When Is The Best Time To Book A Cruise?
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.
If you see what is a really good price then book. We booked in Jan for a Dec cruise. Price of an inside and get a balcony, 10 nights and a great price (less than 1800 inclusive for the 2 of us). Then last month a 7 night inside under 1000 inclusive for April 2013 for the 2 of us. Again great price. Both cruises are now at regular price with no deals. These cruises are on a new to us ship but have sailed that line before but even if we had not sailed with them before would have gone for it.
I agree. If you see a good deal and it's something you want to do, then by all means go for it.
Unfortunately, most people don't have the luxury of being able to react to such major purchases, they have to plan well ahead of time, especially families.
But if you are able to react to specials and don't mind having to sometimes not get exactly what you want, then yes, it can be a good thing.
We were talking on another forum about how, in the past, cruise lines use to offer empty space even the day of the cruise at greatly reduced rates. Those times have changed alot.
But unfortunately, some people are still of that old mindset.
Use to be in the old days, that the cruise lines would really reduce any unsold cabins at the last minute. Security regulations have changed all that. But the cruise lines have also changed their philosophy on the matter. Use to be they figure it's better to sell empty space at a reduced rate than not to sell it at all. They don't think that way anymore. They use to also offer really good single rates, figuring it was better to have one person paying some money than no one paying any money. They don't think that way anymore, either, and very rarely offer good rates for singles.
As to why they feel that way, who knows. You can never get a straight answer from the cruise lines. To me, it would make sense to make some money than not to make any, but that's the way I think.
Perhaps it has something to do stopping complaints and being able to plan ahead. Obviously, if someone got a really good deal at the last minute than someone who got their reservation months in advance, someone is probably going to complain. Plus, the sooner people book, the better the cruise line can plan ahead for supplies. And lastly, if a ship is selling, they can raise the price. If a ship is not selling, then they can offer specials to encourage more bookings. Obviously, I'm just guessing, but I'm thinking the way everything is controlled nowadays by computer analysis, they like to plan ahead of time and not be surprised.
This year we had booked a cruise in March for a cruise in November. We had placed a deposit while aboard our last cruise, also on Norwegian, and used this to hold our room. We had planned on paying the cruise off before the September 15th deadline for the final payment but things happened and we couldn't afford to do so. We cancelled the cruise and were given our deposit back.
I mention this because we have always found that booking early is the cheapest way to go. We also like to have a better selection of rooms available to choose from. We all know that things do happen from time to time so by just putting the deposit down and waiting till the last minute to pay off the cruise you can book early and if something happens along the way you can cancel if you need to.
It also makes affording a cruise easier because you can book a cruise and make monthly payments if you wish as long as the total is paid before the 90 day cut off for the final payment.
Definitely, purchasing a future cruise credit is a great thing to do - you get reduced deposit and onboard credit. Too bad Carnival is doing away with this great idea.
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