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5 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid (Photo: Cruise Critic)
5 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid (Photo: Cruise Critic)

5 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid

Updated September 21, 2017

Thinking about booking a cruise this year? Don't screw it up.

Joking aside, booking a cruise is one of the more complicated vacation purchase transactions you can make. Picking a hotel or choosing a rental car is a much simpler process, simply because there are fewer criteria to consider. With a cruise, you have a whole host of factors to think about -- ship, cabin category, package options – and the list goes on. Since no one wants to get their holiday wrong, we want to remind you to pay attention to a few key things. Here are five Don'ts.

1. Wait Too Long to Book

Wave season deals can hang around for months, but cruise lines are constantly promoting one-day to one-week sales with shorter booking windows. More importantly, as ships start to sell out, the best prices and the best cabins disappear. If you see a good price on the cabin you want, it's often better to book now. (Remember, most deposits are refundable before final payment.) If you delay, the low price you saw might go up, and that coveted suite might sell to someone else.

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2. Pick the Wrong Cabin

It's easy to think "any cabin will do" when you're booking a cruise, but you will be thinking the opposite when your claustrophobia kicks in the first night in an inside cabin or you're woken at O-Dark-Thirty by the anchor dropping outside your room. Pay careful attention to which type of cabin you're choosing and where it's located on the ship. This is one vacation component where paying a little bit more for a higher category or better location can make a huge difference in your cruise enjoyment.

How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin

3. Choose the Wrong Year

Cruise lines plan itineraries a few years out -- you can book 2017 sailings now. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, someone accidentally books a cruise for the wrong year (see our previous post about a family who showed up a year early for their cruise) While their story miraculously turned out well, you most likely will be turned away if you mean to book a cruise for 2016 and inadvertently book one for 2017. Check, and re-check, your dates of travel before you hit submit on that payment.

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4. Ignore the Fine Print

Who doesn't skim (or completely ignore) the fine print when presented with pages of small-type legalese? Yet, it's important to know the booking rules about the cruise deal you're about to get. Does the lower fare require you to pay in full at time of booking? Can you combine the offer with your past-passenger perks or other discounts/value-adds? Will the cruise line be choosing your cabin location? Will additional fees be tacked on later? You'll want to know all of that up front.

Secrets the Cruise Lines Don't Tell You

5. Forget to Shop Around

The cruise line sends you an email with enticing starting rates and pretty pictures of tropical beaches, and the next thing you know you're dialing the phone number and saying yes to a cruise line sales rep. If you don't shop around, you'll never know that the travel agent down the street can offer you the same rate plus onboard credit, prepaid gratuities and an upgrade. Before you book, take a few minutes to compare prices and find the best deal available. Otherwise, you're leaving money -- and maybe some wine, a spa treatment and a shore excursion -- on the table.

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8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.