Help for newbies: Booking your cruise

If you haven’t booked a cruise before, you might be surprised at how booking a cruise differs from other types of travel such as airfare and hotels. For instance:

  • Although cruise fares fluctuate just like airfares, you can lock in a rate by putting down a deposit. Once you do this, your cruise fare won’t increase – but it can go down! More on that later.
  • When I book a cruise for my clients, they have between 24 and 72 hours to make the deposit payment. What this means is that you can lock in a rate for your cruise for no charge while you quickly check with traveling companions, work, etc. to make sure that you’ll be able to travel at that time.
  • Final payments for a cruise are due between 90-120 days before the sail date, depending on the cruise line. Up until that final payment date, however, your agent (that’s me!) can call and have the cruise re-priced, which could lead to a lower final cost to you.
  • The correct spelling of cruise passenger names can be changed at just about any time during the process: before or after the deposit, even after the final payment. It’s imperative that your name on the reservation match your name on your travel documents, so if you notice at any point that your name is misspelled on your cruise documents, make sure to notify your travel agent immediately.
  • More than just a correction in spelling, many cruise lines will actually let you replace one passenger with someone else, up until about a week before sailing. If you’re scheduled to sail with someone and that person finds out she can’t go, you may be able to add another person to go in her place – just let your travel agent know as soon as possible so that she can make the necessary calls.

Cruising can be a little confusing*…but, it’s worth it! Working with a travel agent is a great way to navigate the complex waters and ensure that you have a great cruise vacation.

*As my grandma used to say, “I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!” 😂

Should I buy travel insurance for my cruise?

Travel insurance – like all insurance, really – can seem tricky. But really, it’s just like car insurance, health insurance, etc – you can buy it to cover unexpected expenses during your cruise. The question is, should you? Here are four reasons why I recommend that you should buy travel insurance:

  1. You’re traveling during a dicey time of year, weather-wise. If clients are traveling during hurricane season (August 1-November 30), or leaving a cold part of the country where they’re likely to get snow over the winter months, I always recommend that they take the travel insurance option. During hurricane season, your cruise can be shortened or lengthened by weather – or it may even end up at a different port than you left from! Travel insurance will cover the extra expenses you might incur in a case like this one, such as the need for additional hotels or changes in air travel.
  2. You’re a worrier. Whether you admit it to yourself (and others), like my friend Jill over at FindingJillian, or whether you like to keep it under wraps, if you’re a worrier, you should buy travel insurance. Simply put, insurance will allow you to travel without some of the concerns you might otherwise have about travel interruption, unexpected medical expenses, etc.
  3. You’re going a long way. I always recommend travel insurance to my clients who are going to Alaska, Europe, and other far-from-home areas for their cruise. Why? Because travel insurance will cover your costs to return you home if you run into a medical emergency on your trip – for this alone, I feel like the investment is worth it. I’ll never forget the story of the terminally ill woman who was stranded in a hospital in Alaska, far from her family, because she hadn’t taken out the insurance. (fun fact: One of my grad school classmates wrote this news story!) Which brings me to #4…
  4. You have existing health issues (or are prone to them). Cruising is a great way to travel because it’s low-impact, and it allows a lot of people to see the world who might not be able to travel in other ways. But if you know your health is not great, or that there’s a possibility that something might go wrong on your cruise, always take out the travel insurance. Even if you never use it, you’ll be reassured knowing that you have it.