Searching through all your cruise options—especially if you’re not an avid cruiser—can be frustrating. There are often many options to choose from when planning a cruise. Beyond the different cruise lines, there are many destinations, cruise types, packages, seasons to consider, etc. It can be a lot to think about, especially if you’re a beginner.
Fortunately, there are several ways seasoned travelers take all this into consideration in order to get the most for their money. Here are five tips for finding the best deals on a cruise.
1. Book a Cruise During an “Off” Week
If you want to save a little and you’re not tied to cruising during a certain week of the year, you can definitely find some good deals if you’re willing to cruise during an “off” week. Generally, the most expensive times to cruise are during the summer (particularly when school’s out) and during the holiday weeks (ex. Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.). Take this into consideration when you’re picking your travel dates.
The cheapest weeks to cruise are going to be when most people are working and simply don’t have the option to travel. If you can make these times work for you though, you can save big.
Look for dates right after the holidays, such as in mid-January and early February (though avoid Valentine’s Day — that’s also a popular week) when most people are headed back to the office.
Early May is also a good time, as it’s too late in the spring to be a spring break week for families, but it’s too early for summer break. Additionally, check out late September after Labor Day, when the kids are back in school. Some travelers skip on a cruise during this time of year in fear of hurricane season. But if you are willing to take that risk and find the cruise line that is best for you, you may find a good deal.
2. Pick an Affordable Destination
Caribbean destinations are almost always more affordable. Go have some fun in the sun and sand. Enjoy the easy access and short flights from many cities to Caribbean ports. Be sure to use one of thebest credit cards for travel miles to earn miles for your flights.
By picking a Caribbean cruise over, say, an Alaskan cruise or a European river cruise, you’re far more likely to save big bucks. Additionally, since there’s a huge demand for Caribbean cruises, you’ll have far more options when it comes to cruise lines, ships, and cabins. There are plenty of beautiful places to visit in the Caribbean, including Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia and Curaçao.
3. Cruise in a Group
If you can swing it, get together more of your family and friends for a group cruise. Just like at hotels, group rates on cruises can deliver big savings. Some of your party (most likely the kids) could even get a free pass if there are enough of you.
4. Look for Discounts
Cruise lines are always offering discounts, so make sure you’re keeping an eye out for sales. If there’s a particular cruise line you love, sign up for their marketing emails and follow them on social media. Compare amenities, fares and itineraries between cruise lines easily by using TripAdvisor.
Don’t feel that you have to act quickly on a certain sale in order to get a good deal. You can just about always find a cruise deal out there. However, you want to be aware of them so that you can take advantage when you’re ready to book.
Above and beyond just keeping an eye out for the normal sales, look wherever you can for other discounts that might apply to you or a family member. Some cruise lines offer discounts for past passengers and loyalty program members. Additionally, some of the best credit cards for international travel offer benefits and perks like the ability to transfer and pay with points for further bonuses.
There may also be discounts for certain groups, like veterans, seniors and those who live in key areas where the cruise line is looking to increase business.
5. Pick Your Ship Carefully
Beyond picking the right time to cruise, the right destination and a group of people to cruise with, the ship you pick to cruise on can also impact how much you pay at the end of the day. Newer ships are in big demand because they have all the latest amenities and cool attractions. Opt for a ship that’s less in demand, usually one of the older ones, to save money.
Know that this doesn’t mean that you have to get an outdated ship that’s going to leave you with a poor experience. Surprisingly, a matter of a few years can make a big difference in price. Plus, many of the older ships have received updates during dry docks. They often have a lot of modern amenities you want, without the shiny new price tag.