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9 Things You Should Always Do before Booking a Cruise 🛳️ ✅

Fancy going on a cruise, but don't want to pay over the odds? We've got some savvy tips to help you score the best deal for your next voyage on the high seas. Buckle up and get ready to navigate your way to some serious savings.

Published by
Raph Giacardi·5/17/2023
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Ready to set sail but don't want to break the bank? We've got the insider scoop on how to snag the best cruise deals. From Wave Season sales to repositioning cruises, we've got tips that will make your wallet happy.

We'll also spill the tea on how to score the best cabin type, dining and drinks packages, and how to avoid hidden fees like gratuities.

1) Check the Wave Season Sales

If you know what cruise line, ship and sailing date you want – book when the sales are on. This generally means the start of the year (what the industry calls ‘Wave Season’). This is when all cruise lines have promotions.

If we’re honest, Wave Season savings aren’t always the best. If you just want the lowest price, you better read on for our other tips. But, because Wave Season sales apply to a wide range of sailings, they’re a safe bet if you want to guarantee a deal on a specific cruise.

2) Monitor the Market

Unsold cabins are bad for cruise lines. Once on board, people spend money on drinks, spa treatments, etc. Selling a cabin cheaply is better than leaving it empty.

When a sailing doesn’t sell, prices can drop dramatically. The problem is… you can never guarantee which sailing will get some fat, juicy discounts – which is why monitoring the market and being flexible pays off.

Pirate tip: Look for cruises departing within the next 12 weeks – this is where you're likely to find the biggest savings.

3) Think Cost Per Night

Low prices grab our attention. A week-long cruise for £399 per person feels like a better deal than £699 per person for 14 nights. Yet, if you look at it from a cost-per-night perspective, you get better value out of the longer one ($50 vs $57).

Generally speaking, longer cruises have a lower cost per night – but that’s not always the case, so it’s always worth bringing it back to a cost per night to see what’s best.

Pirate tip: For a mid-market cruise line, $50 per person, per night is a great price.

4) Add Hotel Stays

Cruise lines don’t like to be seen discounting, so they offer special rates to travel companies that can package their cruises with hotel stays before and/or after the cruise. From a consumer perspective, it doesn’t look like a discounted cruise; it looks like a great value cruise-and-stay package.

5) Check All Cabin Types

It’s not because one sailing has the cheapest price for the entry category cabins that it will be the case across all the cabin categories. Compare prices for each cabin category across several departure dates to find the best prices.

We recently found a Norwegian fjords cruise where the June 23rd sailing had the cheapest interior cabins. But the sailing on May 26th had the best price for balcony cabins and the one on September 15th had the best price for a suite.

Pirate tip: Even if you find a great deal for a Balcony Cabin, consider whether it's worth paying extra for it. An industry trick is cheap Balcony upgrades in winter when it's so cold you're unlikely to use your balcony.

6) Consider Drinks & Dining packages

The basic cruise fare includes a bed for the night, your meals (at certain restaurants only), and maybe some snacks, and soft and hot drinks at specified times. For the rest, you'll have to pay. So much stuff onboard costs money (drinks, spa treatments, certain restaurants, internet access…) that nickel and diming has long been a criticism leveled at cruise lines.

These days, most cruise lines offer packages offering unlimited drinks, internet access, specialty dining, etc… for a fixed per-day cost. These are not cheap ($20-$60 per day), but when you consider that a cocktail can set you back $16, they start to make sense.

Pirate tip: Most cruise lines offer discounts on these packages if you purchase them ahead of time.

7) Don't Forget Gratuities

Cruise lines used to add $12-16 per person, per day, to your onboard account as gratuities – money that goes towards tips for the crew.

Make sure to check individual cruise line policies before booking. Two people going on a 10-night cruise with some cruise lines could end up with a $320 gratuities bill at the end of their vacation.

8) Hunt Down Repositioning Cruises

Many cruise ships operate in a region for one season, before relocating to another for the next. A ship can spend the summer and early autumn in the Med, before crossing the Atlantic and operating in the Caribbean for the winter. Those sailings where a ship goes from one region to another are called repositioning, or repositional.

The downside of repositioning cruises? The itineraries aren’t always the most exciting and there can be many days at sea (a transatlantic voyage can be six nights without seeing land). The upside of a repositioning cruise? Prices can be very low.

Pirate tip: Many cruise ships relocate from the Med to the Caribbean in late October, before doing the opposite journey in March – these are good months to bag a deal on a transatlantic repositioning cruise.

9) Trust the Experts

OK, this is more shameless plug for TravelPirates than it is a tip. But monitoring the market for the best deals takes time, a lot of it. And deals can sell out very quickly.

At TravelPirates, it’s our job to find great deals – we’re literally paid to do it. So while you may still want to look for deals yourselves, following our social channels like Facebook or downloading our app.

make a lot of sense.

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