How to Book a Cruise Today

Work with your AAA Travel Agent to discover a getaway that’s perfect for you.

Whether you’re a travel pro with many cruise adventures under your belt or new to the idea of cruising, now is the time to experience what some are calling the Golden Age of Cruising. Why do experts consider 2024 the Golden Age of Cruising? Because of the incredible technological advancements of cruise ships over the last 30 years.

Rendering of the Icon of The Seas ship on open water © 2023 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. All rights reserved.

For some perspective, in 1993 one of the largest cruise ships built was the Sensation by Carnival Cruise Lines. It could accommodate up to 2,600 passengers and 980 crew members. Fast-forward to October 2023, when Royal Caribbean International took delivery of the Icon of the Seas, which can carry 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew members. The new ship’s claim to fame is the largest water park at sea, called Category 6, featuring six water slides. The ship also offers seven pools and nine whirlpools.

When it comes to the appeal of cruising, it’s not just the size of the cruise ships—it’s the abundance of options on board and on land. Today’s cruise lines feature different routes, price points and amenities, ensuring that there are cruises that will excite even the most discerning travelers. If you’re looking to experience the beauty of the Caribbean islands, go glacier spotting in Alaska or see the iconic architecture of Europe along the Mediterranean, a cruise ship can get you there. Picking an adventure with everything you want can be overwhelming.

Connect with a knowledgeable AAA Travel Agent who can recommend the best itineraries, help with stateroom selection and ensure you take advantage of limited-time cruise offers and exclusive member benefits.

Get travel agent tips for booking the best cruise.

When planning a typical trip that includes a flight and hotel reservations, those details are straightforward. When cruising, there are so many details that you must predetermine when booking. What ship you choose dictates your route, dining options, cabin options, on-ship entertainment and on-shore activities. Some travelers enjoy the process of planning out all these details.

For those who would rather relax, work with your AAA Travel Agent to book your dream cruise with exclusive discounts and save yourself time and money.

Consider these factors when planning a cruise line vacation.

While travel agents will help you plan the perfect getaway, it’s good to consider a few questions in advance to help you decide what kind of cruise you want to take:

  • Are you looking for a cold or warm climate?
  • Do you plan to stay in your country, or do you want to travel internationally? Where you want to cruise is a determining factor in booking.
  • How many days do you want to spend at sea? Cruise itineraries offer a mix of port days and days at sea. Port days are when the ship is docked, and you can leave the ship to go on adventures and excursions on shore. Sea days are when the ship moves between ports.

Some people prefer port days so they can shop, try local cuisine and experience the unique cultures of each port. Other travelers prefer days at sea to experience all the ship amenities or just relax poolside.

Woman eating prawns outside on the Italian coast iStock
  • What is the purpose of your trip? Are you looking to make life-long memories? Are you wanting to relax and see the world from the comfort of a stateroom? Are you part of a thrill-seeking group looking for high-octane entertainment? There are cruise line options for everyone.

There’s a cruise line for everyone.

Certain cruise lines are known for catering to specific audiences. For example:

  • Carnival Cruise Line invites you to choose fun with friends and family. Enjoy food, entertainment, exciting destinations and more.
  • Watch fantastical worlds come for life on state-of-the-art-ships with Disney Cruise Line. You'll enjoy magical moments with character meet and greets, and ample activities for adults and kids alike.
  • With Royal Caribbean, you can set sail on the largest ships at sea with thrilling entertainment, including Broadway shows, surf simulators and ice-skating rinks.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line offers the flexibility of freestyle dining, immersive cruisetours and fantastic options for solo travelers.
Live performance on one of Celebrity Cruises’ ships Celebrity Cruises
  • Celebrity Cruises offers modern resorts at sea with stylish staterooms, innovative design, all-included amenities and premium options.
People playing foosball in a game room on one of the Princess Cruises ships Princess Cruises
  • Princess Cruises is the iconic brand behind The Love Boat, offering immersive Alaska cruisetours, and worldwide destinations that are perfect for multigenerational cruise vacationers.
  • Holland America Cruise Line lets you relax in easy elegance on moderately sized ships with voyages worldwide and award-winning Alaska land & sea programs.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises is among the most inclusive luxury cruise lines, offering opulent cruise experiences.

Find out what amenities each cruise ship offers.

Once you’ve chosen where you want to go, how long you want to sail and what you want to accomplish on your cruise, you can start looking into how you’ll fill your days at sea.

Most ships have similar amenities—multiple dining options, pools, spa and entertainment. When you venture beyond these, you’ll see where each different cruise line or ship shines.

Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have an overarching fun-and-adventure theme, with each ship offering specific attractions. Want to watch a mesmerizing diving show in the deepest pool at sea? Book on a Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ship. How about catching a movie on an IMAX screen while cruising? Then a Carnival cruise is for you.

If you’re interested in spa treatments rivaling the best spas in the world, book an appointment at the Aqua Spa on a Celebrity Edge-class ship. Cruise ships thrive on building amenities with superlatives, so ask your travel agent about the highlights of each ship.

Different cruise lines and ships offer lesser-known amenities, too. For instance, servers on a Disney Cruise Line are happy to cut your children’s food into bite-sized pieces. Or, on some Princess Cruises, there’s a hidden door that grants access to the ship’s bow for a one-of-a-kind view.

Your travel agent can share tips and tricks for each cruise line, so lean on their expertise to maximize your cruising experience.

One of the many nuances of cruise lines is determining which amenities are included in your cruise price and which are add-ons. A travel agent can help you navigate prepaying for additional amenities for your booking to ensure there isn’t a surprise bill waiting for you at the end of your trip.

Many cruise lines operate on a cashless system; you’ll charge purchases to your onboard account connected to a credit card or preloaded with your cash payment. You’ll also hear the term onboard credits, which is a spending credit provided by the cruise line. Onboard credits are a great way to pay for things like spa treatments, bar drinks and shore excursions. AAA Travel Agents can advise you on which preferred partners offer exclusive member benefits that are only available when you book through AAA, including onboard credit, stateroom upgrades, reduced deposits and more.

Create your perfect itinerary, including shore excursions.

Coastal ruins of Tulum in Mexico Arturo Peña Romano Medina/Getty Images

One of the best ways to experience the perfect cruise vacation is to pick your cruise line based on the perfect itinerary for your needs. Start identifying places you must see.

For example, are you dying to see the Mayan ruins? Then choosing a Carnival cruise with a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, with an excursion to the ruins, is a must. Or, maybe you’re more interested in penguin spotting. Then you should board a Princess cruise to visit the Falkland Islands. Also, some cruise lines offer stops at their exclusive private islands.

Once you’ve outlined your must-sees, you can fill in the rest of your trip with more laid-back shore excursions such as cooking classes and shopping trips.

Young woman on her phone with an open suitcase packed with various items behind her Xavier Lorenzo/Getty Images

Another large part of building the perfect cruise vacation is booking all your onboard reservations as soon as possible. You can often book dining reservations and excursions through a cruise line’s app prior to boarding, while some cruise lines require guests to be on board before making reservations for some specialty dining and entertainment options.

Ask your travel agent about the recommendations for your specific cruise and about the best way to reserve the high-demand excursions so you don’t miss out.

Pull quote that states  “AAA Travel Agents can save you money by bundling basic amenities with other costs, such as airfare, excursions and drink packages.”

Consult the expertise of a travel agent.

As stated, when booking a cruise, working with an experienced cruise travel agent is essential. First-time cruisers may need clarification regarding the costs of a cruise. While last-minute, less-expensive fares might be appealing, it’s important to remember the hidden costs of cruising, like port charges, taxes and fees.

Cruise prices include many basic amenities like dining, accommodations, entertainment and onboard activities. An inexperienced cruiser may not realize that there are extra fees for things like alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi, gratuities and shore excursions. A travel agent can determine what costs are included in your cruise fare and how much you should budget for your onboard account.

Travel agents can save you money by bundling basic amenities with other costs, such as airfare, excursions and drink packages.

Another benefit of booking through a travel agent is that they’ll help keep track of cruise payments. Many cruises only require an upfront deposit and either installment payments or a final payment closer to your departure date. If you’re not careful, you can easily miss your final payment date and risk additional fees or unintentionally canceling your cruise.

Travel agents who specialize in cruising also have valuable insight into the true sizes and layouts of cabins. These agents often spend time on the ships so they can provide the best recommendations. They can help you decipher different cabin categories and cabin types and choose desirable cabin locations.

For example, while the price point on a front-of-the-ship interior cabin may be enticing, an experienced travel agent will let you know that that cabin may not be advisable for passengers who are prone to seasickness. Or, if you plan to catch up on your sleep during your trip, a balcony cabin overlooking the water park may not be your best choice.

Of course, one of the most significant benefits of booking with a travel agent is the knowledge and customer service they provide. If an issue arises during your trip, you can forgo the often lengthy wait times involved in connecting to a cruise line customer service agent and contact your travel agent directly, saving you time and hassle.

Let AAA help you book the cruise of your dreams.

When booking a cruise, your AAA Travel Agent will work to find the cruise of your dreams. Whether you need help deciding which cruise line is right for you, help choosing the best departure port for your route or help purchasing travel insurance, AAA has you covered.

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