When looking at cruise prices it can be difficult to decide when to book. I’ve been on 20 cruises to date and have been able to book cruises for as little as £42 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 experience of cruise booking.
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.
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 gonna 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 a ridiculously low deposit. One of my favourite cruise lines, Princess Cruises, often have cruises with deposits from $1, you can find the deals on their website here!
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 cheap cruise deals. Booking a cruise like this is particularly good if you don’t have a set itinerary and cruise line in mind.
A good idea could be to book a week off work and then at the last minute pick a cruise which fits within your dates. One of the biggest problems that I 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!’
To catch these 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!
“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 sort of 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.
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.
Different cruise destinations will have different ‘peak’ times and some cruise regions will be more difficult to find a bargain than others.
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,” – Source.
My last two cruises (and my next) were booked with Cruise Nation, they have LOTS of last-minute bargains and are one of my favourite travel agents in the UK. Check out our deals page for an exclusive discount.
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 mid week 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.
Can You Book A Cruise On Departure Day?
It is possible to book a cruise on the day of departure in some circumstances but you can’t simply show up to port and get on a cruise. This did use to be a possibility but it hasn’t been for many years.
The cruise lines generally ask for all passenger details at least 72 hours before a cruise so may be unwilling to sell cabins after this point. Having said this, most cruise lines don’t actually have to submit the information until 60 minutes before the ship sails so it is possible.
At this late stage, it may be left up to the port authorities as the ship is technically in their control when in the port. It doesn’t really seem like cruise lines favour this approach so I wouldn’t suggest doing it. Booking a week or so in advance would be ideal if at all possible.
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.
Want to learn how to cruise well on a budget? Start here: How to Cruise For Less
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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.