more benefits.