There are several factors to consider when booking a cruise that can save (or cost you) serious money. The nice thing is these factors aren’t hard to figure out and the cruise lines aren’t trying to trick you. Plus these factors are pretty much industry standard so no matter what cruise line you choose, these simple tips will help you know when to book a cruise that’s friendly on your wallet!
First things first the prices are set by the cruise lines. When, or if, they decide to drop a price of a cruise all cruise-sellers get to offer that same low price. So whether you’re purchasing directly from the cruise line, or on-line, or with a travel agent, the price is the same. Cruise lines will penalize any sellers for offering below the set price.
Book Early! The benefit to booking early is you can qualify for the ‘Early Saver’ price. As sail-dates get closer the price can rise. But sometimes it’s drops! As an Early Saver most cruise lines offer Price Protection to Early Savers. Meaning if the price of the cruise drops, so does your price. It’s kinda like watching the stock market. Check your cruise often. For some that means checking once a month. For me, I would check every day!
Another benefit to booking early is you get to pick your stateroom. Some want to be in the center of the ship where the movement is less noticeable. Some want to be close to the elevator. Some want to make sure the night club isn’t located directly over their room. So waiting for a deal can mean a less-then desired room.
- The deposit for your cruise is very small. Sometimes just $100.
- The balance isn’t due until 30 days before sail-date, or you can pay a little each month.
- Flights are cheaper the earlier you book them.
The downside: There is a Price-Protection expiration. Meaning at some point your price is fixed and you can’t take advantage of late booking deals like the ones below.
Wait to book & score balcony suites for cheaper then interior ones. Think romantic sunsets. . .
Book Late! If you have a flexible schedule and can wait to book your cruise you might find an offer to die for. 6 months before a cruise is to set sail the cruise lines look at their bookings. If they expect to be 70% full, for example,and they are only at 50% the price will start to drop. Sometimes dramatically.
This is how my hubbie & I got a FREE cruise! We were able to choose from a select number of itineraries for only $50 apiece plus $100 on-board credit (money to use on the ship). FREE! We decided to splurge and upgrade to a balcony for only $60 more. We could have took a 14-day Hawaiian cruise for the same deal! Meaning a $3,000 cruise for only $100 (plus $100 on-board credit). However there was only one sail-date in January but still. A free cruise to Hawaii people.
- You can pick up a cruise for 50-70+% off.
- Find extra incentives like on-board credit, two-for-one fares & kids cruise free.
The downside: Cabin selection and dates are very limited. Plus the entire fare is due upon booking (so start saving now!). Also soon-to-fly airfare can be pricey so try and pick a date as far out as possible and buy your airfare ASAP (so start saving now!).
Low-Season = Less kids. We didn’t have to fight for the water slides or mini golf =)
Low-Season Cruising! Low-season cruising is the opposite of high-season. What is high-season? When kids are not in school and during the holidays. That doesn’t mean you can’t score a deal during Christmas, but the chances are slim and I wouldn’t count on it.
Good dates to look for are those right before or after a popular high-season cruise. For instance the amazing deal I just told you about was also the week before Spring Break. More people want to book during and not so much the weeks right before/after so cruise lines often offer deals to fill the boat. Airfare tends to be cheaper too!
Look for low-seasons in…
- Alaska: May and September
- Europe: March-April and September-December
- Bermuda: April and October
- Caribbean: January-February, September and a few weeks in November & December
The downside: Sometimes low-season means terrible weather so Google is your friend here. Make sure your dream cruise is not smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season!
All cruisers get special attention, no matter what discounts you find.
Easy Discounts! Just like hotels and airlines, cruise ships often have everyday discounts. If these discounts aren’t shown directly on their websites, just ask!
- Senior Discounts (55+) and even for AARP members.
- Military Discounts. Awesome.
- 3rd & 4th Passenger. Bring your kiddo’s or a couple of friends and get up to 60% off the listed price.
- Repeat Cruiser. Earn rewards and secret deals by being loyal!
- Cruise Miles. Some credit card companies are offering Cruise Miles that work just like Air Miles for specific cruise lines.
- Resident Discounts. If your state does not have a port or one close by look for specials for your state.
The downside: Often times these discounts cannot be combined with other deals so look for the best bang for your buck first. Then see if you can add any of these on top of it.
Not all cruise lines are exactly the same. Find the one that fits your style & stick with them.
Compare Prices! Be very careful if you have a bunch of tabs pulled up on several cruises and/or cruise lines trying to compare the prices of rooms against one another. The same goes for a travel agent doing that themselves but only giving you the price details over the phone. If it looks like one cruise has the same room, destination and date as the others for a significantly lower price compare carefully in these areas:
- Stateroom location. And interior stateroom on the bottom floors with staterooms above and below will be a lot quieter (and more desirable aka $) then an interior stateroom on the 10th floor with the buffet deck on the other side of the wall (loud 24/7). All cruise lines have a floor-by-floor map on their website. Check it!
- Sail Dates. One week difference could mean the week before school’s out for summer (low season) vs. the week after (high season). Sorry if you’re singing that song all day now but seriously, a few days difference could mean hundreds of dollars.
- Cruise Lines. Some cruise lines are more expensive for various reasons. On-board amenities, number of pools & deck area, spacious & luxurious staterooms, ect. Although to many a cruise is a cruise is a cruise. If you don’t plan on being in your room except to sleep, don’t pay more for space or TV size. I talked to a couple who have been on 4 different cruise lines and stated the food was just as good on Carnival (the self-proclaimed “Fun Ship”) as it was on Holland America (with self-proclaimed “Refined Elegance”).
A little education can go a long way with saving you big bucks. But please don’t think you have to memorize it all. Pin it, print it, save it somehow and get to cruisin’!