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A large white cruise ship sails in front of tree covered hills.

Booking a cruise is a great way to re-enter travel with a big splash! Cruises can be an exciting way to see multiple places at once. Plus, you don’t have to worry about planning accommodation and transportation for each stop. It’s all done for you! What’s more, cruising can be extremely relaxing. Especially since most cruise ships have luxury facilities, fantastic food, and stellar entertainment. Before booking a cruise for your next holiday, here are a few things to consider. 

Table of Contents:

What’s the Difference Between a Cruise Line and a Cruise Ship?

Booking a cruise as a complete newbie can be intimidating. There are so many potentially alien terms which might confuse you. Often terms are used interchangeably as well which doesn’t help the confusion. When booking a cruise, it helps to know what to search for so we’re breaking it down to the basics.

  • A Cruise Line refers to a company that operates cruise ships.
  • A Cruise Ship is the specific boat that a customer might book a place on.

Choosing a cruise line is a great first step when booking a cruise as it can help you narrow down the wide arrange of choices. 

How to Choose a Cruise Line

Cruise lines come in all shapes and sizes. Some only operate big ships, some only operate small ships. Some are designed to be family friendly, some don’t even allow children aboard! The good news is that there is a cruise line for every type of traveller. 

One way of choosing a cruise line is to decide whether you’re looking for a premium (lower budget) or luxury (higher budget) cruise line. Here are the most popular cruise lines according to CruiseCompete.

Maybe you fancy floating along a river rather than an ocean? Here are some of the most popular cruise lines for river trips:

These selections are a great place to start your search for a cruise line. Another way to find your perfect cruise line is to try this personality style cruise line quiz.

Where to Go On A Cruise

Before booking a cruise, another important question you need to be prepared to answer is where do you want to go! Cruise ships travel all around the world, across oceans, and along rivers. Several of the most popular destinations to visit from the UK are stops on cruise itineraries. These are some of the most popular cruise regions to give you inspiration:

  • For Premium Cruises:
    1. Caribbean 
    2. North America
    3. Central America
  • For Luxury Cruises:
    1. Europe
    2. Mediterranean
    3. North America
  • For River Cruises:
    1. Europe
    2. North America
    3. Mediterranean

If you choose to sail around the Caribbean, you could visit amazing destinations such as the Virgin Islands and Antigua. Some of the most popular stops in Europe are in Germany and France. For cruises in North America, the highlights definitely include Alaska or the Mississippi River. 

Booking a cruise example of a white luxury cruise ship in the open sea at sunset.

When is the Best Time to Book A Cruise?

The best time of year for booking a cruise is often January through to March. This period is known as wave season and often you’ll find industry wide sales. Cruise lines usually recommend booking a cruise early, with itineraries being announced 18 months or more in advance. If you can be very flexible, you might be able to snap up some amazing last minute cruise deals. However, this option comes with the risk of having to spend more on travel or airfares to get to the cruise’s departure port. To give you an idea of how far in advance you should be looking to book a cruise, here  is the average time between booking a cruise and sailing. 

  • For Premium Cruise ships – 192 days
  • For Luxury Cruise ships – 260 days
  • For River Cruise ships – 269 days

When is the Best Time to Go On a Cruise?

The best time to go on a cruise depends on where you want to go!

  • For Caribbean – December to Early April
  • For Central America – February to Mid April
  • For South America – November to March
  • For Asia and Australasia – November to March
  • For Europe – April to November
  • For Europe’s Rivers – April to October

Overall, the most popular months for sailing are May, October and April. 

How Long a Cruise Should You Book?

Cruise journeys can last anywhere between a few days to a few months! Celebrity Cruises offer a two night Bahamas cruise whilst Royal Caribbean Cruises are launching the world’s longest cruise at a massive 274 days long! If you are booking a cruise for the first time, we think a week is the best cruise duration.  Most people who try a cruise love the experience, but just in case you don’t, you don’t want to be stuck for too long. A week also gives you a proper chance to relax and settle in. If you are interested in trying a longer or shorter cruise, here are some of the most popular options:

  • For Premium Cruises:
    1. 7 nights
    2. 4 nights
    3. 8 nights
  • For Luxury Cruises:
    1. 7 nights
    2. 10 nights
    3. 12 nights
  • For River Cruises:
    1. 7 nights
    2. 8 nights
    3. 10 nights

Across the board, booking a week-long cruise is the most popular option. When choosing the ideal cruise length, other factors to consider include availability and cost per night. 

In the deep blue sea, a large cruise ship sails straight on towards the camera, with a snow peaked and forest covered mountain in the background.

What is the Best Cruise Cabin Type?

Much like how there are different types of holiday accommodation, there are different types of cruise cabin to choose from. The four main categories are:

  • Inside – normally the smallest sized room and with no window to the outside.
  • Outside – usually the second smallest sized room with a window or porthole that has a view to the outside. Also known as oceanview.
  • Balcony – a room with a private veranda overlooking the ocean so you can step outside without going up to a public deck.
  • Suite – often the largest cabin option, with separate living and sleeping areas, as well as extra amenities and perks.

Different cruise lines may offer slight variations of these options but in general these are the cabins available. If you plan on making the most of the ship’s facilities and spending little time in your room, booking a cruise ship’s inside cabin might be a good way to save some money. Alternatively, if you are prone to claustrophobia, we’d advise avoiding the inside rooms at all costs. Before you book your cabin, it is definitely worth extensively checking the cruise ship’s deck plan. You don’t want to end up opposite a noisy service area or below the ballroom by surprise! 

These are the most popular cabin types to give you a clearer idea of what to go for.

  • For Premium Cruises:
    1. Balcony
    2. Inside
    3. Outside
  • For Luxury Cruises:
    • Balcony
    • Outside
    • Junior Suite
  • For River Cruises:
    1. Balcony
    2. Outside
    3. Inside

The Best Cruise Ships

If you are still struggling with booking a cruise holiday, then don’t fear. Have a look at the most popular cruise ships for inspiration.

Cruise to Holiday Bliss

Hopefully this article has you ready to set sail to the holiday of your dreams. If cruises aren’t your cup of tea why not check out these luxury holidays in Antigua, or relaxing retreats in the Netherlands? For more travel inspiration follow Virtual Wanderlust on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


Jay is the founder of Wine Travel & Song and contributor to Virtual Wanderlust. A published writer and photographer, Jay is an extensive traveller, a passionate music fan but an average cook. He loves the Eagles, U2, Genesis and Pink Floyd. A trusted Google Local Guide & TripAdvisor Superstar, Jay's travel photos have been seen over 26 million times and counting!

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