How to Get the Best Cruise Deals – 18 Tips and Hacks
“What is your strategy to get the best cruise deals? If you don’t have one, you’re missing a huge number of opportunities to get the best cruise deal — and missing out many potential money-saving tips”
Mike King – Founder – About Luxury Cruising
When it comes to finding the best cruise deals, we have learned that there are a huge number of things you can do which can potentially help you get you a great cruise deal.
We have all seen the inviting TV commercials encouraging us all to book your dream cruise and it seems so easy. But, believe it or not, there is an art to securing the best possible cruise deal and in this article, we cover all the key things you need to consider when booking your next cruise.
We cruise a lot and some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked when someone is looking for the best cruise deal include:
- Where can I find the best cruise deals?
- What is the cheapest cruise line?
- What’s the best way to book a cruise?
- Where can I get the Best Cruise Deal?
1. Do your Research for the Best Cruise Deals
The Best Cruise Deals begins with good research.
Whether you are looking for the best deal for your Caribbean cruise, or simply dipping your toe in the water for your first cruise, there is so much information available online, good research is your starting point. Always take a look at what the online cruise sites are offering and make a note of thier prices. There are always some great headline deals available at rock bottom prices.
But be careful as there are normally lots of gotchas and extras that you could end up having to pay for making the actual price you pay for your cruise, much higher than your originally thought.
Also, just consider you are never talking to a real person and in our experience, there are so many factors affecting your choice of cruise, it is better to talk to someone who has been well trained and who has in-depth knowledge of the product. You can then ask as many questions as you like.
The other thing we always suggest as part of your research is to read as many books about cruising as you can.
Related: Our Top 10 choice of books
2. Always Use a Cruise Travel Agent
If you choose the right cruise travel agent, you will discover they have access to vast numbers of cruise line promotions and will be aware of all the latest offers and the best cruise deals. On top of this, they will often know of the latest deals available ahead of being released to the public. The most important factor is that they are able to offer discounts that are not normally available when booking direct.
The better cruise travel agents can also add exclusive perks, such as flowers in your stateroom, onboard spending money, free chauffeur service to and from the airport, cabin upgrades or a bottle of bubbly on arrival. All these little extras help you get the best cruise deals.
Best of all, they take care of your whole booking including flights, hotels and the cruise itself. If anything goes wrong, you have just one number to call to resolve any issues or emergencies that may arise.
3. Consider going All Inclusive
Most cruises are offered on a cruise only basis primarily to keep the headline price low. To this basic cruise fare, you need to add all kinds of extras including gratuities, drinks, shore excursions, transfers flights and more. This is what is we call Pay as You Go and the reality is that you can end up with a massive surprise bill at the end of your cruise.
Oftentimes, the “extras” bill can be more than the cost of the cruise itself. One option is to consider an “All-Inclusive” cruise deal.
More and more cruise lines are adopting an All-Inclusive approach to their cruise fares, so it is important to understand what is or isn’t included.
4. Understand the Daily or Per Diem Rate
Per diem is the Latin for “per day” or “for each day” and it is always a good idea to understand what the cost per person is per day. More importantly, it is important to understand what that daily rate include? The rate you pay depends on many variables. These include: Itinerary, Time of Year, Cruise line star rating and location and size of your stateroom
It is difficult yo get average per diem rates and there are so many factors that need to be factored in. Nevertheless, you could be paying anywhere between $200 to $5,000 per person per day depending on the grade of the cruise line and the amenities being provided.
Always check your per diem rate and you will be surprised at the results. Don’t forget to add in all those extras to get a true picture of the rate and ensure you are getting the best cruise deal.
5. Signup For Cruise News and Offers
A great way to learn what the cruise lines are up to is to sign up to receive emails direct to your inbox. The cruise lines are very good when it comes to promotions and they are always glad to share these with as many potential customers as possible. This way you will find our about the latest promotions and can even send exclusive offers to email subscribers.
If, like us, you’re not hitched to one particular cruise line and are willing to sail with more than one, be sure to sign up with multiple companies. In this way, you will learn what is going on in the market and get a good idea of the various pricing structures. If you are prepared to be flexible, this can open up more opportunities and take advantage of some of the best cruise deals.
In addition to signing up wit the cruise lines, it is also a good idea to sign up to receive offers, newsletters and news from Cruise Travel Agents. This way you will be the first to know about their latest promotions and the best cruise deals. Often times, you will get advance notice of upcoming discounts and perks like flight upgrades, free gratuities or a beverage package, before it gets released to the general public.
6. Check if Group rates are available
Good Cruise Travel agents understand how the cruise lines pricing structures work and can sign contracts for what are known as groups. This is where the travel agent will commit to selling a certain number of staterooms on a particular sailing. In return for this commitment, they can potentially earn enhanced commissions and/or free places.
Typically this can be one free stateroom for every 8-10 booked by the agent. In this scenario, the agent can either use the bonus cabin for themselves or take it as extra profit on the sailing. If you have a group of 8 or 10 people going on a cruise, as a family trip, for example, it is always worth taking your agent if they will give you the free place.
7. Choose Flights Wisely
Cruise Lines negotiate very good flight contracts with the major airlines. In particular, they are very competitive particularly when you need a one way or multi-sector flight. Our advice is to always get your cruise travel agent to obtain a flight price from the cruise line. We always use the cruise line flights whenever possible. It’s just safer this way
Apart from the price, the other important thing to be aware of is that if you book your flights as part of a cruise package, you are protected if the cruise gets cancelled and you don’t lose the cost of the flights. If you organise your own flights, you have no protection if the cruise gets cancelled or rescheduled.
8. Join Cruise Line Loyalty Programs
Being a member of a cruise line loyalty program normally comes with some amazing perks. All cruise lines have their own loyalty programs and normally you will be automatically enrolled into the scheme once you have completed a full sailing with them. It is always worth checking and obtaining your loyalty club numbers.
Whilst you will accumulate perks and freebies the more you sail with the same cruise line, some schemes are more lucrative than others. Most loyalty programs have tiers, which provide you with enhanced rewards the more you sail with that particular cruise line.
Some of the benefits you may expect to find include, discounts on certain cruises, free upgrades, free internet, free laundry, free daily newspaper discounts on Spa treatments and even discounts on future cruises.
Expect a big push from the cruise lines to encourage past guests to book with them once cruising resumes, as cruise lines know that past passengers are more likely to book at this time than new cruisers.
The reality is, there is a lot of work to do to instil confidence back to cruise travel, and their loyalty programs are an easy way to encourage this. If you are a member of a cruise line loyalty program, you may find that your status and benefits can be matched by other cruise line schemes. One exceptional example of this is the MSC Status match scheme whereby you can use your existing cruise line loyalty memberships, get it matched, join the MSC Voyagers Club and get a 5% discount on your next cruise.
10. Always Pay with a Credit Card
Our Number 1 rule when it comes to paying for a cruise, is to pay by credit card. The coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced our view that the is really no other sensible payment option. With cancelled flights, hotel and cruises, your backstop to getting a refund is to do this through your credit card company. We have really good experiences of claiming refunds through chargebacks where are cruises were cancelled.
Apart from the level protection paying by credit card gives you, depending on what type of credit card you have you may also be able to earn cash back when you pay for your cruise. We normally expect a 1% cashback from our credit card company and this can be sizable when you are paying for a world cruise sector voyage. Some credit cards companies will offer Airmiles or similar, so it is always worth checking this out.
11. Ask for More
Chocolates in your stateroom are a favourite travel agent gift
Whenever you deal with a travel agent, always ask them for more “extras” to secure your booking. Everything from free chauffeur transfers, to stateroom upgrades, flowers in your room or a bottle of champagne on arrival. Most agents will go the extra mile to secure your booking, but you do need to ask.
If you think the price is too high, get another quotation and if it is more attractive ask your agent to match, or better it. Remember it takes time and efforst to get the best cruise deals.
12. Consider DRINKS PACKAGES
If you are not booking an All Incusive Cruise where drinks and specaillaity teas and coffees are included, then take a look at buying a drinks package. These can save you money, but you do need to do the calculation to see if it actually makes sense to purchase one.
These days owning stocks or shares in a company rarely gets you anything beyond the investment value so it is refreshing to know that the cruise industry continues to offer shareholder benefits in the form of onboard credits (OBC).
While you can purchase as many or as few shares as you’d like, all the cruise lines that offer shareholder benefits require a minimum of 100 shares to participate in the schemes. We cannot recommend you buy shares or offer investment advice but we have found, from personal experience, that holding cruise line shares over time has more than paid for them in terms of onboard credits, particularly as we take multiple cruises per year.
The beauty of these schemes is that the benefit is valid on all the brands of each particular cruise company. For example, Carnival Corporation has 13 brands, and the shareholder benefits are available on most of the brands in the group. We typically receive the OBC benefit when we cruise with Seabourn and Cunard.
Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for your personal financial situation; we can neither support nor advise against your decision to purchase stocks or shares. We strongly advise doing your own research and seeking advice from your financial adviser before making any stock or share purchase.
14. Price Comparison Sites
There are a growing number of price comparison sites which allow you to track and follow the cruise prices. These include Compare ThatCruise and Travel Supermarket.com. These are a great source of information, but as we have highlighted before, always use this information as a guide when talking to your travel agent. It is however unlikely that you will get the best cruise deals online.
15. Book a Back to Back (B2B) Cruise
Some cruise lines will offer you a discount if you book back to back cruises with them.
Cruises Lines that offer these types of options include Viking Ocean, Crystal, Holland America and Seabourn, among others. You should always check with your travel agent who is best placed to advise on back to back cruise discounts.
We use Seabourn and have often been able to benefit from an additional 5% discount on the second cruise. We have found this is a great bonus when trying to find the best cruise deal for a particular sailing.
16. Investigate Shore Excursion Options
Shore Excursions are a big part of every cruise, but they can be very expensive. If you are on a seven-day cruise and have to pay for a shore excursion each day can cost you on average per day. For a couple, this is $200 a day or $1,400 on top of your cruise fare.
There are many ways to save money on shore excursions including using independent operators. The quality of these is quite often better than the mass tours offered by the cruise lines. Normally organised as small group tours and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
17. Book Onboard and Save
Another great tip to help get the best cruise deals is to book a future cruise when on board. Normally the cruise lines have a dedicated sales specialist who is targeted to get as many existing passengers to book another cruise. Quite often there are additional discounts to encourage you to do this.
Some cruise lines allow you to buy a Future Cruise Deposit (FCD), which entitles you to a discount on a Future Cruise. Seabourn runs such a scheme whereby you but an FCD for say $250 and this allows you to use this deposit on any cruise and receive an automatic 5% per cent discount. Valid for 4 years, FCD’s are a great way to secure a discount before you have actually decided which cruise to book.
18. Visit Cruise and Travel Shows
Many specialist cruise travel agents have regular events to showcase their top cruise lines. These are always well worth attending as you get to meet the cruise line representatives but still work with your favourite travel agent and any offers get linked to your travel agent. Just another simple way to help you get the best cruise deal possible.
We have found that these events often offer special show discounts for simply attending the show and subsequently making a booking through the agent who organised the event.
FAQ’s – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?
The cheapest times to cruise are typically in the late summer and fall when the cruise lines reposition their ships to warmer climates. Repositioning cruises can be a great value.
Do cruises get cheaper closer to departure?
The closer you get to the departure date, in theory, the cheaper the cruise becomes because cruise lines don’t want to operate with half-empty ships. This is not always the case now as the demand for cruising has grown but they do sometimes reduce prices or offer guarantee fares. Watch out for cruise line promotions.
Can you negotiate Cruise prices?
Cruise lines don’t typically negotiate their prices, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot get a great deal on a cruise. Getting the best cruise deal begins with understanding the industry and using that to your advantage. Talk to you travel agent who is there to help and navigate through with you to get the best cruise deal.