How to Book  Your First Cruise
 

I always prefer to book our cruises myself on the Cruise Company Website. I have to admit that I like being in control of the process. To do that you go to the preferred cruise company website and click on the cruise planning tab.  Then I put in the month or series of months that I'm interested in, and the port or ports I'm interested in sailing out of.

I have a choice of a number of ports, since we're in driving distance to Florida. Ports in Florida are Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, the Port of Miami, and the Port of Tampa. I can also cruise out of the Port of Charleston, but it doesn't have a wide variety of cruises.  It's a good starting port though.  My favorite port so far is Port Canaveral. Easy to get around, and lot of choice of ships.

Make sure that you check off any extra savings categories that you may be eligible for, such as military or senior discounts. Then just click on "search" and see what you can find. Prices change often, so check back every now and then until you decide to book. Of course, the price may go up as well as down.  

When you finally find the cruise that seems right to you, click on "Book Now". Then you will have to decide which room category is right for you. Interior rooms will be the least expensive. They can be very dark, though, and are usually smaller than exterior rooms. But I always figure that almost any room on a cruise ship is better than no room on a cruise ship.  Interior rooms towards the center of the ship are good for those prone to motion sickness. But be careful, some rooms in the lowest category (1A on Carnival) can be extremely small and only have pull down bunk style beds.  Be sure to do your research and read the fine print.   

Exterior ocean view window rooms will be the next category. You can get ocean view rooms with just a small porthole, or picture windows.  Sometimes the windows have an obstructed view.  Again, read the fine print.  Since I like a view of the ocean, I usually book exterior or balcony rooms. My favorite is a balcony room. I love to sit outside and watch the ocean roll by and take a break from all of the people, but they are usually substantially more expensive than a window room, so I don't always book one. Suites would be the next step up. I've never stayed in a suite, too pricey for me but I'm assuming that they're nice.  They better be with that price. 

After that, you will want to research the deck plans before you choose a room. It can be very noisy in certain parts of the ship. See my blog on that subject.   I value quiet, and even though there's no guarantee who your neighbors will be, there are some parts of the ship that are extra noisy a lot of the time. Stay away from the atrium area, the noise and vibrations from the music travel up to the ceiling and through the hallways and into the rooms. It can be very annoying and hard to sleep, since the music normally goes on till early morning. Don't book a room below the pool deck, you will hear deck chairs being moved all of the time. Don't book above or below the theaters, casinos, restaurants, or lounges. Again, you will get noise. There are plenty of rooms that are away from those noises. Try one that is sandwiched by cabins on the floor above and the floor below.

After you choose a room, you will have to put your name and address info into the website for each person sailing, and then pay the deposit by credit card. Sometimes it's a refundable deposit, sometimes it isn't. Make sure to read the fine print. I suggest only paying the deposit at first just in case something happens and you need to cancel.  And be sure to remember when your final payment is due and pay it on time, so you don't lose your reservation.  A month before you cruise, be sure to do your online check-in by logging into the "Your Cruise" area in the Member Log-in of the cruise website.  It will walk you through the steps.  You will need to enter your passport number or other ID for this, and then you will also set up your onboard account.  After that, you can print out your cruise documentation and luggage tags. 

You can always use a travel agent if you think that would be a better option for you, or try one of the many cruise booking sites online. I've never used one, so I can't really comment on the experiences with one.