When is the best time to book a summer 2010 European cruise?
My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in June 2010 and we are looking for an European cruise in late May 2010 or early July 2010. I have noticed that the selection of cruises for numerous cruise lines (Princess, RCCL and Celebrity) for 2010 are less than for this year. Do the cruise lines have a deadline for when they publish itineraries?
We are still deciding on a cruise line and itinerary. We have sailed on the RCCL-Explorer of the sea in 2005 and loved it. We have also sailed on the Carnival Glory in 2008 and did not like it as much as the RCCl cruise.
Any advice or information would be greatly appreciated.
The 2010 itineraries are just now being released. These days the sweet spot for booking cruises is about two months out. It is impossible to say where we will be in a year with cruise prices - it depends on where the economy and the dollar go.
I prefer smaller ships in Europe. Cruising in the Caribbean is very ship oriented and if you only spend a few hours in port it is OK because it is hot and the ship is more comfortable.
In Europe, the destinations are far more important and the ship amenities are less. I prefer a smaller ship with lots of time in port. In general, the Royal Caribbean mega-ships are targetted to local Europeans who want a ship experience, whereas we Americans want to spend less time on the ship and more onshore.
I would look into Holland America, Windstar, Oceania Cruises, Celebrity and Princess.
Holland America has some of the best rates in Europe, and their ships are right-sized. You want convenience with good tour options, then the ability to get back onboard, get a good night's sleep and to be ready for a full day of sightseeing the next day.
Princess ships are bigger (like the RCL and Carnival you have already tried) but they also have good, affordable port-intensive itineraries in Europe. Crown, Emerald or Ruby are all good choices - big ships with lots of onboard activities PLUS good itineraries.
As far as timing - ask a travel agent if any cruise lines are giving incentives for booking farther out right now. Most cruise lines are devising their 2010 itinararies right now and they will all be available by June. No one can predict where cruise prices will be - so I would also ask your travel agent about price protection if the cruise gets cheaper after you buy it.
Hold off on making your final deposit and make it when you think the price is as low as it will go. If prices remain low make your payment at a later date. If they start to go higher make your payment sooner.
I am the editor, but I also speculate, ask questions and play devil's advocate. I reserve the right to change my mind.
Thanks for the great information. Previously we used a travel agent to book the cruises but I was wondering if I should try it to do it on my own and use the web to find the best deal. From your advice, it sounds like I should stick to a travel agency.