Best Time to Book a Cruise, According to 11 Travel Experts

Is there a best time to book a cruise?

We asked travel experts for some valuable tips.

Shavon Crawford

Shavon Crawford

Avid Cruiser | Travel Agent | Travel Blogger, Sunset By Sea

January is an ideal time to book a cruise primarily because not many other people are booking cruises then

Cruises are great vacations to book and take year-round but some times of the year are better times than others to book a cruise. If you are looking to book a cruise when there are the lowest fares and the most availability the best time to book is in January.

Since it is after the holiday season, most people have either finished a holiday vacation and have no intention of booking another one soon. 

Regardless of the reasons, cruise lines realize not many people are booking cruises during these times so you can often find the best deals of the year. Cruise lines typically provide good sales in January to encourage potential cruisers to fill their ships.

Another advantage of booking in January is you will often find the most availability for the cabins of your choice.

Early January is a particularly good time to book a fall cruise because many others have not booked these cruises. Many people are not yet thinking about fall vacations in January, and you can use this time to snag some of the best cabins on the ship, often at lower fares.

I recommend others plan so they can book their cruises in January. You will be ahead of the game to likely find more availability of cabins on the ship and great deals that will get your vacation off to the best start possible.

Shylar Bredewold

Shylar Bredewold

Owner, Luxury Tours Miami

The best time to book is the moment you know what you want to experience

Cruise lines tend to be very flexible in their approach to early depositing. In my business, I often plainly tell clients to book when they think they want an itinerary, as soon as possible, the earlier in advance, the better. As long as there are clear terms regarding any penalty period, time is on their side. More on that below.

Avoid being the last in line

It’s also because, if they want the itinerary, there are 7 billion other people on the planet who might want it too – some of them might want it so bad they’d put down a deposit before you and then you’re the last in line.

Typically, there is a very fair penalty period and a tiered system of deposits allowing would-be cruisers to pay an amount proportionate to the duration or category of their sailing. For example, a 3-night Bahamas vs the 7-night Mediterranean; or an interior cabin vs a suite.

So, if they book far enough in advance, they will have the best opportunity to choose a cabin which suits them rather than a cabin which is the pick of the left-overs. There’s the first benefit.

Early booking bonus

It is a real thing, not on every sailing but it does exist. Second benefit.

Cruisers will have a longer lead-in time before their final payment is due and the start of applicable penalty periods

For many cruise lines that means the flexibility to jump to a better promotion later if one comes available. Savings, sure, but also bonus amenities or whatever else might be valid and on offer with the promotion.

Thomas Schneider

Thomas Schneider

Chief Executive Officer & Certified Travel Expert, Trip Concierge

The best time to book a cruise will always be last minute

Staying flexible and booking it during a week where there are no official holidays in sight and there is lots of capacity, like the Caribbean.

Of course, that’s difficult for most people that must plan their vacation in advance. Several times during the year the various cruise lines will have special promotions that can reduce the cost of booking by over half. The cost of a booking isn’t just the cost of the stateroom.

Very often you end up spending more money onboard, so it’s important to make sure you get additional things for free, like a la carte dining, Wi-Fi, unlimited alcoholic beverages and credit for shore excursions. That’s when these sales come in handy.

For cruise itineraries with high demand, the best fares will be when they first go on sale. This is especially true with luxury cruises and Disney cruises. Keeping track of all of this can be tedious. And signing up with the various cruise line emails can very quickly overwhelm your inbox.

So, I always suggest to my guests to let me know well in advance what cruise they are interested in. And when the sale comes up we can let them know and get them booked relatively quickly.

For cruises, booking with a travel agent will still get you some of the best deals. That’s because 82% of luxury cruise sales in the USA are still handled by travel agents and our tremendous amount of booking volume will generally get you better rates than if you attempted to book on your own.

Steve Griswold

Steve Griswold

Owner, Pixie Vacations

When you book

There are two key times to book your Cruise vacation to save the most money.

Disney Cruise

If it’s a Disney Cruise you have to book as far out as possible. This would be around one year out from your sail date. As time goes by the cruise prices go up for Disney Cruise Line because of the limited availability. It’s very difficult to get a last-minute Disney Cruise Line deal.

Other cruise lines

For other cruise lines, you can apply the same strategy or also search one month before your vacation and pick up great last-minute deals. 2019 is a great year to take a cruise vacation. There is a great deal of stateroom availability in the cruise industry overall. So there are great deals out there for cruise vacations.

When you travel

If you are booking Christmas week, summer, spring break or any times when kids are out of school, expect to pay top dollar for your cruise.

For the best savings, you need to stay away from when everyone else vacations

Hurricane Season sounds horrible but we have traveled many many years during September and October out of Florida ports and have had perfect vacations. So plan your cruise vacation during these low seasons.

What you book

Looking for a really cheap 3-day or 4-day extended weekend trip? Try Carnival Cruise Line, MSC or Costa for really amazing rates. You can even find great deals on Royal Caribbean too. These 3-4 day cruises are also a nice way to try a cruise for a first-time cruiser or to try a new cruise line.

Pre and post-cruise airfare

Look into the bundled price for airfare and transfers to and from the port. Then price these yourself or ask a travel agent to put together the options for you. Sometimes you can rent a limo to and from the port for less than transfers from the cruise line. Also, you can get some great deals on pre and post-cruise hotel nights close to the port and eliminate the worry of missing the ship.

OnBoard offers

While on your cruise, stop by the future cruise booking desk. All cruise lines have these and they will offer you extra incentives to book your next cruise now. You don’t have to know the exact dates or pay in full and they will add your travel agents name to the reservation so they get credit and can help you with the cruise when you get back home.

Become a local

We get Florida resident last-minute cruise deals all the time at Pixie Vacations and they are so good we often contemplate moving to Florida.

If you are retired and love to cruise, you could get to a Florida port from most places in Florida with a quick drive. Image waking up and just hopping on a Caribbean Cruise from your back door.

Bring it on

Check with your cruise line or travel agent to find out what you can bring on. Some cruise lines let you bring beer and wine onto the ship and this can save you some money those sea days when you want to grab a drink.

Freddie Julius

CEO, Tourist England

Winter months

The winter months are the best time to book a cruise since cruise companies like to offer reduced prices, along with great incentives like free upgrades, in order to get travelers booking during their quietest time of the year. It’s always best to use a cruise comparison website to find and snap up awesome cruise packages at bargain prices.

Julie Karp

Julie Karp

President and Co-founder, ShoreTrips

As a general rule of thumb—the farther you are traveling, the further out you will want to consider booking

Cruises from the U.S. to the Far East or Australia are best booked 12-18 months in advance. Similarly, a Cruise to Alaska is best booked a year in advance.

Another great time to book cruises is during “Wave Season”

Wave Season is the sales period that historically takes place between January and March since a large percentage of cruisers book their trips in the early months of the year. The new year, an empty calendar plus the cold winter months get travelers thinking about vacations and because of this cruise lines and travel agents often offer extra incentives.

Chaz Hitz

Chaz Hitz

Cruise and Travel Consultant, Cruise Ship Center of Bellevue

In my opinion, the best time to book a cruise is based on the season

Like birds and whales, cruise ships also migrate to specific locations based on the seasonal weather patterns. This is why Alaskan cruises are in the summer and not at Christmas time.

Whereas Australian and South American cruises are the best during the winter holidays where the sun is good and warm. With this in mind, I have my clients book at least 8 months or more out from their select departure date.

Will Hatton

Will Hatton

Owner, Hotel Jules | Founder and Blogger, The Broke Backpacker

Early morning on weekends is a great time

Ever had to get up early to go on holiday, yes? Then you’ll have to repeat that feat to get the best deal on cruises, with 5 am being the ideal time to get the best deal. No late night comparison shopping or checking cruises in your lunch. Get up, get on (the internet) and book that cheap cruise.

Need further encouragement (discouragement) the best day to book is on a Sunday, usually a lie in the day for most people, well not you, well not if you want to secure a cheap cruise that is.

For further saving tips, ensure to book at least 2 months in advance if you can and if you are rechecking cruises, use an anonymous browser, else sites will raise prices as will recognize your IP address and will know you are too keen.

Suzanne Wolko

Suzanne Wolko

Travel Expert & Blogger, PhilaTravelGirl

When to book a cruise is a battle between cost savings and preference. If you book early and the sailing goes on sale, you miss out on the savings, conversely, if you wait to book, the airfare may increase and offset potential savings.

Cruise lines throw in enticements (free gratuities, free drinks, free shore tours, onboard credit, etc.) and discounted deposits throughout the year with their best specials during Wave Season (Jan-March).

The best time to book a cruise often comes down to preference, planning, and peace of mind

If you want a particular cabin on the ship, sail on a popular theme cruise or are using airline miles for the flights, then you may need to book early to ensure your needs are met. For destinations like Alaska, pre/post hotels are tight in Seattle so booking early is encouraged.

Tanner Callais

Tanner Callais

Founder and Editor, Cruzely

When it comes to the best time to book a cruise, many people think that they can save a lot of money by booking their trip at the right time. For example, if you book early in the year you might save money compared to booking in the height of summer. Truth is, that’s just not the case.

What matters is not when you book your cruise, but when you set sail

Think about if there was a certain time when booking your cruise meant cheaper fares. If that was the case, many people would put off their bookings until that time of year. The result would wreak havoc on the cruise lines, who want you to book sooner rather than later. As a result, fares are similar no matter what time of year you book. Where there is a difference is in when you sail.

As a rule of thumb, it’s much cheaper to sail when school is in session.

When school is in, families can’t set sail easily, which lowers demand. As a result, cruises during the school year can be hundreds less per person.

Jenni Fielding

Jenni Fielding

Family Cruise Blogger, Cruise Mummy

If you’re cruising with children, it’s essential that you book a cruise as early as possible

Cruise ships have a limited number of places for children of each age group, and family cruising is quickly becoming more and more popular. I’ve seen so many people miss out on being able to book a cruise because they’ve left it too late and there are no spaces left for children – although there may be plenty of adult places left.

What’s more, you can get some great deals by booking early. I’ve booked cruises almost two years in advance and paid just £1 for each of my children – which has cut the overall price of our cruise in half!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a cruise?

A cruise is a type of vacation that takes place on a ship where passengers travel to various destinations and enjoy multiple activities and amenities on board. Cruises vary in length, itinerary, and style and are popular with travelers of all ages and interests. Whether you want to explore new places, relax and unwind, or participate in fun activities with family and friends, a cruise is a unique and exciting way to experience the world.

What types of cruises are available?

There are many different types of cruises, depending on your preferences and budget. Some popular types of cruises are:

Ocean cruises take place on large ships that sail across oceans and seas, visiting multiple ports of call along the way.

River cruises take place on smaller ships that travel on rivers, offering a more intimate and immersive experience.

Expedition cruises focus on exploring remote and exotic destinations such as the Arctic, Antarctica, or the Galapagos Islands.

Luxury cruises offer the highest level of comfort and service with upscale amenities and exclusive experiences.

Theme cruises focus on specific interests, such as music, food, wine, or sports, and offer special events and activities related to the theme.

What are some popular cruise destinations?

Cruises can take you to a variety of destinations around the world. Here are some popular cruise destinations:

Caribbean: The Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations known for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and tropical climate. You can visit various islands, such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, and St. Maarten.

Alaska: Alaska offers a unique and breathtaking experience with its rugged wilderness, glaciers, and wildlife. You can take a cruise along the Inside Passage and visit ports such as Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.

Mediterranean: The Mediterranean is known for its rich history, culture, and cuisine. Popular ports of call include Barcelona, Rome, and Athens.

Hawaii: A cruise to Hawaii offers the opportunity to experience the islands’ natural beauty with their volcanic landscapes, lush rainforests, and stunning beaches. You can visit ports like Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai.

Europe: A European cruise can take you to various countries and cities, such as Paris, Amsterdam, and Venice, allowing you to experience different cultures and cuisines.

What can I expect aboard a cruise ship?

Cruise ships offer a variety of amenities and activities to keep passengers comfortable and entertained during their voyage.

Common onboard features include:

• Restaurants and bars serve a variety of cuisines and beverages.
• Entertainment venues, such as theaters, casinos, and nightclubs.
• Sports and fitness facilities such as gyms, pools, and basketball courts.
• Spa and wellness centers that offer massages, facials, and other treatments.
• Children’s programs and activities for kids of all ages.
• Shopping boutiques that sell souvenirs, clothing, and other items.

A cruise is a fun and convenient way to discover new destinations and spend a relaxing vacation with family and friends. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned veteran, there’s always something new to discover on the high seas.

What should I pack for a cruise?

When packing for a cruise, it’s important to consider the type of cruise, the destinations you’ll be visiting, and the activities you’ll be participating in. Some general packing tips are:

• Take comfortable, casual clothes for daytime activities and dressier attire for evening events.
• Pack multiple layers to adapt to weather and temperature changes.
• Remember to pack swimwear, sunscreen, and other essentials for outdoor activities.
• Think about the excursions you’ll participate in and pack the appropriate gear, such as hiking boots or snorkeling equipment.
• Check with the cruise line for special dress codes or certain activities or venue requirements.

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