Are you wondering how to get the very best cruise deals? It’s no secret. Cruising is by far our most favorite way to travel, and we’ve certainly covered the reasons why here. I mean, how else can you visit so many cities in such a short time, all while being pampered?
The thing is, like traveling by air, cruising prices are all over the map. For instance, you can find fares around US$65/night per person, all the way up to US$600/night per person, for the very same ship, same food, and the same destinations. Like airlines, cruise companies often price their rooms based on availability. The less availability, the higher the price (usually).
So how do you beat the system and find the very best possible fares? We’ve had a few secrets that work over and over. Some are very simple, and others require a bit more patience.
So let’s explore what you can do to find those smoking deals.
Book Early, Very Early To Get The Best Cruise Deals
If you have a specific itinerary or week in mind, and can not be flexible, perhaps because of work, your best bet is to book as early as possible. We’ve found that you get some pretty amazing deals and perks for sailings when the cruise itineraries first come out.
For example, some of our cruises are booked nearly two years in advance, specifically for their unique itineraries (I.e., Antarctica). This also gives you lots of time (i.e., after you’ve paid the deposit), to monitor the price of your cruise, and should they come down (i.e., due to a sale), you may ask your travel agent to contact the cruise line and match the new price.
There is an exception to the book early rule: Book one or two days before the final payment is due! What does that mean? Most cruise lines require the final payment 90 days before departure. Many passengers book their cruise months in advance with refundable deposits. When it’s time to send the final payment, they end up canceling for whatever reason and thus leaving the cruise line with some unsold cabins. Cruise lines might decide to put those cabin on sale to fill up the ship. This last tip is not a guarantee, but it’s worth checking. In order to know about last-minute deals, you should sign up for the cruise lines newsletter (A list of newsletter links are at the bottom of the page). Also focus on ports that have very high cruise embarkation traffic (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Barcelona, Civitavecchia, Athens, etc.).
Book With a Travel Agent Specialised in Cruises
Travel agents specializing in cruises often allocate groups of cabins with multiple cruise lines at a special rate that they can sell to the public. These special rates often come with extra perks like on-board credits, specialty dining, etc., that they’re able to negotiate with the cruise line and pass on their clients. Search for a specialized cruise travel agent and get on their mailing list for specials. (Here is one in North America). If you signed up for a cruise line mailing list and you receive a great last-minute deal, talk to your agent as they are likely able to match it and perhaps add on some cool perks.
Different Cruise Lines have Different Prices and Different Service Levels
Some cruise lines are cheaper than others. You won’t get the same level of service, or even quality of food. For example, on some more affordable cruise lines, the lowest fare does not include room service, the ability to choose the cabin, the ability to select the dining time, etc. If these don’t interest you, you can score some outstanding cheap cruise deals.
For The Best Cruise Deals: Know the Sale Season!
In the cruise industry, there are usually two significant sales periods: one in January-February and another one around August-September. Sometimes there’s an extra one at the beginning of summer. Often, you can find some flash sales, like Black Friday, Veterans Day, etc. for a specific area (Mexico, Caribbean, etc.). Keep an eye out for those, or even better, ask your travel agent to notify you when the sales begin.
Other specials that you might see from time to time is a $1.00 or $25.00 deposit. Cruise lines do that to entice people to book a cruise, knowing that if they decide to cancel, all they loose is a minimal amount. There are no savings, usually attached to these types of promotions.
Consider a Repositioning Cruise
At the end of the Caribbean Season (Late April), cruise lines move their ships to different locations such as Mediterranean, Alaska, Baltic Sea, etc. The same thing goes for the end of the Alaska season, only in reverse. These repositioning cruises are known to offer incredibly low prices (sometimes as just $39.00 per person per night). Repositioning cruises can be the perfect cruise for a first-timer because they are cheap and sometimes short, making them an excellent way to get a great deal!
Book a “To Be Assigned” Cabin
If you are not picky about where your cabin is going to be situated, a smart way to get a deal on the cruise fare is to book a “To Be Assigned” cabin. A “To Be Assigned” cabin means that you book the type of cabin you want (Inside, Window, balcony), and the cruise line will as will assign you the cabin number for the category you book or better up until the day of sailing.
Booking a “To be assigned” cabin works much like a traditional hotel. For example, when you book a hotel room, you reserve the type of room, but not the room number. In our experience, this can also be an excellent way to increase the chances of getting upgraded. (Find out more about cabin types here). If you don’t care about the kind of cabin, or you are planning on not spending any time in the cabin, you can book the cheeeeeapestttttt cabin available. You never know you might get upgraded. 😂
Do the Math
Cruise lines offer varying types of perks to make the cruise more appealing. Sometimes, to get those perks, you will have to book a minimum cabin category (I.e., balcony or above). Ask your agent how much the fare would be without the perks and do the math. You might find out that the perks are often not free but built in the fare.
Every cruise line has its loyalty program. Some cruise lines enroll you automatically when you book. Others want you to do a separate enrolment. Be sure to get enrolled and start building loyalty with one or more lines. The higher on their program you get, the more freebies you will receive – and perhaps even specialized offers!
For the Best Cruise Deals, Book on Board
This tip only applies if you’re on a cruise already. If you are on board and you think you will be taking another cruise sometime soon, I recommend to go and see the future cruise consultant on board. Every cruise line has different specials in the form of deals or perks only available on-board. Most cruise lines have another offer on-board, sometimes called a “Future Cruise Deposit.” The Future Cruise Deposit is a set amount (i.e., $100.00 or more) that you can buy on board, and you can use it as a deposit for a future cruise. These are also usually 100% refundable and has some perks attached.
Be Flexible – The Best Way to Get a Deal on Cruise!
Being flexible is quite possibly the biggest and best tip out there for scoring cruise deals. If you are flexible with the itinerary, departure date, length of the cruise, and cruise line, you can find some incredible deals. The best thing to do is to sign up for the last-minute email list with the cruise lines you like and check their last-minute deals. (Check the list of cruise lines last-minute sales).
Bonus Tip: set a budget for the cruise, and when you see a cruise in the target price range you’ve placed. Then, book it! If you are always looking for the BEST price, you may end up waiting forever!
PS: Here’s a list of links for cruise lines that have a last-minute sign-up deal.
Holland America Line: https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/deals/promotional/web-special-offers.html
Royal Caribbean: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/cruise-deals/last-minute-cruises