Why choose a cruise?
Cruise holidays have exploded in popularity over the last few years and are far and away the fastest growing sector of the travel industry.
Much of that popularity comes from the fact that cruises offer the chance to visit lots of interesting destinations, but without the hassle of having to keep packing up your things and fighting your way through crowded airports.
On top of that, cruises can be incredibly good value because so much is included in the basic price. You typically get all your accommodation, food and entertainment included, plus have the convenience of being transported to a new port every day.
We also have lots of great packages which include extras like flight and hotel stays before and after your cruise.
Which destinations are most popular?
Traditional cruising regions like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean remain hugely popular because of their accessible locations, predictable weather and range of ports, but there are an almost limitless number of possible destinations and the likes of Northern Europe, Alaska and South America have seen a big increase in popularity in recent years.
The popularity of cruising is also currently skyrocketing in Asia and Australasia and these look like becoming increasingly significant destinations, alongside more niche destinations like Greenland, Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands.
What does a cruise fare include?
The basic cruise fare includes the cruise itself, all your accommodation, most of your entertainment and most of your food. Some lines also include some or all of your drinks, but others require you to purchase drinks separately.
The only things that you pay extra for are excursions off the ship, incidentals such as internet access, photos and spa treatments, and certain premium dining and entertainment options.
Bear in mind that a lot of cruise lines have a compulsory tipping policy and some require you to pre-pay those gratuities. If so, this will be made clear to you at the time of booking.
Do cruises always start and end in the same place?
Most cruises are a round-trip and will return to the same port from which they departed.
Sometimes however cruise lines offer one-way trips which start and end in different ports, particularly at the beginning and end of seasons when a ship is being repositioned to a new region.
We also offer a number of cruise and stay packages which allow you to combine a cruise with one or more hotel stays at the beginning or end of your trip.
Are cruise ships family friendly?
It depends on the ship, but a good number are extremely family friendly and offer a raft of activities and entertainment for children of all ages.
This is where choosing the right cruise line is important as most have fairly clearly defined styles and some are very welcoming to families whilst others are deliberately much more focussed towards older travellers.
Is bad weather a problem?
It is rare to find cases of cruises being severely disrupted by bad weather, not least since most cruises are scheduled to coincide with the summer months of whichever destinations they are cruising to. Modern ships are very well equipped to cope with most extremes of weather and are capable of operating normally in all but the heaviest of winds.
Some movement of the ship will inevitably be felt in heavy seas, but major problems are rare and diversions are generally only required to avoid extreme conditions such as hurricanes.
Will I get seasick?
This is one of the most common questions that we get asked, but is normally far less of an issue than many people fear. Modern cruise ships are so large that they are much less affected by the movement of the sea than smaller boats. In addition, they utilise advanced stabilisation technology to prevent the ship from moving around unduly.
In calm seas, most people barely notice any movement at all, and it is rare for people with no predisposition to motion sickness to feel any adverse effects.
In heavier seas, some movement of the ship will be felt, but most people quickly get used to this and it is comparatively rare to find cases of seasickness which cannot be managed by the kinds of common remedies available from most pharmacies.
If you tend to suffer from motion sickness, the best advice is to look for cruises which are likely to have good weather, and pick a cabin as near to the middle of the ship as possible as this is where there will be least movement.
When is the best time to go?
It really depends where you want to go. Virtually all ships operate year round so it's never hard to find a cruise that fits in with your availability, but different destinations are more popular at different times of year.
You will for example find far more Mediterranean and Northern European cruises in the European summer than you will in the winter, and certain destinations like Alaska and Antarctica are only accessible at certain times of year because of the weather conditions.
Beyond that, school holidays tend to be the most heavily booked periods and therefore be the most expensive, whilst the edges of seasons where the weather is likely to be less good (or where the ship is being repositioned from one region to another) tend to be cheaper.
The time of year also dictates who you can expect to find onboard as there will inevitably be more families and younger cruisers during peak holiday periods and a greater number of older cruisers and retirees at more off peak times.
Which line should I choose?
Whilst a lot of cruise lines have many features in common, each has its own style and personality and the differences can be quite significant. It is therefore worth spending a few minutes choosing the line that will suit you best.
Do you for example want a cheap holiday or are you prepared to pay more for a bit of luxury? Do you enjoy getting dressed up for formal occasions or do you prefer something more casual? Do you want a traditional ship or a more modern one? Do you want a family friendly cruise or something that is more adult oriented?
Visit the 'Compare lines' section of the site for help choosing the one that's right for you.
Which ship should I choose?
There are an incredible variety of different cruise ships to choose from, and that number increases every year as the top lines continue their quest to outdo each other with ever larger and more luxurious additions to their fleets. Many of the best ships are quite similar in lots of ways, but there are some significant differences that are worth bearing in mind.
Firstly, ships vary dramatically in size. The biggest ships in the world can accomodate upwards of 5,000 guests, whilst the smallest carry closer to 100. Larger ships are more like floating cities and offer unrivalled space and comfort, whilst smaller ones obviously have a much more intimate atmosphere and bring you closer to the sea.
Secondly, different ships have very different facilities. Those aimed at a younger market have very extensive leisure facilities like swimming pools, sports courts, climbing walls and so on, whilst those aimed at an older market tend to focus more on the quality of their dining and entertainment options.
Visit the 'Explore ships' section of the site to compare the different options.
How big are the cabins?
As cruise ships have got bigger and more elaborate, so too have the individual cabins. Whilst space is obviously at a premium on board, people are often surprised at how spacious modern cabins can be, particularly if you treat yourself to a balcony cabin or a suite.
Most cabins have either a double or twin beds (often the beds can be combined or separated as required) and all are en suite with either a shower or a bath. In addition, some cabins have additional sofa or pull down beds which can accommodate one or two extra guests (or sometimes more in the case of family rooms or bigger suites).
What types of cabin are available?
Cruise ships normally offer up to four different types of cabins.
The cheapest tend to be inside cabins which have no window at all, or occasionally a window facing an internal corridor. Next cheapest are oceanview cabins which look out to sea and have either a porthole or a window. Above that come balcony cabins which have a private balcony, usually accessible by French doors.
Most expensive are suites which are usually the biggest rooms with the most lavish facilities. Most suites have balconies, but on older ships you sometimes find suites with just a window.
Visit the 'Cabin guru' section of the site to explore things in more detail.
How safe are cruise ships?
Modern cruise ships are incredibly safe and are designed to cope with a range of eventualities such as breakdowns, fires and bad weather. It is highly unlikely that you will experience any safety issues at all, never mind any kind of major incident like an evacuation, but safety rules have been tightened dramatically in recent years and all cruise ships run mandatory safety drills at the beginning of each cruise.
Whilst on board, most ships are very safe for children of all ages, subject to the usual common sense advice about proper supervision, and outside decks and balconies always have railings or walls.
What is the food like?
Not so long ago a lot of cruise lines marketed themselves mainly on the quantity of food available on board. More recently, the focus has shifted from quantity to quality, and a lot of lines now hire big name chefs to design their restaurant menus.
Almost every ship offers a range of dining options covering everything from fine dining to all you can eat buffets, and many offer ten or more different restaurants for you to choose from. Most food is included in the basic cruise fare, although an increasing number of lines now offer additional premium dining options for an extra charge.
Do I have to eat at the same time every night?
Not usually. One of the biggest changes in the cruise industry over the past decade has been a massive increase in the range and flexibility of dining options available. It used to be that most guests were assigned to one of two fixed dinner sittings and were obligated to turn up at the same time every night. That is generally no longer the case.
Fixed seating dining is still available for those that want it, but most lines have now introduced some form of flexible dining that allows you to book different times on different nights, or simply to turn up without a booking at all.
Most lines also offer a range of alternatives to the main dining room, ranging from more casual buffets to high end speciality restaurants.
Are food and drinks expensive?
Normally most, if not all, of your food is included in the price of the cruise so you can enjoy as much as you like without having to worry about spending any more. Extra charges typically only apply for speciality restaurants and a few other optional extras and are easily avoided if you are happy sticking with the inclusive options.
Drinks can be relatively expensive if purchased individually, although lines often offer all-inclusive packages, either included in the price of the cruise or available to purchase separately. This can be a convenient way of buying your drinks, but such packages are rarely cheap so you need to drink a fair amount to get full value out of the deal.
Can I eat in different restaurants?
Yes, absolutely. Most ships have several different restaurants to choose from, ranging from fine dining to all you can eat buffets, and it's up to you what you have when.
Some speciality restaurants may attract an additional charge, and a handful may be limited to suite guests, but otherwise there's nothing to stop you eating at a different place each night.
Do I have to share a table at dinner?
Not usually. A lot of people are put off cruising by the misconception that they might be forced to share a table with other guests. In fact, most cruise dining rooms now operate just like normal restaurants and if you want a table for two that's exactly what you'll get.
Equally if you want to share a bigger table with friends or family, or with other guests, that's not a problem either and staff are normally happy to facilitate whatever arrangement you're after as long as there is space.
Can dietary requirements be catered for?
Most cruise lines offer a lot of flexibility over dining options and are happy to cater for specific dietary requirements as long as notified in advance. Naturally your choice of restaurants onboard may be slightly more limited if you have very strict requirements, but most of the time you will at least be able to get meals cooked to order in the main dining room.
Common dietary requirements like low sugar items for diabetics are often available as part of the normal menu without any need to pre-order.
Is room service available?
Almost all cruise ships offer room service during the day, and a lot offer a 24 hour service. Basic items are normally free, but premium items can be chargeable and sometimes a service charge is imposed for deliveries after a certain time.
What leisure facilities are available?
The vast majority of ships feature an impressive array of leisure facilities including swimming pools, whirlpools, fitness centres and spas, and on larger vessels it is not uncommon to find climbing walls, running tracks, sports courts, bowling alleys and ice rinks.
What is the entertainment like?
One of the great things about cruise holidays is the amount of variety on offer. If you want be left in peace to do your own thing that's absolutely fine, but if you are searching for entertainment you'll never have far to look.
The centrepiece of most cruise ships' entertainment is the nightly theatre show, many of which are of an incredibly high quality and feature well known entertainers, singers and musicians.
On top of that, you will find films, talks, quizzes, demonstrations and tours, plus a range of musical entertainment and performances. Most bigger ships also offer a vibrant night life with plenty of bars, nightclubs and casinos to choose from.
Are there any shops onboard?
Almost all cruise ships have at least some kind of shops on board for basic necessities, gifts and souvenirs, and on bigger ships it is not uncommon to find a range of outlets selling everything from jewellery to fashion.
A number of ships even host art auctions, often showcasing work from respected international artists.
Are cruise ships easy to get around?
Although modern cruise ships can be incredibly large, they are also very carefully designed and incorporate a lot of elevators and other features designed to make it as easy as possible to get where you need to go.
It sometimes takes a few minutes to walk from one end of the ship to the other, but people rarely find this a problem and facilities are carefully grouped to ensure that you don't have too far to go.
Do cruise ships have a dress code?
Traditionally, cruise ship guests were required to adhere to fairly strict dress codes and it was not uncommon to find people wearing dinner jackets and cocktail dresses to dinner every night. As times have changed, most cruise lines have substantially relaxed their dress codes and formality is now generally reserved for special occasions.
Save for a handful of the more traditional lines, smart casual is the norm most of the time in the evenings, although a lot of lines have the occasional formal night to give people the opportunity to dress up if they want to.
Beach and leisurewear is of course perfectly acceptable in pool areas and when using sports facilities, and most ships have at least one or two casual dining options for those that don't want to dress up at all.
How many staff are there?
To maintain the high service levels that most cruise lines pride themselves on, huge numbers of staff are required. In addition to the navigation and engineering staff, there are a small army of chefs, waiters, stateroom attendants, entertainers and more.
Often this can mean that there are well over 1,000 staff on larger ships and the very top lines have a ratio approaching one member of staff for every two guests.
How do I pay for purchases onboard?
Most ships operate a completely cashless system whereby all purchases are charged to your onboard account using your room key. You then simply settle up your account at the end of the cruise in the same way that you would when checking out of a hotel.
If you require cash for anything, ATMs and currency exchange facilities are widely available.
Are cruise ships crowded?
One thing which often puts off would-be cruisers is the perception that they may be stuck on a crowded ship with hundreds of other guests in close proximity.
In fact, modern cruise ships are much more spacious than you might imagine and offer such an incredible range of facilities that there's nearly always plenty of space to go around and it's entirely up to you whether you want to mix with other people or find a quiet corner of the ship to yourself.
Are cruise ships busier at certain times of year?
Because cruise ships tend to operate at close to full capacity most of the time, there isn't much of a difference in overall levels of busyness. There can however be a big difference in the identity of your fellow passengers depending on when you sail.
During peak vacation periods, and particularly during school holidays, there tends to be a much younger crowd on board and a much greater proportion of families, whilst in more off-peak times the balance shifts much more towards older travellers who are either retired or have more flexibility over their holiday dates.
Can I smoke onboard?
No lines have yet totally banned smoking, but most have tightened up their rules a fair bit over the past few years.
At a bare minimum you will find at least one designated outdoor smoking area, and more on bigger ships. In addition, some lines allow smoking in a limited number of indoor venues, and a handful still permit smoking in some cabins and on cabin balconies.
What languages are spoken?
English is the primary language on board most cruise ships, but guests come from every corner of the globe so you can expect to hear a range of different languages being spoken and a large proportion of cruise ship staff are multi-lingual.
Usually announcements are made in English and then repeated in other languages if required.
How easy is it to meet new people?
A lot of guests are happy keeping themselves to themselves and socialising mainly with their own travelling companions. Cruise ships are however very friendly places so it is very easy to meet new people if you want to.
You can choose to share a table with other guests at dinner and there are numerous drinks and other events where it is easy to mix with fellow travellers.
How much will I need to spend onboard?
Because food and entertainment is included in the basic fare, it is quite possible to go through a cruise without spending much extra onboard if you are not a big drinker (or if you have an inclusive drinks package).
That said, most cruise lines offer an extensive range of optional extras which they are keen to promote to guests. Drinks can be a significant expense if purchased separately, as can shore excursions if you decide to take part in organised trips.
On top of that, additional charges often apply for things like photos, spa treatments, gym classes, speciality restaurants and of course casinos.
Am I obliged to tip?
To avoid uncertainty over how much and whom to tip, a lot of cruise lines now have a fixed service charge which you will be invited to pre-pay at the time of booking.
On some lines this is compulsory, whilst on others it's up to you whether to follow the line's recommendation.
How many ports will I visit?
This depends entirely on which cruise you choose. Some itineraries visit a different port every day whilst others are more spread out and either have more time at sea between destinations or have longer stops in each place.
For those with the time and money, world cruises are available which last for several months and literally take you all the way around the globe. More commonly, cruises last anywhere from a few nights to a few weeks, with cruises around the one to two week mark being the most popular.
What happens when the ship arrives in port?
When the ship arrives in port, the crew deals with all the formalities of mooring the vessel and clearing immigration and then an announcement is made to passengers telling you when you can start getting off.
There is no fixed schedule and you can choose to get on and off the ship whenever you want to, either to go on an organised tour or to go and explore by yourself.
In most major ports the ship will dock at a cruise terminal and you can simply walk on and off the ship. In some smaller destinations there may not be space for the ship to come right the way into the port in which case smaller tender boats are used to ferry guests ashore.
Is language an issue?
The languages spoken locally will obviously vary from port to port, but most destinations are very welcoming to cruise ship guests and you will normally find that English is widely spoken in shops and restaurants.
In addition, almost all cruise ship organised shore excursions have English speaking guides available.
What time do I have to be back?
Cruise ships operate to a clearly published schedule and you will be informed well in advance what time the ship is arriving in port and what time it is leaving.
Normally guests are required to be back on board at least 15 minutes before the published sailing time.
What if I miss the ship?
Although a common concern, this is actually a very rare occurrence.
Cruise lines work very hard to make sure that passengers aren't left behind, but in the unfortunate event that you do miss the ship you will typically be responsible for making your own arrangements to rejoin the ship at its next port of call (unless you are taking part in one of the ship's organised tours, in which case the line will normally delay departure to avoid leaving guests behind).
How long will I have in each port?
It obviously varies from port to port, but generally the ship will arrive first thing in the morning and depart late afternoon or early evening, giving you the whole day to explore at your leisure.
It is entirely up to you how much time you spend off the ship and you can come and go as you please whilst in port.
If you want a bit longer, we've got lots of itineraries which offer extended overnight stays in port, or which combine a cruise with hotel stays or other tours before or after the cruise itself.
Do I need to book shore excursions?
In every port the ship visits, you have the option of either exploring on your own or participating in an organised tour arranged by the cruise line. This is purely a matter of preference and you can opt to do it your own way in some ports and book organised tours in others.
Some ports for example lend themselves well to wandering around or using public transport, whilst others are more remote or have attractions outside the main town and are therefore more easily accessed as part of an organised group.
Excursions organised by the ship have the advantage of convenience and peace of mind (you know they'll get you back to the ship on time) but tend to be relatively expensive so you shouldn't be afraid to go your own way at least some of the time.
Will I have to walk far?
It is entirely up to you how much or how little walking you do in each destination. The ship's own shore excursions will normally give you a clear indication of how much physical exertion is required and there are typically options to cater for all preferences.
Even if you choose not to participate in organised trips, the cruise line will often operate a shuttle bus service from the ship into the centre of town if this is more than a short walk away (sometimes at an extra charge).
Alternatively there are very often tourist buses which operate near cruise ports, plus most have a good taxi service.
What do I need to take off the ship?
One of the best things about cruise travel is being able to visit lots of different places without having to keep moving your luggage around.
When you get off the ship in a port, all you generally need to take is your room key and some form of photo identification, plus things like cameras and drinks which you want for the day.
How much luggage can I bring onboard?
One of the main attractions of travelling by cruise ship is that you avoid so many of the frustrations of air travel. This includes generally having much more generous luggage allowances than you would on a plane.
Subject to a few common sense limitations, most lines are happy for you to bring at least two suitcases plus as much hand luggage as you want.
Can I get help with my luggage?
Yes. Once you arrive at your departure port, there will be porters waiting to collect your luggage from you. They then arrange for it to be carried onto the ship and delivered to your cabin.
The same process applies in reverse at the end of your cruise and luggage is normally collected the night before you leave and returned to you once you have disembarked the ship.
On both occasions, you will be provided with luggage tags to identify your belongings.
Is there anything I cannot bring onboard?
Prior to departure, your cruise line will let you know if there are any prohibited items which you are not allowed to bring onboard. Typically this will include things like weapons, explosives and other dangerous substances.
In addition, a number of cruise lines limit the amount of your own alcohol you can bring on board.
Can I check in online?
Most lines now offer some kind of online check-in facility prior to departure. This allows you to provide passport and other information in advance and saves time queuing when you get to the port.
A lot of lines also allow you to make restaurant bookings online and pre-book shore excursions and spa treatments.
Details of how to access these facilities will be provided at the time of booking.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, this is strongly recommended in order to ensure that you do not end up out of pocket if you have to cancel or curtail your trip for any reason, or if anything goes wrong while you are away.
Cruises are usually covered by most general travel insurance policies, or alternatively some insurance companies offer specialist cruise policies.
Make sure in particular that whatever policy you choose provides sufficient cover for medical treatment in the event that you need to visit the ship's doctor.
Do mobile phones work onboard?
An increasing number of ships are now equipped with their own satellite-based mobile phone networks which provide coverage when the ship is at sea and out of range of normal coverage.
Be aware however that calls using these networks can be substantially more expensive than other forms of international roaming.
Are laundry facilities available?
Most cruise ships offer a laundry and dry cleaning service to guests, usually at an additional cost per item. In addition, some ships have self service laundry facilities.
Are medical facilities available?
Yes. All ships provide at least basic first aid services, and bigger ships normally have a dedicated medical facility staffed by qualified doctors and nurses.
Treatment is normally chargeable, so you are advised to take out travel insurance which provides an appropriate level of medical cover.
Can arrangements be made for special events?
Absolutely. It is very common for people to book cruises to coincide with special occasions like birthdays, honeymoons and anniversaries.
Most lines offer special celebratory packages which can be booked in advance, or staff onboard are happy to help plan special events.
Can I get married onboard?
Cruise ships are popular venues for weddings and most are very welcoming to bridal parties.
Some ships have full marriage licences and are able to conduct official ceremonies, whilst on others you may need to have a separate legal ceremony on land before or after your cruise.
What do I need to bring with me?
There's nothing particularly different about packing for a cruise compared with any other type of holiday and most ships have a range of shops in the event that you do forget anything.
In terms of clothes, you will generally need a combination of leisurewear, smart casual clothes and one or two more formal outfits for special occasions.
On top of that, remember to bring your passport plus any booking documentation sent to you by the cruise line.
What time can I board the ship?
Cruise ships operate an incredibly efficient operation and generally welcome new passengers on board literally only a couple of hours after the previous cruise has disembarked.
Generally passengers are welcome to board from around lunchtime or early afternoon, with most cruises leaving late afternoon or early evening.
What time do I have to leave the ship?
The disembarkation process for cruises is much less stressful than for flights and tends to be staggered to avoid undue congestion.
Towards the end of your cruise, you will be asked if you have any specific requirements for an early or late departure (for example to connect with ongoing travel plans) and will be allocated an appropriate slot.
Most cruises dock in their final port of call early in the morning and disembarkation typically takes place over a period of around two to three hours.
Do I need a passport?
Assuming the cruise visits one or more foreign countries, you will need a passport which is valid for the duration of your cruise, plus any necessary visas.
One of the great things about cruises is that all the immigration paperwork is handled by the cruise line so once you have provided your passport details at check in there is rarely any more for you to do and you can simply step off the ship in each port without having to go through any of the usual formalities or passport checks.
Do I need to bring foreign currency?
This depends where you are travelling. Most ships operate a cashless system onboard whereby you settle your whole account at the end of the trip by credit card, so you will rarely need any cash whilst on the ship unless you are planning to visit the casino.
It is however useful to have some local currency with you for each of the ports you are planning to visit. You can either bring this with you, or withdraw it from onboard ATMs or using the currency exchange facilities that most ships provide.
Is internet access available?
Almost all ships offer some form of internet access, but bandwidth is severely limited whilst at sea as satellite networks are much slower than ordinary cable or mobile phone networks.
This means that certain forms of internet usage (like video streaming and Skype calling) may not be available, and access charges tend to be fairly high.
What electrical power is available?
You will have access to normal mains electrical power in your cabin, but you may need a travel adaptor depending on what plugs your appliances have.
Most cruise ships have either European or American two pin sockets on board, or a combination of the two.
Are cruise ships wheelchair accessible?
Most modern cruise ships offer a very high degree of accessibility for wheelchair users, and almost all offer specially adapted cabins at no additional charge.
Is babysitting available?
A lot of cruise lines offer a range of children's activities and clubs throughout the day, and usually you are welcome to leave your kids there whilst you go off elsewhere on the ship (subject to minimum age restrictions).
Some ships also provide a dedicated babysitting service in your cabin so that you can go out for the evening.
Are visitors allowed onboard?
Apart from as part of organised tours, or to attend special events like weddings, visitors are not normally allowed on board and you will not be able to bring guests back to the ship with you.
How do I go about booking?
We compare deals from a range of different cruise lines and travel agents. To find out where a particular cruise is available from, just click on the 'View deals' button and select the deal you are interested in.
You will then be taken to the relevant cruise line or travel agent's website, where you can find out more information or make a booking.
Some deals are available to book online, whilst others are bookable by calling up the agent or line in question.
What do all the different categories of cabin mean?
Some cruise lines attach what can seem a confusing array of additional names and labels to their cabins, over and above simply describing them as inside, oceanview, balcony or suite.
Some for example use descriptions like standard, deluxe and executive, whilst others use references like 1A, 1B and 1C. Principally this is just done for marketing reasons and allows lines to charge more for certain cabins based on their size or location.
Sometimes the difference can be significant (for example a Royal Suite is very different to a Junior Suite), whilst other times the differences can be almost imperceptible (for example a cabin might cost more simply because it is on a higher floor).
Is a stateroom different from a cabin?
No, it is simply another word for a cabin. A lot of lines now like to refer to their cabins as staterooms because they feel that description more accurately reflects the size and luxury of facilities found on modern cruise ships.
How many people can a cabin accommodate?
The majority of cabins are designed for two people, but many additionally have sofa beds, pulldown beds or rollaway beds (or a combination of all three) which allow one or more extra guests to be accommodated in the same cabin, usually at a substantial discount.
Larger suites and family cabins are also available which can sleep four or more guests.
Can I book adjoining cabins?
Subject to availability, cruise lines are normally more than happy to arrange for you to book neighbouring cabins so that you can be near to friends or family.
Many ships now have connecting doors between some cabins, which can be particularly useful when travelling with children.
Are single cabins available?
Because space is at a premium on cruise ships, lines have historically been reluctant to offer single cabins.
That trend is slowly changing, and a number of newly launched ships feature accomodation for single travellers, but this is still the exception rather than the norm and single rooms tend to fill up very quickly.
As an alternative, some lines offer a discount to single cruisers booking double or twin rooms.
Are last minute deals available?
You can sometimes get great deals by leaving things until the last minute, but cruise lines also like to tempt customers to book early so sometimes that's where the better discounts are to be found.
Are cruises cheaper outside popular holiday periods?
Not always, but they certainly can be. Most lines price their itineraries according to the projected demand, and certain times of the year are inevitably less popular than others, albeit that cruise ships travel all around the world so peak season in one area isn't necessarily the same as in another.
Some of the best value can be found around the edges of seasons where cruise lines are repositioning their ships from one region to another. Great deals can for example often be found at the beginning of the European spring and the end of autumn when ships are crossing the Atlantic between the Mediterrean and the Caribbean.
Can cruise bookings be cancelled?
Yes, although you may forfeit part of the fare.
Most cruise lines require a deposit to be paid at the time of booking with the balance payable in one or more instalments in the couple of months prior to departure.
If you cancel before the final instalments are due, just the original deposit will be forfeited. Otherwise you will forfeit any amounts already paid.
Full details of cancellation terms will be provided at the time of booking.
Will I need to book my own flights?
For cruises starting abroad, we offer a choice of 'Fly Cruise' deals which include flights in the price, usually from a choice of UK airports. We also have various 'Fly and Stay' packages which include flights plus one or more hotel stays or tours before or after your cruise.
Additionally we offer 'Cruise Only' deals which include just the cruise. Where flights are not already included, you can either book them yourselves or add them into your package when booking the cruise.
Which type of cabin should I choose?
This is really a matter of personal taste and budget. Some people like to spend a lot of time in their room, in which case things like size and view become more important, whilst other people like to spend most of their time out and about in the ship's bars and restaurants and see a cabin basically just as a place to sleep.
On older ships, the majority of cabins were inside or oceanview, but these days balcony cabins are by far the most common and can account for up to 80% of rooms on new ships. This has had the effect of making balconies increasingly affordable and this is undoubtedly now the top choice for most travellers.
Alternatively, if you really want to travel in style, a suite is the way to go. Basic suites are often just expanded versions of balcony cabins and aren't that much more expensive, whilst top suites can be astonishingly lavish (think multiple floors, private jacuzzis and grand pianos) and come with a price tag to match.
Can I choose a specific cabin?
Unlike hotel rooms, which tend to be allocated for you, cruise lines often give you the option to pick your own cabin. Obviously it's entirely up to you whether you want to bother doing this, but for keen travellers this is fantastic as it allows you to get the best possible view, location and facilities.
To help you choose, we have put together a very comprehensive cabin database plus we have interactive deck plans for each cruise ship, so you can see what your cabin will look like before you book it.
Take a look at the 'Cabin guru' section of the site for more details.
What is a guaranteed category booking?
Ordinarily cruise lines confirm a specific cabin for you at the time of booking. Sometimes however they offer discounts to customers who are prepared to forego that choice and allow the cruise line to allocate their cabin.
How this normally works is that you are guaranteed a specific type of cabin (for example a balcony). As a minimum you will get that type of cabin, but if you are lucky you might be upgraded to a higher category (for example a more expensive balcony cabin or a suite).
The downside is that you have no control over which cabin you end up with and if you are not upgraded you may end up with one of the less desirable cabins in the original category (for example a balcony cabin with a limited view).
The final allocation may be made at the time of check in, or may be notified to you in advance.
How do cruise line loyalty programmes work?
Most cruise lines run loyalty programmes to reward frequent travellers. These all vary slightly in structure, but essentially you earn points for each cruise you take (usually more for longer cruises and higher categories of cabin) and the more points you accumulate the higher status you will have within the scheme.
Typical benefits to membership include special offers, upgrades and various freebies and discounts on board.
If this is your first cruise, details of how to join the line's loyalty programme will be provided either with your booking confirmation or once you get onboard.
Can cruise bookings be amended?
Yes, although sometimes there will be an additional charge.
Each line has slightly different policies and often this will be affected by the category of fare you have chosen. Full details of amendment terms will be provided at the time of booking.
Can I upgrade my cabin after booking?
Cruise lines are generally happy to entertain requests for upgrades, but you are best advised to make the necessary arrangements as early as possible as a lot of ships operate at close to full capacity and it can be difficult to accommodate cabin changes too close to the sailing date.
Details of who to speak to about upgrades and other amendments will usually be contained in your booking confirmation.