Cruising is one of the most convenient ways to explore multiple destinations in a single week or enjoy a fun three- or four-night tropical getaway. And knowing how to snag a cheap fare makes cruising even more fun. Here are seven ways to save…
Book during “wave season”—from January to March. This is when cruise lines offer discounts of as much as 30% to 60% for sailings that are just weeks or months away. Examples: Caribbean cruises in February and March…summer sailings in the Caribbean…European cruises from April to October…and Alaska cruises from May to September. You’ll also find great offers on voyages that are more than a year away.
Check cruise line websites for promotions. Wave season isn’t the only time cruise lines offer discounts. Many periodically slash cabin prices on select itineraries or offer free beverage packages or Wi-Fi, onboard credits or deals allowing a third and fourth passenger in a cabin to sail for free. Fares on older ships generally are discounted more heavily than those on newer ones.
Cruise in the shoulder or off-season. For a bargain in the Caribbean, sail from May to July—before peak hurricane season (prices are even cheaper in August and September, but you’ll risk bad weather) or November into early December. Alaska is most affordable in May and September. And on some cruise lines, you can find discounts to sail the Mediterranean year-round, including Viking (Viking.com) and MSC (MSCCruisesUSA.com).
Traveling solo? Choose a cruise line with “single” cabins. One of the biggest budget busters for solo travelers is paying a single supplement since cruise fares are priced at double occupancy. Norwegian (NCL.com), Celebrity (CelebrityCruises.com), Royal Caribbean (RoyalCaribbean.com), Holland America (HollandAmerica.com) and Cunard (Cunard.com) have designated solo cabins on some ships—so search for “single staterooms,” “solo cabins” or “studios” on the cruise line’s websites.
Sail from a port you can drive to. Airfares are sky-high lately, so booking a cruise from a nearby port means big savings. There are 17 US cruise ports. You can search on a site like Expedia.com for sailings from nearby ports, and then check prices and promotions on cruise line websites.
Find a travel agent who specializes in cruises. They often have access to the best deals.
Consider a repositioning cruise. Some of the best large-ship cruise bargains are on spring and fall transatlantic repositioning cruises, when ships travel between Europe and North America. These trips are generally 14 nights, with most of those nights at sea, but they cost less than most seven-night itineraries. These sailings aren’t right for everyone, but a repositioning cruise is a budget-savvy way to see ports in Spain, Portugal and remote Atlantic islands such as Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands.