Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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So, you’ve decided you want to go on a cruise. Great news! But, do you know where to book it to get the best price?
There’s no shortage of websites out there that can help you book a cruise. There may even be more options to book cruises than hotels or flights. In addition to the traditional online travel agencies, there are a bunch of cruise-only sites that you can choose from, too.
So how do you know which site offers the best price? That’s where we come in. We combed through the most popular websites used to book cruises to look at their pros and cons and to do some head-to-head price comparisons.
If you’re only concerned about finding the cheapest price, scroll down to the price comparison section at the bottom of this post to see how all of these sites stack up against each other.
Your first instinct when booking a cruise may be to go directly to the cruise line’s website, especially if you have elite status with a specific cruise line. There are definitely some benefits to this — it’s simple and there are fewer hassles if you have to make any changes.
If you’re sure of the cruise line you want to take, it makes your search a little easier because you’re just looking at one specific line.
The big drawback when booking directly on a cruise line’s website is that you can miss out on extra deals that online travel agencies (OTAs) may offer.
CheapCaribbean.com is an OTA that specializes in travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. It was founded in 2000 and prides itself on offering the best prices and great U.S.-based customer service. The site’s sales agents are available 7 days a week to help you plan your ultimate Caribbean vacation.
Despite the name, you can book cruises to destinations other than the Caribbean through CheapCaribbean.com, including Europe, Canada, Hawaii, and Alaska.
CheapCaribbean.com sometimes offers extra bonuses, like extra onboard spending credit. Plus it offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find the exact same cruise for a cheaper price (available to the general public) on another website, CheapCaribbean.com will refund 110% of the price difference.
The not-so-great thing about CheapCaribbean.com is that it charges a $24.99 processing fee on each booking. It’s lumped into the taxes and fees, so you may not realize it unless you read the fine print.
Hot Tip: Want to save more? CheapCaribbean.com offers exclusive deals to email subscribers and offers unpublished fares and exclusive offers if you call in to book your cruise.
Cruise Critic is a cruise-focused website that features reviews, tips, and advice for a huge community of cruisers. The Cruise Critic forums provide a place to ask questions, give advice, and get help booking your next cruise.
The site also acts as a metasearch engine for cruises, allowing you to compare prices from lots of other websites. You can search for your perfect cruise and when it’s time to book, Cruise Critic will transfer you to another site to complete your booking.
CruiseDirect is a website that specializes only in cruises. The site allows you to quickly search cruises by destination, cruise line, departure port, or last-minute deals. You’ll find lots of different types of cruises, from budget to luxury and from mega-ships to riverboats.
With each cruise listing, you’ll see bonus details next to each sailing date — just click on each icon for details. Some of these are already reflected in the price and some are extras like onboard ship credit or discounts on shore excursions.
Kayak is a popular online travel agency but the site doesn’t support cruise searches anymore.
Priceline gained fame from its “Name Your Own Price” feature but has since transformed into a more traditional OTA. In addition to hotels, flights, and rental cars, you can use this site to book cruises, too.
Priceline often offers deals above and beyond what’s being offered through the cruise line. At the time of writing, a few different deals offered perks like $1,000 in onboard credit or 30% off every guest.
Plus, Priceline offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find a lower, publicly available price for the exact same cruise within 48 hours of booking, you’ll be refunded 110% of the price difference.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed guide on booking travel with Priceline.
While you might think of Tripadvisor as just a place to get reviews and photos of hotels, restaurants, and activities, it’s actually much more than that. In addition to reviews and traveler forums, Tripadvisor acts as a metasearch engine, comparing prices on lots of other websites.
When you’re searching for a cruise, just click on the drop-down arrow that tells you how many deals there are — then you’ll be able to see that cruise’s price on many sites.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed guide to booking travel on Tripadvisor.
CruisesOnly claims to be “the best” because each of its call center agents has an average of 5+ years of experience plus professional training.
While that might be helpful if you’re new to cruising or need some advice about which cruise line, ship, or destination you should choose, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best price (scroll down to the Price Comparison section to see how CruisesOnly stacks up against other websites).
CruisesOnly also has its own loyalty program. The V.I.P. Customer Loyalty Club is free, and you’re signed up automatically if you have booked with CruisesOnly at least once before. Benefits include things like shore excursion credits and onboard spending credits.
The V.I.P. Customer Loyalty Club only applies to cruises on these cruise lines:
CruisesOnly’s best price guarantee is similar to other sites — a refund of 110% of the price difference if you find a lower price on an identical cruise within 48 hours of booking.
When booking a cruise through an OTA, be sure to use a card that earns bonus points on travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® which earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on cruises purchased from any website or travel agency.
Expedia might be one of the first websites you visit to search for flights or hotels (and it’s probably a site you have used for a long time), but did you know that you can book a cruise through Expedia as well?
The site is straightforward, easy to use, and offers cruises from all the major cruise lines. While Expedia doesn’t charge any booking fees, it also doesn’t offer any price guarantees. However, you can sometimes find additional bonuses for booking your cruise through Expedia.
It also does a nice job of showing exactly what’s included and what might cost extra.
Hot Tip: For more information check out our complete guide to using Expedia.
Orbitz is a typical OTA that offers flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, and cruises. There are no booking fees on cruises and a price guarantee is offered. However, the price guarantee isn’t as strong as some of the other sites — you’ll need to find a lower price within 24 hours to receive the difference in price as a refund.
Like Expedia, Orbitz does a good job at displaying prices clearly so there’s no confusion.
One of the nice things about Orbitz is that it offers a rewards program, but, unfortunately, cruises are not eligible for Orbitz Rewards.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our complete guide to using Orbitz to book travel.
Cruises.com is another site that claims to be the best place to book your cruise. It can offer some impressive deals, but once you read the fine print, well, you realize there’s a lot of fine print.
For example, a deal was offered for up to $2,000 cashback, $1,500 to spend onboard, or a Visa gift card. However, after reading the fine print you’ll notice that in order to get the full bonus you’d have to spend $20,000+ on a cruise. To top it off, the bonus is only available for select cruise lines.
So while the deals offered could be lucrative, they aren’t necessarily a slam dunk.
Cruises.com also has its own loyalty program. It’s free and you’re signed up automatically if you have booked with Cruises.com at least once before. Benefits include things like shore excursion credits, onboard spending credits, or deposit waivers. Benefits are identical to those offered through the CruisesOnly loyalty program.
Hot Tip: Cruises.com and CruisesOnly are both owned by World Travel Holdings, along with other websites, including Cruise411.com. These sites offer the same loyalty program and similar perks, however, their prices can be different.
Did you know that you can book a cruise through American Airlines? The best part is that when you do, you’ll earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles for your purchase (in addition to any points or miles you will earn from your credit card).
American Airlines Cruises also offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find the exact same cruise priced lower within 48 hours of booking, you’ll be refunded 110% of the price difference.
The bad news is that you’re charged a $24.99 processing fee on every booking.
Currently, you’ll earn 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent on a cruise, excluding the taxes, fees, and port charges.
SkyMiles Cruises also offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find the exact same cruise priced lower within 48 hours of booking, you’ll be refunded 110% of the price difference.
When you book a cruise with United Cruises you can choose to either earn United MileagePlus miles for your purchase or you can use MileagePlus miles to pay for your cruise!
United Cruises offers different ways to earn miles on your next cruise:
Additionally, there are sometimes opportunities to earn even more miles.
United Cruises offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find the exact same cruise priced lower within 48 hours of booking, you’ll be refunded 110% of the price difference.
Unfortunately, United Cruises charges a $24.99 processing fee on every booking.
If you have any Premier status with United Airlines you’ll also receive onboard extras with select cruise lines:
Paying for your cruise with miles is a great option to have. Unfortunately, you’ll lose out on some value if you do so.
When you book a cruise using United Miles, you’ll get about 0.7 to 0.8 cents per mile in value. United miles are generally worth around 1.3 cents per mile (or more if you’re booking business or first class flights), so you’re getting less value than you could get if you used your miles for a flight.
However, if you have a bundle of United miles and prefer cruising to flying, it might be a good redemption for you.
Marriott Bonvoy Cruises allows you to earn Marriott Bonvoy points on your cruise or you can choose to pay for your cruise with Marriott Bonvoy points!
When you book a cruise through Marriott, you’ll earn up to 3 points per $1 spent. Chase Marriott Bonvoy credit cardholders will earn an extra 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent on a cruise booked through Marriott Bonvoy Cruises.
Marriott Bonvoy also offers a 110% best price guarantee — if you find the exact same cruise priced lower within 48 hours of booking, you’ll be refunded 110% of the price difference.
Hot Tip: If you book a cruise through Marriott Bonvoy, know that you’ll be charged a non-refundable processing fee of $24.99. That’s a pretty hefty fee considering many other sites don’t charge any fees.
It’s a great option to be able to pay for your cruise with points, and Marriott Bonvoy makes that possible. However, it’s not the best way to use your Marriott Bonvoy points.
When booking a cruise with Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll only get 0.4 cents per point in value. Since Marriott Bonvoy points are generally worth about 0.7 cents each, you’ll be missing out on some value, so you might want to look into other ways to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy for hotels or flights.
Costco Travel is an in-house travel agency that’s only available to Costco members. Costco offers 2 levels of membership: Gold Star for $60 per year and Executive for $120 per year. Executive membership comes with a valuable extra perk for travelers — 2% back on your purchases through Costco Travel (up to $1,000)!
Another great thing about Costco Travel is that you’ll sometimes find deals that offer extra shipboard credit or a Costco shop card as a bonus.
Costco Travel is easy to use and offers all of the search and filter functions found on any other website.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed post on using Costco Travel.
Cruise.com is a cluttered website and can be overwhelming when you’re searching for a cruise (especially if you’re a first-time cruiser and not quite sure how everything works). It offers lots of deals and discounts, but many of those are actually offered through the cruise line, so it can be hard to tell which bonuses are actually coming from Cruise.com.
Hot Tip: Don’t be confused — Cruise.com and Cruises.com are 2 separate websites!
Travelocity is a website that many travelers use to book flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises. The simple interface and the fact that there are no booking fees will make this a good choice for many travelers.
While Travelocity doesn’t advertise as many deals and savings as other sites, the price still manages to come out about the same as other websites.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our complete guide to booking travel with Travelocity.
Let’s get to the important part — price comparisons! We priced out a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. Prices are for 2 adults in an Infinite Central Park View Balcony room.
|Booking Website||Total Price||Extras|
|American Airlines Cruises||$5,923.08||5,636 American Airlines miles (1x per $1, not including taxes) and Loyalty Points|
|CheapCaribbean.com||$5,923.08||$175 onboard credit|
|Cruise.com||$5,873.08||$175 onboard credit|
|Cruise Critic||$5,923.08||$250 onboard credit or Visa gift card|
|CruiseDirect||$5,923.08||$275 Visa gift card and 10% off of shore excursions booked through CruiseDirect|
|Cruises.com||$5,923.08||$250 onboard credit or Visa gift card|
|CruisesOnly||$5,923.08||$250 onboard credit or Visa gift card|
|Delta SkyMiles Cruises||$5,923.08||Earn 11,272 Delta SkyMiles (2 miles per $1, not including taxes)|
|Marriott Cruises||$5,923.08||17,769 Marriott Bonvoy points (3 points per $1)|
|Priceline||$5,923.08||$175 onboard credit|
|United Cruises||$5,923.08||33,816 United miles (6 miles per $1, excluding taxes and fees)|
As you can see, most websites offer the same price. The difference comes in the extras like onboard credit, free specialty dinners, free gratuities, or bonus miles.
The exception in this example was Cruise.com, which offered a savings of $50 on the price of the cruise. However, some of the extras offered by other sites could be worth more than that, so it’s always a good idea to price your cruise on multiple websites before booking.
No matter where you book your cruise, you’ll be paying the same base price 9 times out of 10. Even though a website might be offering “the best prices” or a “50% discount,” when you actually look at the numbers they’ll usually be the same as every other website.
To get a great deal, you’ll need to look for bonuses that a particular website is offering, such as onboard credit, free specialty dinners, cash-back, or bonus airline miles.
The higher the room category you’re booking, the more bonuses you’ll be able to get. Keep in mind that lots of the bonuses you may see advertised won’t kick in unless you book a balcony stateroom or a suite. Cashback and onboard spending bonuses are generally tied to your stateroom level as well which means you’re not going to get anywhere near the amount advertised if you’re booking an interior or ocean-view cabin.
No matter where you book your cruise, be sure to check out our post with cruise tips and a downloadable packing guide!
To get the best deals on a cruise, it’s important to know which website is offering the most bonuses. The base price of your cruise will be the same from website to website 9 times out of 10, so you’ll need to find the website that’s offering the best bonuses like onboard credit or free specialty dinners.
Surprisingly, you’ll usually get a better deal when you book your cruise through an OTA (think Cruise.com, Expedia, or United Cruises). When you book through these types of sites you’ll get any deals that are being offered directly by the cruise line plus any extras offered by the OTA.
While you can find some great deals on last-minute cruises, it’s not a guarantee. If you have any preference about your cabin type or location, you’ll want to book as early as possible to make sure you get exactly what you want. If you’re traveling with a group and want to book cabins that are next door to each other, you’ll also want to book ahead of time. However, if you’re super flexible and don’t care what type of cabin you’re in, where it’s located, or even what cruise you’re on, you can often find some good deals at the last minute.
Unfortunately, there’s no one site that always offers the best cruise deals. Most of the OTAs like CheapCaribbean.com, Cruises.com, or Priceline offer the same prices. The difference usually comes when you factor in extras like onboard credit or free gratuities.
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