By: Sarah Phillips (revised April 12, 2015)
Everyone is looking to save big bucks on their next cruise.
Consider these 10 hacks before booking a cruise:
1. Use a Travel Agent. Sometimes a Travel Agent is just the ticket – literally. Travel agents can buy in bulk and sell cabins at a reduced rate. They’re also checking prices more frequently and are up to date on industry trends. Go ahead and dispel the myth it’s always cheaper to book on your own, because it’s not. Good travel agents can and will find you the best deal.
2. Set Price Alerts. I love letting websites do all the work for me. Most major travel sites for airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc. offer this service free of cost. This definitely helps you book the best deals on the extras you need for a cruise vacation – getting there and staying pre-/post-cruise in your port town. To find this service for cruise prices – see #1 again. Travel agents check cruise prices almost daily and can be almost like a price alert for you.
3. Book Early. I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘the early bird gets the worm’ and this applies to cruises as well. Most cruise lines offer the best and lowest rates the further out you’re willing to book. Cruise ships have more cabin inventory the further out you book as well and this is critical if you’re looking for a deal during peak cruise season.
4. Avoid Peak Travel. Summer. Spring Break. Christmas and New Year’s. Unless you’re OK with paying the max prices, try to avoid these and other peak times. Hurricane season (post Labor Day) can offer substantial savings on cruise prices as well.
5. Shorter isn’t always Cheaper. Never ever assume cruises are priced proportionally based on days. Don’t fall into the trap of this thinking. I’ve actually seen 2 day cruises priced more than some 7 day ones I’ve taken. Break your cruise price down by day and compare that way.
6. Book on your Current Cruise. You’re having an amazing time on your current cruise – dreading the end of it, but already planning out the next one (if you’re anything like me anyway). Well, the cruise lines may have just the cheap thing for you. Each line’s a little different, but if you’re willing to commit to another cruise with that line, you could up end with onboard credit, cabin category upgrades or a reduced fare. Be sure to check with your specific cruise line for details.
7. Look Beyond the Brochure (you’ll never pay those prices anyway). Sticker shock. That’s what you’ll get if you look at the price in a ‘printed brochure.’ Before my 1st cruise, I got a Carnival book and poured over it soaking in all the different options and offerings. However, that book listed my 1st cruise at 3 times the price we paid for it. Check with your travel agent or cruise line – they’ll have a better price for you than is printed in that brochure.
8. Get a Group Together. Groups are a great way for you to sail free, or next to it. This works out perfectly for a family reunion, church group or just a bunch of friends wanting to have a fun week(end). How does this work? Cruise lines and travel agents reward groups by offering free space (excluding taxes and varies by cruise line) to leaders of groups. So get some friends together and sail away!
9. Go West. Location.Location.Location. And when it comes to cruising, location can make a difference. Certain itineraries are just cheaper than others. For example, Western Caribbean routes are typically cheaper than their Easter counterparts. Some ports have higher port costs, which are passed on to you. Be sure to compare different routes for the best price.
10. Cruise from a major gateway. Recently cruise lines have expanded their home port offerings, adding less traditional ports like Baltimore and Charleston. But for the lowest overall prices, use major terminals like Port Canaveral, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Most lines keep more ships – and lower prices – in these home ports.
Buy Travel Insurance. You won’t always see just how this tip can save you money. But when you need to actually use it, you’ll be so thankful you have it and so will your bank account. For example, most health insurances don’t offer coverage abroad leaving you responsible for any medical bills. Or if your luggage goes on a different vacation, you’d have to replace all your belongings. Travel insurance covers these issues.