Chris Daley has a method for finding low-cost cruises. The 47-year-old compares prices once a week on cruise line websites or others like Vacations To Go.
Daley, who cruises two to three times a year, usually goes during off-season and searches Facebook and Reddit for mentions of low prices. When a fare piques his interest, he “may stalk it for a while,” according to the New Jersey-based software developer, or consult with friends who also cruise.
The system works. Daley discovered a deal on a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing to Bermuda and the Bahamas over New Year’s. “It’s gone up by $1,000 or more since then,” he said.
When is the best time to book a cruise?
According to Theresa Scalzitti, Chief Sales Officer at travel agency franchise network Cruise Planners, travellers will find the best cruise deals of the year during “wave season,” which typically begins in January and runs through March.
“I would advise them to book within that wave window because they will get a fantastic deal,” she said.
Travelers can likely find deals when children are in school, according to Susan Guthrie, an independent travel agent with Travel with Sparkle. “Obviously, during peak times like school vacations and summer, the prices are much higher,” she explained.
Maurice Smith, a luxury travel adviser and the founder of the travel agency Eugene Toriko, added that “the earlier, the better” when it comes to booking lower fares, noting that many people plan cruises at least a year in advance. Some cruise lines already have itineraries available through 2025 for planners, according to Scalzitti.
What if I book before a new deal becomes available?
Travelers – or their travel agents – can also keep an eye out for changes in the price of their sailing. Passengers can rebook at a lower price if the cost of the stateroom category they booked drops before their final payment due date, according to Guthrie. Scalzitti estimates that final payment dates range from 70 to 120 days before departure.
According to Guthrie, passengers who book a nonrefundable deposit fare may lose it if they switch, though cruise lines may give them the difference in onboard credit.
Can I get a good deal on a last-minute cruise?
Those who wait to book may still be able to do so. If a line is looking to fill space as a sailing approaches, travellers may be able to find deals at that time as well. “I’ve seen last-minute bookings where the rate is lower than when they first launched that itinerary,” Smith explained.
However, Guthrie cautioned that some of the remaining cabins may be less desirable.
What is the most affordable cruise fare?
According to Scalzitti, the cheapest cruise fares will be those that do not include any perks or add-ons. However, cruise lines may offer deals that bundle extra items, such as Wi-Fi or a beverage package, with their fare, providing a better value than adding them a la carte.
Holland America and Princess Cruises have raised their gratuity prices for their cruises.
Travel to and from the ports can also add to the cost of a trip, but Smith says that some cruise lines offer promotions that allow passengers to receive credit toward airfare as part of their booking, resulting in flight savings.
Where else can travellers look for cruise deals?
Repositioning cruises, in which cruise lines move a ship from one region to another for a new season, such as from Europe to the Caribbean, are frequently inexpensive, according to Scalzitti. “They’re usually on a per-day basis, which is probably the least expensive for people,” she explained.
However, because repositioning cruises frequently include a large number of sea days, she believes that many of those days will be spent sailing.
According to Guthrie, those cruises typically take place in the spring and fall, and travellers can find them on the cruise lines’ designated websites or through a travel agent.
Members of cruise line loyalty programmes receive offers that can save them money, such as discounted fares or free laundry service, as well as other perks such as early embarkation and disembarkation, according to Guthrie.
Passengers who enjoy gambling, according to Guthrie, can benefit from playing in the casino. According to the Carnival Cruise Line’s website, the Carnival Players Club allows guests to earn rewards such as free or discounted rooms. When guests use their Sail & Sign card in the casino, they are automatically enrolled.
Scalzitti also encouraged cruisers to book their next sailing while still on board in order to take advantage of deals and perks such as lower deposits. “Rebook it while you’re there wherever you want to go next and you’re going to get some great discounts on your next cruise,” she said.
Passengers can save money on add-ons like Wi-Fi and specialty dining by purchasing them ahead of time, according to Scalzitti. According to its website, Norwegian sells basic and premium options for one, two, and four devices, with prices starting at $25.50 per day if purchased online and around $30 per day if purchased on board.