Achieving the delicate balance when booking a cruise can be difficult. Book too early and you risk paying through the nose, but if you wait too long, you might miss out on the best deals. To get the best price, experts recommend booking a cruise six or twelve months in advance. However, if you have the flexibility to wait a little longer, you may be able to get an even better deal.
The best time of year to book a cruise is usually from January to March, also known as wave season. During this period, sales take place across the industry and the price of your dream cruise can drop significantly. It's also a good time to look for booking promotions, such as free upgrades, prepaid tips, or money for onboard expenses. If you want to book a cruise when there are the lowest rates and the highest availability, the best time to book is in January.
As it is after the holiday season, most people have finished one vacation and have no intention of booking others soon. Cruise lines realize that not many people book cruises during these times, so you can often find the best deals of the year. Cruise lines usually offer good sales in January to encourage prospective cruise ships to fill up their ships. Another advantage of booking in January is that you'll often find the highest availability for the cabins of your choice.
Early January is a good time to book a fall cruise, as many others haven't booked these cruises yet. Many people aren't thinking about their fall vacation in January yet, and you can take advantage of this time to get some of the ship's best cabins, often at lower prices. In my business, I often clearly tell customers to book when they think they want an itinerary, as soon as possible - the sooner, the better. As long as there are clear terms regarding any penalty period, time is on your side. It's also because if you want the itinerary, there are 7 billion people on the planet who might want it too; some of them may want it so much that they would put a deposit before you and then you're the last in line. Cruise lines tend to be very flexible in their early deposit approach.
There is usually a very fair penalty period and a tiered deposit system that allows prospective cruise ships to pay an amount commensurate with the duration or category of their trip. For example, a 3-night Bahamas versus a 7-night Mediterranean; or an interior cabin versus a suite. If you're looking for extra savings on your cruise vacation, try booking during low seasons when there are no official holidays in sight and there is plenty of capacity - such as in the Caribbean. Several times during the year, different cruise lines will have special promotions that can reduce the cost of your reservation by more than half. Be flexible and look out for additional services or anything else that may be valid and included in the promotion. If it's a Disney cruise, you need to book as far away as possible - about a year before departure date - as time goes on Disney Cruise Line prices increase due to limited availability. For truly incredible rates on 3 or 4 day long weekend trips try Carnival Cruise Line, MSC or Costa.
Booking with a travel agent will continue to be one of the best deals as 82% of luxury cruise ship sales in the US are still managed by travel agencies and our huge volume of bookings will generally allow you to get better rates than if you were trying to book on your own.