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Looking to book a cheap cruise but do not know where to start?
Thanks to the internet, there are seemingly endless resources to help you plan a cruise vacation. There are ship tours on YouTube, Reddit forums, shore excursion reviews, Facebook groups, and more. These, however, do not really help when it comes to the initial booking process.
If you are looking to snag the best possible fare, you are probably wondering what website will give you the best rate. While the rates themselves might not vary too much, you may find that certain websites offer promotions for onboard credit for you to spend on cruise add-ons. Others will have a direct phone number for you to reach out and speak with an agent if you have any questions prior to booking or leading up to the cruise.
Here are 20 different websites where you can book your upcoming cruise vacation.
The cruise line’s website
If you know which cruise line you want to book with, you can head to their website to book directly with them.
As soon as you place the deposit, you will gain access to the cruise line’s online planning portal, which is where you can browse cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, specialty dining restaurants, drink packages, and more. It is a great option for those who like a simple, streamlined process. Plus, it is easier to make changes after booking if you need to.
Other websites, however, will help you search multiple cruise lines at once. If you are not sure whether you want to sail with, for instance, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian, you will save time by utilizing a third party’s search tool, rather than browsing each website yourself. Sometimes, they may even offer better booking incentives.
Expedia is an online travel agency (OTA) that can be used for more than booking cruises. Here, you can also browse airfare, hotels, car rentals, and other vacation packages that bundle multiple travel expenses together.
One of the largest drawbacks of using Expedia to book your cruise is that they do not offer any kind of price guarantee. If, for instance, you booked directly with Royal Caribbean and later noticed that your fare dropped prior to final payment, you could call and have them honor the lower price. This cannot be done through Expedia.
That being said, they may offer promotions that make it worth losing that guarantee. Plus, you can search every cruise line and departure port. Let’s say that you want to sail from Miami within a specific date range. Expedia will filter the results and give you multiple options!
As we have mentioned, some online travel agencies provide onboard credit as an incentive to get you to book with them. You do, however, need to make sure that you read the fine print.
Currently, Cruises.com is offering “up to $2,000 cash back [or] up to $1,500 to spend onboard or [a] Visa prepaid card.” When reading the fine print of this offer, you realize that the total amount received is based on how much you spend.
If you spend $500, you will only receive $25, while those who spend $20,000 will get the advertised $1,500. Regardless, even if your total fare cost around $1,500, the extra $100 is essentially free cruise money!
A pro to booking with Cruises.com is that they offer a Best Price Guarantee program. If you find a lower price on the same cruise from a competitor, they will match it. They also have their own loyalty program that rewards those who continue to book with them.
After booking one vacation with Cruises.com, you will reach the Silver Club tier, which includes a $25 shore excursion voucher and $25 resort for a day voucher, as well either onboard spending money, a Visa prepaid card, or cash back.
If you are familiar with Google Flights and their price tracking feature, you will appreciate that Cruise Critic tracks the price of cruise fares, too. Under each itinerary, you can see the 90-day trends for the price, which may help you gauge whether or not you want to wait or go ahead and book it. Plus, they will tell you when the most expensive and least expensive fares for the itinerary were found.
You cannot, however, directly book with Cruise Critic. Their search page yields results from other online travel agencies, such as Priceline, Cruisesonly, and CruiseDirect, which allows you to compare prices before being transferred to their website. That means that you will have to familiarize yourself with the other party’s booking terms and conditions.
In addition to their search page, you can read ship reviews and get other tips.
Cruise.com claims to be “one of the internet’s largest cruise specialists.” On their website, you will find offers for just about every mainstream cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and MSC Cruises.
However, like with all online travel agencies, it is important to read into the fine print of each offer, as you will rarely be eligible for the total advertised benefits. Right now, for instance, Crusies.com is offering a promotion for free gratuities, as well as up to $1,700 in onboard credit, on select Royal Caribbean itineraries. The two are not combinable, though.
Per the the terms and conditions, “The Onboard Spending per Cabin is based on the averaged cruise fare for passengers 1 & 2 in the cabin…The calculation of the cruise fare that determines the onboard credit amount excludes government fees, fuel surcharges, hotel, transfers, airfare, insurance and other fare items.” To get the full $1,700, you would have to spend over $15,001 per person.
Moreover, they do not have a price guarantee program. A first-time user might find the website to be a bit chaotic, too.
CruiseCompete.com is great for those who want to book via a travel agent but are not sure where to begin. While the interface is a bit complicated to use at first, you are able to select your ship and sail date to receive quotes from multiple travel agencies. Then, you will be responsible to reaching out to them to continue the booking process.
You are able to browse multiple cruise lines before selecting which ship and itinerary best suits your needs. To see the price, however, you will have to make an account!
Read more: Why you should book a cruise through a travel agent
Travelocity is actually owned by the same company who owns Expedia; therefore, the operating system is similar, and you will not find any difference in pricing or offers. Orbitz is another company owned by the Expedia Group that you can book cruises online with.
Like Expedia, you will not be charged any extra booking fees. After booking the cruise, you will be able to search for your flights and pre-cruise hotel using a similar interface.
Note that some previous users of Travelocity claimed that their cancellation policies were difficult to understand. As with any online travel agency, make sure you read into all of the fine print of your booking terms prior to placing a deposit.
Technically, Cheap Caribbean focuses on land-based vacations to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. It is a great resource for those who want to take a trip to an all-inclusive resort and bundle their hotel with airfare.
That being said, you can also book cruises to the Caribbean and other destinations across the globe and rest assured knowing that they offer a 110% Best Pice Guarantee program. Note, though, it is only valid 48 hours after booking. If you find a lower rate two months later, you will not be able to get the 110% refund. You may be able to snag a promotional offer that includes onboard credit, too.
They also charge a processing fee when booking that is stated in the terms and conditions. While it is only about $25, it is something that you should consider when weighing which website to book your cruise through.
Like the website’s name indicates, Cruisewatch.com watches the pricing for each cruise to help you book your fare at the best possible time. To see the price prediction, you will have to set up a free account; however, you will also get email alerts when your tracked cruise drops in price.
While there is no denying that being able to see the past history and future predictions of a cruise fare is a nice benefit, Cruisewatch’s terms and conditions states, “You are advised that the travel services that you purchase are subject to supplemental price increases that may be imposed after the date of purchase.”
“Post-purchase price increases may be applied due to additional costs imposed by an airline, cruise line or government. You agree to pay additional sums to offset increased fees, fuel surcharges, taxes, fluctuations in foreign exchange rates or any combination thereof. You agree that Cruisewatch may charge your credit card on file to pay for any post-purchase price increase.”
Likewise, they do not seem to offer many promotional incentives. If you are hoping to snag some onboard credit, you will be better off booking elsewhere.
Delta SkyMiles Cruises
Did you know that you can book cruises through certain airlines and accumulate miles that you can later redeem for airfare? In addition to the miles you get per dollar spent, you may find a promotion where you can get a bonus amount of miles! Delta, for instance, states that you can earn at least 1,500 miles on any cruise booking; however, you have the opportunity to get up to 30,000 if you stay in a suite or balcony on a longer sailings.
Plus, they offer a 110% Price Match Guarantee, which means that if you find a lower price within 48 hours after booking in U.S. dollars, they will refund you a 110% of the difference.
To get the most value out of booking with Delta Airlines, you will want to be a SkyMiles member who flies enough to utilize the mileage bonus. And per their terms and conditions, each booking is subject to a $24.99 processing fee.
American Airlines Cruises
If you are an AAdvantage member instead of a SkyMiles member, you may prefer to make a cruise booking through American Airlines. Regular AAdvantage members will get 1 mile per $1 spent, while those with AAdvantage credit cards will get 2 miles per $1 spent. Plus, each mile earned will be counted towards your loyalty status, meaning that booking a cruise will help you earn higher status with the airline!
Like with Delta, you will earn bonus miles on each booking that is dependent on the duration of the cruise, as well as your selected cabin category. Moreover, American Airlines has the same 48 hour 110% Price Match Guarantee program and $24.99 processing fee.
United MileagePlus members will be glad to hear that United has an online cruise booking portal, too, and they offer the same 110% Price Match Guarantee as American and Delta, as well as $24.99 processing fee.
However, you have the opportunity to earn up to 45,000 is you are a MileagePlus member with a United branded credit card.
Those without a credit card can still earn up to 25,000 miles per booking that can be redeemed for future United flights or cruise vacations. If you book an interior or ocean view cabin, you will get 2 miles per $1, while a balcony or suite increases the miles to 4 per $1 spent.
Note that while you can use United miles to book cruises, the miles go further if you use them on reward flights. Currently, their website advertises that you can book an ocean view room for a 4-night cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas for 38,857 miles. The cash rate for this same cruise and stateroom is $272.
Additionally, if you hold Premier status, you will get exclusive onboard benefits on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas.
Marriott Bonvoy Cruises
Marriott’s partnership with Cruise for Points allows Bonvoy members to book cruises to earn points for future hotel stays. This might be more appealing if you are not part of any airline reward programs! And similar to United, you can elect to book a cruise using accumulated Bonvoy points.
You can earn 3 points per $1 spent to get up to 30,000 points per booking. Those who have a Chase Marriott Bonvoy credit card will earn an additional 2 points per $1 spent. Plus, they have a 110% Best Price Guarantee program.
They, too, will charge a $24.99 processing fee at the time of booking.
CruisesOnly‘s interface is similar to Cruises.com because they are both owned by World Travel Holdings, and both websites offer similar pricing and perks like Expedia and Travelocity.
They, too, have a loyalty program that rewards returning customers for booking with them, and the tiers and benefits are the same as though for Cruises.com. Additionally, they have a similar 110% price difference guarantee that many other online travel agencies offer.
That being said, they do have travel experts available 24/7, which is a great benefit for first-time cruises who do not know where to start.
Tripadvisor can be used for more than just reviews of restaurants and hotels!
In fact, when going through the cruise search process on Tripadvisor, you are able to read reviews of the ship and see photos from past guests. This means that you will not be forced to open up another Google search tab!
You, however, are unable to book directly through Tripadvisor. When looking at any given cruise, you will be shown pricing from multiple different websites, including the cruise line’s website.
You will be redirected to another website when you are ready to continue the booking process, which means that you will need to read into the other party’s terms, conditions, and ongoing promotions prior to placing your deposit.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to book through Costco if you are not a member. Memberships starts at $60 per year for those who are interested.
If you upgrade to the Executive membership for $120, you will be able to 2% cash back on all of your purchases through Costco Travel, which can be used for vacation packages, hotels, rental cars, and cruises.
Oftentimes, you will be able to get onboard credit or a Costco shop card to use on future warehouse purchases, too. Note that when the booking includes a shop card, it will arrive via email one to two weeks after the conclusion of the cruise.
Unlike Expedia or other larger online travel agencies, CruiseDirect only focuses on cruises. That means that you will have to go elsewhere when you are ready to search for airfare or pre-cruise accommodations.
However, if you are not sure whether or not you are ready to commit to your cruise vacation, CruiseDirect offers free holds. And with their CruiseDirect 100% Guarantee, they will match a lower price if you find one online within 24 hours after booking.
Promotions vary based on cruise line and sailing, so you will want to make sure you check the promotional details for any cruises that you are debating between. Onboard credit for MSC, for instance, is not always the same as the onboard credit offered on Royal Caribbean cruises.
Priceline is similar to other online travel agencies in that they offer a 110% Best Price Guarantee program. If you can find a lower rate elsewhere within 48 hours, they will refund 110% of the difference.
They also offer onboard credit promotions from time to time. You will just want to ensure that you read the fine print. While they may advertise up to $1,000 in credit, you might have to spend upwards of $20,000 on the fare to qualify for the full amount.
Unfortunately, you cannot name your own price when it comes to a cruise!