12 tips for booking a cruise and common mistakes to avoid

You’ve decided on your dream cruise destination and are ready to book! Follow our 12 top tips when booking a cruise to ensure you avoid common mistakes. Whether you are a first-time cruiser or a seasoned veteran, these tips will help you make the most of your cruise vacation and avoid unnecessary expenses or headaches.

1. Cruise information

Have all your cruise information in hand when booking a cruise. This may seem obvious, but we have seen customers who book the wrong sail date, and it is very time-consuming to make corrections after you have made your booking. And revisions can even cost you money.

Be sure to have the following information in front of you when booking a cruise:

  • Name of the ship
  • Departure date
  • Number of nights
  • Stateroom (cabin) category you have chosen and the number of cabins in each category
  • Full name and date of birth of each guest according to the passport information

You can either book your cruise directly on the cruise line’s website and pay the deposit with a credit card, or you can search, compare, and book your cruise with our preferred partner CruiseDirect. Find out why we choose to book with CruiseDirect every time here.

2. Read the FAQ and Terms and Conditions pages

Read the Frequently Asked Questions section on the cruise line’s website before booking your cruise. You will find the answer to many common questions there. Alternatively, contact us, and we will be happy to help you!

The Terms and Conditions pages are super important. Don’t be tempted to skip this step. Understand the booking terms and cancellation policy. It is daunting when presented with so much small print to read. But you must know what you are buying. When booking a cruise, you agree to enter into a contract with the cruise line.

3. Check and double-check your insurance coverage

When you read the article’s title, you may not have expected travel insurance to make it onto the list of “Top tips for booking a cruise.”

But travel insurance is vital; you should never leave home without it.

It would be best if you found out the answers to the following questions:

  • How much will travel insurance cost for your trip?
  • What exactly does it cover?
  • Do you have cancellation insurance? Remember you cannot book cancellation insurance with the cruise line after booking, only when you make the booking. What does it cover?
  • What will it cost if you are forced to cancel your trip if you
    • are denied entry into your destination?
    • do not want to travel due to health worries or concerns?
    • need to cut your trip short?

Perhaps your home insurance or the credit card you are paying with includes travel and cancellation insurance? Ring your provider, and remember to check! If you already have travel insurance, you must check your policy.

4. Check visa requirements, including for all ports of call

Check out the visa requirements of the countries you are visiting. If in doubt, ask the cruise line or contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure you have all the necessary documents before you travel. Sometimes the cruise lines will organize a visa on board the ship when visiting specific ports if you book the cruise lines’ excursion.

5. Passport information for booking a cruise

Have passports to hand when making a cruise booking. Full and correctly spelled names must appear on your booking. You would be surprised at how many customers forget they have a middle name or how it is spelled in their passport! Book the name in the order it appears in the passport you will be traveling with. Some cruise lines will charge you if you must correct a misspelled name later.

6. Be sure your passport is valid

You must travel with a valid passport. Check that your passport hasn’t expired. Some countries require that your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you arrive home again. Always double-check the passport information of the embassy of the country you visit. Check the validity date in your passport and renew it before you travel if it is due to expire.

7. Decide on a payment method before you book your cruise

How are you going to pay? Read the terms and conditions offered by your credit card. Find out if you get benefits using your credit cards, such as free cancellation or travel insurance. Read the small print or call your credit card company before deciding your payment method.

8. Look into cruise line loyalty programs before you book

Have you cruised before? If you have a membership number, provide it when booking a cruise (or ask your cruise company to add your membership number). Often you can get some free perks on board as a returning customer.

If you have cruised before but are choosing to book with a different cruise line this time, ask your new cruise line for the same membership level you had previously so you don’t miss out on the extra perks.

9. What happens if your cruise price drops after you make a booking?

Yes, it can happen. Cruise prices can change after you have made your booking. We recommend that you set up cruise fare tracking. You enter the details of your cruise and get information by email on prices for that sailing. You can then compare these prices.

You can also check the price of your cruise on the cruise line’s website. The best way to do this is to set up a dummy booking for the same voyage. Look at the price.

If you see the price of your cruise has dropped, ring the cruise line immediately. Often they will refund the difference, give you onboard credit, or give you an upgrade.

MOST cruise lines do this, but not all. Check when booking your cruise by asking, “What happens if my cruise price goes down between now and when the cruise starts?”.

But you must call the cruise line before you make your final payment if you find a price drop. No refunds or credits will be possible once you have paid in full or started your cruise.

10. Special needs and requirements when booking a cruise

Do you have special requirements? Remember to inform the cruise line about special dietary requirements, physical disabilities, or pregnancy.

And no, you are not being difficult. The cruise personnel and cabin crew work hard to give you an unforgettable experience. You have to provide them with the chance to be there for you.

11. Are you celebrating a special occasion?

Let the cruise line know when making a cruise booking! Often the cruise line offers special packaging and gifts if you are celebrating.

And again, do tell them. Allow the cruise personnel and cabin crew to dazzle you!

12. Ask the cruise line about flight, hotel, and transfer packages

Ask the cruise line about flight, hotel, and transfer packages they can offer to tie in with your cruise booking. Fly-cruise packages are the best for those who do not want to book our flights, hotels, and taxis! On our destination pages, find out more about what you can do in your departure city for a pre-cruise adventure. We have detailed itineraries for many cruises from cities, including if you book a cruise from Rome, Barcelona, London, Venice, Amsterdam, Stockholm, or Southampton.

13. Sign up for your cruise departure date Facebook group, Meet and Mingle groups, or Roll Call groups

Knowing your fellow passengers before your cruise is fun, especially if you travel solo. And you may also pick up some great cruise tips.

Explore Facebook and see if there is a group specifically for your sailing, then request to join the group so you can chat with cruise guests who will be on board your ship. Then we recommend you join the Meet and Mingle groups and Roll Call groups for your specific cruise. You do this by going to message boards on Cruise Critic.

Good planning will ensure you avoid mistakes.

Booking a cruise vacation is exciting; it’s when the countdown to your dream vacation begins! By following these tips, you can make the most of your cruise vacation and create memories that will last a lifetime. From choosing the right cabin to exploring the ports of call, there are endless opportunities for relaxation and adventure on a cruise.

So, what are you waiting for? Start researching and comparing cruises that suit you and your family, and get ready to set sail!

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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