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Ready to take your first cruise? Or maybe you’re still just toying with the idea of a cruise but haven’t quite made up your mind? Well, either way, you need to be well equipped with as much info as possible before booking. In this article I’m going to go through a few first time cruise tips that should help you figure out the best way to book a cruise holiday. You’ll be out sunning yourself on deck in no time, without spending an absolute fortune!
How to Book a Cruise
Tips to Help you Book Your First Cruise
1 – DISCOUNTS & DEALS
If you’re a reliable human being (unlike me) who can plan their life in advance, then you can definitely benefit from early-booking discounts. Plenty of people book over a year in advance.
However, if you’re like me and like to leave things a little more last minute then there are still deals and discounts for you to avail of. If there’s a travel or holiday expo in your local area then make sure to check it out, most of the big cruise lines attend and offer deals and discounts for people who book on the day. That’s how my mam and aunty booked their cruise, they went to the Holiday World Show in Dublin and they got a great deal.
If you’re looking to try a cruise but don’t exactly have a huge budget try one of the “repositioning cruises”, which is where the ship has to get back from one place to another. These kind of cruises usually come with a large discount as you spend most of the time at sea, but you still get the cruise experience and, depending on the ship, you’ll still have plenty to do. “Repositioning cruises” usually only depart at certain times of the year but you can read more about them here.
You can also always check out last minute or late deals on local travel websites/in local travel agencies (to find ones that depart from your nearest port) to see what’s on offer.
2 – RESEARCH
A lot of people mistakenly think that all cruises are the same and they could not be more wrong. You only need to look at companies like Global Sailor to see that there is something for everyone!
Not all cruise ships host thousands of people, nor do they have the entertainment and facilities you would typically expect. You can get small cruise liners, luxury cruises, and cruises that are tailored to certain age groups.
If you’re adventurous an expedition cruise might be more your speed. On an expedition cruise you go to unusual destinations, get lectures from explorers and scientists and generally partake in more active/adventurous excursions. I’m definitely an expedition cruise type of girl.
But it doesn’t stop there, oh no, there are rave cruises, Disney cruises, singles cruises, ELVIS-themed cruises, nudist cruises and much more. SO, do your research and find the perfect cruise for you.
3 – BEWARE THE PACKAGE
All cruises are different. Some cruise ships will include all food and non-alcoholic drinks. Other cruises may include some spirits, but not premium alcohol. Are all the facilities included or do some come at an added cost? Usually the spa will cost extra (of course).
A lot of ships also have casinos and shopping options, and there are usually specialty dining restaurants, which tend to be an added expense as well. So you will inevitably end up spending more than the initial price of your holiday. Check if you can purchase alcohol packages to keep the price down while on board. Of course, they normally only end up saving you money if you like a couple of drinks a day.
Make sure to ask your cruise rep/travel agent if port taxes are included in the cost of your cruise package. You don’t want to be surprised with extra charges when you arrive. Excursions at port can be quite expensive and are not normally included in your cruise package. If they seem too pricey, do your own research and see if you can find a cheaper local tour company, just make sure they’re reputable.
You need to find out everything that is and is not incorporated so you know exactly what you are getting for your money. It will help you to “guesstimate” how much extra spending money you’ll need. A cruise deal might originally seem like a bargain, but when you look at all the extras it could be more pricey than you imagined.
4 – TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP ON A CRUISE
For me this is one of the most confusing part of a cruise. Is the tip included in the initial price? Do I still have to tip everyone? Do I HAVE to tip anyone or is it at my discretion? The truth is, it’s different for all cruise lines.
The nature of a tip is that it’s discretionary. If someone made you feel amazing, tip them. If they didn’t do anything amazing or go the extra mile, don’t tip them. It’s not a tip if it’s compulsary, they might as well just include it in the price of the service.
BUT, I’m from Ireland and that’s my attitude to tipping. I don’t really agree with companies paying their staff minimum wage and pressuring their customers into essentially paying their staff’s wages for them.
For an in depth look at all the different tipping guidelines for each of the main cruise providers have a read of this article. The tipping guides might help you decide which cruise liner is best suited to you.
OK, so I hope some of the above first time cruise tips will help you to make your choice and book the best cruise for you. There’s so much to think about and you definitely need to take your time when searching for that perfect package. There’s no one best way to book a cruise, you’ve got to find what is right for you and go with it. If you do that then you’re sure to have an incredible time.
- To Cruise or Not to Cruise – Pros and Cons of a Cruise Holiday
- Top 7 Cruise Tips & Tricks For First Timers
- Cruise Clothing – Your Cruise Packing Guide