Reader S writes:

Hey MJ, I’ve been following your blog for a few years and want to thank you for the content and I wanted to ask you, the Cruise Expert, a question as I’ve only taken one cruise before in my life.

I’m in the process of making travel arrangements for my in-laws (yes, I deserve an award 🙂 to fly to Sicily for a vacation and subsequent cruise on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas around the eastern Mediterranean.  Anyway, my question is about booking cruises, specifically Royal Caribbean cruises, and what site/method you normally choose in order to find the best price. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks! 

MJ Responds:

Hello. Thanks for reading, and your email. There is no best way to book a cruise. In the past, I’ve booked cruises on my own direct with the cruise line. However, since about 2008, I’ve been working with a local travel agent I like. I don’t necessarily need an agent to help me book a cruise…especially a basic Bahamas or Caribbean run, but I like working with our agent, so we use her exclusively. Not to mention, it helps them begin to know your likes and dislikes. We took a big trip to Europe in 2010 which included an 11-night cruise of the Med. Our travel agent arranged a private tour of the ancient city of Ephesus for us and our friends, a total of 6 people. We had our own guide and our own transportation.

I have not personally utilized any of the online travel agencies for cruises, but I understand and have been useful to many people. With most of the big lines, the price is the same whether booking with an agent or directly with the cruise line. What you may sometimes find is an agent (either online or traditional) that might offer a booking incentive for using them that effectively lowers the cost of the cruise, but you’ll have to hunt for them. Basically, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just go with what you are most comfortable with. Feel free to email anytime with questions.