If it seems that cruise lines have sales, special offers and bonus deals all the time, there is good reason: they do. Cruise lines constantly bombard buyers with reasons to sail their line over another and deciding can sometimes be difficult. Still, perfect cruise line for us identified we look for the best value and often find it in familiar places.
January through March is Wave Season, that time of the year when it is bitterly cold in many places, prompting dreams of a warm Caribbean island. There are deals out there during this time but beware: demand is also great at this time so cruise lines do not have to offer their best values to lure buyers. With that in mind, book flexible fares that can be converted to a better offer that might come along later.
The last few days of the week or month we often see prices go down or bonus deals offered as cruise lines, like airlines, hotel chains and other travel products, strive to make sales quotas and projections. In the arena of cruise travel, look for “flash deals” or special offers that might require non-refundable deposit to get…they might just be worth it.
Booking as far in advance as possible still offers unique advantages to cruise travelers. In addition to having the best selection of cabins, cruise lines are once again offering low fares far in advance of sailing, often the lowest we might see. Don’t want to tie up $ in a deposit for over a year? Look for far out sales offering reduced deposit and/or onboard credit. Cruise lines want us to book far in advance. Royal Caribbean, for example, gives a hefty discount to upper level Crown and Anchor loyalty program passengers booking 6 months or more in advance in a balcony or above stateroom.
What your travel agent knows that you don’t can often add up to huge savings. Agents have all the sales from all the cruise lines before them at any given time. They also get advance notice of upcoming sales which helps avoid the “I booked this last week and my price is $500 more” problem, which they can also solve easily. Probably the best reason to use a travel agent has to be what happens down the line, after booking. When a new, better value becomes available, your travel agent will know it and, if you qualify, get it for you.
Booking On Board,even if you don’t have any idea where you would like to go, is often a very smart move. Onboard credits and reduced deposits granted while when booking while sailing are almost always ‘stackable’ with other offers that may come along down the line.
One of the best pieces of advice I have for getting the best value out of a cruise vacation is to consider booking the starting point in the process, not the end. Odds are that if booked six months in advance or more, some offer will come along that can be applied to your existing booking and gain more value.