This Is the Best Time to Book Your Next Cruise If You Want to Save Money

If you want to save money on your next cruise, there are a few ways to do it. But one of the easiest is to book your cruise at the right time. Some people will tell you that it’s best to book your reservation early. Others promise that you’ll get the best deal by booking late. But what should you believe?

Read on to get the real story on the best time to book your next cruise.

1. Purchase your ticket as soon as you know your travel dates

Man with his travel agent, handing over his ticket

Don’t wait to schedule your ticket if you already know your dates. | Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

USA Today reports that one way to save money on your next cruise is to make your reservations as soon as you know your travel dates. “Most cruise lines offer early discounts to encourage passengers to purchase tickets early, and, like airlines, increase prices as the cruise date gets closer.” If you purchase your tickets early, you’ll get a better price. And you’ll also get your choice of cabin.

Next: Alternately, try this approach.

2. Wait until the last minute to book your cruise

Mother and daughter traveling on a cruise ship

Waiting might not be the worst idea in some cases. | Paha_L/iStock/Getty Images

Alternately, USA Today reports that you can wait until the last minute to book your cruise. Buying late can land you even deeper discounts than you’d get by buying early. “The downside is that you’ll be relegated to whatever availability remains on your ship,” the publication notes. Sometimes, ocean-view cabins sell out; in that case, you’ll have no choice but to book an interior cabin without a view.

Next: If you’re going to book at the last minute, wait for this time frame. 

3. In fact, don’t start looking until 60 days before departure

A senior couple looking out at the ocean

Two months prior to departure may be the perfect time. | Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images

Reader’s Digest reports that if you want to try your hand at last-minute cruise shopping, you should begin shopping around less than 60 days before departure. “That is around the time when current passengers are allowed to cancel their plans without penalty, leaving cruise lines with a clearer picture of how much space is still available,” the publication notes. They can then offer remaining cabins at a discount to fill up the ship before the ship departs.

Next: Make this choice intentionally. 

4. Decide whether you’re booking early or late

Crystal Cruises caribbean

If you have a specific itinerary to follow, book early. | Crystal Cruises via Facebook

To save money on your reservation, you need to be decisive about whether you’re going to book early or wait until the last minute. But how do you make that choice? Cruise Critic advises that you should book early if you want to lock in a good rate, if you want a specific cabin, or if you have your heart set on a specific itinerary. Alternately, you should book late if you want the cheapest possible price and don’t mind staying flexible about your ship or your itinerary.

Next: Consider this when you choose your departure port.

5. Choose a cruise that departs from a port within driving distance

An older couple driving at sunset

Choosing a port close by gives you more flexibility. | iStock/Getty Images

Reader’s Digest reports that another smart way to save money on your next cruise is to choose a ship that departs from a port close to you. Many cruise lines offer last-minute deals to people who live within driving distance of their ports because those travelers don’t have to book airfare and have an easier time making last-minute plans. To find those deals, check out the special offers section of the cruise line’s website, where you can also find military discounts and other last-minute deals.

Next: Try to remain flexible. 

6. Be flexible about restrictions

Waiter serving table of five in a cruise ship

Keep your trip open to changes and you’ll surely find a good deal. | Creatas/iStock/Getty Images

Another strategy that can save money? Being flexible about restrictions. Reader’s Digest reports that “Sometimes, great last minute cruises come with a few restrictions.” Guarantee cabins, for instance, let you choose your stateroom category but not your individual stateroom. You could know you’ll get an ocean view, for instance. But you won’t get to pick your specific cabin. Those fares typically give you a great discount as long as you’re willing to remain flexible with the restrictions.

Next: Think about whether you really need one of the newest ships. 

7. Go with an older ship

The Signature class cruise ship MS Eurodam arrives in the Dutch port

It might not be the prettiest ship, but it could be the cheapest! | Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images

Reader’s Digest reports that booking your cruise on an older ship is another smart way to save money the next time you travel. Many people want to travel on the newest, biggest, most impressive ships. But if you don’t see yourself taking advantage of all of the entertainment or amenities on those ships, a slightly older ship can be just as a great. Plus, most cruise lines spend millions of dollars updating the older ships in their fleet. So even a ship that isn’t brand-new may have the latest attractions and experiences.

Next: Stay informed about this. 

8. Know when your cruise line tends to offer discounts

woman checking her phone with shopping bags in hand

Do plenty of research. | Ipopba/iStock/Getty Images

Shermans Cruise reports that it also pays to know when your favorite cruise line or the industry as a whole tends to offer discounts — and to book your trip during those times of the year. As the publication explains, “There are set periods when industry-wide sales occur — such as Wave Season (January through March) and Plan a Cruise Month (October) — but each cruise line also has its own approach to timing specific deals and promotions. Tracking how the prices change can give you invaluable insight into how a line offers their best rates.”

Next: Try to do this. 

9. Book your ticket to travel during the off-season

cruise ship passengers coming off the boat

The off-season will be way more affordable. | Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images

Another way to save money, according to USA Today? Book your cruise for off-peak travel dates for your destination. March and April are off months for European cruises. And the Caribbean is less popular in the fall. Just keep in mind that the savings of booking during the off-season do come with a higher risk of bad weather. So USA Today advises you should “be prepared to miss some port stops or have to cancel off-ship excursions.”

Next: Think about booking your next cruise in this situation. 

10. Reserve your next trip while you’re on board

A senior stands on the rear deck of a cruise ship

Don’t wait to leave before signing up for your next adventure. | jeffclow/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Shermans Cruise reports that another smart way to save money is to become a repeat customer at one cruise line. “The best deals may be found while you’re already on board a sailing,” the publication explains. “Visit the ship’s cruise desk to see how the line will entice you to reserve your next trip.” You may get a lower fare, a smaller deposit, or significant onboard credits, which you can use to save money on drinks, excursions, or even gratuities.

Read more: Don’t Believe These Common Myths About Cruises

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