Top tips for planning and booking a cruise

1 May 20115 min read

Beautiful landscape with sea view showing a cruise liner on the Aegean sea near the island of Santorini in Greece

Planning and booking a cruise holiday can seem daunting if you have never before embarked on such as adventure. However, by taking some time to plan ahead and by speaking to our dedicated cruise staff you can soon be setting sail on a trip that is ideal for you. For frequently asked questions and tips on how to plan your trip read our new to cruising guide.

Select a destination area

One of the most important decisions is to decide where you would want to visit. Ships ply the oceans of the world; however there are a number of areas where there is a wide choice of cruise line, namely the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Alaska. In addition you will find a wide choice to the Baltic and Scandinavian areas. In all of these areas there are lots of itineraries from short trips to longer cruises and can you often add two itineraries back to back to create your desired trip. The itineraries will detail the ports you will call at.

In addition there are cruises in the Middle East, Far East, South America, around the UK and even Around the World. For inspiration read our cruise destinations guide.

Book the right ship

This is the key to getting your cruise holiday on track. Each cruise line and ship has a different ambience and mood and will cater for different age ranges and types of passenger. Selecting the right cruise line and then the right ship for you and your cruise party will get your holiday off to a great start and ensure you make the most of your trip. Be sure to check the type of entertainment that the ship offers as well as the types of meal service. The size of ship will also dictate the level of services on board from gyms to spas, ice rinks to climbing walls, libraries to art collections and everything else you can imagine, although not necessarily the quality of service. Smaller ships often have a quieter more refined ambience and large ships tend to be more relaxed in style. Our guide helps you to find the right cruise line for you.

Book ahead for the best deals

Generally the earlier you book the better the cruise deal you will get. Cruise lines offer everything from special early bird prices to huge on board credits to pay for drinks and excursions. However these are rarely on offer at the last minute. You will also get the widest range of dates and cabin available. The earlier you book the better the choice of cabin on board – leaving it late will often mean you can only find the cheaper inside cabins on offer. The more expensive cabins with the better facilities often have the best early booking deals.

If you are flexible there are often last minute deals to be had. Keep an eye on our late offers on cruise deals.

Check what is included

Each cruise will detail exactly what is included. Generally all food and non alcoholic drinks are included as well as entertainment and use of the facilities. However many ships charge extra for specialist dining as well as all shopping and casinos. Some facilities are also chargeable such as spas and sports activities so check before you book. Some cruise lines will allow you to buy packages of alcoholic drinks to keep the costs down on board – enquire at time of booking.

Port excursions are all additional and can often be pre-booked before you travel at a discount.

You will have to pay port taxes – usually quoted at time of booking.

While on board you will have an account to which you charge extras. Most ships are cashless. You settle this by card or cash before the end of the cruise.

Tips and gratuities

This varies from ship to ship and you should be aware of these before you travel. Some ships charge these to your on board bill. An average you should allow per person is £6-7 per day as part of your budget. Your cruise line will advise on how this is worked on board.

Booking on board services

Many ships offering spas and specialist dining now allow the opportunity to pre-book before you board. Our advice is to pre-book as much as you can to ensure that you get the times and dates you want for your trip. If you leave it to the last minute, you may be disappointed. To arrange bookings either use the on line facility or our cruise concierge can arrange for you.


Plan your wardrobe ahead. Whilst you can buy clothes on board many ships, going on a cruise allows you the opportunity to wear a wide range of clothes from your wardrobe. Many cruises have a formal night, although few now insist upon black tie or evening dress, so check your details before you leave. All ships have on board cleaning services, although they may not be cheap so you can travel light and interchange outfits using the laundry to keep your bag weight down.

Items such as toiletries can be bought on board at a premium, so cheaper to bring your own. You should also bring all medicines with you.

Read all of your pre-cruise information

Once you have booked you will receive your confirmation and joining instructions. These will include a wide range of information to make your cruise holiday more enjoyable, so take the time to read the details before you travel. They cover all the questions you may have as well as details of where to be when and where. On boarding you will receive a welcome pack including maps of the ship you to help get used to where everything is including the information desk.

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