Credit: Shutterstock

Cruise myths debunked: Three major mistakes to avoid making when cruising

Author: Sophie Chichester

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Updated on:

Cruise holidays undoubtedly require careful planning - but it can be made difficult by myths that circulate about how best to book cruises.

Cruises are undertaken by countless travellers every year (barring during the pandemic!) so many people feel they know best about how to cruise.

However, not everything you hear is necessarily true, whether it's about which cabin to stay in or when to book.

That's why it's important to separate fact from fiction to make sure you're not being misled.

These are three common myths - and mistakes - that you should ignore.

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When to book a cruise

Myth: Book early for the best deals

Fact: Better deals can be found closer to departure

Reservation departments love to be able to go to their bosses and show how well cruises are filling up months – and sometimes years – in advance.

The bosses can tuck the deposits away for a couple of years and build budget projections that show how well they are performing.

- READ MORE: Find the best cruise holidays deals and offers here -

Despite what they claim, however, the best value-for-money deals are more often found closer to the sailaway date.

Only on rare occasions do cruises completely sell out early. Chances are, there will still be cabins to fill as the departure date approaches.

Cruise holidays: The best value-for-money deals are more often found closer to the sailaway date. Credit: Shutterstock

There are two main times for customers to take advantage of cruise deals.

1. Some passengers back out when it’s time to pay up in full – either forfeiting their small deposit, or using it on an alternative sailing. This is often when the first deals go on offer.

2. If there are still unsold cabins as the departure date nears, prices will fall again – sometimes dramatically. Some deals are promoted on the cruise line website, others are packaged up and placed with a major travel agent who will add their own promotion.

- READ MORE: Save £300 on Marella Cruises & TUI river cruises with booking codes -

There are exceptions to the “wait-and-see” rule. A few lines, including Saga, offer a price promise; if the fare is reduced after you book, you will be refunded the difference.

This does not always come in the form of cash, however – it might be an upgrade to a larger cabin, or it could be in the form of onboard credit.

Also, if you are planning a cruise to coincide with a special birthday or anniversary, you may want the security of knowing you have secured the appropriate dates, and if you want to specify a particular cabin or suite, then there may not be an alternative to committing in advance.

Cruise holidays: Our advice would always be to go for a balcony if you can afford it. Credit: Shutterstock

How to pick a cruise cabin

Myth: Book the smallest inside cabin – you won’t spend much time in it anyway

Fact: It's best to pick a balcony cabin

Although ships have some spectacular public rooms and you may well be spending most of your days on excursions or simply lying by the pool, there are also times when you might want to retreat to your cabin for a mid-afternoon nap, or just to watch a film on the TV. A larger cabin will make this a more enjoyable experience.

Our advice would always be to go for a balcony if you can afford it – and the newest ships have a higher proportion of accommodation with balconies (although those on Norwegian’s Breakaway class, Princess’s Royal class, and P&O’s Britannia are not generously proportioned).

Balconies are the perfect location for a Champagne breakfast or a spot of secluded tanning (provided you’re not overlooked from above), and ideal for enjoying the scenery as the ship cruises through the Norwegian fjords or past Alaskan glaciers.

The chances of having to suffer passive smoking from your neighbours are much less than they used to be as most cruise lines have now banned the practice.

Please don’t use the balconies to feed your left-over food scraps to the gulls, however, or you’ll find yourself very unpopular.

Cruise holidays: when it comes to actually boarding the ship, it’s better to wait. Credit: Shutterstock

When to check-in for a cruise

Myth: On departure day, check in as early as possible

Fact: It's better to wait when boarding the ship

It is advisable to arrive at your port early; a day ahead when flying to Florida or the Caribbean, for example, or even if you’re driving long distances to Southampton. It saves the stress of worrying about missing the ship in case of inevitable delays.

But when it comes to actually boarding the ship, it’s better to wait.

Many people arrive way ahead of time, even before check-in facilities are up and running, so the queues can start to build up early.

Cabins are rarely available before 1pm or later – they have to be thoroughly cleaned after the previous occupants – so you might find yourself scrambling for a seat in the lunch buffet while trailing your hand luggage behind you.

Why not relax with a drink or a meal ashore? Or complete some last-minute shopping. Leave your check-in a bit later and you’ll miss the crowds, and you have all week to explore the ship. Just don’t leave it too late – you don’t want it to sail without you.

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