How to get cruise discounts - When to book

By: Nick Moseley

Cruise planning isn't rocket science but it does have pitfalls and, like so many things in life there are good and bad ways to go about it in terms of what to book, when to book it and what deal to go after.

One of the harder things to nail down is when to book your cruise and that is what I'll cover in this article.

The big question to start with is should you book a year in advance to lock in a specific cruise, or hold off to the last minute hoping for a last minute deal?

There isn't a best answer, (what a surprise!) what with the huge variety of cruises, company policy changes, marketing objectives, political events, wars and so on...plus of course your budget and personal likes and dislikes.

***So here are some guidelines to get you focused***

***One - Research options and shortlist:***

Shop around. The good news is that there are so many good cruise lines that you can get a fantastic trip on several.

Use the Internet for research. Resources online make it so much more fun - and easier - than it used to be.

You'll find more choices than you could possibly sail on in a lifetime.

Note down seasons, destinations, prices, etc – Get overall comparative data and use Excel or similar to record it all (and avoid information overload!).

***Two - Assess Shortlist i.e., Deal hunt:***

Now it's time to zero inBusiness Management Articles, approach agents and cruise lines and see what deals you can from them.

A tip here is that it often works wonders to use the old ways - Phone them or even…hold on to your hat…go to a travel agent offline! Websites run to absolute set price and deal rules whereas people don't – Maybe try the last 1-2 days of the month when salespeople are busting to meet their quota – sometimes this can turn up a real bargain.

***Factors to consider***

If you're constrained by specific dates you do limit your choices. If you can be flexible on your departure/return dates you'll be able to get a better price for sure.

If you are date inflexible then the best you can do is book at 6-9 months in advance if you can.

By booking early you won't usually get the absolute best possible price but you stand a great chance of getting a cabin upgrade and have a near guaranteed reservation. No cruise can 100% guarantee a specific departure date or cabin but most have a good record.

If you're date flexible then you can get very special cruise deals that pop up occasionally - A superior cabin or even suite on a premium destination voyage - But you need to be prepared to act quickly - Passport at the ready and able to leave home on short notice.

If budget is an issue consider less busy routes or go low-season. This will give you more options and you'll have a better chance at getting a cut price cruise discount as well as a really good cabin.

For example - The Alaska peak season is July-August which normally sells out 9 months in advance. But the sailing season is May to September so if you try for maybe mid May you'll have more options.

In part 2 we'll look at more season and route factors to consider when looking for cruise discounts.

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