When it comes to cruising, the best deals are relative. If a deal to you means a cheap fare, that $269 per person offer for an Interior cabin on a five-night Carnival Cruise Line sailing to the Caribbean just might be the holy grail of cruise scores. (It’s cheaper than staying home!
But if you’re looking for something a little more decadent — yet you still want to save money off the list price — an 11-night Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity Cruises in a Veranda Stateroom could be yours for $1,099 per person … including deal-sweetening extras, such as a beverage package and free Wi-Fi.
So, whether you want the lowest rate in the industry or just the best price on your preferred ship, read on for 12 tips on how to make sure you get the best deal on any cruise.
1. Search for deals that include airfare.
Premium and luxury cruise lines often incorporate airfare in their best deals. Oceania Cruises, for example, has a free airfare program on flights from 26 North American gateways, while Paul Gauguin Cruises includes free airfare from Los Angeles.
Viking Ocean Cruises runs free-air promotions, while Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises offer business-class upgrades for $199 each way. And Celebrity has a deal that applies a $500 to $1,000 per person credit to your cruise fare when you book flights through the cruise line.
2. Stay on top of special offers.
Every cruise line has a tab on its home page — Specials, Offers, or Deals — that anyone interested in getting the most for their money should click on. These specials can range from free pre- or post-cruise land tours or hotel stays (on Oceania, Voyages to Antiquity, and Paul Gauguin) to onboard freebies that can really add to your savings. You can also sign up for newsletters from ShermansCruise.com and have sale fares sent right to your email inbox.
3. Travel midweek.
The majority of seven-night cruises depart on Saturday or Sunday, but some shorter or longer cruises may depart midweek. Airfares are generally cheaper then, and often cruise fares on these itineraries are lower as well.
4. Do your research during “wave season.”
The months of January, February, and March are known as wave season, and this is the time when many cruise lines offer deals and promotions as they seek to fill ships for the remainder of the year.
5. Do the math on what’s included.
Add up what’s included with each cruise fare you’re considering to determine which is the best deal for you. For example, if you’re a big drinker, you may find a slightly higher rate on a line that includes alcohol saves you money in the end.
6. Look for onboard extras.
Book during a promotion, and you can save hundreds of dollars. Popular promotions from major cruise lines, such as Celebrity, Oceania, and Norwegian Cruise Line, include a choice of complimentary onboard extras — such as unlimited Wi-Fi, a beverage package, prepaid gratuities, or onboard credit.
7. Bringing the family? Search for Kids Sail Free programs.
On MSC Cruises, for example, up to two kids under age 12 can sail in their parents’ cabin for free on most sailings. Other lines offer this kind of sale on select itineraries — including Norwegian (which offers a free third and fourth guest as part of its Free at Sea promotion) and Crystal Cruises (which allows for a free third guest age 17 or under). Royal Caribbean International also discounts fares for second, third, and fourth passengers.
8. Going alone? Choose a cruise with no single supplement.
Some lines are more cost-effective than others for solo travelers. Norwegian’s newest ships (Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Epic) and Pride of America have interior Studio cabins for those traveling solo. Royal Caribbean has added interior Studios and Super Studio balcony staterooms for singles on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Another option for solo cruisers with a more cultural bent: Voyages to Antiquity has 26 dedicated single cabins with no or low supplements.
9. Look for special discounts.
Many cruise lines offer discounts to active and retired military personnel and their families, senior citizens, and residents of certain states. If you live in Florida, for example, Disney Cruise Line, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean all run resident specials. Plus, you can drive to the port, making it easier to take advantage of last-minute deals.
Discounts for seniors are less common — many cruisers are retirees, after all. But some lines do discount prices for passengers 55 and older on select sailings.
10. Enroll in frequent cruiser programs.
Each time you sail on a new line, sign up for its frequent cruiser program. Doing so may equate to discounts or special onboard perks on future sailings.
11. Plan your next cruise while still on board.
Stop by the sales desk during your cruise — and watch for “future cruise” promotions in your daily onboard bulletin — since cruise lines often have price incentives for booking while at sea.
12. Once you’re on board, stay on board.
Have plenty of time? If you’re retired, self-employed, or can finagle another week off work, it’s worth asking about special fares on the next sailing. The line may be able to sell you a terrific cruise deal if your cabin hasn’t been booked yet. Flexible travelers should always ask about offers when they board. Many frequent cruisers say these are the best deals of all.