There is no substitution for a good travel agent, especially if you’re thinking about booking a first cruise. Just the same, in this electronic world we live in, many travelers find it a fairly easy process to handle all the cruise arrangements on their own via the internet - whether through a web-only agent, a brick and mortar agency’s website, or directly through the cruise line’s booking engine. When making your own travel arrangements, it’s crucial to make sure every detail of the booking is understood and properly attended to, thereby avoiding costly errors and assuring smooth sailing.
Here are 10 common mistakes to avoid when booking a cruise:
1) Booking a cabin just because it’s the cheapest.
That $199 Category 1A cabin deal on Carnival may seem sweet, but you could very well find yourself squeezed into a corner hole in the wall - in a bunk bed. Know the accommodations you’re getting when you book.
2) Misunderstanding the definition of an “obstructed” cabin.
No, an obstructed cabin does not mean you must leap over a wall to reach it. It means that the cabin has a window, but your view will be hindered by something outside on deck – a lifeboat, for instance. Some obstructions are just partial – lifeboat on the bottom half of your window, with the sky above. Still others are hardly obstructions at all – a cabin located between two lifeboats, for instance. It pays to consult the deck plan for your ship to see just what kind of view you will – or won’t – have.
3) Booking a “guaranty” cabin without a clue as to what it means.
You go on line to book an advertised promo for a balcony cabin in a particular category. All that is available, however, is a “guaranty”. This means that you cannot select a cabin at the time of booking. Rather, one will be selected for you by the cruise line, guaranteed to be in that category or higher. If this is the case, you must be content with the fact that (a) the cruise line will assign the cabin when it’s good and ready, up to the date of sailing, and (b) your cabin could be located anywhere on the ship. In other words, if there is a particular location on the ship where you don’t want to be, then don’t book a guaranty.
4) Incorrectly entering names and dates of birth.
When entering your names during the on-line booking process, be absolutely certain that the passengers’ names are spelled correctly and are an exact match to the names on your government issued photo ID or passport. Otherwise, you risk being denied boarding of the flight, the cruise or both. Be certain that the dates of birth and gender are correct for each passenger.
5) Paying the cruise deposit without realizing it’s non-refundable. Cruise lines and agents more and more frequently are presenting temping offers of discounts, onboard credits and other perks – with one caveat: a non-refundable deposit. Be certain you are clear on this when booking a special promotion.
6) Not carefully proofing the cruise booking confirmation.
Once you have completed your booking details and paid your deposit, the agency or cruise line will email a confirmation of your booking. Carefully proof this for errors as soon as it is received. If you discover any errors, contact the agency right away to make the necessary corrections.
7) Neglecting to pay the final balance by the due date.
When failing to pay off your cruise by the due date, you risk automatic cancellation. Don’t rely on notifications from the agent. Keep a calendar or send yourself a reminder to make that final payment when due. Be certain you receive a written confirmation showing a zero balance. It’s also a good idea to log on to your cruise account. Seeing your cruise displayed on the cruise line’s web page is reassurance that your good to go.
8) Paying little attention to the cruise line’s cancellation policy.
Be aware that once your booking has reached the final payment date, it goes into the “penalty phase”, and is then subject to cancellation fees, typically beginning with the amount of your deposit from 75 days out to your entire fare within 14 days of sailing. Although not mandatory, this is where travel insurance would be a great thing to have in the unfortunate event that you need to cancel your cruise due to family illness, injury or other covered reason.
9) Paying no attention to the agency’s cancellation policy.
Be aware that some travel agents – online and brick & mortar alike - charge cancellation or change fees. Make certain that you know the agent’s policy on cancellations before booking. Or try another agent. Many do not charge cancellation fees at all.
10) Booking flights too late to the ship or too early for the trip home.
Cruise lines will typically post the latest flight time for your travel to the ship and the earliest flight time to schedule for the trip home. Pay careful attention to these times, because it would be a sad day if you missed your ship because you flew too late in the day to meet your ship on time. An even better idea would be to fly to your city of embarkation the day before your cruise. You will arrive relaxed and you’ll be all rested up and ready to cruise the next morning.
By: Janice Neves, CruiseCrazies Contributor
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