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How to cruise: eleven cruise tips and tricks for finding the best travel deals

We reveal our top 11 cruise tips and tricks for finding a luxury cruise dealWant to make the best of a break at sea? We’ve put together our best cruise tips and tricks to help you find the best travel deals and make the most of a cruise experience.

Cruising is unlike any other holiday, allowing you to unpack just once, yet visit a vast array of destinations.

From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, the Arctic, to the Antarctic the world lays before you.

Then there’s the fantastic array of experiences to be had on board.

Each year, and with each new ship launch, cruise companies push the boat out (if you’ll pardon the terrible pun!) with an eclectic selection of entertainment, fun and adventurous activities, delicious foods from around the world and plenty of nightlife options.

Top cruise tips and tricks

With so many choices of cruise lines and ships, on board staterooms, holiday packages and special offers, booking a cruise may seem a complicated process.

So we have produced a list of our top cruise tips and tricks. From finding a cruise deal to making the most of life on board, here’s our tips for the first time cruiser.

1. Choose the right cruise line

Cruise tips and tricks, choose the right ship for you to select the best cruise deals I Pic: Don McCullough

There is a holiday for everyone when it comes to cruising, but finding the right ship for you should be your first port of call, even before searching for great deals:

For great value… NCL, Carnival and MSC Cruises

For serious luxury… Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn

For enrichment… Crystal and Cunard

For expeditions… Hurtigruten, Lindblad and Quark Expeditions

For solo travellers… NCL and Crystal

For night owls… NCL, Carnival and Celebrity

For families… Disney, Royal Caribbean and Carnival

For river cruises… Viking, Uniworld and AMAWaterways

These are some examples to get you thinking about which company has the right experience for you. Also consider Princess, Holland America, P&O, and Windstar.

2. Find the best cruise deals

Book your cruise at least six to nine months in advance to find the best early-bird deals.

Make September your planning and booking month, as this is when all the major cruise lines release their new itineraries and offers.

New to cruising? Try a shorter break for more value while you get your sea legs. Many operators run shorter trips from January to April, even on the newer, bigger ships. It’s a great value way to discover if cruising is for you.

Repositioning cruises are when ships change their seasonal itineraries often, with a transatlantic crossing. These are often heavily discounted on account of sailing one-way, with no stops. Just remember to factor in your one-way flight.

3. Use an agent

Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned cruiser, use a cruise agent to book your trip. They will narrow down the right cruise based on your tastes and access better offers than if you book direct.

4. Selecting the right cabin

Take a look at the deck plans carefully before you book. Check your room isn’t adjacent or underneath any high traffic areas such as lifts, the buffet restaurant or the children’s activity centre.

Starboard or port side? If it’s a one-way cruise, check your cruise itinerary to establish which side will be facing land.

Cruise tips and tricks - select a cruise deal with the perfect cabin I Pic: Roderick Eime

Some cabins to potentially avoid:

  • Cabins at the front of the ship offer great views, but can have lots of movement on the waves, particularly on upper decks
  • Aft cabins often feature larger balconies but some can be subject to vibration from the thrusters
  • Sometimes outside or balcony cabins are at bargain prices, but come at the cost of obstructed views. Confirm with your travel provider before you book, to guarantee a view of the ocean and not a lifeboat.

5. Bag a cruise upgrade for less

Cruise deals with automatic cabin upgrades are great value for money. Carnival, MSC, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Line often run these types of offers.

Already booked? Call your cruise line two to three months before departure for a cabin upgrade as this is when most operators tend to reduce fares.

Top cruise tips: Upgrade to a balcony suite, pictured: The Gauguin I Pic: Roderick Eime

6. Book excursions independently

Before you travel, research your ports and activities. You can save money when you book independently, but make sure you are back in time for departure – the ship will not wait for you.

If you do choose to book with your cruise line, another of our cruise tips and tricks is to book early to avoid disappointment as excursions can fill up quickly.

When you arrive at your final destination you may have a lot of spare time before your flight home. You could book a short sightseeing tour if time permits, as your luggage is often transferred directly to the airport.


7. Lose the crowds

On check-in day, expect heavy crowds during the first few hours of boarding. Arrive roughly two hours before departure to avoid the queues.

Pool and promenade decks are notoriously busy on cruise ships. Take advantage and skip the trips on port day, to enjoy all the facilities without the crowds.

Book your meals to coincide with theatre shows to enjoy more space and time to eat.

Cruise tips and tricks - for fewer crowds, book meal times to coincide with entertainment shows on board I Pic: Jeff

8. Travel light

Save your back and your luggage allowance by packing light, taking advantage of the on board laundry services.

Remember to pack a swimsuit and a change of clothes in your hand luggage for your first day on board, as it can take a while for your luggage to arrive at your cabin.

Click here to read our exclusive guide on packing for a cruise.

9. Resist the urge to log on

Among other good cruise tips and tricks to remember is that using the internet on a ship can be very slow and expensive as it connects by satellite. Resist the temptation altogether, or when you dock find a café with free Wi-Fi. Better still, do your research before you go, and discover that authentic local restaurant with fabulous views, where you can also get online and check in with loved ones back home.

Remember to set your mobile phone to airplane mode to avoid the unpleasant surprise of roaming charges when you receive your next phone bill.

10. Staying healthy

With so many food choices on board from buffet restaurants to snack bars operating round the clock, you may want to count the calories. Take the stairs rather than the lift, and bring your gym kit to burn some extra calories while looking out to sea.

Stay healthy on your cruise with a gym session plus glorious sea views I Pic: Gary Bembridge

11. Travelling as a group

Travelling as a group is a great way to save money. Search online or contact an agent to discover any cruise deals they can offer your party, including free cabins.

More hands make light work, so share out the research and assign a port of call to each person. Meet up pre-cruise to share activity options to enrich the trip for everyone. And of course, it builds the excitement of your upcoming adventures.

Cruise tips and tricks - divide your port tour research among your group to make the most of your cruise deal I Pic: Sean O'Shaughnessy

The larger cruise ships can be like floating cities, so it’s easy to lose each other. Be sure to pre-arrange meeting points and times to keep in touch with members of the group.

Love cruising? Share your top tips below for grabbing a great cruise deal and making the most of life on board, or read our recent review of ship Norwegian Escape.

Some images used here are licensed under Creative Commons 2.0: Roderick EimeJeffGary BembridgeSean O’Shaughnessy, and Creative Commons 2.0 NC: Don McCullough.


Lover of all things travel, Lorraine can often be found whiling away hours on Pinterest (so easily done!), looking for new places to visit or new spaces she can make over at home. Throw in a good book, delicious food and wine, combined with great company, and she is a happy soul indeed!

Follow Lorraine Loveland

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