Booking a cruise is unlike reserving any other kind of travel. To the first-time cruiser, the myriad of choices and procedures can be overwhelming, and even experienced cruisers aren’t immune to confusion, particularly if they’re considering switching lines for the first time.

While I always advocate the use of a travel agent if you’re planning to book a cruise, this article will show how to book your very own cruise online – if that’s something you feel comfortable doing.

Step 1: Get Pricing

Step 1: Find your cruise using the search form…

…and then select the number of occupants and the number of staterooms.

The first thing you want to do is price out your voyage. I picked a random Alaska cruise on Celebrity Cruises’ website; a quick sampler itinerary from Vancouver. All you have to do is select your sailing date, the number of people who will be travelling, the number of cabins needed, and click forward.

Step 2: Check For Deals

Aha! Celebrity wants to offer me a deal. It’s a pretty good one, too.

Most cruise lines will check for deals before you book, but sometimes these deals aren’t always obvious. Celebrity’s site immediately told me that special packages were available for this particular sailing, with perks like free gratuities or a complimentary beverage package. But sometimes savings can come in less-obvious forms. Price reductions can occur for entering your Province or State, or by entering your past guest number if you’ve sailed with the line before. If you don’t see any savings on your selected itinerary and are flexible with your departure dates, try another cruise. Many special promotions are limited to select itineraries and departure dates and, of course, can be revoked at any time.

Step 3: Choose Your Stateroom

Here comes the tricky part: choosing your stateroom. It’s more than just picking what type of room you want…

…it’s about picking your physical room on the ship. Have a deckplan handy!

Once you’ve got your price nailed down, you’re going to be asked to select your stateroom. Here’s where you’re going to want to have a brochure handy. You can book a Guarantee stateroom that will place you in any available room in your selected category for a reduced price (typically), or you can pay a bit more and select your actual room. I always like picking my actual room, but I’ve had good luck on past cruises playing the “guarantee game”, which can sometimes, but definitely not always, result in a category upgrade.

When picking your stateroom, consider this: is it above any noisy public areas, like the ship’s main theatre? Is it below any high-traffic areas, like the Promenade Deck, or next to anything liable to be noisy, like a stairwell or elevator bank? If so, and you feel you might be bothered by that, its best to select a different room. Most cruise lines will usually give you a handful of cabins to choose from, and a good travel agent can help steer you clear of any cabin pratfalls.

Step 4: Make A Payment

Payment can be a huge source of confusion for new cruisers, simply because policies vary between lines and are very time-dependent.

If your selected cruise is more than 75-90 days out, you won’t have to plop down the full amount just yet. Instead, the cruise line will want a per-person deposit from you that varies depending on the length of the cruise.

Since we’re using Celebrity as an example, here’s the line’s current deposit guidelines:

  • Length: 1-5 nights. Deposit: $100 USD per person;
  • Length: 6-8 nights. Deposit: $250 USD per person;
  • Length: 9 nights or longer. Deposit: $450 USD per person.

If you’re booking a Penthouse, Royal or Celebrity Suite, Celebrity’s published guidelines note that deposits for those top-of-the-line suites are double what the standard stateroom is. So, for a nine-night voyage in a Penthouse Suite, expect to part with $900 USD per person initially.

So what happens to the balance? Once your deposit has been received, the cruise line will notify you as to when final payment is due. You can make this in bite-sized chunks prior to that date, or pay it all in a single lump sum. Failure to pay in full by the due date will result in the cancellation of your cruise and, likely, the loss of your deposit.

What if you get cold feet before the cruise starts? Well, there’s another chart for that. Typically, if you’re three or more months out, you’ll get all your money back. But if you decide to cancel a week away before your voyage, for any reason, the penalties are stiff.

Cancellation policies from Celebrity’s website, for sailings six nights or longer:

  • 75 or more days prior to departure: No charge.
  • 74-57 days prior to departure: deposit amount.
  • 56-29 days prior to departure: 50 percent of total fare.
  • 28-15 days prior to departure: 75 percent of total fare.
  • 14 days or less: 100 percent (no refund).

If you’re booking a cruise with less than 75 days before departure, expect to have to pay the full balance at time of booking.

Step 5: Manage Your Booking

Manage your booking to pre-reserve shore excursions, beverage packages and the like.

You’re booked – hooray! Now is the time to log into your cruise personalizer to make sure all of your important details are correct. Like any form of travel, make sure all guests’ names are spelled correctly, all dates of birth are correct, and that your chosen cabin is the one you selected. This is also a good time to choose your dining options; many big ships offer traditional fixed early or late seating dinner, or the option to dine as you wish. These options fill up well before sailing, so it is important to select them as soon as possible.

It also pays to start researching what amenities you’d like to add to your cruise, from specialty dining reservations to spa treatments, shore excursions and beverage packages.

If you booked online with your favourite cruise line, you can make a payment via your cruise personalizer. If you booked through a travel agent, you should make all payments according to the process they’ve set out.

Most cruise personalizers will also let you complete your online check-in several months prior to your cruise, and some will also allow you to even select your embarkation time and print your luggage tags. Make sure you write down the day that you can do all of this on your calendar so you don’t forget! Failing to check-in online could result in extra delays at the pier – and no one wants that.

Step 7: Go Cruising!

This one is self-explanatory. Have fun!

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders


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