When is the Best Time to Book a Cruise?

Aerial view of Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, and Disney Dream in Nassau

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The best time to book a cruise depends on various factors, including your destination, budget, cabin location, and personal schedule. 

However, you can follow a few general guidelines to ensure you’re getting the best deal and cabin location when booking your cruise.

Aerial view of Carnival Sunshine
Aerial view of Carnival Sunshine (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

How far in advance should I book a cruise?

There’s no rule that determines the best time to book a cruise. It depends on many factors, such as your travel preferences, your destination, and so on.

If you need a particular cabin or deck location, you will want to book as early as possible, as the favorable rooms are the first to be filled up. This is especially true if you need an accessible cabin or want to be in one of the balcony cabins onboard.

The cabin types vary by ship, and the balconies and suites are the top sellers. To stay ahead of your fellow passengers, know that cruise line itineraries historically go on sale 18 months in advance.

A travel agent could also have group space on the ship you want to sail to get a better discount, price protection on your cruise fare, and sometimes additional onboard credit. 

When booking your cruise far in advance, make note of the final payment due date and always monitor price drops. 

Also, to get the best discounts, consider booking your shore excursions and onboard activities in advance. In Carnival Cruise Line, for example, spa treatments are typically 20 percent off if booked and paid in advance.

Royal Caribbean does the same with its dining package.

Aerial view of Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, and Disney Dream in  Nassau
Aerial view of Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, and Disney Dream in Nassau

Can I book a last-minute cruise?

Booking a last-minute cruise deal can be a great way to save money on vacation and experience the thrill of spontaneous travel.

However, it’s important to remember that last-minute cruises can also be challenging to book and may not offer the same level of flexibility and amenities compared to travels that are booked in advance.

If you’re flying to the cruise port, keep airfare prices and hotel reservations in mind.

Consider shorter cruises. Three-to-five-day cruises are often easier to find than longer ones. These voyages are usually more affordable, which is a good option if want to save money.

Just be aware of any cruise restrictions. Last-minute cruises may have restrictions on things like the type of cabin you can book or the activities and amenities available.

Oftentimes last-minute cruises can have guaranteed (GTY) cabins, where you won’t know your stateroom location until a couple of days before sailing. 

Always read the fine print before booking to understand any restrictions that may be in place.

In Norwegian Cruise Line’s sail away rate, for instance, many perks won’t be available, such as the beverage package or complimentary specialty dining.

View of Norwegian Escape
View of Norwegian Escape

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When is the best month to book a cruise?

Prices for cruises can vary depending on the season and demand. For example, cruises to popular destinations like the Caribbean and Europe may be more expensive during the peak tourist season.

The peak season for Caribbean cruises is from December to April, during the spring and winter holiday periods. If you plan to travel during this period, you may want to consider booking your cruise early.

The Mediterranean cruise season is opposite of the Caribbean and typically runs from April to October. 

The off-season or shoulder season runs in the first and last month of the season and is an excellent time to find promotions, reduced deposits, and the best prices.

This is especially true in Alaska, as the season runs from May to September. 

You can also get great deals by booking during the school year. Cruise prices tend to be at their lowest when students return to school.

Some other popular times for cruise booking are on holidays and around the end of the school year. 

For guests who are more flexible, there are last-minute deals that are sometimes available.

It’s important to know the difference between good and bad deals, though, because you might end up on a cruise line that may not be to your taste.

Front view of Celebrity
Front view of Celebrity

Should I book a cruise during hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November and is often the cheapest time to book a Bahamas or Caribbean cruise.

If you are looking for a less crowded vacation that is cheaper and more comfortable, consider cruising during hurricane season. Cruises during hurricane season are also safe and fun.

While cruising during hurricane season isn’t for everyone, it can be a great option if you are looking for a relaxing getaway than a summertime vacation.

It is a risk, however, so be prepared and make sure you have a good trip insurance policy

During hurricane season, the cheapest cruises are in August and September. 

Final Thoughts

Booking a cruise at the right time of year can save you hundreds of dollars. The most optimal times consider seasonal variations in pricing, availability, and other factors. Regardless of when you book your cruise, however, you should always do your research and use a knowledgeable travel agent or travel professional. 

Ultimately, the best time to book a cruise vacation depends on your preferences and budget. It would be helpful to compare prices and destinations at different times to find the best deal for you.

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