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Your Guide to Cruising

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The Best Value in Travel

With included amenities like meals, activities, and room service, cruises can be much more cost-effective than land-based vacations. Plus, you can visit multiple destinations without extra transportation costs—and only unpack once!

Included in Rate*:

  • Onboard accommodations
  • Standard meals
  • Most non-alcoholic drinks (including coffee & tea)
  • Room service
  • Onboard activities (waterslides, rock-climbing & more)
  • Entertainment (onboard stage shows, comedy acts & more)
  • Children's activities & clubs
  • Fitness center

Not Included:

  • Specialty coffees, sodas & alcoholic beverages*
  • Meals in alternative restaurants
  • Organized shore excursions
  • Spa or salon services
  • Special exercise classes
  • Casino gaming
  • Gratuities

*Inclusions vary by cruise line.

Onboard Activities & Entertainment

Swimming Pools, Waterslides & More

Hit the pool with exciting water activities for kids and adults. If you're looking to relax, don't worry—some areas are reserved exclusively for adults.

Shows & Live Music

The larger cruise lines feature nightly Broadway-style musical revues, comedy shows, or magic acts. Live music is also featured throughout the ship.

Spa & Fitness

Relax and rejuvenate with a full-service spa & fitness center. (Remember, there is a charge for spa treatments and special fitness classes.)

Movies

Take a load off at the theater! Select cruise lines offer indoor or outdoor screenings, and you can always enjoy a movie in your cabin.

Casino Fun

Once a ship hits international waters, try your luck at poker, blackjack, roulette, and more!

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Cruise Dining

Food is plentiful onboard. There's a grill on the pool deck, while pastries, pizza, or other goodies are available for snacking all day. Standard onboard meals are included in the price of the cruise; however, some alternative and specialty restaurants have an extra charge.

Main Dining Room

Savor a great meal in a more formal setting, with specified dinner times at designated tables. Or, many lines offer the opportunity to dine when and with whom you choose.

Alternative & Specialty Restaurants

From tasty Asian fusion to steakhouses to Italian, you'll find excellent cuisine anywhere from $5–$75 per person. Specialty restaurants can also offer a luxury setting with exceptional service, and are great for celebrating special occasions.

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Youth Programs

From pool parties to rock climbing, there's fun for all ages!

  • Programs for designated age groups (most have programs for ages 2–17)
  • Tween and teen activities (such as Xbox gaming, Wii tournaments, pizza parties & sports)
  • Kids' pools on select ships
  • Fun for the whole family (basketball tournaments, karaoke, and more)
  • Themed activities (scavenger hunts, game shows, and character experiences on cruise lines such as Disney and Norwegian)
Babysitting

Most ships do offer babysitting services (for an additional fee), either in a group setting or privately, with a sitter in your cabin.

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Cruise Destinations

From sandy Caribbean beaches, to majestic fjords in Alaska, there's a cruise destination to suit every taste. Enjoy the view from the ship, and—once in port—take a closer look with special tours and activities from our Shore Excursions Group.

Alaska

See whales, bald eagles, and seals right off the deck! Add gorgeous glacier fields and a fascinating culture and history, and you've got a truly unique Alaska cruise experience. If you want to extend your visit, look for land tours (pre- or post-sailing) available through our cruise specialists at 1-888-249-3978. These fascinating tours let you get an in-depth look at treasures like Denali National Park.

Alaska's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

Alaska cruise info
Bahamas

This popular weekend cruise destination allows you to relax on beautiful beaches, enjoy consistently warm weather, and snorkel in one of the world's largest barrier reefs.

Bahamas' Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

*Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are considered high peak.

Bahamas cruise info
Bermuda

An enchanting island famous for its pink-sand beaches and vibrant coral reefs, Bermuda has plenty to see and do. Play a round at a renowned golf course, take in the colorfully painted houses, or explore the stunning underground pools of the crystal caves.

Bermuda's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

Bermuda cruise info
Canada/New England

Does colonial history, a romantic coastline, seaside villages, and beautiful fall foliage sound like your kind of vacation? Try a cruise to the northeastern U.S. and Canada.

Canada/New England's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

Canada/New England cruise info
Caribbean

Enjoy crystal-clear water and pristine beaches year-round. A variety of cruise lines and itineraries (from 3-night to 7-night sailings or longer), fun water sports, and world-class diving and snorkeling make the Caribbean a great option for first-timers and seasoned cruisers alike.

Caribbean's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

*Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are considered high peak.

Caribbean cruise info
East/West Mediterranean

From Athens to Venice, take in rich culture and traditions, the finest local cuisine, centuries-old monuments and architecture, and world-renowned art and museums.

East/West Mediterranean's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

*Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are considered high peak.

East/West Mediterranean cruise info
Hawaii

Travelers of all ages will be charmed by Hawaii's beautiful golf courses, world-renowned beaches, and friendly, easy-going attitude. Plus, a Hawaii cruise is a convenient and cost-efficient way to visit all the islands in one trip!

Hawaii's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

*Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are considered high peak.

Hawaii cruise info
Mexico

Warm weather, great beaches, fantastic cuisine, and a rich cultural heritage make Mexico an enticing escape from the daily grind. Explore ports such as the Baja peninsula's Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and more.

Mexico's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

*Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are considered high peak.

Mexico cruise info
Northern Europe

Majestic fjords and lakes are only the beginning. From London to Copenhagen and beyond, a European cruise allows you to explore multiple countries in one itinerary—a great way to experience each country's historical landmarks, cuisine, and more.

Northern Europe's Peak Sailing Season

High Season

Shoulder Season

Low Season

No Sailings

Northern Europe cruise info

When to Sail

Check out the following graph for more information on each destination’s high, shoulder, and low seasons.

High Season

Higher rates typically occur during peak cruising times, such as holidays or the summer months, when the destination’s weather is most ideal. In high season, be sure to book early due to the limited number of cabins.

Shoulder Season

Shoulder season is when weather conditions and pricing fall between high season and low season. Fares during this season are still very affordable, as it’s before high tourist season normally begins.

Low Season

Fares often drop during low season, which is either early or late in the cruise season, such as May or September in Alaska or Europe. Many choose to take a chance on unpredictable weather for a more affordable vacation and fewer crowds.

*Please note: Holidays draw crowds, even in low seasons.

when to sail info

Alaska: High season is July–Aug; shoulder is June; low is April, May, and Sept; no sailings Oct–Mar.

Bermuda: High season is June–Aug; shoulder is April–May; low is Sept–Oct; no sailings Nov–Mar.

Canada/New England: High season is Sept–Oct; shoulder is July–Aug; low is May and June; no sailings Nov–April.

Caribbean: High seasons are mid Jan–April and June–Aug; shoulder is May; low is Sept–mid Jan.

Hawaii: High season is Nov–April; shoulder is May–Aug; low is Sept and Oct.

Mexico: High season is mid Oct–April, and Dec; shoulder is May; low is June–early Oct.

East/West Mediterranean: High season is June–Aug; shoulder seasons are Sep–mid Nov and April–May; low is mid Nov–Mar.

Northern Europe: High season is mid June–Aug; shoulder is Sep and beg. of June; low is April–May; no sailings Oct–Mar.

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Destination by Season

Not sure what time of year is best for a cruise? Here are some helpful tips to get you started.

Fall

If you enjoy fall foliage, consider a September or October cruise to the east coasts of the U.S. and Canada. This is also a great time to sail to Europe, when you can beat the crowds and enjoy more moderate temperatures than the summer months. You'll also find less expensive sailings this time of year. (Note that early fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico; however, cruise lines can easily change course to avoid a storm.)

Winter

Exchange cold weather for some sun! Winter is a popular time to cruise to the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Spring

Spring-break cruises abound in the Bahamas and Mexico. In addition, spring is a great time to visit the Mediterranean. For Alaska, try late spring—an affordable time to go, as it's right before high season when prices go up.

Summer

Alaska attracts a high concentration of travelers in the summer months, but it's also a popular time to enjoy Europe's sights. And don't forget the kids! With school out for the summer, this is a convenient time to get the whole family together, especially in kid-friendly beach destinations like the Caribbean or the Bahamas.

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How to Save

With meals, entertainment, and lodging already included, cruises are an excellent way to travel on a budget. Here are some extra tips to help you save when you sail.

Wave Season

No matter when you plan to sail, consider making your cruise booking between January and March, when cruise lines offer some of their best deals of the year.

Repositioning Cruises

Another great way to save is when a ship is in process of relocating between seasons. You can cruise for less and enjoy more days at sea. Note that any airfare purchased won't be roundtrip, as you will be flying into one destination and out of another.

Low Season

If you're willing to chance unpredictable weather, consider cruising when rates drop and you can easily score the sailing date and cabin of your choice.

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How to Choose Your Cabin

All cabins are classified as inside, oceanview, balcony, or suite. Before booking, consider the time you’ll spend in your cabin. If you want a spacious, relaxing space, you’ll likely want to opt for a larger oceanview, balcony, or suite. Plan to use it to just sleep and shower? An inside cabin might appeal to you.

  • Inside cabins are the smallest cabins, with no views, but are a good option for budget travelers. We do not recommend inside cabins for more than two guests.
  • Oceanview cabins have windows or portholes, and are great for those who prefer natural light and more space while still being economical.
  • Balcony cabins are ideal for those who seek a private outdoor space attached to their own room, where they can dine or just relax and take in the amazing views of destinations they visit.
  • Suites are generally the largest cabins onboard and offer the most exclusive amenities. They have windows and usually larger balconies, often with full dining tables. Some cruise lines even have a hot tub on your balcony or two bedrooms. Amenities vary from butler and concierge service to priority embarkation/disembarkation, dinner and spa reservations, and more.

The majority of cabins accommodate at least two guests; however, many cabins sleep more (often with pullman beds or sofa beds) to accommodate families or groups. Special large suites can accommodate as many as 14, such as Royal Caribbean’s Presidential Family Suite, featuring 4 bedrooms and a living room. For a more economical family option, we suggest connecting cabins. Keep in mind, cabins for 3 or 4 passengers and connecting cabins are limited and sell out quickly. (Specific occupancy details are listed on the cabin category page during the booking process.)

Cabin Location

Why do cabins with identical or similar descriptions vary in price? Typically, cabins located on higher decks and mid-ship are the most expensive because they have more balcony space and expansive views, and are easily accessible to outdoor public spaces and activities.

When choosing a cabin, consider the following:

  • Motion sickness: To avoid a queasy stomach, choose a cabin mid-ship on a lower level.
  • Proximity to public areas: Do you want to be by public areas such as the pool, entertainment areas, or the kids' clubs? Consider your preferences and choose a cabin near (or away from) these areas.
  • Noise: For a quieter location, a cabin that is both above and below other cabins—rather than above or below public areas like a basketball court or children’s areas—is a safe bet. Also avoid cabins that are low and in close proximity to the engine or anchor.
  • Mobility: Do you have mobility issues? Choose a cabin near an elevator for convenience.
  • Privacy: Do you want an exclusive feel to your cruise? Some cruise lines have cabins in private spaces with special restaurants and lounges, such as Norwegian Cruise Line's Haven and MSC Cruises' Yacht Club concept.
  • Views: If you want a view, try a balcony or suite.
    1. Forward-facing balcony cabins or suites are located at the front of the ship, allowing you the same views as the Captain.
    2. Mid-ship balcony cabins or suites are located along the sides of the ship, and are the closest proximity to public areas and activities.
    3. Aft balcony cabins or suites are at the very back of the ship. They offer 180-degree views of the ship’s wake, and the balconies are often larger in these cabins.
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Booking Your Cruise

  • All passenger cabins are located above sea level and are classified as one of four categories:

    • Inside cabins are generally the smallest cabins onboard and have no views, but are a good option if you are on a tight budget.
    • Oceanview cabins include windows or portholes and provide a view of ports visited.
    • Balcony cabins feature an ocean-facing balcony that offers a space to relax that is all your own.
    • Suites are the largest cabins onboard. They have windows and usually balconies, and offer the most amenities, often including exclusive butler or concierge service, and other special amenities.

  • Booking a Guaranteed Cabin quickly and easily secures a cabin in your selected category, but your exact room will not be assigned until the time of ship check-in. (Final cabin location, including deck, are at the total discretion of the cruise line.)

Changing or Cancelling Your Cruise

  • Most cruise lines allow you to cancel your cruise without a fee when done at least 91 days before departure. However, any shorter notice will likely result in fees. Cruise cancellation fees increase the closer to the departure date that a cancellation is made. Consult the cruise line's rules and regulations during booking for their specific cancellation fees and policies. You may also want to consider Cruise Travel Protection, which can reimburse you for cancellation penalties in case of medical emergencies.

  • Whether or not to purchase Cruise Travel Protection is an individual decision. However, it is recommended that you purchase Cruise Travel Protection in case illness or injury keeps you from traveling. If you need to cancel your trip because you, your immediate family, or your travel companion are too sick to travel, you can get reimbursed for your original trip cost. Cruise Travel Protection can also help you find a doctor or hospital in case of medical emergencies and can reimburse you for eligible medical expenses.

    If you purchase Cruise Travel Protection and must cancel your cruise for a covered reason, you will be reimbursed for the cancellation penalty. The cost of the plan is nonrefundable. Please be sure to read the summary of coverage for terms, conditions, and plan sponsors.

  • You may be able to add another passenger, depending on the cabin's passenger capacity and the point at which you decide to add the passenger; however, there is no guarantee that the person can be added, or that the price will stay the same. If you would like to add another passenger, please call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978.

  • Cruise lines may not let you change a passenger's name, or sometimes even that name's spelling, after you complete your reservation and are inside of their penalty period. Changes like these can be costly, so please be absolutely certain that all passengers' names are listed exactly as they appear on their proof of citizenship (passports or government-issued photo IDs and birth certificates).

Payment/Receipt

  • If your cruise departs more than 60 days in the future, you can usually choose to book with only a deposit. If you choose to make a deposit, your confirmation email will provide your final payment due date.

  • After you book your cruise, you will receive a confirmation email that will let you know when your final payment is due and how to pay online. You may also call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978 to make your final payment. Keep in mind that if you are not paid in full by the final due date, the cruise line can cancel your reservation and will not refund you for any payments you've already made.

  • If your payment card is not accepted, verify that you entered the card number, expiration date, and billing address correctly. If you are still having trouble, call your credit card company to make sure you haven't exceeded any daily credit limits. If your card is still not accepted, please call a Cruise Specialist for assistance at 1-888-249-3978.

  • You will notice this if you purchased Cruise Travel Protection. This charge will show up from Expedia, while the cost of the actual cruise and any cruise line airfare you may have purchased will show up as the charge from the cruise line.

Registration and Documents

  • After booking, you will receive a confirmation email from Expedia. If you only made a deposit while booking, the confirmation email will provide the final payment due date. Once you receive your confirmation, be sure to register online with the cruise line to view your itinerary, book shore excursions, and complete important paperwork that will speed up the embarkation process. You will receive your cruise documents and information (usually in email form) from Expedia prior to your sail date.

    If you have booked a last-minute cruise, please call a Cruise Specialist at 1-888-249-3978.

  • With Expedia, you can book a cruise up to 18 months in advance. By booking this early, you can find great cruise deals and get the cabin and sailing date of your choice.

Life Onboard

    • Documents: Be sure to pack your passport and travel documents.
    • Electronics: For items requiring electrical-outlet usage, such as hair dryers or cell phone chargers, note that most cabins are equipped with U.S. standard 110-volt outlets. Some cabins are also equipped with European standard 220-volt outlets.
    • Everyday Clothing: Pack with both your destination's climate and the cruise ship's dress code in mind. For Alaska, bring protective rain coverings. For the Caribbean, bring plenty of light, airy clothing and sunscreen.
    • Formal Clothing: If your ship has formal nights, men should bring a dark suit or tuxedo, and women should bring a pantsuit or cocktail dress. If you don't own these items, that's OK; most ships have casual dining venues, and some ships also have formal wear rental shops.
    • Forbidden Items: The following items are not permitted onboard: firearms, weapons of any kind, irons, candles, explosives, or animals (except service animals with permission from the cruise line).

  • Most ships recommend tipping around $10–$15 per person, per day, and many cruise lines automatically charge tips to your shipboard account (guests have the option to adjust this charge at the front desk). You also have the option to pay cash directly to the staff member.

    • Internet: Most ships have Internet access (for a fee), including Internet cafés, access from your cabin, or ship-wide wireless. Remember, Internet access at sea is not going to be as fast or reliable as land connections, and therefore may not be available at all times. For a faster connection, use the Internet at night or in port when other guests are ashore. For more details, check out the ship features on your cruise line's website.
    • Telephone: Most cabins offer telephones. If your cabin does not have a telephone (which is rare), the ship's radio operator can connect you to a mainland number in case of an emergency. Please keep in mind that making a ship-to-shore telephone call can be quite expensive, and it may be worth waiting to use a pay phone at the next port stop.
    • Mobile Devices: Some cruise lines offer onboard service, but reception may depend on your phone carrier. Watch out for expensive additional roaming or usage fees your cell phone provider may issue. To be safe, keep your cell phone off, or on airplane mode, to prevent charges from incoming text messages or roaming.

    To check email or use social media, your best bet is to pay for access to the ship's computer stations. Another option is to find a free Wi-Fi location ashore, and download all your emails at no charge.

  • Laundry and dry-cleaning services are offered by most major cruise lines. Information about the service fees and procedures can be found in your cabin.

  • Smoking is usually allowed in limited designated areas, but not in most of the cabins, including your balcony, in the main dining rooms, or in most public areas. Cruise lines are strict about this policy and there can be cleaning fees or other penalties if you violate this. Consult the cruise line's general conditions, rules, and regulations for additional details about the cruise line's specific smoking policies.

  • Most cruise ships maintain a minimum drinking age of 21; however, a few may lower the drinking age to 18 when sailing from non-U.S. ports.

  • While doing your online registration with the cruise line, they will provide you with information about shore excursions (including photos, video clips, excursion difficulty, duration, and cost). We also recommend researching the options available through Expedia partner, Shore Excursions Group.

    If the cruise line does not allow you to book an excursion online ahead of time, or if you choose not to, you can book onboard at the ship's shore excursion desk. Book early for the best selection, as some excursions sell out quickly.

  • Embarkation begins when you start to board the ship. You can usually board the ship 3–4 hours before departure.

    • All passengers must be onboard at least 60–90 minutes prior to departure. Check the individual cruise line's policies for final boarding times.
    • Check in at the pier with your proof of citizenship (passport or government-issued photo ID and birth certificate). Some itineraries may include countries requiring travel visas. Check the individual cruise line's policies for required documentation.
    • At this time, you'll also set up your onboard account for services and items purchased onboard.
    • Upon boarding, you'll be able to have a snack or a full lunch, explore the ship, or simply spend time in your cabin. Due to security reasons, passengers may not bring visitors onboard.

    On the final night of the cruise, you'll have the option of placing your luggage outside your cabin door. If you don't set your luggage out, you'll be required to take it off the ship yourself. If you do leave your luggage out, be sure to keep any necessities in a carry-on bag, as your luggage will not be accessible until after you depart the ship.

    If you want breakfast, you'll generally need to get up extra early. Passengers depart in groups. Your group information, along with any necessary customs forms, will be left in your cabin the night before you disembark. You'll be required to pass through customs as you depart the ship.

    Disembarkation can take 2–3 hours. Please allow plenty of time to disembark the ship, go through customs, and get to the airport in time for check-in. We suggest you schedule your return flight to depart a minimum of 6 hours after you're scheduled to arrive in port.

First-Time Cruise Tips

Best Time to Book a Cruise: Wave Season (January–March) is when you'll score the year's top deals, including free perks (like upgrades & onboard credits) and discounted fares.

Avoid the Queasy Stomach: Sensitive to motion sickness? Choose a cabin on a lower deck, mid-ship.

Arrive Early at the Cruise Port: Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your ship's departure time. If possible, fly to your embarkation city the night before in case of flight delays.

Get Onboard Spa Specials: If you're a spa seeker, look for specials on days the ship is in port. You can save up to 25%—a great way to kick-start a vacation!

Ask for a Wakeup Call: Most cabins don't have alarm clocks, so plan to bring your own, or request a phone wakeup call.

Celebrate Special Occasions: Celebrating a birthday or anniversary onboard? Preorder flowers, cakes, champagne, and more on your cruise line's website.

Check the Daily Onboard Schedule: The ship newsletter is delivered nightly to your cabin. Here, you'll find the next day's entertainment schedule, special events, dinner themes and attire, and other helpful tips.

Pose for Pictures: If you don't like lugging your camera around, don't worry! A professional photographer will be onboard to capture special moments, and the photos will be available for purchase at the end of your cruise.

Before You Leave

From booking your shore excursions to packing your bags, there's a lot to remember when preparing to leave for your cruise. Refer to this information to ensure a smooth departure. Things to Do Cruise Packing List Don't Forget:

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Getting to Your Ship

Upon arrival at the pier, you'll proceed through the embarkation process, making your way through customs and cruise ship check-in. Arriving at the Pier Embarkation Don't Forget:

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Onboard Health & Safety

Although many may not think about it when planning a trip, basic ship safety is an important part of a successful cruise vacation. Please take a moment to look over our cruise safety information for helpful tips on what to expect. What to Know Health and Wellness Don't Forget:

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Shore Excursions

Venture to awesome sights far from the pier, skip the hassle of planning your own onshore activities, and learn more about an area from a local guide. Here are some great excursion tips to get you started. How to Book a Shore Excursion Cruise Excursion Tips Don't Forget:

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Disembarkation & Returning Home

Concluding your cruise vacation begins with the disembarkation process: the act of getting off the cruise ship. The following tips will help you prepare for the last day of your cruise. Before Disembarkation Begins Disembarkation Tips Don't Forget:

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Check out the Expedia travel blog for insider tips and expert cruise advice.