Cruise booking mistakes can ruin what you thought was a carefully planned trip. They make it seem so easy -- one minute you're browsing itineraries and the next minute you're filling in your name and credit card details. But is it really that easy?
No, it's not. Booking a cruise is one of the more complicated vacation purchases you can make. Why? Picking a hotel or choosing a rental car include fewer details to consider that will have an impact on your vacation. There's a host of factors to think about when booking a cruise, starting with the ship you select, itinerary you want, cabin category and food and dining package options. And that's just for starters.
To help you navigate the often confusing cruise booking process, read on for our top seven things not to do when you book a cruise. Your next vacation will thank you.
Wave season deals -- the best time of year for booking a cheap cruise -- start just after the New Year and last into March. However, cruise lines are constantly promoting one-day to one-week sales closer to a ship's embarkation date. Why does that matter when it comes to booking a cruise? As ships start to sell out, the best prices and the best cabins disappear.
Related: Late vs. Early Booking: When to Book a Cruise for the Best Price
If you see a good price on the cabin you want, it's often better to book it on the spot (so long as you've done a bit of research and planning). Most deposits are refundable before final payment, helping to take some worry out of the process. If you delay your booking, your mistake might mean higher prices and rooms that aren't your ideal.
We get it. For people looking for a true last-minute escape and don't have to deal with complicated travel plans to reach port, any cabin just might do the trick. But if your cruise is a vacation that you've been planning for a long time, carefully considering the type of cabin you want is critical.
Read More: How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin
That's because cruise rooms come in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes. Inside cabins are often the cheapest, but the lack of windows or daylight in many might not be for everyone. Or maybe you're a light sleeper and happen to book a room next to the anchor or ship propulsion.
Pay careful attention to the 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 good time.
It's easy to get lost in the excitement of cruise shopping. But for most travelers who live far from their embarkation port, there are other travel logistics to consider. Flights, hotels, transportation to the cruise terminal or parking are all on the list of things to arrange long before your cruise departure date.
If you're using a travel agent, they should handle flights and any hotels you need pre- or post-cruise. Keep in mind, though, that they might not arrange parking if you are driving to the port or even your transfers between the airport and cruise terminal.
If you're handling bookings on your own and see a price you can't let pass, ask for a 24-hour hold on the cruise while you explore your transportation, airfare and hotel options. That way you know what your options are, even if you aren't quite ready to book them. There's nothing worse than waiting until the last minute only to find expensive flights and hotels or worse -- no flights at all.
There are very few reasons not to include travel insurance in your cruise budget, and hundreds (if not thousands) of reasons to buy adequate protection for your cruise. Sure, your credit card may offer some protections, but unless you can cover potential medical bills, missed or canceled flights, or logistics tied to cruise ship malfunctions, you'll need more comprehensive coverage.
Read More: Travel Insurance Primer for Cruise Travelers
From twisted ankles on gangways to sprains on bicycle rides, accidents happen often on cruises. It's entirely up to the captain of your ship whether you can even continue your cruise following an accident. If the captain decides his crew cannot adequately treat your illness or injury onboard, you will be disembarked and left behind to find both treatment and return travel.
Other mishaps on cruises can include malfunctioning ship machinery cancelling your cruise, lost baggage on a flight, missed flights and more. With all of the variables that go into planning and enjoying a cruise, travel insurance is simply a necessary part of the trip. Get as much coverage as you feel you can afford and look beyond what the cruise line or airline offers you.
Most of us skim (or completely ignore) the fine print when presented with small print when we book a vacation. When booking a cruise, though, it's important to know the booking rules for your trip. Does the lower fare require you to pay in full at the time of booking? Will the cruise line be choosing your cabin for you? Will additional fees be tacked on later? You'll want to know all of that up front, so give the fine print a read.
Related: Hidden in the Fine Print: 16 Things You Need to Know About Your Cruise Contract
Like any travel industry, cruise lines like to bombard potential travelers with all sorts of glossy pictures of passengers having fun and tantalizing images of tropical beaches, cocktails and bright blue pools. But it pays to temper your own impulsive need to getaway when it comes to booking a cruise.
Related: Tips for Finding Cheap Cruise Deals
If you don't shop around, you'll never know that the travel agent down the street (or online) can offer you the same rate plus onboard credit, prepaid gratuities and an upgrade. Or you might miss out on your chance to score a cheap luxury cruise for the cost of a longer cruise on a mainstream line.
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.
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. Trust us, we've heard stories of families who showed up a year early for their cruise.
If you mean to book a cruise for this year and inadvertently book one for next year, 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.
Updated September 13, 2022