The Scoop On Shore Excursions
For a first timer, these can be confusing. Details arent often added to an itinerary until six months or so before sail date check back regularly, snap up a place on any excursions that are of interest, and book earlypopular options can reach capacity long before sailing. In pre-pandemic times, it was easy to go off-menu and arrange private excursions, using independent companies, which can often be cheaper than the line’s options. But as cruising restarts, the focus on the ships own bubble, keeping passengers and crew together and safe, might mean these independent options aren’t available. Check the rules when you book, and keep checking as protocols like these are inevitably in flux.
How To Find The Best Cruise Deals
Finding the right cruise to suit your individual needs is easier than you may think. Begin by launching our Cruise Finder, which will help you compare all cruise deals quickly and easily in one location. If you have any questions along the way about the cruise deals youre finding , feel free to ask an experienced travel agent. Call toll free at 800-665-4981 and ask to speak with an agent who specializes in finding the best cruise deals!
Compared to many land-based vacations, cruises offer excellent value. When calculate the value of superior dining, food selection, service standards, cleanliness, safety, and on-board entertainment, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an equivalent vacation package on land for less money.
As your floating hotel transports you to various ports of call, you’ll avoid the hassle of having to pack and unpack. Especially in foreign lands, it is wonderful to experience local culture while returning to North American standards on-board the ship.
Start searching for your ideal cruise today!
How To Book A Cheap Cruise Holiday
Put in the research for your ideal cruise and great deals can be found, but make sure you pay attention to whats included and whats not
Cruise holidays can be incredibly good value often beating land-based holidays in price-for-price comparisons, because food, accommodation and entertainment are included . Plus going on a cruise gives the opportunity to visit lots of destinations on one trip, while only unpacking once.
If youre a first-timer, start with the country or places you would like to visit and research the cruise lines that call there. Decide whats important to you: size of ship? staff ratio? kid-friendly? adventurous activities? Talk to a travel agent look for one via the Cruise Lines International Association to get the best deal.
In general, booking early is advised. The best cabins and most popular travel dates and itineraries sell out first and there are often incentives for early bookers: free balcony upgrades, drinks packages or onboard spending money.
Otherwise wave period usually December to March is a time when cruise lines offer lots of great-value deals and towards the end of the summer, and around National Cruise Week in September, special offers also become available.
Liz Jarvis is editor of Cruise International
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Be Flexible With Stateroom Options
In addition to being flexible about sail dates, keep an open mind regarding the kind of staterooms and destinations youll find when booking a cruise at the last minute.
Certain itineraries have coveted staterooms that sell out months in advance. For example, veranda staterooms on Alaska cruises sell out quickly since everyone wants to see wildlife and glaciers from the comfort of their room during their trip.
If youre more concerned about how to find last-minute cruise deals than having a particular stateroom, then a discounted cruise deal is a good fit for you.
The Vacationers Final Thoughts
Cruise-specific booking websites are great resources to find your next trip at sea. However, OTAs can often have cheaper prices and worthy reward programs. Also, consider booking through a specific airline or hotel brand. This can help you maintain or gain status on an airline or with a hotel brand you use regularly. Additionally, booking with a cash back credit card such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can put 1.5% or more back in your wallet. Lastly, stacking these savings with another cash back program such as BeFrugal or Rakuten will further increase your savings.
By Holly Riddle
Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle journalist who also dabbles in ghostwriting and fiction. Her work appears in publications ranging from Global Traveler to Golf Magazine, Mashed to Forbes, and Bloomberg. When shes not writing, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in the Adirondacks. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago and New Orleans.
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Does It Pay To Plan Ahead Or Should I Wait Until The Last Minute
Its an age-old question does the early bird really get the worm, or are there perks to taking a wait-and-see approach? If youre booking a cruise vacation, youll find there are benefits to both strategies. Planning ahead is a great way to score big savings, as Royal Caribbean often runs early saver deals to guests booking well in advance. Its also pretty safe to assume prices usually go up as availability goes down the closer you get to your sail date, so booking ahead is a surefire way to lock in a great rate. That said, booking a cruise at the last minute can also yield some unexpected savings but only if the itinerary youre interested in hasnt sold out yet.
What Is A Sea Day
Transits, when the ship is en route between ports, are known as sea days passengers, obviously, are confined on board. Many newbies fret about wasting time at sea rather than exploring, but theyre often a fun chance to explore the ship itself, as well as decompress between ports. Make sure theyre evenly scattered through an itinerary, though, rather than bookending a weeks voyage, as you wont benefit as much from the downtime.
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Should You Hold Out For A Last
If you want a cabin for two people and arent fussy about where you go, when you go or on which ship, then you can definitely save money by booking your cruise 6 to 12 weeks before departure. Prices are likely to drop at this time because balance payments are due and some passengers drop out.
However, if you want a family cabin for three or four passengers, then the sad truth is that you are very unlikely to find a cheap last-minute deal.
Cabins with extra beds are always in short supply. I once went to book a cruise the day after it went on sale and all the inside four-berth cabins were already gone!
Faq About Booking Cruises Online
How do I know if a website is legit to book a cruise?There are dozens if not hundreds of websites that you can use to book your cruise. Frankly, not all of them look professional, so it is understandable you might question the legitimacy of a website or their deals.
We suggest you stick with the websites mentioned here or other well-known spots.
Above all, remember the age-old rule that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Be wary of any websites advertising cruise deals that are significantly less than the same cruise priced elsewhere.
What about booking last-minute cruise deals on websites?It makes sense that if a cruise cabin is about to sail empty the price would drop to fill it up. In reality, this doesnt usually happen. In fact, cruise lines consistently have occupancy rates above 100% meaning that more than two passengers are in some cabins.
Have more questions about the best website to book a cruise? Let us know in the comments below.
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Booking Direct Through Cruise Line Websites
It used to be that if you wanted to book a cruise, youd visit a travel agent or call up the cruise line. You can still take those routes, but the cruise line websites make it simple to book your trip.
Every major cruise line allows you to book online and do everything from find a cruise to make upgrades, to pay for the trip. In other words, you can book your spot on the ship completely online at any time of the day.
Specific cruise line websites include:
Each of these cruise line websites will allow you to be as narrow or as broad with your search as you wish. You can search all cruises, or search for trips on a specific ship, leaving a specific date, and from a specific port.
Advantages: The good thing about booking directly through the cruise line then there is no third-party company to deal with should there be an issue with your trip. Want to make a change or get a refund? You dont have to worry about any sort of mix-up between the cruise line and another website. While this is rarely an issue, it could happen.
Disadvantages:The main drawback of using a cruise line website? Its like going to a buffet and restricting yourself to only the salad bar.
Cruise line websites are only going to have cruises from that line, so you are limiting your options of prices, ships, dates, and itineraries. In other words, if youre looking for the absolute best deal, you arent likely to find it searching only one cruise line website.
Ask For A Price Drop When Fares Change
If the cruise fare changes after you’ve booked but before you’ve made your final payment, it’s possible to take advantage of the lower rate. Enlist the help of a travel agent who can monitor pricing after you’ve booked, and who can request a re-fare to the lower rate.
If the fare plummets, you can request a rate change, cancel and rebook at the lower rate or request the difference in onboard credit. What you’re entitled to varies by cruise line, but it all leads to more money in your pocket. Note that some lines may have nonrefundable deposit policies always read the fine print before deciding to pull the trigger and cancel and rebook.
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Access Military Senior Or Residency Rates
A number of cruise lines have special programs for seniors, military personnel and even teachers. For example, MSC Cruises provides discounts of up to 10 percent to active and retired military families on almost all sailings. AARP members can find exclusive senior discounts on multiple lines when booking through the AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia.
Many lines also offer residential discounts. Here’s how it works: In essence, a line’s revenue stream is based on a formula that requires a certain number of bookings from various cities, states and regions. So, if it’s not getting enough bookings from one particular place, it’ll drop the price slightly — say, in Florida — to entice more Floridians to book.
There’s no guarantee you’ll get a residential discount, but it can’t hurt to mention your home city and state during the booking process, just in case. Even if it only saves you $50, it’s still $50 in your pocket.
Booking Through Specialized Cruise
In addition to the large cruise aggregators, there are a number of smaller websites focused solely on cruises.
These sites include:
These websites are similar to the large aggregator websites in that they can help you search through every cruise out there to find the best deal. The difference? These websites focus solely on cruises.
With a focus on cruising, they are able to better serve cruise passengers including having staff that you can call directly to help you book.
In other words, these sites are more akin to having your own travel agent to help you with the booking process compared to only a website.
Thats a big help if youre not entirely sure about which cruise you should book. As well, these sites often have deals and incentives to entice you to book.
Advantages: Like the larger aggregators, the niche booking websites offer the ability to search across multiple cruise lines to see all of your options. As well, many of these sites also offer their own special incentives such as onboard credit, free gratuities, or low deposits for booking through them.
In addition, these sites feature their phone number prominently for those who wish to talk to a person about their reservation. You dont always find that with the large aggregation websites.
Disadvantages: While booking through these sites is largely the same as through the cruise line or an aggregator, weve found the incentives can confusing.
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The Ideal Cruise Length For A First
A week or so is the sweet spot for most first-time cruisers, which will offer two or three ports. Three-day sampler itineraries wont allow you to explore more than one destination, and you cant decompress as thoroughly, either. Trips that are 10 days or longer, on the other hand, skew heavily toward retirees, and others less reliant on vacation allowances for every day theyre not checking emails. If youre truly a newbie, says Parker, book a day out on a boat at a local lake first, just to make sure youre not overly prone to seasickness.
Save At Least 60% With Expert Tips Tricks And Hacks
Whilst this article has given an overview of the cheapest cruises, I realise that not everyone wants bargain-basement holidays like I do! What if you want luxury for less? A balcony cabin or a suite? An exotic destination? A cruise and stay holiday?
Like me, shes an expert in finding cheap cruise deals, but Emma has taken things so much further by developing an incredible online course entitled How to Cruise for Less.
Emmas course details the tips, tricks and hacks that she uses to cruise for $50 per night whilst securing upgrades and freebies. It contains video lessons, cheat sheets, checklists and handy tools to help you save at least 60% on advertised cruise prices.
As well as helping you to save money when booking your cruise, Emma will also teach you how to choose the best cruise line for your family, how to pack your suitcase like a pro and how to save money whilst youre on-board as well.
Emma is one of the worlds leading cruise experts and the opportunity to have her provide tailored advice before you hit the book button is priceless.
The best part? Emmas How to Cruise for Less course is super cheap! Youll easily make that money back, and so much more, with the savings youll make when you come to book your next cruise.
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When To Book Cheap Cruises By Region
Different cruise regions have different high and low seasons, meaning that while you may find great deals on Caribbean cruises during the summer and fall, prices on Mediterranean cruises at the same time could be sky high. We collected and analyzed tons of data to help you save up to 71% by booking at the right time for your cruise destination.
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Book At The Last Minute
For those who can be spontaneous, flexibility can pay off. Check out our last minute cruise deals section, which features bargains on a variety of sailings leaving within 90 days — 90 days out being the typical point at which final cruise payments are due. In general, there are always plenty of Caribbean and Mediterranean cruise deals.
Other hard-to-fill cruises — such as shoulder season cruises and one-way repositioning sailings, where open-jaw airfare is required — can be deeply discounted at the last minute. Of course, booking last-minute airfare might wipe out any savings. Plus, you’ll have a limited selection of cabin locations and dinner seatings. But, if you’re flexible and can drive to a cruise port — or have plenty of frequent flier airline points to burn — it’s a great way to take a cruise without breaking the bank.
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Are Cruise Drink Packages Worth It
If you drink a lot on vacation, probably yes. A lot would be a few drinks starting after lunch and throughout the afternoon, a cocktail before dinner, two glasses of wine after dinner, and more drinks after dinner during entertainment then yes. But many people dont drink that much, and for them, unless it is a great promotional offer on the cruise fare with a small supplement over no beverage package, the drink packages are not worth it. Also, both parties in the cabin have to buy the package so you both need to drink enough to get your moneys worth. If you like ordering wine by the bottle, this is not included in drink packages only selected wines by the glass. Your waiter will also store unfinished bottles for consumption the next night. Your itinerary will also determine how much time you are on board vs ashore so European, Alaska, and port intensive Caribbean cruises will have you spending less time during the day on the ship. Some of the drink packages also include specialty coffees and other fancy non-alcoholic drinks that you should factor. Coffee is free at the buffet, but an Americano or Cappucino at a bar is extra and on some drink packages, included.