Clients ask us constantly if we have any deals on cruises and many times we do. However, there are a few things you can do so that you always receive the best price available when you cruise.
Cruise during the off-season. Cruise ships can be significantly less expensive during the off-season travel months of September, October, and November. These are months when kids are typically back in school and family travel drops off, resulting in less demand for many types of travel, including cruises. In the Caribbean, it’s also hurricane season, which keeps some people away from both land resorts and cruise ships in the region. In addition to the fall months, the off-season period for cruising usually includes parts of January and February, but it varies by region. Traditionally, the months of June, July, and August have been high season in many cruise destinations like the Caribbean, Europe, and Alaska. The periods around major holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day are considered the busy season for cruising and always bring higher prices.
Book early. The earlier you book, the better price you’ll get. Cruise lines usually open departures for bookings with the lowest prices. Then, as the departures start filling up, they slowly raise prices on the remaining inventory. To get the very best price on any particular sailing, your best bet is to book right when the sailing opens for sale. This means planning way in advance, because many cruise lines open their reservations for sailings two or even three years before departure. Booking that far in advance can pay off in more ways than one. One big advantage to booking ahead of time is that you’re far more likely to get the exact cabin type you want. On many ships, the least expensive cabins and most expensive suites often sell out first. In addition, if the cost of your cruise drops at a later date, you can usually can get your fare reduced to match the lower price. This will be true until you've made your final payment; at that time, the rate will be locked in. You have to be a little cautious when booking because not all fare types allow changes after booking has been deposited. It’s important to read the fine print for the fare category you’re booking.
Book late. Occasionally, cruise lines will drop the price of a cruise significantly at the last minute when the line finds it has a lot of unsold cabins for a sailing. If you’re flexible and can travel on short notice, you sometimes can find a last-minute deal for cruises where the line is scrambling to fill cabins. However, last-minute discounting isn’t as common as it used to be. You’ll also have to be flexible to take advantage of these deals. If you have a specific cabin type on a specific sailing on a specific ship that you’re eyeing for a vacation, you can’t count on it being available, especially not at a rock-bottom rate.
Sail on an older ship. Many cruise lines sell their newest, most amenity-filled cruise ships at a premium price, so older ships come with a discount. The older ships don’t have quite as much to offer on board as the newer ships, but if you’re looking for a deal, they can bring great value.
Consider a repositioning cruise. Some of the best bargains in the cruise world are the voyages that cruise ships make as they reposition from one part of the world to another. This is because cruise lines often have trouble selling these trips, which usually have very few port calls and lots of sea days. They also tend to be a bit longer than standard weekend getaways or weeklong voyages. They have to discount the trips to fill the ships as much as possible. The most common repositioning cruises you’ll see are sailings between the Caribbean and Europe in the spring as lines move ships to the Mediterranean for summer. Similarly, there’s always a wave of repositioning cruises between Europe and the Caribbean in the fall. You’ll also find some repositioning cruises every year between the Caribbean and Alaska, and between the West Coast of the U.S. and Asia.
Use a travel advisor. Even if you book all your land trips on your own, you might want to use a travel advisor who is a specialist in cruises to book your next sailing. The biggest reason for this is that travel advisors have access to lower bulk fares for sailings that are not available to the general public and access to group space that can be offered to clients for big savings. Our agency has access to cabins that were put on hold soon after they were open for booking, so the price savings can be huge.In addition to lower fares, many cruise lines offer travel advisors extra amenities they can provide to clients. Travel advisors can also guide you through the many types of cabin categories on some cruise ships and steer you away from cabins to avoid. Plus, they’ll be there for you when things go wrong on a cruise.