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What’s the best way to book a cruise?

What’s the best way to book a cruise?

Why book a cruise?

One of the hardest parts of booking a holiday is making that all-important decision about where to go. With so many exciting places to visit worldwide, how can we limit ourselves to just one at a time?! Luckily, booking a cruise takes that decision away from you; what could be better than seeing so many sites and visiting many different countries in one holiday?

Cruise holidays have become increasingly popular for several reasons:

  1. All-inclusive experience: Cruise ships often provide an all-inclusive experience, with meals, accommodation and various onboard activities included in the price. This aspect makes it easier for travellers to budget for their holiday and enjoy a wide range of amenities without worrying about additional costs.
  2. Multiple destinations in a single trip: Cruises offer the opportunity to visit multiple destinations within a single journey, allowing passengers to explore various ports of call without the hassle of arranging separate transportation, accommodation and itineraries for each location.
  3. Convenience and relaxation: A cruise holiday provides a relaxing and convenient way to travel, as passengers can unpack their luggage once and settle into their cabins for the duration of the trip. The cruise ship handles transportation between destinations, allowing passengers to enjoy the journey and onboard amenities without the stress of organising their travel logistics.
  4. Variety of activities and entertainment: Cruise ships offer various activities, entertainment options and dining experiences to cater to different interests and preferences. From swimming pools, fitness centres and spa facilities to live shows, musical performances and themed parties, there is something for everyone on a cruise ship.
  5. Social atmosphere: Cruises create a social environment where passengers can meet new people and make friends during their trip. The shared experiences and communal spaces on board foster a sense of camaraderie among travellers, contributing to the overall enjoyment of the cruise holiday.
  6. Suitable for different age groups and interests: Cruise ships cater to a broad range of demographics, including families, couples and solo travellers. Many cruise lines offer specialised programmes and activities for various age groups, such as kids’ clubs, teen lounges and adult-only areas, ensuring everyone has a memorable experience on board.

The combination of these factors has contributed to the growing popularity of cruise holidays, providing travellers with a memorable and enjoyable way to explore multiple destinations while enjoying a comfortable and entertaining journey.

What’s the best way to book a cruise?

There are many different ways to book a cruise, and the best way to do this depends entirely on your individual preferences. 

What are the different ways to book a cruise?

There are several methods for booking a cruise, including:

  1. Directly with the cruise line: This involves contacting the cruise company to book your trip.
  2. Through a travel agent: A professional specialising in organising and booking client cruises.
  3. Via an online travel agency: An online travel agency (OTA) arranges and sells accommodation, tours, transportation and trips on an online platform for travellers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?

  1. Booking directly with the cruise line can offer benefits, such as access to exclusive promotions and direct communication with the cruise company. However, this method can be time consuming, requiring individual research and comparing various cruise lines and options.
  1. Using a travel agent provides personalised assistance, tailored advice and valuable insights eg they should know which cruise line targets what sort of person (families, couples, luxury, budget etc) and they can often save you money by booking cheaper independent excursions in a port of call. These professionals have access to a wealth of information and may be able to secure special deals or upgrades for their clients. On the downside, their services may come with additional fees or commissions but this is rarely the case so simply ask the agent’s fee structure in advance.
  1. Booking via and OTA sometimes means you have access to a time-specific deal but it can still be time consuming and take care to check you don’t get given a cabin that perhaps isn’t in the best part of the ship. 

What are the benefits of using a travel agent?

Travel agents offer several benefits when booking your cruise: 

  1. Time-saving: They can save you time and effort by researching and recommending cruise options that align with your preferences and budget.
  2. Personalised service: Travel agents provide personalised guidance, ensuring you receive a cruise experience tailored to your needs.
  3. Exclusive deals and upgrades: Agents often have access to exclusive promotions, upgrades or onboard credits, which may not be available through other booking methods.
  4. Comprehensive travel arrangements: In addition to booking your cruise, travel agents can assist with other arrangements, such as visas, flights from your local airport, accommodation and excursions, ensuring a seamless travel experience. They can also help you make travel amendments.

What should you look for when booking a cruise?

What factors do you need to consider when booking a cruise?

When booking a cruise, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure you choose the best option for your requirements and budget. Some crucial factors include the cruise line, ship, itinerary, cabin type, available activities and amenities. Your budget, travel preferences and the style of service should influence your decision-making process. And, of course, the weather!

What is the importance of researching cruise lines?

Researching cruise lines is a vital step in the booking process, as it helps you find a cruise that meets your expectations and preferences. Investigate each cruise line to gather information about the size and age of the ships in their fleet, onboard amenities, dining options, entertainment and the company’s overall reputation. Is it a cruise line that is popular among families or the older generation? By doing thorough research, you can ensure that you select a cruise line that meets your needs and offers the level of service and amenities you desire.

Why do I need to check the itinerary?

Selecting the right itinerary is crucial to your overall cruise experience, as it determines the places you will visit and the activities you can participate in during your trip. Consider factors such as the cruise duration, the destinations and ports of call included in the itinerary, the excursions and activities available at each port, and the time of year and weather conditions at your chosen destinations. By carefully evaluating these factors, you can choose an itinerary that offers the most enjoyable and fulfilling experience for your cruise.

How to book a cruise for the first time

What steps do you need to take when booking your first cruise if you want to book it yourself?

Start by determining your preferences and budget to narrow down your options (not all cruises are all-inclusive so what extras will you have to pay for?). Next, investigate each cruise line to gather information about their fleet, onboard amenities, dining options, entertainment, and overall reputation. Then research itineraries to find the ones that best suit your needs. Compare prices and promotions to secure the best possible deal. Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll need to book your flights, excursions and any overnight accommodation in your port of departure. 

Finally, review and confirm all reservations and travel documents. Do you need six months on your passport to visit some of the destinations? Do you need a visa/esta etc and what vaccinations do you require? 

What are the benefits of using a travel agent?

Using a travel agent can be particularly helpful for first-time cruisers, as they offer expert guidance and assistance throughout the booking process. Travel agents can save you time and effort by researching and recommending cruise options tailored to your preferences and budget. Many have been on cruises themselves so they can tell you their personal experience. Some travel agents have been on hundreds of cruises, for example Ross Johnson of Not Just Travel. Agents may also have access to exclusive deals, upgrades, or onboard credits unavailable through other booking methods. 

Additionally, travel agents can help book flights, accommodations, and other travel arrangements, ensuring a seamless and stress-free travel experience. They will also give you a check list e.g. vaccinations, visas, insurance etc so that you don’t overlook any important elements of the cruise planning process.

Best way to book a cruise online

What are the advantages of booking a cruise online?

There are several advantages to booking a cruise online. It provides a convenient and user-friendly way to compare various cruise options and prices across multiple cruise lines. Online booking platforms also allow you to access detailed information about cruise ships, itineraries, and available amenities, helping you make informed decisions. 

Moreover, you can often find exclusive online promotions or discounts, making securing a great deal on your cruise easier.

What are the disadvantages of booking a cruise online?

While booking a cruise online offers numerous advantages, it has some drawbacks. One disadvantage is the potential lack of personalised service that you would receive from a travel agent.

It can be overwhelming to navigate the vast amount of online information and options, making it challenging to identify the best way to fulfil your needs. There’s also the risk of missing out on special promotions or deals only available through direct bookings with cruise lines or travel agents.

How to book a cheap cruise

How can you save money when booking a cruise?

There are several ways to save money when booking a cruise. 

One approach is to book during the wave season, typically from January to March, when cruise lines often promote discounts and special offers.

Another strategy involves searching for last-minute deals or repositioning cruises, which generally have lower prices due to their unique itineraries. A repositioning cruise is one in which the embarkation port and the disembarkation port differ. In most cruises, the ship’s final destination is the same as the starting point, so a repositioning cruise is more challenging to find.

Opting for an inside cabin or an obstructed view can also save costs, as these options are less popular with holidaymakers. Finally, travelling during the shoulder season or off-peak times allows you to take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds.

Can you be flexible with travel dates?

Flexibility with travel dates can help you capitalise on lower prices and promotions. Cruise lines often offer discounted rates during less popular travel periods or for sailings with lower occupancy. Being open to different travel dates increases your chances of finding an attractive deal.

Are there benefits to booking early?

Early reservations bring several advantages, including access to early-bird discounts and promotions. Booking in advance also means you’ll have a broader selection of cabin types, locations, and dining options. 

Additionally, reserving your cruise early gives you more time to plan and organise excursions, activities, and other travel arrangements, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable cruise experience.

To conclude …

If you’re looking for a relaxing way to see the world, it doesn’t get much better than a cruise. Once seen as only something for the super-wealthy, you can now find a cruise to suit any budget. With so many options, different ships, cruise lines, itineraries, cabins, and board, it pays to get expert help, ensuring you enjoy the perfect cruise. 

A good place to start is to choose a travel agent with specialist cruise training. Not Just Travel is an award-winning travel agency that has a cruise division. Many of its agents train for 12-months to be a ‘Master of Cruise’ which means they know a great deal about every cruise company, their ships and itineraries and they also have access to exclusive deals via their key trade partners which include NCL, MSC, P&O, Hurtigruten, Celebrity, Carnival, Scenic, Saga, Ambassador, Riviera, Oceania, Princess, Fred Olsen and Virgin Voyages, among others. 

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