With gourmet restaurants, relaxing spas, stunning entertainment, glitzy décor, and exotic destinations, cruises can be the ultimate luxury vacations. You don’t need a luxury budget to enjoy an amazing cruise, however. These easy tips can help you get the best deal on a cruise no matter what your vacation budget may be.
Cruise Prices Can Be Confusing
When you start looking at cruise prices, you can quickly get overwhelmed with different deals, special sales, bargains for certain sailings, package promotions, bonus offers, limited time discounts, and other pricing ploys. So how can you be sure you’re getting the best deal? These 10 simple tricks can help you find substantial savings for any cruise.
1. Research Your Trip First
What do you want from your cruise vacation, other than the best price? Before you get pulled in by cheap prices, consider what matters most to you for a great getaway. Are you interested in visiting certain ports of call? While there, do you want to spend a full day in port or will just a few hours be enough? Do you want to sail with a specific cruise line? Does your vacation need to be on a special date such as a birthday or anniversary?
The more flexible you can be with your options the better prices you will be able to find, but you don’t want to compromise on what matters most for your unforgettable cruise getaway.
2. Know When Cruises Are Cheapest
The same cruise – same ship, same destinations – can have very different prices at different times of year. In general, cruises tend to be cheapest in fall (September and October) and late winter (January and February). At these times, more people are at work and kids are in school, and there are fewer holidays to take advantage of. Be aware of local and regional holidays, however, which can dramatically impact pricing.
A Caribbean cruise may be cheaper in fall when schools are in session and hurricanes can impact sailings, for example, but a New England and Canada cruise may be most expensive at the same time because fall foliage is peaking. Similarly, cruises in Asia are often more expensive in late January and early February during Chinese New Year when more people are on holiday.
3. Book Early, But Not Too Early
Most cruise lines do not offer significant last-minute savings. While there are occasional last-minute deals, especially for weekend cruises, those sailings are often nearly full and there won’t be as much choice in cabins. Instead, book your cruise earlier – several months in advance – for the best pricing as well as the best choice of cabins.
Also Read: How to Get a Good Deal On Your Next Cruise
Similarly, there is no great advantage in booking more than a year in advance, except for very special or limited cruises. Seasonal cruises such as voyages to Alaska or Antarctica, for example, don’t operate year-round and they will fill up much more quickly, and maiden voyages of the newest vessels are always sought-after. For the best prices, it is wise to book those cruises a year in advance or even further if possible.
4. Consider Group Rates
If you want to set sail with family members and friends, investigate group rates through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line. Some lines will offer discounts if at least 5-6 cabins are booked, and the savings can be even greater with larger groups. The total savings will depend on the number of passengers and how many cabins are needed.
It isn’t always necessary to choose the same types of cabins to qualify for a group rate, and some lines may even offer a free fare or two if a certain number of cabins are part of the group. Even if you aren’t in a group, ask a travel agent if they’re booking for any large groups and you may be able to take advantage of similar rates to help meet the group’s quota so everyone gets better deals.
5. Look Closely at Packages
Many cruise lines offer bargain bundles that may include airfare, shore excursions, drink packages, specialty dining, spa treatments, or other items. These items are often discounted as part of the offer, but if they’re not deals you’d be interested in using anyway, then it isn’t a good price for you. Do the math carefully to decide if it would be better for you to purchase just what you want or need separately, or if you’d rather just skip the deals altogether for even better savings.
6. Choose Your Ship Carefully
Newer, larger ships with fancier features – robot bartenders, roller coasters, exclusive restaurants, floating breweries, skydiving simulators, go-karts, snow grottos, escape rooms, etc. – often have higher fares because of the popularity of these new and exciting options.
Older or smaller ships with fewer features will typically have cheaper overall fares, but they still offer amazing service, stunning ports of call, and many tried-and-true onboard favorites. Check when ships were most recently renovated and browse through deck plans to see what different ships offer. Comparing ship options with overall prices can help you find the best deal with the features you’re most excited about.
7. Compare Stateroom Costs
Every cruise ship has many different stateroom categories, from basic interior cabins to oceanview options, balconies of different sizes, and luxury suites with exclusive amenities. There can be great variations in what these staterooms cost, and even two very similar cabins may be priced differently depending on where they are on the ship or what views they offer. Cabins that are more convenient to public areas and on higher decks, for example, often cost more than cabins further away on lower decks.
Check deck plans for cabin locations and where stairs, elevators, and promenades are located to choose a cabin in the best location for the best price, and beware of “obstructed” “partial” or “limited” view cabins if having a sweeping view is important for you.
8. Ask About Personal Discounts
Cruise lines often have special discounts for veterans or active military members, emergency response personnel, senior citizens, or even residents of particular states. Some lines may also offer student discounts, special rates for teachers, or other discounts.
If you have special circumstances or affiliations, it doesn’t hurt to ask about available discounts and you might be able to find a great deal. If you have sailed with the cruise line previously, even if your last cruise was years ago, you may qualify for special past passenger rates as well.
9. When You Find a Good Price, Book!
When you find a price you are comfortable with, take advantage of it and book your vacation. If you wait the prices are likely to change, and may go up based on the cruise’s popularity, time of year, or other circumstances such as ship redeployments or itinerary adjustments.
The longer you wait to book your cruise, the more cabins will be sold and the less choice you’ll have for the stateroom you want. If you wait too long, you may not be able to get on the cruise at all, at any price.
10. Watch – And Use! – Price Drops
After you’ve booked your cruise, check the rates for remaining cabins once or twice a week to see if the price drops. If there is a drop on the same type of cabin you’ve already booked, you can call the cruise line and ask for a refund of the additional fare.
It may be refunded back to you, or you could be given onboard credit to use during your vacation. Either way, you will still be able to take advantage of the savings, but you won’t know unless you’re paying attention and ask for the price guarantee.
There are many different ways to find the best deal on a cruise, and savvy travelers will take advantage of different options to get their dream vacation without a nightmare price. Don’t forget to keep on saving before your cruise and while you’re onboard, and even the most amazing cruise won’t break your bank!