Yes there’s lots of places to book a cruise online. But which website is really the best? Does it even make a difference? Do they all have the same cruise prices anyway? These are questions we hear all the time. So we finally decided to answer them all in one place. We’ve already done the research and eliminated most of the popular cruise deal websites for one reason or another. Some didn’t have a price guarantee, others had booking fees, some had other hidden fees.
Yes Cruising Deals Can Be Found, But It’s Not What You Think
Ditch the hours of caffeine-fueled research, because we’ve already done the heavy lifting for you. Here you will find the three best cruise deal websites out there. From access to exceptional travel deals to impressive member benefits, these three websites offer a comprehensive user experience that you won’t find elsewhere. Let’s get started!
Are Cruise Prices the Same Everywhere You Book?
Same price – yes. Same perks – no. This is what makes the difference in where you book a cruise and this is really the only difference. Cruises prices from site to site tend to be very nearly the same. But some online travel agent (OTA) sites offer better perks than others. For example, you may receive an onboard credit or a room upgrade. Booking directly with the cruise line is not likely to get you these credits. But booking with an OTA (see below) is likely to get you at least a small perk. That’s why the following cruise deal sites are the best we’ve found.
Perhaps the most well-known booking site on this list, Expedia was initially founded as a division of the Microsoft company in 1996. Three years later, Expedia branched off and became its own entity. Since then, this multinational conglomerate company has expanded to include many other popular travel sites (such as VRBO and Hotels.com) in their enterprise. Expedia’s mission is to “power global travel for everyone, everywhere.”
How It Works: When you create a search on Expedia, whether by destination or travel type, your request is multicast to a variety of Global Distribution Systems (a type of intuitive travel database). Based on your preferences, the results pulled by these GSDs are then displayed on your computer screen, allowing you to search and purchase the best travel deals available. Cruises can be booked through Expedia directly; more often than not, you will only be required to pay a small deposit to book.
Pros: As of 2022, Expedia doesn’t charge any actual booking fees for cruises. This means you receive all of the benefits of a travel agent without the added cost. As a bonus, Expedia has frequent travel deals, sales, and bundle discounts that you won’t find anywhere else. They’re sheer size allows them to negotiate directly with cruise lines for better rates. A portion of the savings is passed on to you. (Read our full post about why Expedia is a great place book a cruise.)
Perhaps the greatest perk of booking with Expedia is that they are an all-in-one travel platform. Not only can you book the cruise itself, but you can also book your flights, hotels, and rental cars without the added stress of bouncing around the internet for the best deals – Expedia does it for you!
Cons: Expedia’s cancellation fees can be hefty. In addition, outside travel insurance might be cheaper. sometime travel insurance bought from , and some users report having to pay two sets of cancellation fees – one to Expedia and one to their cruise line.
As far as their website interface goes, it is relatively user-friendly and accessible. Perhaps the biggest flaw in their design is the large number of ads that users may encounter during a single browsing session. While we all understand the necessity of these ads for financial gain, it can be overwhelming for a user.
Online Rating: Expedia maintains a 4.1-star rating (out of 5). Users love Expedia’s platform because it’s user-friendly and easy to navigate. Online reviews cite Expedia as a reliable source of travel deals and information. Expedia has been recognized as one of the best travel agencies in the world.
Finding the perfect booking site is an essential first step in planning your ideal vacation. Beyond just deals, Expedia has numerous filters that make finding your perfect cruise easy. It streamlines purchasing trip insurance, which can be especially important for travel these days. Plus, the Expedia Rewards program earns you points to pay for future bookings.
At Cruise Direct (cruisedirect.com), their mission is in the name. The entire platform is dedicated to connecting you directly to the best cruise packages available. With over two decades of experience under their belt, Cruise Direct is one of the most trusted and reputable sources for online cruise booking. To back this up, just take a look at one of their 10,000+ positive online reviews!
How It Works: Unlike other popular travel booking sites, Cruise Direct allows customers to book a cruise directly from their platform. Simply select a cruise line and choose your travel dates, and Cruise Direct will guide you through the rest!
Pros: One of the biggest perks of booking through Cruise Direct is that they only require a small deposit upfront to book your trip (usually $200-500 depending on the length of your trip and estimated total cost). This is a great perk for those of us who have the deposit in hand but still have a bit of saving to do for the rest of our vacation. This deposit is fully refundable, no questions asked.
Another great perk of booking with Cruise Direct is that you’ll never have to pay a cancellation fee! Yep, that’s right… never. Cruise Direct doesn’t believe in cancellation fees because “we want you to pay less, and cruise more!”
Their platform, though a little outdated, is very user-friendly. They even allow users to “heart” their favorite cruise packages for future browsing. Pair this with their impressive list of booking incentives (such as free dining experiences and travel insurance), and you’ll find that Cruise Direct is a tough site to beat!
Cons: While the cons of booking with Cruise Direct seem to be few and far between, one that we can’t neglect to mention is the lack of an ability to book air and hotel along with cruises. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it would be nice to have a single platform to book all of your travel from.
Online Rating: Cruise Direct boasts an impressive 4.9 rating on TrustPilot. Browsing through the 10,000+ reviews online, you will find that customers love Cruise Direct because of their outstanding customer service, efficiency, and access to great deals. Plus, long-time users report that Cruise Direct is one of the most responsive and helpful platforms when problems arise.
Cruise Critic (cruisecritic.com) claims to host the world’s most extensive online cruise community. While their operational flow may be similar to that of other travel sites, the Cruise Critic community is really what sets this platform apart. At Cruise Critic, you will find reviews about every cruise line in operation and on every topic imaginable written by experienced travelers. In addition, the Cruise Critic forums are a popular place for people to ask questions, make friends, and get the “inside scoop” on all that is happening in the cruise community.
How It Works: Cruise Critic uses their platform to connect users with great deals. This means that, while you can’t book through their site directly, the Cruise Critic team will scour the internet in search of the best deals and present them to users in an accessible, concise way. They offer travel deals for every type of adventurer, from the year-in-advance planner to the last-minute wanderer.
Pros: One of the biggest perks of Cruise Critic is the all-access-pass to all things cruising that users receive when joining. This platform is so much more than a booking site. It is a gathering of like-minded adventurers who share a similar goal: to experience the world’s most beautiful places in a luxurious (yet affordable) way.
Cruise Critic has been around since 1995, and they have used that experience to position themselves as an authoritative source of information unlike any other. According to their website, Cruise Critic is “the leading authority and market leader for consumer cruise information; no other resource covers the world of cruising as thoroughly as Cruise Critic.”
Cons: As with Cruise Direct, we couldn’t find many downsides regarding user experience. Perhaps the most obvious con is that users cannot book their vacation directly through the site itself. While not inherently bad, this type of browser-jumping can be frustrating for those who aren’t tech savvy or who would instead invest in a one-and-done style platform.
Another possible downside to consider is that Cruise Critic, unlike Cruise Direct, cannot waive cancellation fees. Since Cruise Critic does not actually take payments on their own platform, they have little to no say regarding pricing and policies. Fortunately, they offer extensive literature on their site to help users navigate the ins and outs of cancellation fees (and more).
Online Rating: It’s difficult to find a general rating for Cruise Critic’s services, given that they primarily act as a middleman between travelers and cruise lines. Available reviews are, for the most part, positive. Users love Cruise Critic because of their massive informational database and access to last-minute deals from around the world. Plus, their forums are a great place to connect with like-minded travelers who love cruising just as much as you do!
Use These Sites to Find the Best Deals on a Cruise Vacation
Cruising is a great vacation option for any adventurer. If you’re searching for a fun, affordable, low-maintenance vacation experience, you can’t go wrong with an escapade atop the high seas. One of the best features of a cruise is that it comes pre-loaded with fun activities and dining options that are already scheduled, planned out, and ready for you to enjoy.
Once the cruise is booked, all you have to do is show up, get settled, and relax. But learning where to book your cruise and how to find the best deals can be challenging. So forget price comparison shopping on hundreds of sites online that all claim to be the best. Instead just visit these three. We know because we’ve already done it.