8 ways to get the best cruise deals
Going on a cruise ship is one of the best vacation values right now, and if you’re looking for the best deal, there are a few proven strategies.
Cruise ships are running at 100% capacity in the Caribbean, which means many people are also jostling for boarding.
While there are plenty of people who enjoy cruising, the good news is that you can still get a great deal on a cruise if you’re looking for a bargain. The key is knowing where and when to look.
To get the best cruise deal, you’re going to want to use these top tips for getting a good price. No matter the time of year, these tips should get you a great deal so you can maximize every dollar of your vacation budget.
Book a cruise during off-peak hours
Every region of the world that a cruise ship sails to has peak and off-peak times, so if you can cruise during the less popular times, you’ll find some of the best cruise deals of the season.
Off-season cruises occur when there are fewer people able or willing to go on a cruise. Usually, it is at the very beginning or the very end that ships start sailing in an area, such as Europe or Alaska.
In the Caribbean, where the cruise season lasts year-round, off-peak cruise times are usually opposed to the school calendar. When school is in session, fewer families can cruise.
Much like a 6am flight, there is less demand for these departures and that means lower prices to be found.
Apart from bad timing, less than perfect weather may be a factor in why there is less demand for certain crossings.
In Alaska, it is coldest at the very beginning and end of the season. May and September are usually when prices for Alaskan cruises drop to their lowest.
In the Caribbean, hurricane season has a huge impact on people’s desire to book a cruise. That means lower prices for a Caribbean cruise in September or October. You’ll also find great prices in January and early February, when school is back in session.
Work with a travel agency
In other forms of travel, the public has been conditioned to expect the best prices if you book things on your own to “skip the middleman”. This strategy does not work as well with cruises.
The cruise industry still relies heavily on travel agents to drive sales, and there’s no doubt that a good travel agent can help you get the lowest possible price for a cruise.
The potential money savings of working with a travel agent aren’t just about who can search the internet for a cruise price faster. Travel agents have access to special group rates and discounts you could never find on your own.
Many travel agents are part of a consortium of agencies, which have rates that you cannot otherwise book.
Also, many people booking on their own may simply overlook special discounts offered to certain groups, such as residence discounts, military discounts, etc.
If there’s one incredibly common mistake people make when booking on their own, it’s misunderstanding the deposit rules and regretting it later when there are change fees or cancelation. Travel agents can greatly help with this before you make a mistake.
A good travel agent can guide you through the different fares, help you choose the perfect type of cruise ship cabin for your family, and avoid bad cabins.
The best part of leveraging a good travel agent is that it shouldn’t cost you anything extra to use, as Royal Caribbean pays them a commission for their services.
Book your cruise as soon as possible
The best strategy to secure a great price for your cruise is to book as early as possible.
Cruise ship pricing depends on many factors, but as more staterooms on a particular sailing are booked, prices tend to rise as inventory runs low.
Cruise experts recommend booking your cruise as soon as possible. Ideally when Royal Caribbean releases new sailings approximately two years prior to departure date and inventory is intact.
Not only will booking a cruise years in advance get you a rock-bottom price, but you’ll also have plenty of cabin types to choose from. The first type of cabins for sale on a cruise are almost always suites.
Of course, booking a cruise this far in advance is difficult for many people because most people don’t plan their vacations years in advance. But if you have the flexibility, this is the best strategy to get a good cruise price.
Read more: How far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best price?
Book a cruise on an older ship
While Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Quantum Class ships are as amazing to sail as they look, they generally don’t have the cheapest cruise fares. Newer ships command higher prices.
Instead, shop around for prices around Voyager or Radiance class ships to find the real bargains.
In the same way that a used car a few years old offers better value for money than a new vehicle, cruise ships that have been around for a few years tend to offer better deals to entice cruise passengers to book them. .
The great thing about the Voyager and Radiance Class ships is that you don’t compromise a ton on the onboard experience, but you’ll save a lot compared to larger ships.
Book a repositioning cruise
If you don’t mind flying, you can often find the lowest prices for a cruise on a sailing that starts in one port and ends in a different port.
Known as repositioning sailings, this is when Royal Caribbean moves the ship from one area to another.
Due to the logistics of getting to and from cruising, as well as the length of sailing, repositioning cruises can be invaluable. Simply put, fewer people are willing to book them because it requires more vacation time or they would have to find another way home.
The most common repositioning cruises are transatlantic and transpacific cruises, where the ship travels between North America and Europe or Australia.
Last minute cruise deals
More elusive than early booking, you can sometimes book a last-minute cruise if you’re flexible.
This won’t work for everyone, but sometimes there are really good prices in the last few weeks before a sail when inventory isn’t completely sold out yet.
As mentioned earlier in this article, prices tend to rise over time as more people book a cruise. But sometimes a sail doesn’t sell as well as Royal Caribbean would like, and you may find a price drop meant to boost sales.
If you can travel on short notice and aren’t picky, there are last-minute cruise deals for those looking for them.
When you book last minute, you’ll have fewer cabin choices, and last-minute airfare prices can negate any cruise fare savings.
Read more: Why booking a last-minute cruise isn’t always a good idea
It’s important to act quickly if you spot a good cruise to book that is leaving soon, as inventory in the last two months of a cruise will quickly disappear.
Book a guaranteed cabin
One way to turn an average cruise price into a bargain is to let Royal Caribbean choose your exact cabin.
Guaranteed cabins are when you tell Royal Caribbean the minimum cabin type you want and let the cruise line assign you a cabin, instead of choosing a specific room.
You will receive a room of at least this category (or higher), but it may take days or weeks for you to learn the room assignment.
In exchange for this ambiguity in room selection, you can often save hundreds of dollars off your cruise fare.
Keep in mind that you may end up with a cabin in the bow or stern of the ship. Or even a cabin with a partially blocked view. Those who appreciate the cabin’s convenient location or are susceptible to motion sickness might not want to roll the dice on a guaranteed cabin.
If the exact location of your cabin doesn’t matter much to you, then a guaranteed room could be your ticket to some serious savings.
Read more: How to Find the Cheapest Staterooms on Royal Caribbean
Book Kids Sail Free if you have children
Royal Caribbean will periodically run a Kids Free Promotion, where the third and fourth guests under 12 in your cabin will cost you nothing extra in the cruise fare.
In short, kids sail free will incur a zero dollar cruise cost for third and older passengers 12 years of age or younger. You are still responsible for paying taxes and port charges associated with children, as well as all other onboard charges.
For families, a kids’ free sail promotion is one of Royal Caribbean’s most lucrative offers, especially if you book a suite, as per-person savings are highest in these luxurious cabins.
Kids sail free will still save you money on other cabin types, but the amount is significantly less.
One of the disadvantages of free sailing for children is that you have to share a cabin with your children. This means in many cabins a bathroom for three or four of you.
Families on a budget can often get a great deal, especially when kids sail free with the advice earlier in this article about booking as early as possible.
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