Wave Season Cruise Deal Tips: Flash Sales and Hidden Offers

by  Lindsay Neff | Feb 28, 2012
Carnival Sensation
Carnival Sensation / Photo courtesy of the property

This deal has expired, but be sure to check out our Top 25 deals of the week for savings on trips to destinations around the globe.

Carnival Corporation is having a rough week, from ship fires, to armed robberies, to barred ports of call. Coupled with the Costa Concordia disaster, it’s understandable that travelers may be a bit more reluctant to book a cruise for their vacation time. But despite the bad press, and perhaps to some extent because of it, this is a great time to find cruise deals; and scores of them are available right now.

January through March is what the cruise industry refers to as “wave season” and it’s the time of the year that the most aggressive deal and advertising campaigns are launched and, consequently, when most cruise reservations are made. Even so, demand for the season isn’t down and deals abound; the industry still wants to fill its cabins. What this means for you is that your cruise deal options are wide and varied. What you want to watch out for especially are flash sales and special offers and rates.

Flash sales are only available for small flashes of time – usually a few days or less. Wednesday, for example, Princess Cruises is having a one day only Leap Day Sale on Alaska cruises with discounts that add up to a full cruise day, plus on-board credit. And Monday, those signed up for our e-newsletters received a bulletin on the 72-hour Leap Year Sales on CruisesOnly.com, which include offers from Carnival to Royal Caribbean to Norwegian of great discounts, free upgrades, air credit, or even free wine. These types of sales are very popular during wave season; they generate sales in small windows, so that cruise companies can make sure they don’t sell all of their rooms at the lower rate. They’re also hard to resist – even when you’re not considering a certain cruise, seeing the words “75% off” might change your mind.

You should also look for the difficult to find and often hidden offers and special rates. These rates run from discounts for veterans to seniors to early bookers to past guests and even to residents of certain states. For example, Disney has special Florida resident rates for last-minute Bahamian cruises this March and April available through March 4. They aren’t blatantly advertised, and you have to know the offer code while you’re searching for a cruise to even see the lower price point. But a test booking revealed that for the same March 4 5-Night Bahamian Cruise, two guests would pay $1,999.24 for a Stateroom with a Verandah, if one of them was a Florida resident, whereas with no Florida resident in your room, you’d be paying $2,299.24. That’s a $60/night difference that adds up to a $300 difference for the whole cruise.

These kinds of rates are more difficult to find than others; you could look for them on the cruise line’s own special offers pages, but they aren’t always listed. Some booking engines have an option for state of residency or whether or not you’ve sailed with the line before – make sure you always try entering yours or your cabin mates’ information if you can, because there might be a discount available that wasn’t advertised.

To see the best deals, vetted and hand-selected by our travel experts, and to make sure you’re kept up-to-date on the best flash sales, check out our Cruise Deals and make sure you’ve signed up for the Top 25 Newsletter.

And of course, use our Travel Search price comparison tool to make sure you’re getting the best available rate not only on your cruise, but on all other aspects of your travel, as well.

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