Cruising is one of the fastest-growing segments of today's suffering travel industry. Hard times for the travel trade spell lower prices for the budget-minded passenger seeking a great deal. Packages offering a wide range of activities and destinations are now easy to find. The first step to sailing off into the sunset is to book your cruise. It's easiest to let a travel agent do all the work, but you might be able to save some money by booking it yourself online. Say it quietly, but cruise providers do not expect most people to pay the prices in the brochure. So don't be among the people that do pay over the odds - take advantage of discount cruises.
The most reliable way to find special deals is through an agent. This will give you someone to come back to if anything goes wrong or if you need to change your arrangements for any reason. And there are organizations which can help you find a reputable one. In the UK there's the Leading Cruise Agents of the UK, formerly called the Guild of Professional Cruise Agents. In the US there's the Cruise Line International Association. The National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents could also be useful.
There is also a plethora of websites for discount cruises out there - but choose one that carries the stamp of a national association such as the LCA or the CLIA. It's certainly possible to find a good deal over the net with one of the many online agents. But at the risk of over-stressing the point, remember that if you book over the internet - be it via the website of a specific company or a generic discount provider - it could be more difficult to negotiate changes to the booking than if you have a good agent arguing your corner with another human being. The special deals which pop up on cruise line sites can be used as research before you visit an agent.
Whatever you choose to do, the earlier you book, the bigger the discount you are likely to get. This is great if you are able to plan your holiday a year or more ahead (they will ask you for a fairly hefty deposit) but this isn't possible for everyone. Occasionally, discounts also arise for late bookings on popular routes. It's also important to note that even when a cruise seems cheap, there may well be lots of hidden extras which will gradually notch up the price to a very different figure. Drinks, tips (some are added automatically and at other times there can be heavy pressure to give a certain amount), dinner supplements, excursions. ask about all of these when you are discussing the booking.
Things You'll Need
- Travelers' Checks
- Passport Services
- Travel Services
- Airline Tickets
- Sporty Hats
- Cruise Tickets
- Gather cruise brochures from a travel agency, or check out cruise offers, ships and deck plans online. These will give you a good idea of destinations, prices, types of accommodations, amenities and recreational options.
- Figure out where you would like to go. Talk to a travel agent who is an expert on cruises, or simply ask friends who have cruised for recommendations. (Some popular destinations are the Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska.)
- Decide how long you want the cruise to be. The most popular cruises last from 3 to 14 days, but lengthier cruises are available.
- Determine how much you want to spend. Cruises come in the basic categories of budget, moderate, deluxe and ultra-deluxe. It is suggested that you compare these categories to hotels and choose which would make you most comfortable and be within your budget.
- Contact a local travel agent by phone (get a recommendation from a friend or look in the yellow pages under "Cruises"). Tell the agent your budget and the type of cruise you would like to take. Refer to the brochures, explaining what looks most appealing and affordable to you.
- Choose your point of departure, with the agent's assistance. Many cruises require that you book your own transportation to departure points, so you will need to figure this transportation as an additional cost.
- Decide on the number of port calls - stops into port - you would prefer. This information should be available in the brochure or from the travel agent. If you plan to do organized activities at these ports, you may be charged extra.
- Select the type of stateroom you want. Like hotel rooms, they vary in size and available services. Check the deck plan and brochure for photos of various staterooms and maps of where the staterooms are situated.
- Ask about any cancellation fees or other restrictions.
- Ask the travel agent to book your cruise, or book your cruise online if you decide not to use a travel agent. You can get great discount fares and will have access to ship reviews and other information that will help in making all the important decisions.