If your holiday budget is limited, or you’re a bargain hound, a well-researched cruise deal can give you a wonderful holiday for as little as $50 per person per day. We’ve researched some of the best ways to get a great deal on your next trip.
Book well in advance. Experts say the best deals are to be found up to 2 years before your cruise. Fares usually increase the closer you get to departure; this is especially true for river cruises which have less distressed inventory due to smaller ship sizes.
Alternatively, last-minute deals can sometimes be offered 60 to 120 days before departure. This is the ‘last call’ – the point at which travellers can cancel their booking without penalty, so the cruise line can accurately predict capacity and may release deals to sell their remaining cabins.
Book when a new ship is launched. Some lines will substantially discount fares on the existing ships when they are launching a new liner in the fleet. Keep an eye out for announcements of new cruises, and check the fares on the ‘older’ ships in the line.
Off-season or shoulder season is a standard way to book a cheaper fare everywhere, if you’re not too worried about sunshine. A cruise that has many interesting stops can still be an enticing holiday even if the weather is not perfect.
September and October should still be fine for a Mediterranean cruise, while if you’re feeling adventurous, hurricane season in the Caribbean is the cheapest time to go.
National Cruise Vacation Week hosted by the Cruise Lines International Association occurs each October. Wave season, an annual industry-wide sale period, is usually from January to March.
Lines such as Norwegian or Disney sometimes offer ‘2-for-1’ or ‘kids sail free’ deals – these go quickly so sign up for their newsletters for advance notice.
Similar to the $1 deals for hire cars returning to the depot, sometimes cruise ships need to change regions for the new season.
Repositioning cruises usually run between Europe and America but also stop closer to home. It’s possible to get very cheap cruises, on routes such as Rome to Florida, or Sydney to Hawaii.
Bear in mind that they are often quite long trips, with few stops, as their purpose is to get the ship to its port as quickly as possible.
However, if you don’t mind endless days gazing at the sea, time to read or just catch up on movies, while having your every whim catered to, they could be just the thing.
Tips, drinks, gifts and shore excursions are often not included in cheaper cruises, and can eat into your budget. Most cruise lines will allow you to bring your own drinks, especially if they are brands that the ship’s vendors don’t stock.
The buffet area on most ships offers coffee, tea and iced tea free. You can also purchase a beverage pack, which may work out cheaper. Do some research beforehand and book your own shore excursions, book a local guide or just explore the port yourself.
Check the ‘free’ airfare offered with the cruise; you may be able to get a better deal by booking your flight directly, or using Frequent Flyer points.
If you’re offered on-board credit, check if it is redeemable for cash if you don’t use it on board – many credit deals are only redeemable on the ship.
Some travel agents or cruise lines will offer free inclusions as an incentive – such as pre-paying your tips, free beverage packages, free shore excursions or cabin upgrades. It’s worth asking when you book. Also, travel agents sometimes have access to deals that online sites do not, so talk to a real person and do your research.
If you’re not claustrophobic and are happy to use your cabin only to sleep, inside cabins (no window or balcony) are always cheaper than any other on-board options. Most ships’ websites will have a map of the ship where you can spy out places with great views to sit during the day.
Spend your days on deck, in the lounge or bar, the library, spa or movie theatre, and save. There is also the possibility of an upgrade to a better cabin pending availability.
Again, it doesn’t hurt to ask (though it’s wise not to book on the assumption that you’ll upgrade, as many people are now aware of this perk!)
Sites such as Groupon often have excellent discounted cruises and 2-for-1 deals.
Most cruise liners tweet their deals. Set up a list of cruise companies and a persistent search for ‘cruise deals’ in your Twitter account to keep an eye on good deals, or follow them on Facebook and ensure you have notifications ticked for their posts so you’ll be alerted.
Just as SkyScanner regularly scans the web for cheap flights, sites such as Cruiseabout, CruiseCo or Cruise Critic often have good deals. Sign up for their newsletters for advance notice and alerts.
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