When Is The Best Time To Book A Cruise?
This is one of the most asked questions we get and I always give the same answer; AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!
We've all seen those advertisements saying; Save Up to 75% on Last Minute Cruises!
First of all, that's false advertising. If you read the fine print, the 75% off is referring to the brochure rate. No one, and I repeat, no one sells cruises for the brochure rate - not even the cruise lines! Plus, all the major mass-market cruise lines require everyone to advertise the same cruise for the same price. So none of these so-called discount websites can advertise a lower price. If they do, then they could lose their credentials to sell for that cruise line and obviously not someone you want to do business with.
So, if the price they're actually advertising is the same as everyone else, then saying they offer up to 75% off last minute cruises simply is not true.
But it brings up the question asked in the title; when is the best time to book a cruise?
I had a client who booked a Christmas cruise on the NCL Epic. He planned well ahead of time and make the booking in March 2011 for the December 2012 sailing. They are a family of 4 in a Family Balcony stateroom. The price has gone up tremendously and had he waited until today to book this cruise, he would have paid $1350 more.
If you book early, it's possible that is the best price that will ever be offered on that particular cruise and prices could continue to go up from there. This is especially true if traveling during high season; Christmas/New Years, Spring Break, and right after school dismisses for the Summer. Plus, by booking early, you get your choice of cabins. This is especially important if you're traveling as a family because family suites, suites, quads, triples, and connecting cabins are always the first to get booked. And people who are concerned about motion sickness always want those cabins in the middle of the ship - these will also become scarce.
If you book later, not only do you take a chance on the price being higher, but your choice of cabins becomes limited and the sailing may even sell out. Then you'd have to change all your plans. And if you wait until the last minute to book, the high cost of airfare will be much higher than any savings you got on the cruise.
And as for specials, you and your agent should both be checking rates to see if the prices change. If a special comes along that will decrease the rate, most of the time they can get the lower rate for you provided final payment has not yet been made. (Some online sites charge for changes, whereas most reputable agents do not have any fees and don't charge for this service.)
Simply stated, if you are retired or live close to a port and have the luxury of being able to travel at the last minute without any problems, then yes, sometimes booking a cruise at the last minute can get you a good rate. But any agent can get these rates, not just the large online sites with their in-your-face advertising. Keep in mind that often, these last minute specials may be limited to a select few groups, such as seniors or residents of a certain State. So sometimes, the advertised rate may not be available for you.
But most people can't pick up and leave on the spur of the moment and must make arrangements to take time off from work, get airline reservations, and get someone to take care of the dog.
Bottom line is that booking early has all the benefits and very few impairments, whereas last minute bookings can have one benefit (pricing), but can have numerous impairments.
Best advice is to work with your agent to find the right cruise for you as early as you can plan it. Then you can plan all the details at your leisure without any of the stress and hassle. And, after all, that's what everyone wants - a carefree vacation.