Booking a cruise like a pro part I: timing

Like so many things in life, timing is everything, and booking a cruise holiday is no exception. Knowing the peak seasons and understanding the factors that affect ticket prices is a good place to start, but after that it probably feels like you’re playing Blackjack rather than booking a cruise holiday! Here are three of our best-practice tips for timing your holiday to get a good deal:

Booking early puts you in charge

In general, cruise fares increase as the sail date approaches, meaning that usually the later you leave it, the more you’ll pay. Cruise lines, particularly those that offer luxury add-ons or extra discounts are good at releasing their deals far in advance of sailing. Booking early is not a guarantee of getting that rock-bottom fare, but it does mean you can choose your favourite ship, optimal dates, cabin and destination without having to compromise in favour of a cheaper fare.

Who should book early? Families, travellers with special needs or who prefer a specific type of cabin (for example, balconies or interconnecting suites) – particularly if you’re travelling during peak travel seasons.

Finding a good cruise deal - Holland America

Find out when the peak booking seasons are

Summer is a great time to soak up the sun on the deck of a cruise liner; however, summer cruise tickets tend to sell up quickly. Most travellers make plans in the winter of the year before and the last tickets usually sell in the early months of the year of sailing. Start looking at least 3 to 4 months in advance, but if you’re going to Australia and New Zealand, the Caribbean or somewhere that requires flights and visas, leave more time to get the paperwork in order.

River cruises, which are incredibly popular, but tend to be smaller in size, should also be booked as soon as itineraries are released. Remember that Christmas and New Year, although in winter, are also busy! If you’ve left it until 2 or 3 months in advance of your holiday, opt for the newer and bigger ships that have plenty of passenger capacity.

Who should travel during peak season? Cruisers who tend to book early and large groups who enjoy the buzz of the busy season.

Choosing a cruise holiday - MSC Melody

Book last-minute tickets only if you can be flexible

Leaving booking to the last minute means you may be limited in terms of your choice of ship, cabin or destination. Cruise lines also have limited the practice of dropping their prices at the last minute in favour of getting an accurate picture of how many passengers will be joining them on board.

That said, it is possible to book last-minute cruise tickets if you time it right. Last-minute bookings work best in the off-peak seasons; for Scandinavia cruises, for example, March to April and September to November. Factors that affect these prices are school terms and the weather. If you’d like some advice about booking off-peak tickets, give us a call on 0808 252 8063.

Who should book a last-minute cruise? Couples and pensioners who can be flexible with their dates, destinations, ship and cabin choice.

Cruise ship sunset

Did you find this useful? Continue reading Part II: Booking a cruise like a pro: destinations.

Image credits:
Holland American Line by Colin Delaney, MSC Melody by Ian Barbour, Cruise ship sunset by Kabacchi – all used under CC license
Featured image by Philip Chapman-Bell used under CC license