Booking advice

Cruise tips you can trust



Brochure price

Few people pay the quoted price. As seasoned cruisers know, there are almost always discounts and incentives of one type or another that lower the price. The average is 25%, though some reach 50%. Ask your travel agent.

Travel agents

I recommend that first-timers purchase their cruise from a cruise-specialisttravel agent. Reason: Determining which itinerary, ship, cabin and shore excursions would best meet your individual needs is a complex decision-making process. You need a knowledgeable cruise professional, not someone who parrots brochure talk.

You usually don't have to pay extra for their professional knowledge. Most travel agents do not charge a fee for booking a cruise (they make their money from commissions paid by the cruise lines).

If challenged to match a legitimate offer by another seller, most will do it.

Because of their clout with the cruise lines, they are usually better able to secure extras for you, like a free upgrade to a higher category cabin, if one is available.

Book early

Early bookers usually get the lowest fares. As a bonus, they get first pick of the cabins in their category. And, they are assured of getting their desired dining seating period.

Last-minute bargains

Cruise lines occasionally begin offering fantastic discounts several weeks before the departure date if they think the ship might sail with some empty cabins. They know it's better to earn some money than none for that space.

However, be aware that purchasing such a fare is not always a bargain. There might not be specials for your desired cruises. Or, you may be assigned one of the least desirable cabins. And, because the departure date is so near, you may have to purchase a high-priced full-fare air ticket instead of a low-cost advanced-purchase one.

Flawed booking

Some first-timers get booked on unsuitable cruises. This happens when, for example:

Ulterior motive

A cruise line or wholesaler will give a seller a bonus if he books a slow-selling cruise. The seller then stirs people to that cruise even though it doesn't match their needs. A retired librarian may end up on a party cruise - or a young couple on a senior-oriented cruise.

Group takeovers

Occasionally a huge mutual-interest group (such as an accounting society) books most of the cabins. The remainder is sold to regular cruisers. Don't be one of them. You'll feel a sense of exclusion. Moreover, members of very large groups tend to talk loudly when socializing among themselves, which could make the dining room sound like a mob scene.

Theme cruises

They are enjoyable when the topic is your passion. However, if you don't like gardening, you don't want someone to book you on a cruise with that theme.

If seasick prone

Select a large, modern ship. They are long and broad abeam, which minimizes roll, pitch and yaw movements. One would have to be very seasick prone to feel woozy on those ships, especially when captains nowadays monitor storm conditions closely and alter routes when necessary to calmer waters. Moreover, these ships have multiple built-in stabilizers.

More cruise selection factors

Keep these in mind:

Quickest to sell out

The most and least expensive cabins go the fastest.

Minimum age

Anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Avoiding children-packed cruises

Stay clear of school vacation and holiday periods if you want to minimize the child factor.


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