Searching for a cruise hotel can seem overwhelming. Major port cities can have dozens, if not hundreds, of hotel options near the port. And your choices to find those hotels can range from the hotel’s website to Google to any number of travel sites that offer the ability to search across all your options to find the perfect place to stay before your cruise.
For many people the options — not just of the hotel but of even how to search and book your hotel — can be too much. That’s why we’ve taken the step to help you narrow down your choices.
Below, we analyze some of the most popular websites to find hotels before or after your cruise, including those that we personally use to narrow down options and find great deals.
Note: This article contains affiliate links to KAYAK and Tripadvisor. We earn a commission for clicks made on their website, at no charge to you.
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When it comes to arranging travel before our cruise, KAYAK is where we head first. Whether looking for a flight, hotel, or rental car, we find KAYAK to be one of the easiest ways to sort through the potentially hundreds of options.
KAYAK is what we call a hotel search engine. Instead of searching for hotel after hotel (and going to dozens of sites), KAYAK searches them all at once. It brings up all your options, where you can then sort by name, price, rating, and even distance from landmarks like the cruise port. You can even narrow results to hotels with free parking, breakfast, wi-fi and other perks.
We also like that you can switch and view your options on a map, making it easier to see where hotels are located in relation to where you want to be.
As for pricing, as a search aggregator you’re not normally booking through KAYAK. Instead, it searches tons of other sites to bring you the best prices. So you’ll see all your options and can select the price and website you want to actually book through.
When it comes to searching for a hotel, rental car, or flight, KAYAK is one of our favorites. They have the ability to narrow searches by rating, price, and amenities, as well map your options so you can see where the hotel is in relation to the cruise port.
Costco Travel (Only Certain Brands)
Most people know Costco as a place to buy groceries in bulk or get a deal on electronics. But the discount retailer also has some solid travel deals. In fact, it is one of the best sites to find cruise deals as they offer Costco Cash as an incentive to book cruises. Book your sailing and Costco gives you money that can then be used in the store.
You can also book your cruise hotel through Costco Travel, and the prices can be a nice discount over what you’ll find elsewhere. For instance, we searched for a fancy hotel in Miami, just miles from the port. We found the following price on Costco, which was even cheaper than the actual hotel’s website:
As you can see, Costco provides a lower price in this instance (along with many others). In addition, the store is well known for having stellar customer service just in case not everything goes perfect.
One drawback? Your hotel options are more limited with Costco. Most options seem to be IHG hotels (Kimpton, InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, and more). As well, you need to have a Costco membership to book.
Costco likely isn’t the first name that comes to mind when searching for a hotel for your cruise. However, if you’re a member, then the rates can be excellent, though options are limited.
If you want to get the best idea of the hotel where you’ll stay, then it’s hard to beat Tripadvisor.
Many people know them as a travel review site, but might not think of the website when it comes to actually booking trips. Tripadvisor can show you all sorts of options for cruise hotels in any city, across all prices ranges, amenities, distance from landmarks (such as the port or downtown), and more. Just keep in mind that as a a travel search site, Tripadvisor offers up your booking options, but you actually reserve through a third party.
What sets it apart from other sites are the reviews and photos.
The site is built on reviews of travelers, with potentially thousands of past guests giving you the scoop on the hotel. In addition, Tripadvisor puts a big emphasis on photos of where you’ll stay. A single hotel can have thousands of photos taken by others that provide a real look at where you’ll stay — not just polished marketing pictures. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
What makes Tripadvisor stand out is the ability to see tons of reviews of a hotel before you stay and an amazing amount of photos from past guests. It provides the best insight into what you can actually expect at the hotel.
Many people don’t think of Google when it comes to booking travel, but it makes a fantastic place to start your search and find a hotel. First things first, you don’t actually book through Google, but like other searches, you use it as a starting point.
Head over to Google Maps and then you can either click the icon for hotels or just write “hotels” in the search box. Center the map wherever you’re traveling — from Seattle to Miami — and it will bring up your hotel options along with pricing. Then you can enter your dates of stay to get pricing, see your booking choices, read reviews and more.
In our experience, it’s a great way to get a lay of the land, see what’s available, and its location near the port. But there are a couple of things to remember. First, it’s just a starting point. You’ll then actually book your reservation through another website linked to Google.
Second, we’ve found that the prices shown on Google can sometimes end up being different than what you actually see when it comes time to book. But for the most part, the ease of searching for a hotel through Google Maps is hard to beat.
You don’t book your hotel through Google, but to get a lay of the land quickly, it’s hard to top seeing all your options mapped out. From there, you can dive into more details, including reviews and pricing to find the perfect spot.
You might be wondering why bother at all with sites like KAYAK or Google to find a hotel. After all, isn’t it easier to cut out the middleman and book directly with the hotel? There are pros and cons to going this route.
First, it will cut out any third-party, if you’re concerned with that issue. As well, if booking a package — such as with cruise parking — then it is easier to see these options when booking with the hotel’s website. As well, the prices you find on the hotel site will almost always be among the lowest available rates, but will normally be matched by the other booking sites.
So what’s the drawback? If you know which hotel you want already, then there aren’t many. But many people don’t know where they want to stay in port before they sail. That’s where other sites can help you discover hotels quickly that match the budget and location you’re looking to stay, as well as offer up reviews.
There’s certainly no harm if you know where you want to stay, but it will limit your options if you stick only with the hotel website.
Booking direct with the hotel offers the ability to more easily book parking/shuttle packages. However, unless you know where you want to stay already, it severely limits your hotel options.
Are you flexible with where you stay? As in you’d be willing to book a hotel at a discount… but you won’t know exactly which hotel it actually is until you pay? It’s not for everyone, but it can be a good option for those looking for a deal.
First things first, just like other travel sites, Priceline allows you to search a port city like Galveston or Port Canaveral for hotels the traditional way. Enter your dates, and you can search for all your options, including sorting by price, rating, location, and neighborhood. You can also switch to map mode if you want a visual layout of exactly where a hotel is located.
But Priceline offers a twist to save, if you are flexible on where you stay. They offer Express Deals and Pricebreakers.
Express Deals offer you a highly discounted room, but the catch is you don’t know which hotel you’re booking. Instead, you get its star rating (e.g. a 4-star hotel), neighborhood, and general review rating, but that’s it. The name is withheld until you actually book. So you may know it’s a 3-star hotel near the beach with an 8+ review rating, but you won’t know the actual spot. In return, you can get sharply discounted rates.
Pricebreakers offer up three different hotels (names are disclosed) and you choose one for a lowered discounted rate. This is a happy medium between booking at a traditional rate, versus the Express Deals where the name isn’t disclosed. However, the hotels offered here are limited and might not match what you’re looking for.
If you feel adventurous, Priceline can offer up some amazing deals… but you might not know exactly which hotel you are staying until you pay. Even so, we’ve scored great deals here on nice places.
Expedia, Orbitz, & Travelocity
We’ve grouped these sites together because while they all have different names, but are actually owned by Expedia.
What you’ll find is a straightforward experience that gives you all your options no matter where you want to travel. Search a port city and a date, and you’ll see an entire list of available hotels.
From there, you can sort by everything from price to rating to neighborhood and even perks like breakfast include, wi-fi, and more.
Of course, having a list of hotels can be a bit overwhelming so they all offer a map view, which we personally find more useful in finding the perfect spot to stay.
As for pricing, during our checks we found prices that were the same as the hotel website. In other words, you could find the same prices while searching for all hotels as you would by visiting the hotel’s own website.
One place that is lacking is that hotel websites will give you more access to special packages for booking.
These sites offer a similar experience in searching for a hotel as they are owned by the same company. You can search a location and then narrow your choices down by price and rating, and view a map of your options.
What to Consider in a Cruise Hotel
It’s one thing to know where to go in order to best search for the perfect cruise hotel. It’s another thing to actually know what sort of hotel you’re looking for in the first place.
With so many options — especially in booming tourist spots like Miami, Seattle, or Fort Lauderdale — it can be tough to know what you’re looking for. We’ve put together a full list of what makes the perfect cruise hotel here, but the big things to consider are:
Port = Pricier: Many cruise cities have ports that are near the heart of downtown or tourist areas. The result is that staying right near the port is convenient and in the middle of it all, but it’s also likely more expensive.
If you’re ok with the price, then by all means, it’s hard to beat staying near the ship. However, hotels farther away may offer better value.
Pay Attention to Review Scores: You can find reviews for anything under the sun these days — from plumbers to pants. That includes hotels. We suggest paying attention to them when selecting a hotel.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that while most reviews are based on a 1-5 rating, it seems rare for a hotel to have an extremely low (1-2) average rating. The vast majority of overall ratings seem to be in the 3.5 to 4.5 range. So we’d be wary of those with ratings below 3.5. Anything above 4, however, should mean the hotel is consistently good.
Look for Cruise Passenger Perks: Cruising is big business. A single trip can bring thousands of passengers into a port city. To get a piece of that pie, many hotels in ports offer perks for cruise passengers like parking packages or transportation to the cruise port. These can be a strong incentive to stay before your cruise (See our list of hotels with parking offers for different ports here. You can see our list of hotels with shuttles here.)
Keep Freebies in Mind: We’ve noticed a strange trend in hotels — the nicer they are, the more stingy they seem to be. A high-end hotel seems to charge for things like parking, wi-fi, and breakfast. That’s not to mention they sometimes have “resort fees.” Meanwhile, more budget-friendly hotels seem to normally have all these extras included at no cost. In other words, not only can you save on the hotel room, but there is less spent on extras as well.
Read more about cruise hotels:
- Cruise Hotels: 11 Must-Have Tips for Finding the Perfect Stay
- Hotels With Cruise Shuttles For Every Major Port in America
- Park & Cruise Hotels for Every Major Port in America