Booking Cruises online is growing in popularity thanks to many of the sites being extremely user-friendly, people are becoming more comfortable making online purchases, the convenience, and they are finding the best deals online. Here are 8 tips to help you avoid some common errors when booking your cruise online without the assistance of a Travel Agent. If you are ever confused about what you are booking, call the agency’s 800 number and talk to an agent.
#1 Booking a Category 1A cabin on a Carnival Cruise and not realizing that a Category 1A is one twin bed on the floor and a twin bed that comes out of the wall. Basically, it is bunk beds. The least expensive inside cabin on a Carnival Cruise is a Category 1A and when you see “rates starting at $199 on a Carnival Ship” it is for 1A.
# 2 Booking an Obstructed Ocean View Cabin thinking that they were getting a full view. The least expensive Ocean View Cabin on most ships with all of the cruise lines are obstructed by life boats. The cruise industry considers cabins on the outside of the ship to be Ocean View. First time cruisers get very upset when they book an Ocean View cabin online and then they get to the cruise ship there is a life boat in front of their window. The best way to prevent this from occurring is to printout a Deck Plan of the ship that you are booking onto and see where your cabin is located. There is usually a pretty steep jump in price from Obstructed Ocean View to the full Ocean View.
# 3 Not understanding Cruise Line Cancellation Penalties. If you book a cruise and the full payment is required at the time of booking, then you are already within the timeframe in which cancellations are penalized. When you book online, you are fully responsible for knowing the cancellation policy of the cruise line and of the agency you are booking through. Cruisedeals.com does not charge any admin fees for cancellations, but we required to follow the cruise lines policies. Some other agencies charge booking and cancellation fees on top of the cruise lines policies, so you need to be aware of those as well. Cruise line penalties usually start around 80 days prior to the sail date. Adding Travel Insurance is the best way to reduce the risk of being penalized for last minute cancellations.
#4 Not Understanding what it means to book a Guarantee. When people book a cruise online and do not get a cabin assignment at the time of booking or they book an Inside or Ocean View Guarantee they sometimes do not understand what they are booking. A Guarantee means that you are Guaranteed at least that category of cabin depending on availability. So it leaves you opened to getting upgraded, but because you are giving the cruise line the ability to assign your cabin that once it is assigned the cruise line will not move it for you. This is usually the way to get the best deal, but you give up control of location for the low price and the hopes for a “free” upgrade.
#5 Not giving themselves enough time to get to the pier when they book their flights. Every port and airport is different so you need to find out what are the recommended arrival and departure times for flights for that sailing prior to arranging your flights. You have to be to the pier 2.5 hours prior to the cruise ship departing.
#6 Bonus Offers: A growing online trend is great bonuses like Onboard Credits and Free Gratuities being offered by Online Travel Agencies. These bonus offers set online agency’s deals apart from the cruise lines offers. These offers can lower the total price of your cruise when booking online, but these bonus offers can also be confusing. Many of these bonus offers only apply to certain cabin categories like only applying to balcony and suite. When booking online, make sure that the cabin you are booking gets the bonus offer. If it is confusing, call in to speak with an agent. If you feel the site was misleading, then move on to another online cruise agency.
#7 Coupon Books: Coupon Books vs. OnBoard Credits – The Coupon Books are advertised as savings up to $400… if you are choosing between coupon books and onboard credits which is actually cash to spend on board… then take the deal with On Board Credits.
#8 Early Booking Savers – If you are booking Carnival Cruises a few months prior to the cruise, the lowest rate offered is a rate that requires a non-refundable deposit. The early saver rate is about 20% less than the other rates and gives the consumer the guarantee that if the rate drops. I think the rate and guarantee is worth the non-refundable deposit. As with any booking, I recommend buying travel insurance at time of deposit to protect your investment and yourself
Happy Sailing ~ Rich Tucker