We've been cruising since 1974 and selling cruises since 2000. With hundreds of vacationers sent off on cruise vacations, we've learned a thing or two about booking cruises for serious bargain hunters (and who isn't?)! Here are the top ten cruise bargains.
1. Cruise in the fall
When school kids head back to school, cruise prices plummet. Sail September through December, excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's weeks and you'll save a minimum of 10% --often 30% or more. This is true on virtual all Caribbean cruises, Alaska cruises and Bermuda cruises.
2. Cruise from Florida
There are exceptions, but with so many ships home porting in Florida, there are more cabins in Florida especially in the fall, winter and spring, and more cabins to fill means lower prices.
3. Be aware of cruise trends, or hook up with a cruise specialist who's aware.
For example, in 2013, there were and are too many ships deployed to Europe. This has made Caribbean cruises more expensive (too few ships) and European cruises a genuine bargain. Some years, too many ships go to Alaska; some years, not enough. A genuine cruise expert will know the situation--and share this information with you.
4. Compromise on your cabin.
If you can stand a windowless inside cabin rather than a balcony, you're going to save money! Or compromise, as we often do, and take the picture-window view of an oceanview cabin. The savings can be substantial!
5. Pack in the people.
If you're a family of four or you travel with two or three friends, book a three- or four-berth cabin. Yes, you'll line up for your turn in the shower, but the savings are significant. If you're a family of five, the economies change somewhat and you may require a special "family" cabin. Ships have a limited number of these, so the price can go up. If the kids are old enough, consider a balcony or oceanview for two or three with an inside cabin directly across the hall for the rest of the gang. Work with a cruise specialist when you do this to ensure proximity of both cabins!
6. Be loyal.
All cruise lines have loyalty programs and the more often you sail a cruise line, the more likely that line is to reward you with upgrades, reduced rates or other perks, like specialty dining, free dry cleaning or reduced rates on Internet packages. Your best bet is to pick one cruise line or two and stick with them.
7. Be flexible.
When you are ready to book a cruise, try to be flexible about when and where you go. Your willingness to move your vacation a week or two or to choose a slightly different itinerary or ship can result in significant savings. Talk to your cruise agent!
8. Consider a shorter or longer itinerary.
Sometimes a five-, six- or even eight-night cruise may prove to be a better value than the standard seven-day cruise. Virtually all seven-night cruises will sail on Saturday or Sunday, but if you take a cruise of an unconventional length, try to sail on a weekday. Likewise, you'll find a four-night cruise is usually a much better value than the three-night weekend cruise.
9. Consider Carnival.
With a lot of negative press swirling around Carnival this year, some people have crossed the cruise line off their lists. This has resulted in an amazing rebuilding effort on Carnival ships, which translates to better food, excellent entertainment, fantastic service--and best of all, rock-bottom cruise rates.
10. Work with a pro.
There are a dozen different ways to book a cruise vacation, but the surest way to get a bargain price is to work with a cruise agent--not an online booking engine or a regular travel agent or direct with a cruise line! You want a cruise professional who'll work for you to find the best ship, rate, date and cabin. If you'd like to work with the best, call Pat Crane toll-free at 1-866-424-1090, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org!