The Holy Grail of Cruising: A fantastic vacation at the lowest possible price. The thousand dollar question: How do you find the Holy Grail? Well, it takes a certain amount of luck, i.e., being at the right place at the right time, and a good strategy.
While rock-bottom prices are unheard of in the cruise world, substantial savings are not impossible. All it takes is a little work. Follow these tips on how to get the best cruise deals and enjoy a luxury vacation without the hefty price tag:
Use a travel agent.
Cruise lines advise that you get a travel agent to book your cruise. Seasoned agents not only direct you toward an itinerary and cruise line that suit your vacation requirements, they are also an excellent source for bargains. Travel agents often get a heads-up on promos before word gets out, so they can tip you off before other people know about it. Agents with the right connections can also get you a cabin upgrade or arrange for some onboard perks as a way of thanking you for your business.
Know when promos are out.
When looking for cruise discounts, you have to know that there are so-called “good months for value.” For Europe, cruise lines usually come out with specials from late March through April, and then again from mid-September to November. For Alaska, promos are out in the months of May and September. For Caribbean cruises, standard bargain periods include the fall months, the non-holiday parts of November and December, as well as January and February (except for holiday weekends).
Go during shoulder season.
In the cruise world, shoulder season is a brief period that means nice weather, thinner crowds, and relatively low prices (up to 30 percent lower than peak season rates). Occurring twice a year—in early spring and late fall—shoulder season also offers unusual, exotic itineraries. This is the time when cruise lines move their ships from Alaska to the Caribbean, or from the Mediterranean to the Middle East to make sure it’s always sunny on deck.
Consider all factors when looking for cruise deals. With a dirt-cheap last-minute deal, for example, you might end up paying through the nose for pre-cruise flights and hotel stays. Inquire with your travel agent about the best all inclusive cruise deals to get the most out of your budget. Visit cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1096 for more money-saving tips.
Planning a Vacation: How to Get the Best Cruise Deals