What You Need To Know Before Booking A Cruise

With all the lingo and terminology in the cruise industry, a cruise vacation can seem overwhelming for a first timer. To put your mind at easy, we’ve put together a list of all the top questions travelers ask before booking a cruise.

What are room categories, and why do the same category have different rates?

There are essentially 4 different types of cabins on a ship. Inside (smallest room with no window), Outside/Oceanview (small window with view of outside), Balcony (full-sized window that opens to the outside) and a Suite (bigger room with a separate sleeping and living area that usually has more amenities)

When choosing a cabin type, think about your budget and how much time you will be spending in your room. Example: Would you rather go on a 7 night cruise and have an inside room or a 3-5 night cruise and stay in an ocean view or balcony? In addition, if you are planning on spending most of your time by the pool, taking advantage on board entertainment and off the ship at port of calls, you might be just as comfortable in a smaller cabin.

Price is determined by type of cabin, number of guests in a cabin (regardless of age) as well as location on the ship. Usually, higher decks mid ship are the most sought after locations, therefore, they have the highest fare. Fares are market driven and fluctuate in both directions, just like the stock market changes. Fares are also subject to given promotions at one time, so depending on which promotion you book under, the same exact cabin may have many different price points, depending on the promotion/fare chosen.

What is a guarantee stateroom?

A guarantee is an unassigned room on a ship, meaning you’ll have a stateroom in a desired category but, you’ll have to wait until closer to the sail date to actually get assigned to a specific cabin. You will know what accommodation type you are getting (inside, ocean view, balcony, etc), but not the actual room number.

Reserving a guaranteed stateroom is perfect if you are looking to get the absolute lowest fare for your stateroom on your cruise. Guaranteed staterooms give cruise lines a little flexibility so they reward cruisers who book guaranteed staterooms with a lower fare. Additionally, you are guaranteed the category that you booked or better. You will not be downgraded to an inferior category.

If knowing your exact room number and location on the ship is important to you, we suggest booking an assigned room. Keep in mind, booking a category that has an assigned room might mean the fare is higher.

When is the best time to book a cruise?

Because cruise pricing changes frequently, the best time to book a cruise is different every day. To help you get the best deal, here are our suggestions on when to book a cruise:

Wave season: The time period between the beginning of January through the end of March where cruise lines roll out their best promotions. AffordableTours.com puts all these offers in one easy place so you can search for the best cruise for you.

October (Cruise month): Many very good promotions are available in October, which is CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) cruise month.

Monthly promotions and exclusive deals from AffordableTours.com: Because of our relationship with all major cruise lines, throughout the year we are able to offer our cruisers lower rates or extra amenities that they won’t be able to find anywhere else. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook to be the first to know about these offers.

Book early: Locking in the exact ship, itinerary, dates and stateroom category you prefer early will give you more time to relax and prepare for your cruise. Your early planning will also allow you to set up a payment plan before final payment, so you don’t have to scramble to pay all at once.

Do all cruises have port charges and taxes? Are they included in the price I see?

All the prices you see on all websites are per person (regardless of age) based on double occupancy and do not include taxes, fees or port charges. All cruise lines charge these taxes and fees and they are mandatory for each and every cruiser, regardless of your country of embarkation. You will see a breakdown of all additional mandatory fees when you get your free quote from your travel consultant.

What is a single supplement?

Regular cruise fares are based on a per person, double occupancy of a cabin or stateroom. A single supplement is the additional charge on top of the cruise fare for a passenger traveling alone in a stateroom that was designed for double occupancy. This surcharge can be anywhere from 10% of the fare, all the way up to 100% of the fare.

Today, more and more cruise lines are making their ships and fares more solo traveler friendly. Many are adding single person staterooms which would have no surcharge and are the perfect size for one person (book early, space is limited). Some cruise lines offer discounts or specials throughout the year for solo travelers, where certain cabin categories or itineraries won’t charge single supplements. To stay up to day on offers for single cruisers, check out our solo traveler page.

What are gratuities, and are they mandatory?

Gratuities, also known as tips, service charges or hotel charges, are technically a voluntary expression of thanks given to the dedicated, front line and behind the scenes staff during your cruise.

Tipping etiquette varies among cruise lines. Some luxury cruise lines institute a ‘no-tipping’ policy or a ‘tips are included in your fare’ policy. Other cruise lines give a suggested amount, per passenger (even children), per sailing night.

Most cruise companies place this automatic service charges on passengers’ shipboard accounts, or conveniently offer the option for prepaid gratuities at booking. Running around the ship, handing out tip envelopes at the end of your cruise is a thing of the past.

Simply put, gratuities should not be viewed as an “optional extra,” but more as a required service fee that goes directly to the hard working staff that makes your cruise vacation so enjoyable.

We suggest sticking to automated tipping, which can sometimes be prepaid upfront before your sailing even begins.

Special Note: If you feel that this service charge should be adjusted, either increased or decreased, due to the service you received on board, simply speak with guest services a day or two before the end of the cruise. Just make sure you request any adjustments before disembarking.

When planning your cruise vacation budget, make sure you factor in the estimated cost of gratuities for your sailing.

What is onboard credit, how can I use it, when do I get it?

Onboard credit, or OBC, is spending money you can conveniently use during your cruise on a wide array of purchases and experiences. Usually, this money has to be spent on the boat, but certain cruise lines will allow you to use it on days they are docked at their private beaches or islands.

There are several ways to receive onboard credit, but the most common way is during a booking promotion. Certain sailings and itineraries that you can find on our website will offer a specific amount of onboard credit per stateroom or per person. This is free money you get, just for booking your cruise!

Special Note: In most cases, if you don’t use your onboard credit, it is non-refundable. So we suggest to make sure to spend it all before disembarkation day. Here are some ways you can use your OBC.

Are cruises all-inclusive?

Since there are so many different cruise lines, you can choose if you want a more inclusive fare, carrying a more upfront investment, or would rather have a basic fare and pay as you go onboard. Depending on what activities, meals, and excursions you would like to participate in, it might be a better value to cruise with an all-inclusive cruise line.

Special Note: Even most all-inclusive cruises lines have a handful of activities that will be an extra charge, most notability are spa treatments and extremely fancy alcoholic beverages. When booking, give your expectations to your travel consultant and they can suggest whether an all-inclusive cruise would be the best value for you.

Can I cruise when pregnant and what documentation do I need?

Yes! If you are healthy and have received permission from your doctor, most cruise lines will have no problem with you cruising with them, as long as you have not entered your 24th week of pregnancy. This policy is in place because most cruise lines do not have the facilities or equipment to deliver or care for a baby that is born premature. Make sure you alert your travel consultant if you are expecting before booking your cruise.

I have dietary restrictions, is cruising right for me?

Most cruise lines are able to accommodate most dietary restrictions. Just be sure to let your travel consultant know while you are booking and they will give you all the details on how to make sure the cruise line is notified.

In addition to letting your travel consultant know (they will add it to the booking), also be sure to let your waiter or maître d’ know once you are onboard. Usually, one reminder (cross-referenced with your booking) is enough.

More questions before booking a cruise? Call us 7 days a week to speak with an expert Cruise Consultant: 1-800-627-3753