Choosing the right time to book your cruise

Desk with two white chairs and a computer and calendar showing when to book your cruise
Getting the best cruise deal can come down to when you choose to book your cruise. | Author: Roman Bozhko

Booking a cruise is always an exciting time especially when you can start counting down the days until your departure. However, it might be wise to hold off on booking that cruise for a bit in order to get the best cruise deal possible, as prices can fluctuate for a wide variety of different reasons. 

It could be the time until the departure date, it could simply be that the ship’s cabins aren’t selling quickly. The reality is that even for the same type of accommodation, a lot of passengers are going to pay a slightly different rate.

In order to get the best cruise deal for you, it’s a good idea to be savvy about the right time to book your cruise. Booking at the wrong time can put you out of pocket and will mean that you might have had the worst deal out of everyone on the ship.

Is there really a perfect time to book a cruise to save?

There is no definite advice on when to book a cruise, as the time at which you’d get the best deal can change due to various factors. You might be looking at prices at the time when they’d most likely be at their lowest but the particular cruise you’re looking at might be selling well and they don’t feel as though the need to offer deals.

That being said, you do want to give yourself the best chance of getting a great cruise deal and taking the right steps will help you to do just that. It’s not only important to book a cruise at the right time but also know what the difference is between a good deal and a bad deal. 

Therefore there isn’t a perfect time to book a cruise but there are much better times than others. You shouldn’t take it for granted that you’re getting a great deal as you still need to search around even if you’re looking at the most ideal time. 

Take advantage of Wave Season

Wave season isn’t a term for when there are going to be the roughest waves on your cruise. Instead, it refers to a wave of bookings that generally happen from January to March. This operates in a very similar way to how Black Friday works with that sales day, except wave season is for three months. 

With Black Friday, stores offer great deals to get a huge amount of customers through their door with Christmas just around the corner. Similarly with wave season, cruise lines offer great deals to get a huge amount of customers booked on their ships before summer.

Most of these cruises won’t actually be in that same summer, of course, as they’d usually be over 12 months away. In the depths of winter, people start craving a cruise vacation and companies want to take advantage of that with some great cruise line offers, as they don’t want to lose those customers to anyone else. This is a great time to book as you are more likely to get amazing cruise deals than at any other time of the year.

In this season some great incentives are available - you can often get free perks that you might otherwise not get such as free WiFi for the duration of the cruise and extra drinks packages, as well as a better range of time slots in the dining room. 

The Celebrity Silhouette from Celebrity cruise lines on the ocean
Looking for great deals, the best time to book your cruise is during the wave season. | Author: LUM3N

Should I book my cruise early?

All cruises companies have a slightly different strategy when it comes to pricing but most of them follow a similar strategy of offering an early discount to try and entice you to book your cruise early so they can start to fill their cabins. There are a few great benefits if you want to book early.

Benefits of booking your cruise early

The benefit of this is that you are able to have the security of booking early and that gives you plenty of planning time with any sail dates for any life commitments that you have such as work or children. You don’t have to rush and you can afford to be less flexible. You also don’t have to worry about the ship selling out. 

If you book over 18 months from your departure date then some great savings can be found. The majority of companies will offer some form of discount with their best deals coming often coming at this time. You can also end up getting perks such as onboard credit, drink packages and better dining times

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Drawbacks of booking your cruise early

There is value in patience though and also life situations can change a lot in over 18 months. Something could happen that means you can no longer fulfill your vacation. Planning this far into the future has a risk factor involved.

While there are plenty of bookings that can be found early, the higher chances are that the best deal a cruise will give is much later on. This means that you can end up paying more than you otherwise might have done.

Should I book my cruise late?

In any form of sales one of two things often happen to the price the closer that you get to an event. Often the price will soar if the demand is high or it could be the case that the price will plummet as there are plenty of cabins available. Booking a last minute cruise can end up saving you a lot of money.

Benefits of booking your cruise later

With cruises, prices that soar with increasing demand rarely happens. The reason for that is due to there being so many cruises available that someone isn’t going to pass over the odds just to quickly get on a cruise. This just leaves great deals to be had.

The biggest benefit of booking later is that this is when a cruise ship will offer their highest percentage of great deals. If you wanted to get the best price possible then the best idea would be to leave it for as late as possible.

Drawbacks of booking your cruise later

There are obvious drawbacks to booking late though. If you have your heart set on a particular cruise, then there is a good chance that it will sell out before any deals start to happen. If this happens then you are going to have to look at other options.

You also don’t have the same amount of time to plan your cruise and make the right arrangements. This requires a lot more flexibility as in order to get the best deals then you will often have to wait until under 50 days before the departure date.

Other factors to consider when booking your cruise

There are plenty of other factors that could well affect the price you pay for your cruise. One of the best times to book a cheap cruise is when the region is in its off season as there will be less travelers and therefore cruise lines are more likely to offer discounts.

This requires some investigation though as there is usually an off season for a reason. In the likes of the Caribbean this could be due to hurricane season, whereas in Hawaii it’s simply the fact there are less travelers in spring and fall. It’s important to check why destinations aren’t in peak times so that you don’t get a nasty surprise.

You will also want to think about whether or not if want something specific such as a particular type of room or particular destinations. If so, then it might be the best idea to book the cruise as soon as you can to make sure that you aren’t left without your dream cruise.

There is also the aspect of price adjustment. If you book early and haven’t paid for your cruise as yet, then there is a chance that you can get an adjustment if your price drops. There is also a chance that cancelling and then rebooking your cruise can save you money if you see a much cheaper price. 

Perks might not be available if you book late. These can include aspects such as early dining slots and other promotions and luxuries. Booking earlier can be more expensive at times but there’s a higher chance of getting a greater cruise experience.

The best booking times for each cruise destination

While this is information that can be applied to all types of cruises, different destinations actually have variances in when you’re most likely to get the best deal. Some places are more stable whereas others can change quite dramatically. 

Cruises to Australia and New Zealand often have stable prices and the best deals can often be found around 100 days before departure. The same story can be found with a cruise to Alaska as there is only really one short season in which to book.

For most destinations, the most ideal time to book would be around 50-80 days before departure. This is the case for Europe, the Middle East, North & South America, a Caribbean cruise, and Asia. If you see an amazing deal in this timeframe then it’s a great idea to take it.

There are a couple of destinations though where you are really going to benefit from booking later. Both Mexico and Hawaii often offer their best deals with under a month until departure date. This requires a lot of flexibility but it could save you hundreds of dollars.

A cruise ship from Royal Caribbean at the port in Haiti
The best time to book your cruise is depending on your desired destination. | Author: Fernando Jorge

The day you book your cruise

The right time to book your cruise can also come down to the day that you book it. Prices can fluctuate from day-to-day with price drops more likely on some days than others and therefore you can look out for these days to get the best deal.

In terms of the most likely days for price drops, this will happen during midweek with Tuesday to Thursday being the best dates, with Thursday in particular having the highest chance of getting a great price drop. 

Friday is also a decent day for bookings with Monday and Saturday being days to definitely avoid. The worst day for price drops is Sunday which has a very low amount of deals available. Sunday though has very few price hikes to balance that out.

Wednesday is actually the worst day for price hikes and therefore it’s important to know when you are getting a good deal or a bad deal. Thursday is the ideal day to book your cruise as it is the most common day for price drops without too many hikes.

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Be cruise savvy

There is clearly a lot to consider when it comes to booking your cruise. You want to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a great deal on your cruise by booking it at the right time and not leaving yourself out of pocket.

One of the key aspects of this is that you need to know the difference between a good deal and a bad deal. Looking at the comparative prices will ensure that you will be able to see how much you’re going to actually be saving but a looking at the cruise price history can give you an even better idea.

Your flexibility in terms of time and destinations is important. If you are inflexible in these regards then it’s going to be the best idea to book your cruise as early as possible in order to give you that initial discount and also give you peace of mind.

If you are more flexible, then it might be a great idea to book your cruise later. Doing this during wave season and in midweek will also give you a better chance of getting some great savings on your cruise.

It’s important to note here that it’s important for you to get the cruise you want. Sometimes it might be worth paying that little bit extra in order to ensure that you are getting exactly what you desire at the time that you want.

As we said before, there is no perfect time to book a cruise. Prices change all of the time due to complex algorithms and it makes it impossible to know if you’re getting the lowest price possible. The best thing to do is use this advice as a guide in order to give you the best chance of getting heaps of money off your next cruise.

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