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So you want to go on a cruise.
That’s great! But, do you know where to book a cruise vacation? Where can you find the best deal on cruises? Do sites offer bonuses when I book with them?
Booking a cruise isn’t always simple.
In addition to choosing a destination, cruise line, and itinerary you’ll also have to consider flights, transportation to and from the port, shore excursions, drink packages, and more.
There are so many decisions to make that booking a cruise can make your head spin.
Fortunately, booking a cruise doesn’t have to be stressful. Whether you book directly with the cruise line, through a travel aggregator, or use a travel agent, we’ve listed some of our favorite options for booking a cruise.
Before we explore the different booking options, it’s important to understand that no matter which provider you choose, they all offer the same prices.
The good news is that you won’t need to search through hundreds of travel websites to find the best deal. However, bargin hunters might be a bit disappointed that they won’t be able to find great discounts on cruise vacations.
If your looking to save money when you book your cruise, its best to book as far in advance as possible. This is when prices are usually the lowest, and you can take advantage of price matching if the cruise fare drops.
Although you won’t find discounts offered by different booking website, where you book your cruise still matters.
And, there are pros to booking directly through the cruise line, including better customer service. But, many booking platforms offer incentives such as cancellation insurance, price matching, onboard credit, or shore excursion discounts.
We’ve listed some of our favorite places to book cruise fares, hotels, flights, and insurance below.
Book Directly Through the Cruise Line
Every major cruise line allows you to book your cruise vacation through their website. And are good reasons to book directly through the cruise line.
Cruise lines offer advanced booking platforms that allow you to search through thousands of itineraries in a couple easy steps. Once you’ve selected a cruise itinerary cruise itinerary, you can pay for the trip, make upgrades, and purchase drink packages and shore excursions straight from their website.
Advantages: Although we hope it never happens, issues can pop up on any vacation. When you book through the cruise line you’ll speak directly to their support team who can offer you the best service. Unlike booking through a travel agent or thrid party platform, there’s no middle man. We’ve always received top-notch customer service from the cruise line’s support team, despite long hold times during busy times of the year.
Disadvantages: When you book through the cruise line, you are limited in your search. If you aren’t sure which cruise line to travel with, you’ll have to search through each cruise line’s website until you find the right cruise.
Tip: If you haven’t decided which cruise line to travel with, but want to book directly through the cruise line, use a site like Expedia, Priceline, or CruiseDirect to narrow your search.
Once you decide on a cruise line and itinerary, you can book directly through the cruise line. This trick eliminates the back and forth of checking each cruise line’s website.
Best Booking Sites to Book a Cruise
Booking sites provide you with thousands of itineraries from nearly every cruise line.
In fact, you’ve likely visited these sites before. Expedia, Priceline, and even Costco Travel are all third-party booking platforms.
These booking platforms allow you to search for sailings across all of the cruise lines at once. They make it easy to find your ideal itinerary and compare the prices between different cruise lines, destinations, and sail dates.
The advanced search tools allow you to narrow your search based on the destination, length of cruise, price range, and more. The wide range of options and powerful search tools help you find your dream vacation without checking each cruise line individually.
Advantages: Aggregator sites allow you to search for sailings from every cruise line in one place. If, for example, you want to search for a 7-day Caribbean cruise, you’ll be able to find all of the cruise lines offering 7-day Caribbean itineraries at the same time.
Their search tools also make it simple to narrow your search based on the cruise line, cruise ship, departure date, cruise length, ports of call, and more.
Additionally, many booking platforms provide incentives on top of those offered by the cruise lines. Examples of such incentives include onboard credit, discounts on shore excursions, free wifi plans, and more.
Finally, when you book through an aggregator, you can also book your flight, hotel, and car rental all in one place. If you are flying to the departure port, aggregator websites are great all-in-one booking solutions.
Disadvantages: As stated previously, these third-party platforms act as a middle man between you and the cruise line. It doesn’t happen often, but if issues arise, it may take longer for you to receive a resolution.
For example, consider if you need to change your booking, or inquire about a refund. The addition of a middle man creates an added layer of complexity. Even though you will likely receive the refund, the process will take longer.
However, their all-in-one platform may provide enough of a benefit to compensate for any travel complications.
So, it’s no surprise that Expedia offers a simple, straightforward, and powerful cruise booking interface. To get started, all you need to enter is the preferred destination, sailing date range, and how many passengers you will bring. The site will narrow down a list of cruises that meet your criteria.
You can also filter the results to quickly find the cruise that’s right for you. Its comprehensive results, easy search, and filtering, and a large selection of cruises make it one of the best cruise search engines.
Additionally, you can book your flight, hotel, and car rental through Expedia to keep all your bookings in one place. They are also known to have frequent deals on pre-departure hotels when you book your cruise and hotel through Expedia.
Adding to the appeal are the exclusive deals and bonuses offered by Priceline. When you book a cruise through their website you can find bonuses that include onboard credit, third and fourth guests sail free, discounts on shore excursions, deposit-free booking on certain sailings, and a rewards program that combines with every cruise line’s loyalty program.
When you check the “senior discount” box, Priceline also searches for additional senior discounts.
Like Expedia, Priceline also has bookings for flights, hotels, car rentals, and trip packages. So if you like to keep all of your travel bookings in one easy-to-use booking provider, Priceline is an excellent choice.
Their website is a little clunky and outdated. But, don’t let that scare you away.
CruiseDirect is a cruise-only company. You won’t find flights, hotels, or car rentals available on their website, which allows them to focus all their efforts on finding you the best cruise possible.
On the site, you can search by keyword, destination, departure date, length of cruise, cruise line, and more. If you need help navigating their site, they have friendly real-time support or contact number to get you in touch with a cruise expert.
CruiseDirect offers perks on most sailings, such as onboard credit, free drinks, free Wi-Fi, free travel insurance, free gratuities, or a free specialty dining experience. If you want to know if a specific cruise booking comes with a bonus, check the “Bonus” dropdown on the cruise you’re considering to see what extras CruiseDirect offers it with.
When you think of Costco, your first thought is probably bulk food and toiletries. Unexpectedly,
Costco Travel’s website isn’t going to win any design awards. The site isn’t fancy, but they offer a no-frills booking portal with extremely competitive prices. When you book through Costco Travel, they offer bonuses that include Costco Cash when you return from your vacation.
If you’re ever in need of help, their call center staff is extremely helpful, friendly, and professional. Their support team is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to answer all of your travel questions.
And, just like Expedia and Priceline, you can book your flight, hotel, and rental car all through Costco Travel.
Note: A Costco membership is required to book through Costco Travel, and they don’t accept American Express.
Hotels, Airlines, and Cars
If you’ve booked your cruise directly through the cruise line, you might still need to book a flight, hotel, and car rental. Of course, you can use the previously mentioned Expedia and Priceline. But, there are plenty more options to choose from.
Here are some of our recommendations for booking hotels, flights, and car rentals.
Booking.com – Hotels, Flights, and Car Rentals
In addition to a wide range of accommodation bookings, Booking.com has a wide range of flights and car rentals. You can often book your flight and the hotel can be booked together at a discount.
With Booking.com the advertised price is the final price you pay. Their site promises no unexpected or hidden fees. And they offer a price match guarantee. So, if you find a better price on a hotel, they’ll match it after you book.
Best of all, you can get a refund up to 24 hours before your check-in date.
Kayak – Hotels, Flights, and Car Rentals
Although you can’t book directly through Kayak, it is a very useful tool to compare prices across many different websites at once.
One thing to note is that the prices shown on their website might not always match the source site – a common problem with meta-search websites. Occasionally, you will get a different price after clicking from Kayak than when you search the same option on the source site.
Although it’s not always accurate, Kayak is an excellent source for comparing prices on hotels, flights, and car rentals across booking platforms.
Hotels.com – Hotels Only
One of the best reasons to book a hotel through hotels.com is to take advantage of their rewards program. Once you sign up, you’ll get one night free when you book 10 nights. The free night can be redeemed at any of their properties without restrictions or blackout dates.
Travel Insurance Providers
Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can purchase for your trip.
Sure, you’ll almost never need to use – and let’s hope you won’t. But, unfortunately, bad things do happen. Missed flights, delayed connections, illness, and even losing your wallet can happen to even the most prepared travelers.
The insurers below are some I recommend. They have specific cruise insurance policies and offer a good amount of coverage for potential mishaps.
Travelers also have the option to include coverage of up to 75% of prepaid, nonrefundable costs if you cancel for any reason.
Medical expenses and emergency evacuation are covered but the maximum amount varies based on the plan you choose.
In all, Travel Guard is an excellent choice when you purchase insurance for a cruise.
Insure My Trip
Their site uses an advanced algorithm to match you with the coverage that suits your vacation. For example, if you cruise during hurricane season, the search algorithm recommends travel insurance policies with good coverage for weather-related issues.
It’s also one of the best places to find travel insurance for travelers over 65.