1. Use a travel agent who specializes in cruises. They know way more than you can ever find out online about a cruise ship, etc. Plus, they are privvy to upgrades and incentives they can pass on to valued clients. www.asta.org or www.clia.org.
2. Book early (preferably during “wave season,” which is January through March. The best deals, such as cabin upgrades and free add-on air, are offered during this time.
3. Look for all-inclusive. Some prices might seem high to you until you realize they cover everything. Tips, shore excursions, and beverages can really add up during a ten-day cruise. Holland America rates usually include tips and Crystal Cruises rates are all-inclusive.
4. Skip the add-ons. Don’t pay to upgrade to the “specialty” restaurant. It’s not worth it. The food is outstanding in the dining room. Don’t buy a beverage card. Instead, drink tea, coffee, and water. They’re better for you! Don’t go into the casino, spa, or attend an art auction. They are notorious “at sea rip offs.”
5. Take advantage of repositioning cruises to get the BEST rates.
6. Be savvy about shore excursions. You are often better off exploring on your own or using a local tour company rather than the shore excursion(s) offered by the cruise line.
8. Fill out your documents in advance (boarding documents, etc).
9. Make reservations ASAP. If there is something you absolutely must do, such as a specialty restaurant dining experience or a spa treatment, be sure to book within minutes of boarding the ship (or beforehand if possible) as the best times book up fast. The least busy times will be when the ship is in port.
10. Make sure you pick the best cruising experience for you. If you’ve never cruised before, be sure to start with a short cruise in case you hate it or discover you suffer seasickness. Be sure to pick the right-sized ship, destination, time of year, shore excursions, etc. for you. This is where having an experienced cruise agent comes in handy.