Do’s and Don’ts of Booking a Cruise
Every Day we talk to clients who have booked a portion of their cruise, without checking the additional important items such as airfare, pre and post hotel stays, & more. You may think you are saving a buck when booking yourself, but it is actually more costly when you do not book with a Travel Team Agent. Booking with a Travel Team Agent ensures you get the entire package pricing, such as airfare, hotels and more. By booking these independently, without going thru an agent, you could end up spending a lot more money.
Here are some more helpful tips:
Never book directly with the cruise line. When you book directly thru a cruiseline site, you will end up paying more than if you booked that same cruise with a Travel Team agent. The Travel Team offers discounts on all of the cruiselines prices, so contact the Travel Team (1-800-788-0829) before you book any cruise.
Do book your cruise early. This will usually get you the best price and the best choice of staterooms. Most cruises can be booked as far as 18 months in advance. Booking early also allows you get the best prices on airline flights and the best opportunity for getting nonstop flights and redeeming frequent flyer miles. This same advice also applies to most land vacations, including Mexico and the Caribbean, where the number of available nonstop flights is very limited and airline fares increase dramatically as planes fill up.
Do book your cruise with a cruise specialist. This is a situation where travelers can be penny-wise and dollar-foolish. Internet sites give you a number to call, but you will usually get a different person every time, who is not familiar with your booking and who has no real vested interest in you. Always book with a Travel Team cruise or vacation specialist who will get you the best value cruise / vacation based on your needs and expectations.
Do find out if there any large private groups on the sailing you have selected. In some instances, very large groups can appear to “take over” the ship. Some lounges may be closed for group functions, and dining reservations (or even dining times) may be changed to accommodate the group. Your cruise specialist at the Travel Team can help you to obtain this information.
Do review your booking confirmation carefully as soon as you receive it from your agent. Make sure all information is correct including names, ages, dates, stateroom number and fares. There is a charge for making changes after final payment.
Do review the cruise line’s General Information / Terms & Conditions. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy and documentation (passport) requirements.
Do notify your travel agent and / or the cruise line of any special requirements. This should be done as soon as possible. Most cruise lines require written notification at time of booking of any physical or mental disability which requires special accommodation, use of a wheelchair or medical treatment.
Do purchase travel insurance. Almost every travel agency requires travelers to sign a waiver if they do not purchase travel insurance. This is not a sales tool but rather a liability issue. Travel Team agents know that problems can arise and we are required to advise our clients at the time of booking. Cruise lines have very strict cancellation policies after final payment.
Do make sure you understand the TSA regulations for carry-on items if you fly. Go to TSA.Gov and click on the tab marked Travelers. Liquids are subject to the 3 ounce bottle or less; in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag.
Don’t pack medicines or valuables in your luggage. This applies both to airline check-in and cruise ship check-in. Take a small carry-on bag on the ship with these items and anything else you may need for the first afternoon on the ship.
Do arrive at the embarkation port at least one day early if you are flying. This will address most problems due to cancelled flights, missed connections and lost luggage. Travel insurance may cover you if you miss your cruise, but you want a vacation not a refund.
Don’t book early return flights on debarkation day. Most cruise lines advise you not to book flights before 12 noon. Cruise ships usually arrive around 7:00 AM and start unloading passengers by 8:30 AM. Certainly, if there are no problems with debarkation, it may be possible to make an early flight. Also, airports are jammed with cruise passengers, particularly during the winter months in Florida.
Do reserve shore excursions in advance. The most popular excursions fill up quickly. This can be done on the cruise line websites after you make final payment. Private excursions can be booked by speaking to a Travel Team agent.
Do make reservations for specialty restaurants as soon as you board the ship. This is the best way to get the day and time that you want, particularly for larger groups. Don’t forget to find out which night is “lobster night” in the main dining room. You probably won’t want to book the specialty restaurant on that night.
Don’t miss the ship. Last minute flights are very expensive. The cruise line will usually hold the ship if a ship-sponsored excursion is delayed returning to the ship. We suggest that you give yourself about two hours cushion if you are exploring the ports on your own
Do consider staying on the ship on port days. This is a great alternative on a port-intensive cruise or if you have previously been to a particular port many times. You may want to do some port shopping in the morning, return to the ship for lunch, and enjoy the ship facilities during the afternoon. Unless the weather is bad, the ship will be almost empty of passengers. You can use all the facilities that were too crowded on sea days like the pools, rock-climbing, miniature golf, etc.
Remember, the cruise specialists at the Travel Team can answer any questions you may have (Contact Cathy at 1-800-788-0829 ext. 222; Camille at ext. 228; & Wendy at ext. 229). We are here to make sure you have the best vacation possible at the most compettitive price. Happy Cruising!