There’s a lot to think about when you’re trying to find a good deal on a cruise for some time this year – or indeed, next year.
Are you interested in the lowest bottom-line price and nothing else? Do you have a certain number of nights or a specific region in mind, and on which you simply cannot compromise? What about those elusive upgrades or freebie packages? In short, what really matters to you?
To help you find your way, we thought we’d come up with a compendium of money-saving tips so you can find the right cruise to fit your needs.
Don’t Declare ‘Wave Season’ Dead Just Yet
‘Wave season’ is the term used for the traditionally heavy cruise-line promotional period from January until March. However, with enticing promos having recently become a very much year-round event, many questions have been asked as to whether there’s still any point in specifically looking to book a cruise during the first three months of the year.
The short answer to that question is... yes, there is. Cruise lines are still cutting prices especially aggressively at a time of year when they know many people would be in the mood to browse the latest holiday deals, just to escape their ‘New Year blues’.
Let’s not forget those who traditionally book a cruise every year or two! They haven’t exactly forgotten about the wave season – still annually looking for deals during the peak months- which means cruise lines will undoubtedly want to offer them the deals they seek.
Value-added approaches continue to drive wave-season packages, with both mass-market and luxury cruise lines customarily enhancing their biggest and most popular deals to get people booking.
Be Clear About What You Want First
Different people naturally like different kinds of cruises, and when you’re spending as much money on a holiday as the typical cruise costs, you won’t want to end up in a cabin that you hate or regret missing out on certain favoured activities or destinations.
Therefore, you’ll need to ask yourself the big questions first, before doing the appropriate research to determine which cruise lines are likely to offer you the most attractive cruises.
Would you prefer to while away your days on a small boutique ship, or on a much bigger ship that always seems to have new restaurants, bars and other amenities for you to discover? Does it bother you when there are a lot of young families on board the ship or at the destinations you visit? Do you want the main theme of the onboard activities to be sport, arts and crafts, sophisticated cuisine or a particular combination of all of these?
Book Early To Secure The Right Cruise At The Lowest Price
We aren’t necessarily saying here that you should always say no to last-minute deals – we’ve got more detail on that subject for you below – but if you have specific ideas as to what you need and want from a cruise, booking as soon as possible is definitely key.
After all, cruise lines want to give themselves peace of mind by filling their cabin space a good time in advance of the given trip. Plus, if a particular cruise looks good to you, the likelihood is that it’ll look good to an awful lot of other people too, which means it’s more likely to quickly sell out.
A typical booking window for many cruise customers is about six to eight months before the sailing date. However, some people anxious to secure their place on an especially sought-after cruise may even book one or two years ahead. It’s therefore important not to be complacent about the chances of your preferred cruise selling out before you get round to booking.
Flexibility Will Enable You To Land Some Brilliant Late Deals
But what if you are one of those rare people who have the freedom to set off on a cruise at a relatively short notice – say, within 60 to 90 days of departure – and therefore have the luxury of scouring those last-minute deals without worrying about certain ones selling out?
In that case, you’re a lucky person indeed, as there are some fine deals out there for people like you! If it is just bottom-line pricing that you’re concerned about, determining the best deal will be a relatively simple process of just dividing the stated package price by the number of cruise nights.
However, it’s important to establish whether you really are as ‘unfussy’ as you might presume yourself to be. Are you genuinely fine with the idea of heading off on a cruise at any time of year, and to any location? Are you open to sleeping in a cabin that is interior, obstructed or far forward? When you get to the destinations, will you be able to navigate them easily enough on your own?
The reality is that there are at least a few things that the vast majority of people will want their cruise to include. That might include a particular sail date, cabin type and location, itinerary details, or value-adds such as certain beverage packages or free onboard Wi-Fi.
The more specific your requirements are, the more sense it makes to book sooner rather than later.
Target The Shoulder Season Of Your Intended Destination
If you have a specific part of the world in mind for your cruise, it makes sense to book for that destination’s ‘shoulder season’ – the period between the peak and off-peak seasons.
For Alaska, that means May, while the Caribbean shoulder season is October. If you’ve got your eye on a cruise in the Mediterranean, the shoulder season for that would be around April.
This will likely enable you to enjoy hospitable weather on your cruise while enjoying much lower crowds at the destinations. However, to avoid a disappointing experience, we would urge you to carefully research these aspects before booking.
Keep An Eye Out For Hidden Costs
When you’re pouring over those itineraries, it’s also important to consider all of those other expenses that you’re likely to incur over the course of your cruise, and how some of them could be best mitigated. Yes, your chosen package may give you access to constant entertainment and more food than you can eat, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to keep your onboard spending down.
Alcohol and soft drinks, for example, may have restaurant-esque price tags, so it may be a good idea to stock up on cheaper bottled water and soft drinks in ports. If, meanwhile, you order wine with dinner, you could always have some of it held over for the following night, instead of feeling the need to finish it all in one evening.
Onboard Wi-Fi charges can also be scarily high over the duration of your cruise, which you could reduce by resisting checking your emails until you’re in port. Free Wi-Fi should be available to take advantage of in many of the cafes close to port.
Follow the above advice, and you stand the best chance of landing a cruise deal that will make the most sense to your head while also capturing your heart. Ultimately, isn’t that what we all want from a holiday?