There are dozens (if not hundreds) of websites that promise to deliver the lowest possible price for a cruise. However, if you zero in on a specific sailing and check all the top websites, you’re likely to discover that the fares are virtually identical. If you doubt it, do a search on a site such as Avoya that allows you to compare pricing across the board.
Is It Really Possible to Get a Discount on a Cruise?
The answer is yes—but only if you understand the rules, stay alert and know where to look. While researching this post, I registered on Cruise Compete and put in a request for a cruise I had already booked. I received 15 or 20 responses, and almost all were at the exact same price. I then contacted three or four travel agents in my area who were reputed to be cruise specialists. All of them assured me they did so much business with the cruise lines that they had access to perks such as cabin upgrades, onboard credits and discounts. None of them delivered.
So, what’s the secret to snagging a deal on a cruise? Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Cruise prices are generally lowest when schedules are first released. Fares will then fluctuate; they’ll probably go up and down many times, but rarely be cheaper than the initial offer. A key point to remember is that passengers who book early get their pick of cabins. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to end up in a stateroom underneath the pool or fitness center.
For many years, the conventional wisdom was to save money by booking at the last minute. While exceptions exist, this is no longer the case. Bear in mind that the leftovers are probably going to be the worst inside cabins or the most expensive suites.
Go When Everyone Else Is Busy
Cruise fares tend to go up during the summer when most people take vacations, or during holiday periods when children are off from school (sailings over the Christmas & New Year’s period are often the most expensive of all). If you can, try to book during less crowded periods.
Use the Cruise Line’s Website as Your Reference Point
While you never know, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a deal on a website that isn’t also offered by the cruise line. Booking directly gives you more security in case something goes wrong. If there’s a problem, you’ll receive a speedier resolution from the cruise line than from a third-party booking site. In the worst-case scenario, tour companies have been known to go out of business.
Do the Math
Booking a cruise sometimes resembles the process of buying a car: You’re not receiving a deal simply because someone says you are. You need to be hyper-alert and compare apples to apples in all cases. Cruise lines run sales continuously; some offer legitimate bargains, while others are simply the same fares repackaged to look more attractive.
Take Advantage of Available Discounts
During the booking process, you’ll be asked your age, state of residence and whether you’ve cruised with the line before. All three are important sources of savings, particularly the senior discount. Florida residents will often get a break on Caribbean cruises, and cruise lines run frequent promotions for members of their loyalty program.
Look for an Older Ship
Cruise lines are constantly building and launching new ships that contain all the latest technology and comfort upgrades. It’s not surprising that these ships are usually more expensive—sometimes twice as much on the same route. Older ships may not have all the virtual reality games of the newer vessels, but their smaller size can provide a more personalized experience.
Consider a Repositioning Cruise
Ships that cruise the Mediterranean in summer normally return to the Caribbean for the winter months. The one-way journeys between their operational bases are called repositioning cruises, and they can offer some amazing bargains. It’s not unusual to find balcony cabins on two-week sailings going for as little as $1000-1200 per passenger. Since repositioning cruises are transatlantic journeys (or transpacific, in some cases), you’ll have the calming influence of quite a few sea days.
However, there are a few downsides. Make sure all those sea days fit your personality; while there are lots of onboard activities, the experience is very different from a regular cruise that visits ports frequently. Most repositioning cruises are at least 12 days, and some can be as long as 18, so you need to have the flexibility in your work schedule. Finally, you’ll have to either fly home from Europe or fly there to meet the ship, which is an additional expense.
Monitor Price Drops
After you book your cruise, check back to see if the price has been reduced. If so, many cruise lines will honor the lower price for you (although they’re not obligated to), or at least give you compensation in the form of onboard credit or some other perk.
Like everything else in travel, it takes some research to find the lowest price on a cruise. Not everyone will want to invest the time (there are some people who pay sticker price for a car and drive happily off the lot), but a little effort can yield a better experience for less money.
Source: frugal travel guy