When is the best time to book a cruise?

So many factors come into play when deciding the best time to book a cruise. We want it all – the best price, free perks, a great itinerary, and a luxury cruise ship.

And there is a lot to be gained from starting to plan early. After all, who doesn’t love a cruising holiday to look forward to?

Book a cruise early, lock in your dream itinerary

Our best advice has always been to book your cruise vacation as early as possible – as soon as the cruise line confirms cruise dates and itineraries.

Researching the market before booking will help you see what the cruise you are interested in currently costs. Then when you see a promotional price or a special offer, you will really know if it’s a good deal or not.

Cruise lines typically update their prices every month. Often if you make a booking between January and March when it is high booking season, you will find good rates. This will include special offers such as complimentary beverage packages, wifi packages, onboard credit, or other perks.

Experienced travel agents are used to booking cruises for customers about a year before the sail date. You can start your search yourself using online booking sites such as CruiseDirect, to search for and compare prices. You can also see the latest deals available for specific cruise lines.

If you are thinking of bookings a cruise package (consisting of the cruise, flight, hotel, and transfers to and from the ship), the earliest you can do this is when the airlines release flight prices. And this is 10-11 months ahead of the departure date.

Generally, expect flight prices to increase the closer you get to your departure date. The best-priced seats will sell early when there is a lot of availability in different booking classes.

Use the price comparison sites with the airline’s website to check flight prices, and use our guide for finding cheaper flights to help you get the best deal.

The benefits of booking your cruise early

Early booking of your cruise gives many advantages:

Secure the exact cabin you want

Cabins with connecting doors or family suites are limited in number on board. Booking early ensures 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 traveling with kids and can only travel during school vacations? Get in early to fix the best date for you and your budget. Involve the family when choosing the itinerary. 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 cost of your booked cruise reduces, they will adjust your final payment to reflect the new lower price.

Do not, however, expect your price to be automatically lowered in your favor. You need to keep an eye on the price, even after you have booked. We recommend that you set up cruise fare tracking so you can be notified if the price of your cruise changes.

Early booking can come with extra perks or special promotions

Extra perks such as specialty dining packages or onboard credit are often promoted with early booking.
Remember, the cruise line wants your deposit money and to lock you in early to better their cash flow. Therefore early booking benefits are there to get you to commit as early as possible. 

Look for the added-value promotions and the ones that suit you the best

A complimentary beverage package, for example, can save you thousands on drinks (wine, beer, cocktails, coffees, juices, and sodas).
But if you do not drink alcohol, perhaps an offer on excursions or an internet package offers more value. Then you can buy your juices, specialty coffees, and sodas on board as and when you want to. Tea, coffee, juice, and water are always available in the buffet restaurants on board.

Booking a cruise less than 3 months before departure

Then, of course, there is the possibility of getting a really good deal if you book within 3 months before your planned departure date.

This can work if you are very flexible with your travel arrangements. You have a higher chance of scoring that excellent deal if you are flexible with the departure date, route, or destination time frame.

Most importantly, this strategy will work better if you do not need to fly to reach your departure port. Flight prices will be much higher closer to your departure date than booking early.

Note that if you want to celebrate Christmas and New Year on board a cruise ship, these cruises book up early and quickly. Start planning your holiday season cruise as early as you can in the year to get the best cabins while they are still available.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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