Guide to booking a cruise online

Finding the right cruise at a great price online can be challenging.

Guide to booking a cruise online

There’s never been a better time to take the plunge and book your first cruise holiday. Whether you’re a cruise virgin or an old hand at high seas holidays, finding the right cruise at a great price online can be challenging. Here are our top tips on how to go about it.

1. Finalise your budget

Your budget should include the cost of the cruise, any flights or visas you might need, and spending money. Most ships are not ‘all-inclusive’ except at the luxury end of the scale, so you will need to account for extras, including shore excursions, soft drinks, alcohol and more. The type of stateroom you choose will also be a major factor in your budget, with inside accommodation costing less than anything with an ocean view.

2. Choose where to cruise

There are many places in the world where you can cruise. However, some destinations, such as Alaska, have seasons, while others, such as Europe’s rivers, can be enjoyed year-round. Another determining factor on where to cruise will be the weather and the type of cruising experience you’re seeking – whether it’s a beach-type holiday or something more cultural with sightseeing.

3. Check out cruise lines and ships

If you can’t decided between two locations, working out which ships go to those locations, the dates of the cruises and the difference in fares can help. Also remember that not all ships are equal; different types of ships within a single cruise line can make a difference to the number of people on board and the facilities on offer. Study cruise line websites for detailed information and check out ship profiles and reviews on websites, such as, to help with the decision process.

4. When to go

Fares can also differ depending on when you want to cruise. Take Alaska, for example, where cruises often cost less during the ‘shoulder season’, which is early May or early September. Consider avoiding peak season, holiday seasons and school holiday periods, which can attract higher prices, with the latter also resulting in more kids on board. Cruising completely off peak in a region can also save you money.

5. Fares

Once you have in mind a specific ship, itinerary and a time to cruise, sign up with your cruise lines of choice and for newsletters from cruise websites, such as, and reputable cruise travel agents so you can be kept informed and perhaps score a bargain.

6. Booking online

If you decide to go it alone when booking, check the cost of your cruise directly with the cruise line you’ve chosen, making a note of exactly what’s included in the fare. This includes whether a stateroom number is guaranteed, whether any transfers and flights are included, and payment and cancellation policies. Then compare the same cruise with online travel agencies, again checking exactly what’s included. Remember that booking early or late can also save you money.

To find out more about cruising or to find the cruise of your dreams within your budget, visit


    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Mar 2015
    Don't forget the gratuities which most ships add to your final account on board. These can amount to a considerable sum - can't remember the daily amount of 'gratuity' we got caught with on our last cruise but consider $10 per day per person, so for couple on a 14 night cruise, this can amount to an additional $280 of unplanned expenditure. Check with the shipping line or agent as to what the amount is and factor that into your spending.
    29th Mar 2015
    We always cancel our gratuities - or at least one of us does - there is only one sateroom to clean etc. If we find particular good service from one person we give dir3ectly - all the cruise ships we have been on allow this

    21st Mar 2015
    Recently booked a Mediterranean cruise and the travel agent wanted to Know if we would pay the gratuities in advance they being something like $900.00 plus for this 14 day cruise. Obviously I didn't but it is something I will sort out when we are on board.
    21st Mar 2015
    Some lines bury the gratuities in the fare while others don't.
    I just did a trip with Celebrity Solstice where my fare had gratuities paid but this wasn't honoured once I was on the ship and despite our protest we were charged $24 US per day.
    P and O and Princess include it in the fare whereas Royal Caribbean and others add it on.
    21st Mar 2015
    Some of the Cruise Lines servicing Australia have now included the gratuities in the fares, this includes P & O and Princess so they cannot be avoided. Some Lines will charge gratuities if you book anytime dining on the basis that you will not have the same waiter so your gratuities can be shared around. However the best solution we have found is to go to the Reception/Pursers Desk within two days of joining the ship and ask to have the gratuities declined and that you will pay your own tips to your waiter, room attendant etc, You will invariably be asked to sign a form and then there will be no charges added to your bill. You are then free to tip whoever you wish, waiter, assistant waiter and room attendants usually. I do not tip barmen or bar waiters as they get the 15% gratuity attached to all drinks to share and I do not tip the Maitre 'd unless he has excelled himself with table selection/dining time etc. Your room attendant usually provides envelopes in your cabin on the last but one night and you can use these or any other envelope to pass on your tip in a discrete and dignified manner. AND just pay what YOU want and do not be pressed into paying the recommended amount.
    21st Mar 2015
    This is how it should be done
    21st Mar 2015
    Been on QM2 and Holland lines. You tell them on boarding that you are not paying gratuities. We choose to tip the people personally that make a difference to our trip.

    22nd Mar 2015
    I've just finished booking my 4th cruise online - no issues - also no gratuities sailing from Australia - told you can try and negotiate them away in US and Europe - going there next year so will let you know - always book when specials are on and bargain hard for on-board credits - I got nearly $1000 for a 42 day cruise to China/Japan. Once you have found a cruise liner you like stick with it as the more you cruise with them the better deals you get. Happy holidays everyone

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles