Everyone likes a good deal. But great deals are even better. For guests who are new to cruise vacations, we’ll have the tips, tricks and inside information on the best cruise deals, and how to get them.
What kind of special offers can you expect from a cruise line?
Most cruise lines have similar offers, all bundled up and packaged differently so it can be different to compare and decide exactly what kind of value you are getting for your money.
The best thing to do when starting your search for the best cruise deals, is to pick a cruise early on that interests you. Then make a note of the price point for the cabin category you are looking at. Wait a few weeks, then check the price again. Look at the fine print and see exactly what is included.
Take some time to research the price thoroughly by speaking to the cruise line directly.
Ask them to create a preliminary booking and give you the best cruise deals currently available. You will need to give the name and date of birth for each guest.
Have them email you the offer. Unless you pay a deposit by the specified date (usually within one week) then the offer will just expire at no cost to you.
Check this with the cruise line that you are under no obligation to accept this offer.
The advantage of having an offer sent in writing is that you will see a breakdown of the exact cost of your cruise. This will include basic fare for your cabin category with all inclusive dining and entertainment, use of pool and sports courts etc., taxes and fees. Ask them to include gratuities (tips) as you will have to pay this anyway, and any discounts and offers currently available. By seeing a breakdown of the cost of your cruise, you will be accurately able to compare it with other cruise lines or cruise vacations. That way ensuring you are getting the best cruise deals available.
Now if you think you have a great price and an unbeatable offer, then you could go ahead and book by paying the required deposit. You will see the deposit amount and the offer expiry date on your offer form.
Or you can choose to wait a few weeks, then check the price again for exactly the same cabin category. At the same time look out for those special campaigns and offers and see if you can lower your price.
Here are the sort of campaigns you can expect from cruise lines:
Norwegian Cruise Line
If you are not familiar with Norwegian Cruise Lines concept of “Free at Sea”, it is an optional upgrade in addition to the basic price of your cruise.
You can choose to upgrade your cruise for a fee, depending on what’s important to you. The “Free” part of “Free at Sea” does necessarily mean they offer the packages free of charge.
Rather the concept refers to that you are “Free” to choose the packages that suit you. That is, you are free to tailor-make your cruise as you want.
“Free at Sea” upgrades are a fixed price per person and the price depends on the length of your cruise. Most often (and depending what region you live in as offers in Europe vary to offers in the USA) you choose 2 packages in your fixed price upgrade, and the options are:
- Beverage packages
- Internet packages
- Specialty dining packages (dine at restaurants that are not included in your cruise fare)
- Shore excursion packages
However, Norwegian have regular campaign that offer some or all of these completely free of charge when booking.
Other times they offer all 4 packages for the fixed price, instead of only 2.
They also can offer and percentage discount of the price of your cruise. Note that this most often is a discount of the basic cost of your cruise, excluding all the taxes and fees. Check your written offer to see where and how they apply the discount.
At the time of writing (Nov '21), Norwegian Cruise Line are currently offering a 35% saving on the cost of featured cruises or fly & cruise packages. Plus all 4 perk packages for the fixed price of 99 euros or USD$99 per person for a cruise of between 7 to 9 days (less for a shorter cruise, more for a longer cruise). In addition they are offering a reduced rate for any extra guests you bring along in your cabin.
Get the offer in writing from the cruise line mailed to you. That way you will see an exactly breakdown of costs and where they apply the savings. Then you have something to compare to when you check again or compare with other cruise lines.
Be sure you are signed up for the Norwegian Cruise Line newsletter so that you see all the new campaigns from them.
Royal Caribbean Group
Royal Caribbean have amongst some of the best cruise deals. Often, there are many offers and campaigns running at the same time. These can across their entire fleet or for specific ships, or specific regions.
This cruise line like to offer big savings and you will see headlines such as 30% discounts, or 50% discount for all guests in the same cabin. The even take away the deposit entirely so you can book a cruise for the future and secure a cabin of your choice without paying a deposit.
And better still their kids sail for free campaigns are very popular with families. That’s not to say that you don’t pay anything for your children. The actual cost of the cruise with full board and entertainment is free, but taxes, gratuities, specific activities on board and excursions with still need to be paid for.
Royal are also fans of flexible booking conditions. Sometimes they will offer a cancellation policy whereby you can cancel up to 48 hours before departure and receive a credit for the amount towards a future cruise.
Always check the small print - Often it is not a refund of money but a credit note to use the value of your cruise as a later date. Ask what the latest date is you can use your credit. Also ask what the latest date is you must actually sail. And do check to see if you get a credit for the full amount paid or is there a cancellation fee that the cruise line withhold?
Campaigns to vary depending on where you live. For example, at the time of writing this article (Nov ’21) Royal have the following best cruise deals:
- UK residents: £440 discount on the price and bookable with just a £75 deposit
- USA residents: $550 discount on the price and 30% discount on all your guests
- Australian residents: USD$400 pocket money (On Board Credit) to spend while at sea, plus $250 discount on the price plus a 60% discount on your second guest
- Canada residents: $200 discount on the price and 30% discount on all your guests
This looks great, doesn’t it? And very often Royal Caribbeans campaigns are good. But as with anything you must check the small print and the details of the offer. That mean clicking on the “terms and conditions” of their website and reading the campaign.
Celebrity Cruises concept is an “Always Included” pricing. This offers an all inclusive cruise, just to make the booking process a bit easier for you.
What this means is, which ever class of cabin you book, your price includes the cost of:
- Classic Beverage Package
- Wi-fi (for one device per cabin)
Then there are the upgrade packages you can add, and you can read more about them here.
So what offers does Celebrity Cruises have over and above this “Always Included” concept? At various times throughout the year you can often find the following types of campaigns from Celebrity Cruises:
50% off the price of the second guest. Remember that the half-price offer will be calculated on the basic cruise fare, not including all your taxes and fees. These will be added on afterwards and will not be discounted.
We are also seeing more and more offers for the solo travellers as the cruise lines try and fill their single capacity cabins. And Celebrity are no exception. You can find offers from 25% to 35% off the base price of a single cabin.
Offers of on board credit are not unusual with a Celebrity cruise. Do remember to ask the cruise line when booking if your on board credit is per person, or per cabin and exactly how you are able to spend this on board.
For example can you book shore excursions, room service, or use it to upgrade to a better wifi or beverage package?
Most often the answer is yes, but rules and conditions of offers do vary so check when you book to see what kind of real value on board credit gives you.
If you are a member of the Captain’s Club loyalty program, then you may be able to nab an even better deal. So from the very first time you cruise with Celebrity Cruises, be sure to become a member and gain loyalty points.
Points are awarded for every night you are onboard. It’s free of charge to sign-up and you can find more information here.
MSC Cruises generally have very good prices for their cruises. Especially when children under 12 years old are in the same cabin as Mum and Dad. You will sometimes be amazed at how little it costs for them considering all meals are included!
That’s why when MSC Cruises release campaign prices, booking often soar. Then it’s first come, first serve for the best cabins in the category you are after (inside without window, outside cabin with a window and ocean view, a balcony cabin or even a suite).
Campaigns vary. Favorites we see popping up time and time again are 30% discount on cruise prices – note this is on the basic cruise price. You never get a discount of any taxes or fees which are calculated separately in your booking.
An all inclusive beverage package is a popular inclusion in an offer, free of charge. For this you will most likely (unless specificed) get MSCs basic beverage package called “Easy” package which includes the following:
- Draft beer
- Select house wines by the glass
- A selection of classic cocktails
- Alcohol-free cocktails
- Soft drinks, fruit juices by the glass, bottled mineral water
- Coffee (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte), hot chocolate, hot teas
It’s a good package and one that is more than adequate for the whole family. Upgrade to premium and pay only the difference in price if you want to have a larger selection of wines and cocktails, draft beers and bitters.
But all in all the promise of a free beverage package is a freebie many cannot resist. And in all truth you will add value to your already well-priced cruise if you can nab this offer at the time of booking.
Sign up for MSC Cruises newsletter so you don’t miss out.
Smart questions to ask the cruise line about their offers and campaigns
All you see intially are the campaign headlines. Prudent questions to ask you cruise line would be:
- Is the discount on the price for the total cost of the cruise, or just on the base price excluding taxes, fees, gratuities etc. Do you get the same discount on excursions, for example.
- Is the amount of the discount stated on the total booking or per person? Can the monetary discount to applied to the deposit amount or will in be taken off the total cost of the cruise when your final payment is due?
- What can you purchase with your on board credit you are offered? For example can you book specialty restaurants, shore excursions or use it for a beverage package? Can you use it in part part payment for something which is more expensive? Do you get the amount back in cash at the end of your cruise if you haven’t spent it?
Are offers of a discounted fly & cruise package really a good deal?
Cruise lines love it if you book a fly and cruise package. The package will most likely include flights to and from the port city of origin and departure, transport to and from the cruise ship and the cruise itself. It is of course an opportunity for them to make more money.
The cruise line may also offer an attractive discount for a fly and cruise package. If you need to fly to your port of origin to start your cruise, this can be a good offer. However, it’s important to compare this offer with the price of booking flights yourself.
When doing this, add the best flight price you can find (direct flights are worth it even if they cost a bit extra) when flying into 2 days before cruise departure (always recommended). Plus the nights at a hotel and transport.
It’s an important comparison. Because you may find a cheaper price than the cost of a flight that the cruise line offers you, even with the discount. If the cruise line flies you in the same day your cruise departs, then they are responsible for getting you to the cruise ship on time and you should check that a transfer from airport to cruise port is included.
If you book your flights yourself, you must make it to the port on time, it becomes your responsibility. Therefore we always recommend that you fly in at least two days before departure. Or more if you want to enjoy the city of embarkation before you cruise. For example Barcelona, Rome, London and Athens are some of the most fantastic cities in the world and deserve to be explored before you cruise.
When is the best time to book a cruise and do cruises get cheaper closer to departure?
Experienced travel agents are used to booking cruises for customers about a year in advance of the sail date.
The best time to book a cruise package (consisting of the cruise, flight, hotel and transfers to and from the ship) was when flight prices were released by the airlines. And this is 10-11 months ahead of departure date. And this is when you too should start looking.
Early booking of your cruise gives many benefits:
- Secure the exact cabin you want
Cabins with connecting doors or family suites are limited in number on board. Booking early ensures that you get the size cabin you want, with the view to match.
- Book the itinerary you want on the date that works for you and your family
Are you travelling with kids and can only travel during school vacations? Get in early to fix the date that works best for you and your budget. Involve the family when choosing the intinerary. Do you have some bucket list destinations that you have dreamed of visiting?
- Lock-in the best price deal
Cruise lines do adjust prices according to demand. If you are lucky enough that the price of your booked cruise reduces, they will adjust your final payment to reflect the new lower price. Taxes, however, can be subject to change.
- Early booking still means you can lower your price if the cabin becomes cheaper
If you see your cabin category suddenly become available at a lower price, then call the cruise line and ask for a refund in the price difference. Do check, however, that you do not lose your perks or any special add-ons that appear in your original booking.
How do I let the cruise lines know I am looking so special offers are sent directly to me?
Don’t be afraid to leave your contact details with the cruise lines that appeal to you. They all want you as their next customer. And you will most likely receive offers and promotions daily.
Do the the following:
Sign up for newsletters via the cruise lines' own websites. This way you will not miss out on the best cruise deals going. Norwegian Cruise Line Newsletter Royal Caribbean Newsletter Celebrity Cruises Newsletter - Click "Subscribe" in the top bar menu MSC Cruises Newsletter Follow the cruise line on Instagram. You will get promotions sent to you through your feed. Be an active group member. Join a Facebook group for the cruise line or region you are interested in visiting. There are numerous groups out there. Some run privately and others run by travel agents. World gets out quickly and you can pick up valuable info through these groups that share. To find a group just put in your cruise line name in the search bar in Facebook at you will get group suggestions pop up. Choose the group with the best fit for you. Like the cruise line on Facebook. Very often through Facebook's messenger you get answers to common questions are can write to the cruise line directly and receive an answer. But more preferable than hanging on the phone waiting for them to answer.
Are cruises a good deal?
A cruise ship is a great way to see many places in a short amount of time.
You get from port to port without the need to travel by road, on board a floating hotel.
Cruise ships have everything you need onboard for your convenience. Although the price tag may be high at first glance, cruises are regarded as being a value-for-money vacation option compared to the total cost of flight and hotel packages.
Cruises include things which would otherwise cost you extra – everything from all your meals to entertainment, sports activities and transportation costs.
So yes, we think a cruise offers good value for money for an all inclusive vacation.