Whether you’re new to cruising or you’re a repeat cruiser who can never visit enough new ports of call, one of the top things you probably want to know is: When is the best time to book a cruise?
Saving money on a cruise isn't just about when you choose to travel, it's also about when you choose to book your vacation. Timing can be critical when selecting your sailings, and you can save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars by being a savvy shopper. So whether you’re looking for a sunny cruise to the Bahamas when it’s snowy at home, planning ahead for a major anniversary celebration cruise in French Polynesia, organizing a once-in-a-lifetime family reunion cruise around Alaska, or hoping to reserve a cabin on your favorite line’s newest ship, you want to make sure that you’re timing your booking right.
All of these scenarios play out day after day for millions of cruisers looking to take advantage of the major lines’ continually evolving efforts to fill their increasingly bigger ships. That translates to multiple ways to save — simply by booking your cruise at the best possible time.
But when exactly is the best time to book your cruise and feel confident you are getting the best rate on the sailing? Well, that’s difficult to say, mainly because there are multiple times throughout the year when you can use discounting opportunities to reap substantial savings on booking a cruise. Sometimes it just comes down to knowing when the cruise lines are most likely to offer their best deals. There are set periods when industry-wide sales occur — such as Wave Season (January through March) and Plan a Cruise Month (October) — but each cruise line also has its own approach to timing specific deals and promotions. Tracking how the prices change can give you invaluable insight into how a line offers their best rates.
Other times, it means taking advantage of low-booking periods or watching for offers that slash fares for families of three (or groups of friends who are willing to share a cabin).
The strategies you need to know to get the best possible cruise fare or decadent onboard perks that can make your feel like a VIP (something you’ll appreciate if you’ll be celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary while you’re at sea) are all fairly straightforward.
The key, of course, is to be as informed as possible before you plunk down your deposit. It never hurts to do your homework and determine which cruise lines offer the fares and itineraries that best meet your needs — since that may change depending on whether you’re cruising alone, with the whole family, or on a romantic getaway — and then sign up for our email deal alerts so you’ll be among the first to know.
Read on for five smart ways to save on your next cruise vacation, whether it is a spur-of-the moment escape to the sands of the south or a momentous occasion in a far-flung land that you’ll never forget.
John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.