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How Far In Advance Should You Book A Cruise? (Last Minute Isn’t Always Best)

When looking at cruise prices it can be difficult to decide when to book.

I’ve taken over 50 cruises to date – and have been able to book cruises for as little as £39/$50 per night!

I have done a lot of research into the best time to book cruises and during the post, I share what I have learnt during my cruise booking experience.

Do Cruises Get Cheaper Closer To The Sailing Date?

Cruise prices do not get cheaper closer to the sailing date in all cases.

Cruise prices are usually the cheapest furthest from the sailing date when first launched or 60-90 days before the cruise sets sail.

The prices of some cruises will decrease last minute – but this doesn’t always happen.

Booking a cruise within the last 60/90 days may not always be the best way to get a bargain. If you leave it this late you run the risk of the cruise line only having a few cabins left and the prices increasing.

How Far In Advance Should You Book A Cruise?

In order to book a cruise for the cheapest price you have two options:

Book When The Cruises Are Released

  • If you can book far in advance, DO IT! I have friends who book their cruises years in advance, I rarely do this because I’m not organised enough but it can be a great way to get a bargain.
    • In general, the price when the cruise itineraries are first released is the cheapest that they’ll be.
    • There are exceptions with last-minute deals but for the most part, cruises are cheaper when the itineraries have just been released.
    • If you look to book a new ship that is not yet built you can get incredibly cheap cruises.
Norwegian fjords Norway msc orchestra p&o Britannia Norway cruise ships girl red coat Emma cruises
  • Maiden voyages are often really cheap because the ship may still be working out some issues, training the crew etc. 
    • If you do book a cruise really far in advance, don’t worry that you’re going to have to pay it off straight away.
    • It’ll usually be 60 or 90 days before your cruise that the full balance will be required.
    • Cruise lines will sometimes have special offers when they have ridiculously low deposits.

Book Last Minute

  • As mentioned earlier, the price will usually drop around the 60 or 90-day mark. The cruise lines know then how many cabins they have to fill and they can adjust the prices accordingly.
    • Most cruise travel agents’ websites will have a “last minute deals” page where you can find their cheapest cruise deals.
    • Booking a cruise like this is particularly good if you don’t have a set itinerary and cruise line in mind.
  • It could be a good idea could be to book a week off work – then at the last minute pick a cruise which fits within your dates.
    • One of the biggest problems that you may face is being able to get time off work for last-minute cruises.
    • I’m always thinking ‘If I could go right now… I’d be booking this!’ Now I work for myself, I have more flexibility to book last-minute cruises, but mostly I have my schedule booked months in advance.

To catch cheap, last minute offers you’ll have to act fast! If you’d like to learn how to make sure you don’t miss out on cruise bargains check out this post that I wrote about how to cruise for under £50pp per day!

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Book A Cruise?

Cruise prices vary depending on the time of year. In order to book a cheap cruise, you’re going to want to look at booking a cruise when everybody else is not booking cruises.

When cruise demand is high the prices usually are too! 

Find out more about when it will be cheapest to cruise to your chosen destination here:

When is the Cheapest Month to go on a Cruise? Real Examples of the Cheapest Cruises I Have Been On – Where and When I Travelled

Wave Season

  • “Wave Season” generally runs from January to March and this is when cruise travel agents and cruise lines will try to entice potential passengers!
    • Almost all cruises will have some discount or freebie promotion at this time. When the new year starts people tend to start planning their year and as a result, start to look at holidays.
    • The miserable weather in Wave Season can also push people to consider booking a cruise!
Viking Cruises Sea - Infinity Pool View of Ocean Norway

Autumn/Fall & Winter

  • Autumn/Fall can be a brilliant time to book a last-minute cruise.
    • There are usually LOTS of bargains for cruises in November/December so starting to look for these in September/October can be a great option.
    • Similarly, there are often really cheap cruises in January and February so looking for these in November and December can be a great move.

I am a big fan of a cruise in Winter. I’ve been on a number of cruises in the Winter including the Mediterranean and canary islands, both of which I would wholeheartedly recommend.

The weather in the Canary Islands is still warm for most of the winter and it makes a lovely change from the weather in the UK.

What Is The Best Day Of The Week To Book A Cruise?

According to Neil from Cruise Nation…

“My advice on booking a cruise would be to opt for Wednesday or Thursday. Monday and Tuesday we get a lot of pricing updates and those are then live for Wednesday and Thursday before usually getting updated again. That’s why we do our top 20 offers email on a Wednesday,” 

Neil from Cruise Nation online Cruise Travel Agency

Not all cruise lines/agencies agree on which day is the best day to book a cruise. All sources do seem to say that you should book midweek though.

  • According to Loney Planet, the best time to book a cruise is Thursday. – Source.
  • Wheretraveler also says the best day to book is a Thursday – Source.
independence of the seas cruise ship le harve

When is the Cheapest Month to go on a Cruise?

You may be wondering which is the cheapest time of year to go on a cruise holiday.

It all depends really on where you want to go in the world! Peak season is at different times of the year in different parts of the world.  Do your research for the destination you want to visit, and then you are likely to be able to find a good, out-of-season deal.

Can You Book A Cruise On Departure Day?

You can’t book a cruise on departure day as you used to!

Because of the extra regulations and advance paperwork now needed, you need to book at least two or three days in advance.

The cruise lines generally ask for all passenger details at least 72 hours before a cruise so are to sell cabins after this point.

Booking a week or so in advance would be ideal if at all possible.

I recently took a cruise around the Mediterranean on Costa Smeralda in January. Prices started at £39/$50 per night, for the cruise only.  To find out how I got on, watch the video below:

Related Questions:

If you book a cruise and the price goes down, are you entitled to a refund?

  • No. If you are in the UK you will have paid a deposit to secure your cruise and in order to get the lower price, you would have to cancel and rebook.
    • Cancelling can come with a charge and you would lose your deposit.
    • There are circumstances where this makes sense to do, for example, if you’ve booked as part of a promotion with a low deposit, but it rarely is the case.

This is slightly different in the US as you may have a ‘price guarantee’.

  • This means that if the cruise reduces in price your fare will also be reduced if you haven’t yet paid in full.
    • Occasionally cruise lines will offer the difference in onboard credit.

If you book a cruise and the price goes up, do you have to pay the difference?

  • No. The price you pay for your cruise at the time of booking is the price that you will pay.
    • By paying a deposit you are locking in the price.

Before You Go!

I often book the cheapest “Guaranteed” inside cabins to get the best value for money. To find out what the cheapest cabins on the ship look like, and whether they would suit you, click here:

I Always Book Guaranteed Cabins on Cruise Ships – (Photo Examples, Regrets & More)

I booked the cheapest cabin on P&O’s Mega ship, Iona. I had a wonderful time, and didn’t miss having a balcony at all! Find out all about it here:

I Booked The Cheapest Cabin on a MEGA Cruise Ship

I saw a deal on the luxury cruise line Azamara. Normally their cruises are out of my price range, but this was a November cruise in an inside cabin. To find out what i thought of Azamara and the inside cabin, Click here:

I Booked The Cheapest Cabin on a LUXURY CRUISE – Azamara Inside Cabin Review

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.

Emma Le Teace

Monday 27th of May 2019

Me neither! (Apart from I've noticed the travel agents are less busy at the end of the week and they pick up faster...)

Thanks for commenting.