Booking a Cruise

How do I book?
Potential cruisers have multiple ways to book a cruise vacation. You can book online through a cruise line's website, an online cruise seller, or a large travel provider like Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz. You can visit a local travel agent, or call up an agent affiliated with an agency in another state or with the cruise line itself. No matter how you ultimately book your cruise, you should do your trip research via as many channels as you can to make sure you have all the information you need to choose the itinerary and line that's best for you.
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Can I book online?
Yes, some cruise lines' websites offer online bookings, but not all. In addition, you can purchase cruise vacations through many of the major travel-booking websites as well as dedicated online cruise sellers.
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How do I pick a cabin? What are my options?
What cabin you pick mainly depends on your budget and personal preferences. Cabin categories vary in price and include suites, mini-suites, verandah cabins, and outside or inside staterooms. Cabin categories and sizing vary greatly by cruise line. The layout of the cabin beds can also make a difference to you; there can be bunk beds, two beds side-by-side, or one large bed in a given stateroom. To find out the layout and square footage of a cabin, check the brochure or website of each cruise line.

Besides size and layout, other important things to consider are the cabin's location and view. You'll want to know what'slocated near, next to, above, or below your cabin. While you might like the convenience of being next to the stairs or elevators, keep in mind that those areas can be noisy, high-traffic areas. Cabins near housekeeping supply closets, laundry, and room-service elevators can also experience noise problems, as well as cabins directly above or below common areas of the ship such as the dining room, casino, spa, and walking/jogging track.

You'll also want to consider which portion of the ship the cabin is located in. Understand that cabins in the aft part of the ship will endure engine noise and vibrations. Cabins at the front and rear of the ship (as well as those located on the highest decks) will suffer more motion than mid-ship cabins. (Lower mid-ship cabins provide the smoothest ride for those suffering from seasickness.) In addition, cabins at the front of the ship will sometimes get a "wakeup call" when the anchor is lowered.
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If I'm single, do I have to share a cabin?
No, you do not have to share a cabin with anyone. However, cruise cabin prices are determined by "double occupancy." In other words, you will be paying extra to have your own room. The good news is that some cruise lines offer lower singles rates. Check with your travel agent or cruise line for more information.
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Can I get matched with a roommate?
Some cruise lines offer a "single share" program, which will find a roommate for you so you can cruise at the lower double occupancy rate. Understand that you do not have a choice in roommates, and you risk being stuck in a small cabin with someone who you are not comfortable with. Alternately, some general travel roommate-finder services allow you to search for and choose your own companion.
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Can I book for a group, wedding, or other special occasion?
Yes, cruise lines can accommodate groups, weddings, and other special-occasion travel. You may wish to work with a travel agent to coordinate complicated arrangements. Most cruise lines offer special packages for onboard weddings or vow renewals, so be sure to investigate all options.
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What does my cruise fare include? What's not included?
Your cruise fare includes your stateroom, meals, onboard activities, entertainment, and transportation from port to port. Usually, your only extra expenses will be alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, optional shore excursions, gratuities, and personal services such as those for spa and hair care. Certain luxury lines, such as Silversea and Seabourn, are all-inclusive, so the cruise fare does include all drinks and gratuities, but most spa treatments, boutique purchases, casino chips, and shore excursions are still extra.
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Should I buy insurance?
Insurance is available for cruise vacations, and is strongly encouraged. Cruises are generally nonrefundable after final payment has been made, and you can incur penalties for cancellation. Insurance can protect you from losing your money if you need to cancel.

Travel insurance can also cover you for medical expenses, lost baggage, trip interruption, and emergency medical evacuation. Before you purchase a policy, make sure you understand the coverage you have through your own medical insurance or your credit card. Read all fine print to determine which scenarios will be covered and which won't. In general, it's better to buy independent insurance rather than the cruise line's policy, especially if you're worried that the cruise line might cease to operate prior to your trip.
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Can I buy pre- or post-cruise packages?
Yes, you can buy a pre- or post-cruise package that can include airfare, hotel stays, and transfers. Contact your travel agent or cruise line for details.
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How do I pay for my cruise?
Usually, your cruise costs will be broken down into two payments: (1) a small deposit of between $100 and $250 per person, due at the time of booking, and (2) the remaining balance, due 60 to 120 days before the sailing date. Bookings made within 60 days of the sailing date must be paid for in full at the time of booking. You can pay with a credit card, money order, or certified check.
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Can I redeem or earn frequent flyer miles when purchasing a cruise?
Yes, some airline frequent flyer programs allow you to earn miles when you purchase a cruise through the airline's cruise program. You can also earn miles when you pay for your cruise with an airline-affiliated credit card.

You cannot redeem miles for a cruise, but you can use miles to pay for the air travel to your embarkation port. However, you cannot redeem miles for airfare if you book a combined air/sea vacation package from the cruise line.
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Are there advantages to paying in full early?
Some cruise lines will offer you a discount if you pay for the entire cruise in advance instead of paying just the standard deposit. Check with your cruise line for more details.
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If I cancel my cruise, will I receive a refund?
Refund policies vary by cruise line. Generally, to receive a full refund, you must send a notice of cancellation in writing, and the cruise line must receive it by the given cancellation penalty period. Your cruise specialist will be able to provide you with full details. Travel insurance is strongly recommended to protect you from losing your money should you need to cancel.
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