Cruise Curious: Before You Cruise FAQs

AAA Mid States

If you’re a first-time cruiser, or thinking about taking the plunge, it can feel a little overwhelming. You obviously have a lot of questions. AAA Travel is here to help. Below are some frequently asked questions about cruising.

When is the best time to book a cruise?

The best time to book is generally during what’s known as Wave Season (January – March) since this is when cruise lines offer some of their best promotions. It is a myth that you can find better pricing if you wait to book at the last minute. As staterooms fill up, cruise lines raise pricing because they have less inventory to sell. Another tip, if you have a specific itinerary, sailing date, or stateroom category you want, you should book it as soon as you can, as popular sailings and staterooms fill up early.

What is the ideal cruise length and the best type of cruise for a first-timer?

If you have never cruised before, AAA recommends trying a three-night weekend cruise to start. This is just the right time to see if cruising is right for you and gives you the best of both worlds. A little time at sea and a little to explore a port of call or two. Everyone’s cruise preferences vary, with some people enjoying being at sea for long periods to relax and try out onboard activities, while others prefer more ports of call to experience land excursions. Most three-night cruises sail from Florida to the Bahamas or Southern California to Mexico and Catalina. 

How does the pricing work on cruises? 

For most cruises, pricing includes your cabin, most meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and most entertainment. Travelers may opt to pay for additional things like drink packages (alcohol), crew gratuities, Wi-Fi, shore excursions, dining in specialty restaurants, fitness classes, and spa treatments. Pricing for trips aboard premium and luxury cruise lines tend to be more inclusive and may include many of these add-ons. 

What is a sea day?

A sea day is when there are no scheduled stops as the ship moves from one port to the next. For some travelers, these are the most popular days on a cruise. You have a full day to relax and enjoy all the ship has to offer at your own pace. Also, cruise staff will typically offer special programs and events like lectures, dance classes, pool volleyball, art auctions, movies, or cooking classes.   

What should a first-timer know about shore excursions?

A shore excursion is a full or half-day trip organized by the cruise line in each port and is available for an additional cost. Some examples include guided tours to see the main sights of a port, sailing at sunset on a catamaran, a zip line adventure in the jungle, or an immersive cooking class. Shore excursions offer something for everyone, which could be with a large group of passengers or arranged just for your party with a private guide.     

When is the best time to fly out when traveling to your port of origin?

AAA recommends flying into your port of embarkation the day before your cruise to avoid airline delays, missed connections, or lost luggage. Arriving a day early also relieves some of the stress of traveling and lets your vacation start early. You’ll have extra time to take in the sights and tastes of the homeport you are sailing from.

Ready to book your next cruise? We can help. Our AAA Travel Agents are ready to help you plan the vacation of your dreams from start to finish – and beyond. Contact a AAA Travel Agent at 800-222-1469, go to or stop by your local AAA office.