I think many people who have never taken a cruise wonder where to start. They might ask “How do I book a cruise?”

First you want to get brochures. The brochures are free, so get all of the brochures that you think you might have any interest in at all. In the brochure you will find lists of ships, and their itineraries, destinations, costs. They will have information about cabins, and may even have some pictures of what the cabins look like. They might have information about what else is on the ships. The bigger the cruise ship, the more stuff it is likely to have. Also, each cruise line will have a different personality. Princess ships aim towards luxury, while Carnival are the Fun Ships. Holland America and Royal Caribbean are somewhere between, though Royal Caribbean is starting to lean heavily towards the Carnival side of fun. There are many cruise lines, and each has it’s niche.
Browse through the brochures and try to figure out what interests you. You will find an exciting array of destinations, and configurations. Cruises come in many lengths from a couple days to around the world cruises that lasts over a month. Common destinations are the Caribbean, Mexico, and Alaska. Common lengths are 3 days, 5 days, and 7 days. Slightly longer cruises are starting to become more common such as 8, 9, 10, or 11 days. You might even see special once a year cruises where they are moving the ship from one location to another. These can be very interesting. One personal tip is that it might seem cool to see as many ports as possible. But it is very tiring! Less stops, and more days at sea is much more relaxing. With more days at sea, the cruise seems to last longer. Ports of call each day can turn into a tread mill.
Once you have an idea where you want to go, how long of cruise you want to take, and how much you can afford to spend. Talk to a travel agent. I have had very good luck using a travel agency that specializes in cruises. They can sometimes get you a better deal. Also, the travel agents in a cruise only agency often can give you tips about the various destinations, ships, cruise lines, etc that can affect which cruise you would like to book. I have also heard that since cruise only agencies do a large volume of business with the cruise lines, they may be able to get you better rates, or upgrades, or other perks.
You can also talk to friends about cruises they may have taken. Did they like the ports of call? Did they like the ship? The cruise line?
Another place to check is a website called cruisecritic.com. This site contains thousands of reviews by people who have taken cruises. Take these with a grain of salt. Some of the reviews seem to be by people who will never be satisfied.
Cruises are not cheap, but they can actually be comparatively affordable. Since the accommodations are included, and the food too. Keep these in mind when comparing the cost to another vacation. You can opt for a basic cabin, or a suite with a balcony. Personally I generally book one of the cheapest cabins I can get. I have always been bumped up a couple categories. But even if you aren’t, it doesn’t matter. If you are in the cheapest cabin on the ship, you will still have access to the same ship that people in the exspensive cabins do. You will get the same food at dinner, and see the same shows. For the most part, the cabin is for sleeping in. While it might be cool to have an outside window, you will only be using it a very small amount of the time. Most of your awake time will be spent outside the cabin. I have been told that the earlier you book, the more likely you will be bumped up. Also, the cruise line may have specials going that give you automatic category uprades just for booking at certains times.
Work with your travel agent to make the arrangments to book our cruise. You will probably need to get air transportation to the cruise ship’s departure point. You will have a choice to make here. You can get your airline reservations through the cruise line, or you can book them separately. If you get them through the cruise line, the air travel may cost more. But if your flights are delayed, then supposedly the cruise line will hold the ship for you to arrive, or will at least work to get you to the ship. If you book the air separately, then you may save money, but if something happens, you may be on your own. I have read that the airlines may try to help you get to the ship. Also, if you purchase trip insurance, then this may help you get to the ship as well.
Another option is to book a flight a day earlier, and then stay in a local hotel/motel near the departure point. This will give you a buffer to make sure you get to the ship on time.
You will also need transportation from the airport to the cruise port. I usually do this through the cruise line, and it is generally inexpensive.
You will probably want to consider getting travel insurance. You will be spending a lot of money of your cruise. Many things can go wrong. You can sick, or injured right before the cruise. Maybe something happens to a family member. Maybe you actually get to the ship, and something happens to you on the ship, or while you are in port. My mother-in-law was recently injured while on a cruise in Europe. A gangway broke and she fell 8 feet to concrete. She spent a week in the hospital and had a pin surgically implanted in her leg. This was less than a week into a month long vacation. If they hadn’t had the travel insurance, it would have cost them about $25000!
An alternative you booking the cruise through a travel agent is to book the cruise online. But for your first cruise, and cruise specialist can really help walking you through the whole process.
When you book your cruise, you may have to pay a deposit of hundreds of dollars. Or you may have to pay for the whole cruise when you book. If you do pay a deposit, the balance will likely be due a couple months before the cruise.
Before the cruise, you will also want to look into any requirements. Will you need any immunizations? Will you need a passport, or visas? This is where a cruise agency can help you. They will tell you what you need to do.
Have fun on your cruise! I hope I have answered your question of “How do I book a cruise?”