17 Common Mistakes People Make When Booking a Cruise

Booking a cruise is never as easy as thinking “I want a cruise” and then, five minutes later, having one secured that you can start looking forward to.

Even if you’re someone who’s cruised many times before, like me, you need to do a fair amount of planning and research.

This image features a woman sitting at a café table using a laptop displaying a booking interface with options for 'Destination', 'Arrival', and 'Departure', set against a palm tree and sunset background. She is also holding a cup of coffee. The focus is on facilitating travel arrangements in a relaxed, outdoor setting.

Otherwise, you could very easily make a mistake that could bring an amazing cruise down a peg or two, and maybe even make you regret the booking in the first place.

So, let’s take a look at the common mistakes people make when booking a cruise, so that you can make sure you avoid them.

1. Assuming Last Minute Fares Are Cheapest

The image features a large, modern cruise ship sailing on blue ocean waters, distinguished by its vivid and colorful bow artwork. The ship is massive, multi-decked, and equipped with various amenities, as indicated by its multiple rows of balconies and advanced navigational equipment on top. A small boat can be seen nearby, emphasizing the scale of the cruise ship. The setting suggests a vibrant and luxurious travel experience.

Across much of travel, you can get great deals if you’re prepared to wait until the last minute before you book. The risk of not having something secured, and having to pay in full without having time to spread the cost, can pay off with a hefty discount. But it’s not necessarily true with cruises.

Yes, sometimes you can get a good deal on cabins that haven’t sold out. I recently bagged a last-minute Cunard cruise for £99. But you can’t assume that you’ll be able to do that for the dates you want to travel.

Often the best prices are available as soon as the cruises go on sale, far in advance. This is especially true if you’re sailing with families, as you can grab a family cabin and save a bundle, compared to having to book multiple cabins later.

Read more: 5 Reasons Families Should Book Cruises in Advance

2. Booking The Wrong Year

The image depicts a woman viewing a computer screen with a digital calendar filled with colorful events, overlaid with a large red 'X'. This suggests either an error or cancellation related to the scheduled events. The office environment is bright and modern, featuring indoor plants and a clean, organized desk setup.

While this doesn’t apply to every cruise line, most of the time cruises can go on sale far in advance – at least two years, and on rare occasions as much as 30 months in advance.

This means you need to be careful when shopping for deals, especially if you’re following my advice and booking early. You need to make sure you book the right year as it can be surprisingly easy to not realise you’re booking for a cruise so far out!

It’s important to be careful with the date in general, as you may be charged a fee if you need to change it after the cooling-off period (typically 24 hours).

3. Not Caring About Cabin Location

The image features a large cruise ship sailing on calm waters, marked with yellow arrows pointing at the upper decks, possibly to highlight specific features or areas of the ship. The cruise line's logo is visible on the funnel. The background shows a serene sea and a clear sky, contributing to the tranquil maritime setting.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when booking your cruise is assuming that all cabins of an equal category are the same – but actually, the location of a cabin can be just as important as whether you’ve booked an Inside, a Balcony and so on.

Cruise ships have a lot going on, including theatres, bars, pool decks and more, and are often a hive of activity from the early hours right until, well, the early hours.

So if you’re someone who likes a lie-in, but you pick a cabin directly under the pool deck where you can hear deck chairs scraping along the floor at 6 am, you might get annoyed.

And equally, if you choose a cabin above a ship’s nightclub but you’re someone who likes to be asleep by 10 pm ready for the next day, then that’s on you too.

Try to always book a cabin that’s got other cabins above and below, but also check the deck plans of your ship to ensure you find a location that isn’t too far from all the amenities as well.

Read more: Front or Back Cabins on a Cruise Ship – Which is Best?

4. Booking The Wrong Cabin Type

A solo cabin on the Celebrity Silhouette, designed for single travelers, featuring a comfortable bed, warm lighting, and a framed picture of a swimmer, creating a cozy and inviting space for relaxation at sea.

Cruise ships have a wealth of different cabin options for you to choose from, so it’s easy to pick the wrong one if you don’t properly weigh up your options.

You might look to spend as little as possible, and so decide on an inside room, without thinking about how they’re smaller too and you might not enjoy the cramped conditions, especially if cruising as a group of 3 or 4.

Or maybe it’s the other way around – you stretch your budget because you’re convinced you need a Balcony stateroom, or even a Suite, and then spend all your time exploring the ship but not fully enjoying it because you’ve already over-spent.

Suites can especially cause this, because it’s easy to be taken in by the idea of all the perks you get.

Always do your research because you might not care about half of them, and with the others it might be cheaper to pay for those services or extras individually and save money on the suite upgrade price.

Suggested read: Why I (Almost) Always Choose an Inside Cabin for a Family Cruise

5. Assuming All Ships Have The Same Guests Onboard

Two mature couples enjoying a moment together on a cruise ship deck, each holding a glass of champagne. They are smiling and engaged in a cheerful conversation against a backdrop of a tranquil waterway and a distant shoreline. The setting is casual yet elegant, ideal for conveying leisure and companionship among friends.

Cruise lines, and even cruise ships within the same cruise line, don’t offer the same atmosphere, and a lot of that is driven by the typical guests onboard.

If you book a cruise with P&O because you’ve heard that they’re a quality British cruise line, but you choose a family-friendly ship during the school holidays, you might be disappointed with how crowded the ship is, and how noisy things can get around the pool area.

The opposite is true too – some cruise lines, like Holland America and Celebrity Cruises, do have kids’ clubs but are mainly chosen by adults, so taking your fun-loving kids onto those ships might not be the right vibe.

For help with choosing the right cruise line for you, be sure to grab a copy of my free guide…

6. Ignoring Ship Size

Icon of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world

A cruise experience on Icon of the Seas – the biggest ship in the world – is very different from one on Vision of the Seas, one of the smallest Royal Caribbean ships in the world.

Across cruise lines, there are ships of all sizes, so pay attention to what that’ll mean for your cruise. Do you want the best features, the latest tech, and the most choice of restaurants? Then you’ll want to go big.

But is your priority relaxation and avoiding crowds? Then a smaller ship will be a much better fit.

Suggested read: The 10 Smallest Cruise Ships In The World

7. Disregarding The Season & Weather

This image portrays a large cruise ship navigating through stormy seas, with dramatic dark clouds overhead and turbulent waves surrounding it. The ship, amidst powerful white-capped waves, gives a sense of resilience and stability despite the challenging weather conditions. This dynamic scene captures the dramatic and somewhat perilous beauty of sea travel during a storm.

Nobody likes to book a holiday and find out they’re expecting bad weather, but it matters even more on a cruise.

Bad weather, often influenced by the time of year, can make the seas a lot choppier and, if you’re on a smaller ship, make the journey less pleasant. 

Also bear in mind the weather when deciding on your cabin – it’s a lot better to book a Balcony when on a hot summer cruise somewhere, and less good value when it’s stormy season and you might not be able to use it.

Suggested read: The Worst Time To Cruise To The Bahamas

8. Assuming All Fees Are Included

taxes and fees circled on a cruise bill

If you’re new to cruising, you must understand what is included in the fare and what you’ll need to pay extra for.

On a standard cruise fare, you’ll pay for your accommodation, your food in a handful of complimentary venues, and the entertainment, such as the live shows and performers. Things like drinks, WiFi, food in speciality restaurants, and some of the leisure facilities won’t be included.

You also need to think about port fees and taxes, which are mandatory.

Not all cruise lines include those in the fare you’re quoted when you first start booking, and they might only add them on right at the end as you confirm your cruise. Plus, you need to think about daily tips for the crew, which are also added on automatically.

Be sure to read the specifics of your chosen cruise, as some cruise lines are all-inclusive, or at least don’t charge separate tips and might include some of your drinks.

Try to price up all aspects of a cruise when comparing, as one cruise line might appear a worse deal but then actually offer better value since it includes more as standard.

Read more: 28 Hidden Costs of Cruising You Should Budget For

9. Booking Direct With The Cruise Line

This image shows a woman from behind, seated on a colorful beach chair, using a laptop with a screen displaying a travel booking interface for destination, arrival, and departure options. She's on a sandy beach, symbolizing the ease of planning vacations even while enjoying a relaxed beach setting. The setup underscores the convenience of modern digital tools that enable holiday planning from any location.

Because it’s possible to book directly with most cruise lines, people often assume that’s the cheapest option. After all, you’re cutting out the middle man, right?

Actually, it’s not always true. Travel agents often get better deals because they can buy cruise rooms in bulk, or they offer lower prices to hit special bonus payments with the cruise line.

Check with a handful of travel agents as you might get a better deal than just using the cruise line’s website.

Click here to see which travel agents I recommend.

10. Forgetting To Sort Passport Or Visa

The image features an open Ukrainian passport with visible visa stamps, alongside a wooden stamp, all overlaid with a large red 'X'. This red 'X' could signify a problem or rejection related to travel or visa approval. The setup is on a wooden surface, enhancing the focus on the documents and their significance.

It’s so easy to book a holiday these days, including a cruise (once you know what to look for), that you might get caught up in how simple it is and forget the golden rules of passport validity and whether you need a visa.

Cruise lines will typically let you know if you need to arrange a visa, but they won’t send constant reminders asking you to check you’ve got plenty of months left on your passport.

When you book, check how long’s left on your documents and make sure you renew passports and pay for visas in plenty of time, to avoid massive disappointment when it comes to boarding.

Suggested read: Visa Requirements For Cruise Ship Passengers

11. Skipping Travel Insurance

cruise-travel-insurance-claim-form

Unfortunately, not every holiday you book will go smoothly, and sometimes you might find yourself needing to cancel, or being unwell abroad and needing medical cover where you can’t access it freely.

Travel insurance is therefore a must – and while it might be tempting to risk it to save yourself a bit of cash upfront, it’s always a bad idea.

Make sure you get cruise-specific insurance too, as that’ll cover extra potential issues specific to this type of holiday. You can also take out port insurance, and get a partial refund if bad weather causes you to miss an itinerary.

Take a look at my Cruise Travel Insurance Buyer’s Guide for everything you need to know.

12. Bad Planning With Flights

A young couple at an airport, expressing shock and urgency. The man is looking at his watch while pointing forward, indicating they are late, while the woman holds her hat and looks worried. Both are carrying luggage, suggesting they are rushing to catch a flight. The background of the airport walkway adds to the tension and haste of the scene.

If you need to fly out to reach your cruise port, or it’s a one-way trip that needs a flight home, you have to be careful when booking your flights. If you try to cut it fine, you’ll just end up with a disaster.

For embarkation, the best policy is to fly out the day before if it’s long-distance, and book a cheap hotel. For a flight closer to home, give yourself as much time as possible anyway, because a cancelled or delayed flight could mean that you miss the ship – it won’t wait for you.

On disembarkation day, remember that there are thousands of guests getting off the ship at the same time, and depending on the port there may be other ships offloading passengers too, so getting a taxi is not easy.

Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, considering you might not disembark until mid-morning.

Suggested read: How Long Does It Take to Disembark a Cruise Ship?

13. Racking Up Huge Mobile Costs

Man using his phone on a cruise ship

While this is definitely more of a mistake you can make while on the cruise itself, it does still pertain to booking as well.

Remember how I said not everything is included on your cruise? WiFi is one of those additional costs, and if you don’t pay for it – and then accidentally leave your phone data, the roaming charges can be astronomical.

If you’re going to need to be online, prebook your WiFi when you book your cruise. Otherwise, set a reminder to make sure you switch your phone onto flight mode while you’re at sea.

You don’t want a nasty shock coming through after your cruise with your phone bill.

14. Not Researching Shore Excursions

Shore excursions manager

Shore excursions offer some exciting opportunities to explore in port and try out some fun-packed activities. However, if you don’t do your research as you’re booking, you might find that you either overpay, or miss out entirely.

The best shore excursions will book up quickly, so you need to be on it for when they become available, as it’ll vary by cruise line.

However, don’t automatically book with the cruise line – a third party might have a much better price for the exact same itinerary, so shop around.

Read more: How To Find Affordable Shore Excursions

15. Not Planning For Onboard Credit

The image shows two women lying on a bed, looking at a laptop screen that displays an article titled "7 Ways to Use Onboard Credit." They appear engaged and interested, suggesting a planning session for a cruise vacation. The setting is cozy and intimate, perfect for a relaxed discussion about maximizing cruise travel benefits.

When you book your cruise, you might be given onboard credit to enjoy. This is money that’s added to your account, but typically, you can’t get a refund for it if you don’t spend it.

Bear that in mind – if you’re given £200 to spend onboard, do you need to also book that drinks package and prepay your tips? Or are you going to end up with most of that £200 left untouched, and therefore gone to waste?

Plan for how much onboard credit you get – if you do get any – as you might be able to save on other parts of your cruise when you’re booking it.

Suggested read: How I Get Upto $250 On-Board Credit Every Time I Cruise

16. Failing To Sign Up For Loyalty Programmes

The image captures a close-up of a hand holding a cruise ship boarding pass with the name "Robert Kottkamp" visible, indicating his suite and folio number. In the background, a dining table is set with a gourmet meal, creating an ambiance of luxury and leisure aboard a cruise. The setting underscores the convenience and elegance of cruise dining experiences.

Many of the big cruise lines have a loyalty programme, which gives you extra perks and benefits for every subsequent cruise you take as you move up the rankings.

You’ll typically be auto-enrolled, but you need to make sure that you enter your membership number when booking cruises if you want the points to be added to your account.

It’s worth doing it if you’re planning on staying loyal to one cruise line, because you can ultimately unlock some pretty handy benefits.

And if you cruise with MSC, you can use your loyalty perks from any other cruise line onboard your MSC cruise with their Status Match Program.

17. Not Reading The Fine Print

The image captures a close-up of a hand holding a cruise ship boarding pass with the name "Robert Kottkamp" visible, indicating his suite and folio number. In the background, a dining table is set with a gourmet meal, creating an ambiance of luxury and leisure aboard a cruise. The setting underscores the convenience and elegance of cruise dining experiences.

I know that it’s tempting to never read the fine print when you sign any kind of contract, but it’s important that you do with a cruise booking.

Cruise lines will have certain rules about what you can and can’t do, or conditions for boarding, and if you break the contract, you can be refused to board the cruise (or kicked off) and you won’t get a refund.

Check for prohibited items, or things like how many weeks pregnant you can be to cruise. Nothing in the contract is going to be too shocking, but it’s best to be prepared just in case.

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Final Word

There are a lot of potential pitfalls when booking a cruise but really, they’re common sense once you’re aware of them. I know that in a hotel you normally wouldn’t be looking at the floor plans to choose a room, but most of these other tips apply to most holiday types anyway.

If you’re ever worried, just ask a travel agent to help you with your booking, and ask them to take you through it step-by-step.

An experienced cruise agent will be aware of all of these mistakes and will help you avoid them when making your choice.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

Read more about me



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