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With school starting back, many of us get a little homesick for summer and vacations. While you pine away for summer vacation, why not look at changing things up a taking a cruise next year?
Some people think you have to have deep pockets in order to afford a cruise vacation. Truthfully though, cruising can be cheaper per day than a reasonable hotel room. If you plan ahead and you get your room and all-you-can-eat food for as little as $60 per day! Try doing that in a hotel…
Here are a few tips to help you book your cruise at the best price:
You may not realize it but August & September are great months to book next year’s cruise. Booking a year out can get you the biggest incentives, deal packages, and even room choices. When you book super early you also can take advantage of time. If at any point between the time you book and the time you sail the price goes lower you can always call and get them to change your price to the new discount!
or… Book Late.
If you can’t book early, then be prepared to book last minute. While you won’t have the room choices you could have, they would rather fill a ship than have empty rooms. Look for cruises in the Caribbean to have the best last minute rates as there are a ton of ships in the area and many are mega ships that hold 6,000 people. The best rates are all about supply and demand, and this is usually an area of the sea with a lot of supply! Booking late in some areas of the world will not get you a better rate though, so you have to be flexible on your dates, location and room types to save. Also know that some ships are always sought after (like Disney lines) so booking late won’t save much.
Search the Web.
With any big vacation, spending time researching and planning always pays off. Do some research to pick the best ships, locations and even times of the year to travel. Also do some soul searching on whether you are a mega ship person or prefer smaller ships. Once you decide what you are looking for sign up for emails from your favorite cruise lines. They will send out emails every few weeks with different promotions, you’ll be the first to know about BOGO offers, packages and even flash sales.
If you do end up booking online, go through Ebates first! Right now you can get 10% cash back on all cruises through Ebates. So you book a two person cruise at $400 each, and get $80 back from Ebates!
Talk with a Travel Agent.
While you can still book on your own, and I do recommend still doing your own research, travel agents can also help you save. Ask if they have any secret sales or specials running. Also ask if they have any groups going that you can join in on. Taking advantage of group pricing might save a bundle over current rates depending on when you are booking.
Know Special Sale Dates.
While August and September can bring the best rates for next years cruise, there are still some big discount days to watch for. (Remember you can always price match down to the lower price if you have already booked). Most large cruise lines offer big discounts on Black Friday. These are one day only sales, but are quite substantial. Another sale window is January thru March. There goal is try to be booked by March so watch for deals to fluctuate throughout this period.
Be Flexible – It’s Not About the View.
Some of the best rooms on a cruise ship are not the ones with the balcony! Most long time cruisers know that the inside staterooms are the best deals out there. You end up only sleeping in your room anyway, so save upwards of $100 a night and enjoy the view from the railing on the promenade deck. Tip: watch for deals that mention room upgrades, so you pay the inside rate and get a window after all.
Also be flexible on dates to save a ton. Shoulder dates on cruise ships are similar to should dates in other vacation spots. Just like a beach house rental drops almost 50% off once school starts back, cruise lines do the same. Look for deals on shoulder seasons and save up to $300 off. Keep in mind that shoulder seasons do vary based on cruise location.
Hop on A Repositioning Cruise
Some of the best discounts are on cruises as the ship moves to another area. Cruise ships don’t sail in Alaska all year long, they are like migratory animals and move to warmer waters in the winter. Tip: when searching many of these in North America are labeled as Panama Canal cruises.
Cruise From a Nearby Port
One of the biggest costs of cruising can be before you even get on the ship… it’s the airfare to the port. To save significant money look for ships leaving from ports closer to home. For me searching for a cruise deal I may find a lower rate per night leaving from Puerto Rico, but I still have to get there! Choosing to leave from Charleston (which is only 1.5 hrs by car) costs a tiny bit more per day on the boat, but saves us over $1500 in airline tickets! If your goal is to see the world by boat, this can’t always work since most ports only have the same destination offers, but this does let you get started cruising for the least out of pocket.
Be a Cruise Organizer
Think you can convince some friends to join you? Most cruise lines offer a free room to the “Group Planner” for any group over 16 people (or 8 cabins). Go big and get another free cabin for 32 people. On that note… how about if we all go on a coupon cruise…