Is there a best time to boos a cruise. I know they have cheap rates at the last minute, but is there any financial benefit of booking a year in advace?
Holland America 1972-Niew Amsterdam
Royal Caribbean 1996
Holland America 2002
Holland America 2004-oosterdam-eastern
Holland America2005 veendam-western
Holland America 2006-Westrdam-eastern
Princess Crown-Mar. 2010-western
Royal Caribbean-Brillance-Oct 2010-Mediterranean
The odds are that prices will increase as time goes along. This is especially true if a sailing is in high demand. Each cruise line has a yield management department who monitors this carefully. If a sailing is hot, prices will either hold or be bumped up. If a sailing is not getting much action, pricing will adjust downward to make it more attractive. Especially in the "last-minute" scenario you mention.
We're like gsel; we book ASAP so we can get the cabin category and location we want.
Book as soon as you know what you want and have your TA watch the prices for you. the only time you will see a big drop toward the end is when the ship hasn't come close to selling: rare and you will have no cabin choices if you wait. An example: I did a wedding cruise for our granddaughter about 18 months ago. We booked almost a year in advance; about 3 months after I started booking various people the rates dipped big time, making it possible for everyone to either save money or upgrade. Everyone jumped and thank goodness. Within a month of the drop the rates went back up, never to drop again. NMnita
If you are picky about cabin location and category, book as far in advance as you can. As time goes on, the more popular cabins will disappear and you may have to take the scraps. As someone else said, you can always keep an eye on prices, and if they drop before you make your final payment, you can ask your TA to try and get a reduction for you.
That said, however, if all you want is a decent place to rest your head onboard the ship, booking at the last minute is the way to go. Just make sure that the sailing you want isn't during high season when the ship could easily fill to capacity.
I have heard about some people who have gotten killer deals on last minute sailings ... especially if they are hooked in with a large travel agency who puts together last minute groups. On my last cruise, we had a group board in Fort Lauderdale ... from a LeisureTowne property ... who got an amazing deal on the cruise. They booked it like two weeks out and probably paid about half of what I did and in some cases got better cabin categories. They also got their bus transportation to and from the pier thrown in for free (this was about a four hour ride). Also, one of the people I was traveling with was originally booked on a different sailing that was selling well. She got a great deal to move over to our sailing ... a couple days longer, plus she got a guaranteed upgrade from a veranda stateroom to a luxury suite. She paid less than I paid for a veranda stateroom and got a luxury suite out of the deal ... complete with Neptune Lounge privileges.
But that sort of thing will only work if the cruise is not selling well ... HAL will deeply discount a block of cabins, and I presume the TA actually buys them and then resells them to her group. But on a popular sailing, HAL simply won't have to do this and if anything prices will rise as time goes on.