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.
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.
3. Choose the Wrong Year
Cruise lines plan itineraries a few years out; you can often book two years or more in advance. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, someone accidentally books a cruise for the wrong year. We've heard stories of families who showed up a year early for their cruise.
If you mean to book a cruise for 2021 and inadvertently book one for 2020, you most likely will be turned away when you arrive at the pier. Check, and re-check, your dates of travel before you hit submit on that payment.
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.
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.