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The Best Cruise Vacation Sites

What's the Best Way to Plan and Book a Cruise Vacation?

Lots of travelers are turning to cruises for the best of all worlds: the excitement of exotic ports of call, the convenience of not having to change hotels with every new destination, and the delight of world-class dining and entertainment day and night.

In fact, cruising isn't limited to a particular group when it comes to popularity. Parents with young children may gravitate towards cruise lines that are known for their top-notch onboard clubs for kids, and young singles tend to choose sailings with tropical destinations - and unlimited drink packages! From casinos to spas and so much more, a cruise vacation has something for everyone.

Sunday, September 26th

2021 Cruise Vacation Site Reviews

Cruise Direct Review Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award 5 Star Rating

Cruise Direct

5 Star Rating Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

Cruise Direct has a long history of providing the best prices and perks on cruise vacations. With no processing fees, an easy-to-use website, and readily available help from knowledgeable vacation specialists, this company makes it fun and affordable to find the right cruise for your travel party. Cruise Direct continues to be our top pick among cruise vacation booking sites.

Expedia Review 4 Star Rating

Expedia

4 Star Rating

If you want a one-stop online travel agency for booking your cruise, airfare, and hotel, Expedia should be your first choice. With rewards points, no booking fees, and some of the best perks and promotions, this well-established online cruise booking site is a fantastic choice for your next vacation.

Orbitz Review 4 Star Rating

Orbitz

4 Star Rating

Orbitz is a sister site to Expedia, so you'll find almost identical results when shopping for a cruise vacation. You'll also get equally great customer service and promotions. Why choose Orbitz over Expedia? It's all about the rewards programs. If you've booked often with Orbitz, keep it up when booking your cruise vacation to rack up the rewards!

Travelocity Review 3.5 Star Rating

Travelocity

3.5 Star Rating

Where can the Travelocity gnome take you? This sister site to Orbitz and Expedia has some advantages, like a Price Match Guarantee, and some drawbacks (like no rewards program). Otherwise, you'll find the same pricing and promotions as the other two sites, making Travelocity a trustworthy cruise booking site.

Priceline Review 2.5 Star Rating

Priceline

2.5 Star Rating

Priceline is owned by the same company as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, and so your cruise booking experience will be mostly the same. But, this company tacks on the $24.99 processing fee and doesn't offer as many promotions as their competitors. We recommend choosing a different service for your cruise vacation.

Last Minute Travel Review 2.5 Star Rating

Last Minute Travel

2.5 Star Rating

Last Minute Travel came in with some of the lowest rates available on cruise vacations - although their discounts were more competitive on their advance reservations and not on the truly last-minute sailings. But, across a variety of travel situations (hotel, airfare, etc.), we found more than a few complaints that this company botched the reservations, leaving customers in the lurch. Worth it to save a few dollars? That's up to you.

Cruises Only Review 2 Star Rating

Cruises Only

2 Star Rating

Cruises Only offers a wide range of cruise lines to choose from, including budget and luxury options. Unfortunately, the booking process and perks can't compete with our higher-ranked companies, and many customers have been frustrated when dealing with Cruise Only representatives.

Vacation Outlet Review 2 Star Rating

Vacation Outlet

2 Star Rating

Vacation Outlet claims to have cruises at "outlet prices". But, with very few promotions and pricing exactly the same as their competition, this cruise booking site doesn't seem to deliver what it advertises. Plus, extra fees like a $24.99 booking charge make it more expensive to use Vacation Outlet for reserving a cruise vacation. You'll probably have a better experience with a higher-ranked cruise booking site in our review.

Compare the Best Reviews

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While you might think that the best deal on a cruise is found by booking directly with the cruise line, you're more likely to get extra incentives if you purchase your cruise through an online partner company. The agents working for these companies know all of the most current incentives, like onboard credits or discounted shore excursions, and it doesn't cost you extra to get the help of an agent. The internet makes it especially easy to price the destinations and dates that interest you, get a ballpark amount, and then request a detailed quote - or even book your cruise right away! - with just a few clicks of the mouse.

If you're new to cruise vacations, you should be aware that there are costs to expect beyond the price of the actual sailing. Most initial price quotes don't factor in taxes and port fees, for example. Also, you're generally expected to pay a certain amount in gratuities - to the stateroom attendant who makes your bed and often leaves you with towels shaped into cute animals each night, and your wait staff in the dining room. Some cruise lines have suggested amounts, while others automatically charge your credit card on file for the gratuities they require from each guest.

Onboard, while many things are part of your all-in-one vacation experience, you should anticipate paying extra for alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, though some cruise lines have packages you can buy that include them. And, of course, if you want to take advantage of your ports of call for shopping, excursions like swimming with dolphins or taking a guided tour, you'll want to budget for that as well.

When deciding which site to use when booking your next cruise vacation, how can you tell which company offers the best service? Here are several criteria to keep in mind as you make your choice:

TopConsumerReviews has reviewed and ranked the best cruise vacation booking sites available today. We hope this information helps you find the perfect sailing for your travel party. All aboard!

  • Site Navigation. How easy is it to find the cruises you want? Are you provided with enough information to make your decision?
  • Selection. Does the cruise booking site offer a wide range of cruise lines? Do they offer options for the dates and destinations you want?
  • Pricing. Are the price quotes consistently lower than what you'd get when booking directly? If the site promises good deals, does the company deliver?
  • Full-Service Options. If you appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for your cruise along with any necessary airfare, car rentals, and so on, look for a cruise vacation site that lets you book those at the same time. You may even get extra savings for doing it.
The Best Cruise Vacation Sites Compare Cruise Vacation Sites Compare Cruise Vacation Site Reviews What are the best Cruise Vacation Sites Best Cruise Vacation Site Reviews

Cruise Vacation Site FAQ

While people joke that cruises are only for the "newly-wed and nearly dead" , there are lots of loyal cruisers across all ages. People love the opportunity to see several different destinations during one trip (with the convenience of having all of your belongings safely kept in your stateroom, no need to change hotels), to try world-class cuisine, or even to have the kids happily entertained by cruise staff while the adults relax, gamble, or go to performances.
Each company has its own personality: some lines pride themselves on being family-friendly, while others actually prohibit guests under the age of 18 or 21! Are you looking for a "party boat" with plenty of drinks and dancing, a more formal atmosphere with tuxedos and ball gowns for dinner, or something in between? Do some research online and with people you know who have cruised before: you'll get plenty of input to help you choose a cruise you'll love.
Yes and no. It's possible to get a great deal on a cruise in the off-season (in the US, that's usually May and September/October): you could have an amazing vacation for under $100/night per person. On the other hand, if you've always dreamed of sailing at Christmas or you're only available during spring break, expect to pay premium prices. The type of stateroom you select will also affect the price: an interior stateroom will be the most economical, while an ocean view, veranda, or concierge-level stateroom will increase your fare. Also, many cruise lines give you a discount for the third and fourth guests within a single cabin.
Not exactly. Each cruise line varies with respect to what's included and what's not. For example, one family-favorite cruise line has a complimentary soda station that's open 24 hours, while another line popular among college kids and bargain hunters only offers lemonade, coffee and tea. You'll never be lacking opportunities to eat, but many cruise ships have premium restaurants that are reservation-only and come with an extra cost. Alcoholic beverages, spa services, and off-ship experiences are almost never included in the cruise fare. And, don't forget the gratuities!
Most cruise lines only allow reservations about 18 months in advance. If you're able to book that early, that's likely when you'll get the lowest possible fares. However, if you've got some flexibility, you can often find good deals on last-minute cruises too (e.g. anywhere from two weeks to two months before sailing): as people cancel, the cruise lines want to fill those spots up, even at a discount. Whether you're booking well in advance or close to your sailing date, it's always wise to get a travel insurance policy because you may not get your money back if you cancel.
Shore excursions are organized activities you can participate in during your ports of call. These include active adventures like snorkeling or hiking to ancient ruins, food experiences like wine tasting or chocolate tours, and so much more. You can book shore excursions directly through your cruise line or through a third-party company; just make sure that you're guaranteed to be returned to your ship on time if you go with an outside provider!
Not necessarily. On the largest cruise ships - the kinds that carry thousands of passengers - you might not even realize that you're moving! If you're prone to motion sickness, however, you may want to bring an over-the-counter motion sickness medication or consider alternative remedies like acupressure bands or ginger capsules.
Are you sure you want to? If you need to stay on top of world events, most ships give you access to cable news networks, The Weather Channel, and several other stations on the TV in your stateroom. You can make calls using the ship's phones, though it's usually around $3/minute. Your cruise line probably has options for internet access as well. And, you can often find free Wifi access in your ports of call; lots of cruisers use their stops to quickly check emails and let people back home know that all is well.
The Best Reviews of Cruise Vacation Sites