Come sail away, come sail away/Come sail away with me—Styx, 1977
If you’d love to see several far-flung places in a single trip without going over budget, then read on, fellow traveler. A cruise could quite possibly be just what you need. This, without any further ado, here are 20 tips to help you find cheap cruise deals.
20 Tips To Help You Find Cheap Cruise Deals
1.Stay current on cruise trends
Look into the industry. Global Travel Collection representative Marni Becker reports that trends vary depending on “the type of cruise line you are sailing on. She told the press that some cruise lines aren’t “sailing at full inventory yet” and some are actually offering “most cabin categories (except suites) at very low rates.” Cruises on deluxe lines may be in high demand but prices on cruises to places like the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico are a bit more fluid as some lines are trying to entice people to return to cruising.
2. Look online for flash sales and price drops
Check out cruise line sites and such travel booking sites as Cruise Critic, CruiseDirect, Expedia, and GoToSea for flash sales and deals. Watch sites like Cruisewatch and Cruise Fever for up-to-date price drops. Websites like Tripadvisor put together the best deals offered from all the cruise line and travel agency websites.
Flash sales occur closer to your date of departure. That’s when they offer “no frills” prices on any remaining inventory, at low rates minus some of the built-in amenities, and are generally available only for limited sailings.
3. Subscribe to newsletters and updates
Sign up for cruise line newsletters and notifications because it’s one of the best ways you can keep current on cruise deals and flash sales. Some cruise lines will even direct-message you. Consider such sites as Cheap Cruises, CruiseComplete, Cruisewatch, Cruise Fever, and Cruises.com. Travel advisors send out updates on cruise deals as well.
4. Book with a travel advisor
If you have no time for the internet, book your cruise through a travel advisor. They can simplify the process and save you time and money. They answer questions, help choose the right cruise line, help with tours, and with making any onboard reservations. They know industry insiders and know about special offers and sales via preferred supplier agreements. Advisors can track pricing too so if the price drops, they can speak to the cruise line and get an adjustment, onboard credit, or a category upgrade.
5. Book during the wave season
Book your cruise during the wave season or from the start of the year through the middle of March. However, they note that this year you should book your cruise now because the 2022 sailings are filling up faster than ever due in part to the pandemic. Cruise lines report that they now have “very flexible” cancellation and change policies as well. Additionally, there are now more bonuses like drink packages, gratuities, and shipboard credits than ever.
6. Don’t pay for anything you won’t use
Before you book a larger, more expensive stateroom complete with various bonus amenities, stop and think about it. Will you actually use the extra space and the other extras that come with it? If you think you will probably be spending most of your time outside of your cabin or even off of the ship itself, why not go with a smaller room in what’s called “an entry-level category? Why spend money on an upgraded room with its own balcony when you will probably really not even use it?
7. For the best selection, book early
A great price might not seem like such a bargain if you do not get the specific accommodations or itinerary you want. Thus, if you simply must have a specific cabin preference or departure date, book early. Experts confirm that if you put it off, your choices might be limited.
8. Go with a group
Be sure to consider various groups that you belong to prior to booking. Your college alumni association, professional work group, or even a school or community group. Traveling with a group can include not only a lower price, but discounted airfare, or even privileged access tours, like a visit to a famous winery with a master sommelier, special theme cruises, wine tastings, exclusive meals, or lectures by renowned speakers.
9. Look for weekend and holiday specials
Be sure to watch for special weekend or holiday offers. Several cruise lines offer travelers good deals around holiday weekends like Black Friday, Labor Day, and Memorial Day. Cruise lines may also frequently add additional weekend specials throughout the year. Discuss your interest with your travel advisor and watch the related websites as well.
10. Go with an all-inclusive cruise
Travel journalists report that while a base fare on a budget-friendly line initially looks great, your total cost often climbs as you add in such things as beverage packages, excursions, exercise classes, gratuities, stateroom upgrades, and so forth. An all-inclusive cruise might be a better deal. At least one cruise line has an all-inclusive package that includes alternative dining options, wine, beer, and soft drinks at both lunch and dinner, one free excursion in each port, Wi-Fi access, 24-hour bottled water, teas, and specialty coffees, and more. Some cruise lines also include gratuities, nightly events, and shuttle service. Still, others offer special “two-for-one all-inclusive fares” that also include airfare, unlimited on-shore excursions, two- or three-night land programs, and even a one-night, pre-cruise hotel stay.
11. Look for airfare packages and other available incentives
Some cruise lines actually offer special airfare incentives or “two-for-one” flight bundles. One popular cruise line has a promotional offer that includes a maximum of 30 percent off their cruises, free to-and-from airfare for your traveling partner, and as many as five extra benefits such as free shore excursions, an open bar, or specialty dining. You can check the current offers on the individual cruise lines’ websites, on a good travel aggregator website, or via your travel advisor since special incentives often change.
12. Book your next one while on your current one
If you’re on a cruise and decide you want to go on another one, then be sure to take advantage of your cruise line’s incentives to go ahead and book your next cruise before you disembark. If you book your next cruise before the end of your current one, a number of cruise lines will throw in such perks as onboard credits for your next trip, and even a reduced, refundable deposit on specific stateroom categories. One major cruise line has a program that offers passengers a 50 deposit discount, an early saver rate, an onboard credit, and even a two-category room upgrade depending on the type of cabin you want.
13. Look for solo traveler benefits
The cruise industry considers traveling singles to be an important market. Some cruise lines even reward solo flyers. A lot of cruise lines will add a “single supplement” surcharge to a solo traveler’s room rate, while other cruise lines offer specific cruises where they skip this charge.
They may also offer discounts on deposits to single travelers and even a more flexible booking policy. Some companies even offer small ship cruises that specifically cater to singles. Larger cruise lines promote their single staterooms on certain ships designed just for single travelers. The charges for these cabins can actually be less than what you could pay per person when traveling with a partner. Other potential perks for solo-sailers might also include free access to specific areas where singles can socialize.
14. Join a frequent cruiser program
You can earn extra perks when you belong to a company’s loyalty program. The more you set sail with one company, the more incentives, and benefits you receive. Some cruise lines offer booking discounts of up to 10 percent.
Memberships are generally free and depending on which company you choose you might be automatically enrolled following your first voyage. Discounts could apply to both river and ocean cruises. You may also be invited to onboard cocktail parties. You will also probably be kept up to date on special pricing deals, new ships, and itineraries. With some memberships, the benefits may vary according to level, but they can include discounted laundry service, discounted spa services, free welcoming events, onboard premium offers, and even stateroom upgrades.
15. Board an older ship
Experts confirm that sailing on an older ship can result in you getting a better deal. It is generally more expensive to take a cruise on new and larger ships. Cruise lines usually update older ships so they often have many of the same features on newer vessels but at a lower price.
16. Book a cruise during the school year
Cruise rates are generally based on the specific time of the year. They are higher when travelers are more able to travel. Prices spike, for example, during the winter holidays, summer, and spring break.
Sailing in late December can cost you hundreds of dollars more than some time in January. Book your cruise in the off-season, when all the kids are in school. You will save money. Additionally, you will find fewer people at the assorted on-shore eateries, shops, and major tourist attractions as well.
17. Take advantage of various food/beverage packages
Do you drink a lot of non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, carbonated drinks, coffee, or juice? Do you like to kick back and party with as much beer, wine, and liquor as possible? If you answered “yes” to either (or both) of those questions then you should consider purchasing a beverage.
Various economic beverage packages are offered to suit the specific needs or wants of different passengers. Indeed, some cruise lines even offer special discounts on bottles of wine for those wishing to celebrate special occasions. There are also often special dining packages available.
Still, other cruise lines offer unlimited fixed-price dining options that include assorted eateries and lunches on specific sea days. Others often offer three-restaurant packages and premium cruise packages that include upgraded beverage packages and a night of specialty dining.
18. Take shorter cruises
Obviously, you can save money by taking a cruise that is only three, four, or five nights long instead of one that lasts a week or more. Consider a shorter trip to places in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, Mexico, or even Key West, Florida. Cruises out of ports such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida often include significant discounts and other benefits such as a free balcony upgrade, and some allow children to sail free of charge. Additionally, if you have never been on a cruise and you are concerned about your “sea legs”, a shorter cruise could also prevent you from being out on the sea too long, too soon.
19. Use Twitter
Some frequent cruisers swear by Twitter for finding great deals on cruises. You don’t have to be tech-savvy either–just know someone who is. Most travel agents, agencies, and even the cruise lines now tweet about their best, last-minute cruise bargains. Twitter even has a list feature to help you. If you have not mastered Twitter, you can still just scroll through all of the Twitter-associated cruise lines’ accounts – or even directly tweet their representatives – to learn about various money-saving deals on upcoming voyages.
20. Watch for last-minute deals
If you’re the kind of person who is always prepared to take off on a last-minute trip–or you have a couple of months to plan a getaway–consider buying a “last-minute” cruise package If you are the type of traveler who is flexible in terms of stateroom type, destination, and cruise line, then you will have no problem finding a great cruise that will fit your personal budget. Indeed, travel experts confirm that as the cruise ships restart, there are still good cruise deals to be found within a shorter booking window. It is important to note, however, that inventory out of certain ports could be limited, so more popular shore trips could sell out with specific cruise lines. As this goes to press, there are good deals on cruises to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Greece as well.