Is it still possible to find real cruise deals anymore?
Cruise travelers are reporting that finding cruise deals has never been more difficult and that the old tips and tricks just don’t work anymore. We’re going to share 10 things that ARE working and how you can search for cruise deals, even in this market where ships are sailing full and sometimes even overbooked! Eek, yes, you read that correctly: OVER-booked!
According to CLIA’s latest state of the cruise industry report (CLIA is the cruise industry’s trade association), global cruise capacity is forecast to grow 19% to more than 746K lower berths from 2022 to 2028. WOW! That means cruising is in BIG demand, pushing supply DOWN, and prices UP! In other words, it feels like cruise deals are impossible to find!
Right now, we should be in the middle of the hottest cruise deal season, but even the most experienced cruise travelers are finding themselves FRUSTRATED at the lack of cost savings. It makes you wonder, will there even BE a wave season this year?
Wave season is the time of year when cruise lines run some of their most aggressive sales. This “sales” season starts right after the winter holiday period and continues until the end of March. But usually, we start to see those sale prices happening right about now, during the holiday period. Instead, cruisers are reporting that the sales are, in some cases “fake”, and that the prices are inflated, then sort of falsely discounted.
Here’s 10 ways to find REAL cruise deals
Try the 90-day trick
Our community reports that oftentimes, when cruise lines expect final payment (around 90 days before sailing), there’s SOMETIMES a slew of cancellations. What this does is open up cabins for booking, where just weeks ago, a ship may have appeared to be sold out or nearly sold out. While this isn’t foolproof, it’s worth trying if you can cruise in the next 90 days or so.
Book as early as you can
But because most people can’t, this next tip is probably the most timely and relevant RIGHT now. Travel agents report the BEST deals for cruises booked FAR in advance. In a way, this is good because it rewards travelers for planning, but in all reality, for some- it’s hard to plan things far in advance. Maybe you don’t know if you’ll have the money, or maybe your school or work schedule is up in the air. If you’re the plan-ahead type, this strategy is your best way to secure deals in this particular cruise climate.
Leverage your Travel Advisor
Speaking of travel agents, our third tip is to USE ONE! Travel agents have access to what’s called “group rates”, meaning they, along with their host agency, can book blocks of rooms at reduced rates. Now, this will likely require that you’re FLEXIBLE about when you cruise, but you can ask your travel advisor to help you find group rates. They aren’t always available, but when they are, they can save you BIG!
Avoid NEW ships
Our 4th strategy is my favorite and something we always do. Start with older ships rather than booking the new shiny ship that’s in BIG demand both price and capacity-wise. Cruise lines are still selling cabins for less on older ships, and oftentimes, those ships are nearly identical to their newer sisters. We find that sometimes, older ships have even more friendly and attentive staff and crew. That is not always the case, but sometimes!
Log in and search
In our experience, there are three cruise line websites to check for last-minute deals. If you enjoy the Carnival cruise product, start with Carnival Cruise Line. Here’s how- be sure you are LOGGED In with your VIFP number and search for any itinerary you’d enjoy. Carnival is random in assigning deals to their loyalty members, and our community is reporting that they are scoring deals from Carnival. TIP: be sure you’re logged in so Carnival knows your VIFP number.
The next site to search is the Princess Cruises. What’s unique about Princess is they still offer a “cruise deals” or “drop and go” section on their site. So, you’ll want to start there. Here’s how: go to the “cruise deals” section for their “drop and go” rates.
Lastly, MSC continues to offer low-cost deals, and they throw in drink packages and kids sail free promos. One of our community members found and booked a Norwegian Fjords cruise for just $4100.00 for four people with the help of their travel agent for next year. Just know that the experience will be somewhat more European than the mass market lines you’re used to. We’ve cruised twice with MSC, and both times, we liked the experience a lot. If you can afford the yacht club or Aurea experience, book those.
Opt-in to emails
Our next recommendation for finding cruise deals may surprise you. Most of us try to minimize emails, spam, and unnecessary junk in our inboxes. But, in this case, you’ll want to sign up for *and read* your emails from the cruise lines. The cruise lines are still aggressively marketing their cruises, and they will email their existing customer base when they have unsold cabins. Don’t mark those emails as spam- there may be some savings.
Not for everyone
If you’re a flexible traveler, our next cruise deal hack is perfect. If you can travel immediately, you can and should still look for last-minute savings. Gone are the days when EVERY cruise line had unsold inventory, but there are still some sales. The best way to search this is by going straight to the cruise line’s website and searching for cruises within the next 30-60 days.
Oddly, the lines between the premium (Princess, HAL, Celebrity) and Luxury (Seabourn, Windstar, Azamara, Regent) cruise lines continue to blur. After you pay for all the add-ons like drink packages and gratuities, sometimes, it may make more sense to start with a luxury line rather than booking a mass-market cruise ship and paying thousands in upgrades. Don’t dismiss the available cruise deals on luxury and ultra-premium lines- especially if you usually book suites on the mass market and premium lines.
By carefully searching for deals and reading their emails (and opening snail mail brochures!), our community reports deals on lines like Cunard and Azamara. These are cruisers who usually sail mass market lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess, but they are willing to try something new and can stretch their cruise budget a bit. Trust us, this is a great way to experience something more tranquil and laid back, and if your dates are flexible, there’s never been a better time to try these more premium lines for cruise deals.
My grandfather used to use the word “sticktoitiveness” when he wanted to describe something that required a little discipline and patience. Turns out, Gramps was right- sometimes, when it comes to cruise deals, you gotta keep looking. You may see something is very pricey one week, then a few weeks later, BAM, a deal appears. Getting regular about searching the cruise line websites is working for some people. I know, it’s a lot of work, and who has time? But it can pay off!
Lastly, use comparative websites to search prices. Our travel agency partner, Dream Vacations, has a great search engine you can customize. A good place to start on the website is the “cruise search” feature. Most people plug in their desired dates and departure port, and you can compare all the cruise options side by side.
Prefer to listen? Here’s our Podcast on the Cruise Deals topic!
Happy cruise hunting, and until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas!
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