Cruising is great fun, but it’s best to know as much as you can before booking that cruise you’ve been dreaming of. Here are some cruising resources that offer great information as well as some good deals on cruises, though remember: shop around before you book, since there’s lots of competition in the cruise industry.
Cruise Critic This is the mother of all cruise information sites, with a wealth of great advice on cruising, as well as forums and chat rooms where cruisers share their reviews and experience. There’s also a search engine so you can find and book a cruise on the spot, and “roll calls” where you can meet others on the cruise you book.
Cruise Compete This is a kind of reverse auction site: you pick a cruise and travel agents send you competing price offers for it, taking some of the work out of cruise shopping. Also has information on ships and excursions.
CruCon One of the major cruise retailers, CruCon is a great source of special cruise deals, and offers perks such as prepaid gratuities or free drinks packages. It has a user-friendly booking engine that lets you see what you’re getting as you book.
Cruiseline.com This great site offers pretty much everything a cruiser could want, from a search engine with handy route maps to frank advice on a wide range of topics — even things like “5 Cruise Ship Ports that Suck”. There’s also a big library of cruiser reviews covering cruise lines, ships, and intineraries. A great resource.
Allthingscruise.com This is a good source for cruise information, from reports on new ships to basic info on the major cruise lines. There’s also cruising advice, and lots of useful content like directions on getting to the cruise ports and a tool to help you get the best price. Offers links to cruise deals on other sites, and will send you offers by e-mail.
Cruise Currents It’s mostly a source of cruise industry news, but it does include some reviews and a few cruise deals. Youthful author Mike Faust has taken 19 cruises and contributes to CNN, CBS, BBC, and the Huffington Post.
Cruisedeckplans.com This is the place to go if you want to see what your ship or cabin is really like. The site has an amazing database of more than 199 ocean cruisers and 89 river ships. There are deck diagrams with little icons you can click to see a photo from that spot, and cabin descriptions with detailed diagrams, photos, features and square footage. Most of the info is free, but you can subscribe to get more detail and bigger pictures; they even pay active members 25 to 50 cents for submitting photos.
Explorerivercruises.com This unique site is a compendium of information about river cruising. It has information about the rivers, routes and destinations in every part of the world, including North America, Asia and Australia. There’s also a blog that deals with issues like “best river cruises for families” and “gluten-free dining in Vienna”.
Cruise TT Cruising into Cozumel? This site will tell you what other ships will be there on your date so you’l know how crowded the port will be. You can find just about every port, and every ship too, if you want to know where it will be on a certain date. There’s a forum, though not as robust as Cruise Critic’s.
Cruiselinefans.com This site runs a cruisers’ “club”: once you sign up (for free), you can participate in forums much like those on Cruise Critic and share your bruise experiences. There are also news stories, a good library of ship profiles that link to passengers’ reviews, and many cruise reports (though a few look to be less than candid). There are also links so you can price a cruise on several online sites at once.
Porthole Magazine An online magazine that offers lots of inside information on cruising, with articles, videos, ship reviews and a blog. It’s a good place to find out what’s happening in the cruise world, or to research a ship you’re thinking of sailing on. There are also excerpts of articles from the magazine — for the full versions, you need to subscribe. However, the rest of the content is free.
Chris Cruises This site focuses on cruise news, but it also has a lot of useful cruising tips, some cruise journals, and alerts on special offers. There are sections on planning, river cruising, luxury cruising and food (use the drop-down menu at top left). Writer Chris Owen (@OrlandoChris) is a certified Master Cruise Counsellor.
AboutCruiseShips.com A wide-ranging collection of info on cruising, from a hard-cruising couple. There’s current news, ship reviews, photos and entries on cruise ports and excursions. Not that much content at the moment, but it should grow over time.
Cruise Law News If you want to know what happens behind the scenes on the major cruise lines, this is the site for you. Created by Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer, it delves into issues such as on-board crime, accidents, Norovirus and pirate attacks. A fascinating read, though it could put you off cruising altogether.
Popular Cruising This site has a wide range of cruising info, from cruise reviews to cruising tips, destination info and podcasts. There’s a lot of video, and day-by-day cruise journals are a specialty. And, this is one of the few general cruising sites that has a decent section on river cruising.
Travelshopgirl This wide-ranging site is written by avid traveller Marian Krueger, who details her trips in candid, first-person style. Included are descriptions of cruises on a number of ships, with details on decor, food and excursions.
Connect at Sea This site offers information to help control the cost of using the internet on board, including a chart of cruise ship internet charges and tips on how to limit your bandwidth use. Offers an app to let you make calls and texts, which seems to be usable only on Oceania ships.
Eight Smart questions Finally, here’s a Travelling Boomer post that lists eight questions you should ask before booking your cruise, so there are no nasty surprises.