Trying to find a cruise, or holiday for that matter, at the right budget can be a complicated experience. I don’t know about you, but I actually love spending time perusing the various cruise and travel agent websites looking for deals, but for some they want to be able to book something simply, and with confidence. So, here are my top tips to saving money and keeping things simple when booking your next cruise.
It perhaps goes without saying, but when looking at booking a cruise make sure you shop around. Use brochures and the cruise lines websites to get an idea of what you may want to do, but then use the internet to compare and contrast costs to see if there’s money to be saved.
Personally, I almost always book my cruises through a travel agent. Not only do you have access to potential offers both from the cruise line and the agent, but I found you can tap into a whole wealth of knowledge that can help you navigate the booking process. It can also help if you want to book a pre- or post-stay, where inevitably some form of deal can be had. It can pay-off to at least have a conversation with one and see what offers are available.
For me, I always consider the whole holiday cost within my calculations, so if I can nab a few freebies or other benefits when I book, all the better – right?
Flexibility is key
I think more than anything, being flexible can save you a lot of money when it comes to travel. Do you have a set itinerary in mind? Or time of year?
If you are flexible, even down to the week, it can be in your benefit. This is because cruising is similar to airlines in that prices for the same itineraries can vary drastically week-to-week.
Or perhaps look to choose to travel in an off-season. So, for example, you could consider to cruise in September from Florida to the Caribbean during Hurricane season. You will typically find that prices are much lower compared to the rest of the year, as there is a higher chance of your cruise being disrupted by storms. But you needn’t worry, I’ve travelled during this season over and over and only once was our cruise disrupted, which just meant our itinerary changed to avoid the storm. Now, of course there is a chance of grater disruption so you need to weigh up while making your decision.
Book early or last minute
I find people definitely fall into two camps when it comes to cruising – booking well in advance or those who book very last minute. And there’s good reason, as that’s where the best deals can be found.
In terms of advance, or technically between six and 18 months ahead of your cruise, you will see cruise lines will typically offer better value fares and other incentives – this includes cabin upgrades and complimentary on-board amenities such as beverage packages, Wi-Fi, gratuities and on board spend. Again, prices can vary month-to-month depending on the deal or sale that’s on.
On the flip side, if you are able to be flexible and wait, some amazing deals can be had if you choose to wait to book something until last minute – so up to 6- weeks before departure. You will need to be willing to compromise in terms of potential cabin choice and of course the date, but you can save potentially hundreds of pounds of off your cruise fare and still nab a few perks.
The key is being opportunistic and keeping an eye out for particular deals or sales. A great example of this is ‘Wave Season’. Think of this as ‘Black Friday’ for cruise lines, but it lasts from January to March each year. It can include anything from huge discounts to lots of on-board extras. And, of course, it’s timed just when you may be considering your next holiday some point in the year.
I tend to do a mixture of both of these approaches. If I know, for example, that a cruise or itinerary is going to be particularly expensive or lavish then I will plan it well in advance, then be more opportunistic with other holidays in the shorter term as and when I see them.
It’s safe to assume, the further you travel, the more it can potentially cost when you start to take into account flights, hotels and other costs. So, always have a look at what cruises are offered close to you. You’ll find that a wide variety of cruises and itineraries will depart from local home ports.
That needn’t mean your doorstep. For example, if you are considering a Norway or Iceland cruise, have a look at prices from a variety of home ports including for example, Southampton, Dublin, Liverpool, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Or if looking at the Bahamas and the Caribbean, don’t just look at Miami or Fort Lauderdale, but consider Barbados, New York, Boston, and a variety of other ports.
Think across brands
Don’t limit yourself to a brand or style of cruising. For instance, if you tend to book suites on premium lines, where you will still have to pay for extras in board, consider looking at luxury brand where typically it is more inclusive and exclusive. So, consider things such as shore excursions, gratuities, flights, hotel stays, speciality dining, cabin amenities and of course world-class service.
I hope these tips help you in taking the plunge on your next cruise. How do you try to save money when booking a cruise? Let me know in the comments and on social media.