Your family has chosen a cruise for your next vacation, but how do you go about booking the trip? Starting with any search engine can give you a good idea of the overall offerings, but all the results can get a bit overwhelming. You’ll find numerous different cruise lines and sailings. To help drill into the details and narrow down your selection, it’s helpful to visit various cruise booking sites.
Orbitz is a powerful travel engine that can help you search cruises as well as assemble your total travel itinerary, including flights, hotel stays, and car rentals, if needed. Many families find it helpful to check sites like Cruise Critic and Tripadvisor, which highlight deals and provide ever-insightful, unbiased reviews, then steer you to partners or cruise lines to book directly.
Booking directly with the cruise line can secure you a great price and direct access to the cruise line’s team for any assistance needed. But when looking for information to make your selection and identify deep discounts or last-minute deals, searching some additional sites can be invaluable. For example, CruiseDirect.com and Costco.com can throw in extra freebies and onboard perks.
Here’s a quick list of the best cruise booking sites. Read on to learn how to book a cruise for your family by leveraging some of the best cruise booking sites available.
CruiseDirect.com is all about cruises. This A+ BBB-rated cruise booking site makes it easy to navigate the options for family cruises with quick narrowing by sailing duration, dates, destinations, departure cities, ship, customer reviews and even specifications for “family with kids” or “family with teens.” You can search for specific ship features and amenities, like an arcade, babysitting, mini golf, room service or a teen club. The sailings are listed by dates and prices per room and allow you to quickly see which dates and options might maximize your vacation dollar.
You can sort by customer reviews, which include Pros, Cons and Best Uses. Callouts for each of the cruises available include percent off brochure price or recent accolades each ship or itinerary received. You can search by last-minute cruises and click for deals. CruiseDirect.com features a best price guarantee, no booking fees, flexible payment plans and live experts available to answer any questions, plus bonuses like 10 percent off shore excursions.
Best Feature for Families: CruiseDirect.com makes it super easy to search for family-friendly features and amenities with filters for numerous options that can make or break a family vacation. You can also heart cruises you were interested in, but not yet ready to book, so that you can refer back to your saved options.
Orbitz makes it pretty easy to search family cruises with a simple request for your destination, date range and number of adults and children. This powerful engine then turns up results you can filter by port country, cruise length, cruise line, ship and itinerary. Discounts and onboard credits are called out as well as starting price per person vs. list price.
Once you click on a cruise, you can see pictures of the cabin types, details on the itinerary, cruise line and ship info to help you solidify your selection. You can call their 1-800 number to talk to a cruise expert if you need help booking multiple or adjoining cabins.
Best Feature for Families: On Orbitz, you can book your pre or post-cruise hotel, car, flights and everything all together in one place, often with discounts. Plus, you can join Orbitz Rewards and earn Orbucks to use for future booking at over 385,000 hotels worldwide.
Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites and allows you to compare to Cruise.com, Expedia and Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity and other sites all in one place, housed in several different tabs on their page. Kayak provides all the options for comparison, but will highlight providers based on customer popularity or price.
Best Feature for Families: Kayak’s standout feature is their comparison capabilities. Families looking to compare options all within tabs on one page will be pleased.
4. Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic is an indispensible tool when searching for a family cruise. With more than 650,000 reviews covering more than 700 cruise ships and nearly 500 cruise ports worldwide, expert and real traveler photos, cabin reviews and tons of tips and information, this is a must-visit source for all things cruising.
You can narrow reviews specifically to see family cruise feedback. Virtual tours allow you to view tons of real photos to give you an accurate idea of what you’ll encounter, like this Virtual Tour of Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas.
Sign up for price alert emails that notify you of changes in pricing on the specific cruises you’re following. This can help you secure a low price, commit before a price increases significantly or snag a discount on a suite or luxury stateroom. Note that Cruise Critic (a sister site to Family Vacation Critic) is great for researching and comparing, yet will send you to an agent partner to book your cruise.
Best Feature for Families: Expert Ship Profiles break down onboard restaurants, entertainment, cabin types and other amenities so you can make an educated decision for your family vacation. Cruise Critic provides a vast wealth of information to really help you ensure you’re making the ideal cruise choice for your crew.
Related: 6 Best Kids’ Clubs on Cruise Ships
5. Tripadvisor Cruises
Tripadvisor Cruises (parent company to Family Vacation Critic) empowers you to shop more than 70,000 cruises, from ocean and luxury cruises to river and adventure cruises, all on one site packed with user generated content such as candid reviews and real traveler photos. You can sort and filter by cabin type and itineraries and discover some of the lowest deal prices across the globe.
Tripadvisor’s Cruising Guide details the benefits of cruising, tips for finding a cheap cruise or last-minute deal, and the best cruises of the year. You’ll find all the info to make an informed decision for your family cruise, and then be linked to a partner site to book.
Best Feature for Families: Ship-tinerary pages, like this robust Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Ship-tinerary, provide comprehensive information on specific ships all in one place so you can feel out if it’s the right cruise for your family. Select a ship you want to check out for details on ship size, maps of itineraries, images and dimensions of cabins, an overview of the activities and entertainment, candid reviews that you can even narrow by time of year, as well as the best partner deals you can book.
6. Costco Travel
Many families rely on Costco for their quality and value. But Costco Travel is a fantastic benefit of membership, as you can count on Costco to provide discounts on popular family cruises, and no, you don’t have to buy a dozen! Packages can include airfare, hotel, ground transportation and activities in addition to your cruise. Talk about super simple planning! Extras like Costco Shop Cards, shipboard credit and dining upgrades can also be thrown in.
While CostcoTravel.com and their brochures can be a bit bare bones, you can rest assured that the pricing is clear. Plus, you can call up their travel professionals to take you through all the details, big and small, to ensure you’re booking the best cruise for your family.
Best Feature for Families: Executive Members earn an annual 2 percent reward on Costco Travel Purchases. Those reward dollars can really add u and help you get to your next family vacation!
Cortney Fries (pronounced “freeze”) is an award-winning Chicago-based writer and mom to two spunky elementary school-age kids. She loves nothing more than traveling with family, having adventures with friends and exploring the outdoors. Cortney believes that you should definitely do things that scare you just a little bit. Follow her on Instagram, @cortneyfries.