It’s January, so that means one thing for cruisers looking to book a getaway. The holidays are over and cruise wave season is finally here.
Because travelers often like to plan their getaways early in the year — and because everyone loves to save money — we’re here to offer five tips to help you score a great deal during wave season.
What exactly is wave season?
Typically, wave season refers to the first three months of the year, January to March. This is the time when cruise lines historically offer the best deals on cruises. With the holidays over and large parts of the nation in a deep freeze, cruise lines roll out some of the best pricing and promotions of the year to entice individuals to book their next cruise vacation. For diehard cruisers, wave season is like Christmas all over again.
Here are our tips:
Book early to save the most money
As a general rule, the earlier you book a cruise, the better. Booking early not only saves money but also gives cruisers a better opportunity to secure more desirable cabins.
By booking early, we don't mean early in wave season. The further out from your cruise, the better deal you could score. During wave season, we tend to book cruises 10 to 18 months in advance. Yes, many cruise lines currently have the entire 2019 cruise schedule already available for booking.
In addition, you should consider traveling during shoulder season for regions like Alaska, New England or the Mediterranean, where you can get better deals if you don't visit during the peak (most crowded) time of year. Shoulder season is considered the first and last few weeks of a cruise season in those areas. While you will typically get the lowest fares during these select weeks, do know that you might encounter less ideal weather conditions.
We traveled at the end of the Alaska season a few years back and had unseasonably warm and sunny weather, fewer crowds and a great deal. So, if you are not opposed to taking a little bit of a risk, you can take advantage of already discounted wave season promotions by traveling during the shoulder season.
Go for the upgrade — it might be a better value
Most cruisers know that the least expensive cabins are the inside rooms. These windowless, often smaller accommodations are the most economical cabin type on any cruise line. Sometimes booking an inside cabin may not be the best value, however. This is especially true during wave season, when cruise lines are looking to get cruisers to upgrade to more expensive room categories.
Often, cruise lines will provide additional incentives for booking higher room categories like balconies or suites. Add-ons might include such perks as an onboard credit, free specialty dining or included drink packages. Thus, by grabbing a wave season promotion, going from an inside room to a balcony stateroom could pay for itself, or actually save you money, when compared to getting an inside room and purchasing the additional add-ons.
Tip: Don’t only look at the rates being advertised during wave season. Be sure to also look for additional bonus options being offered for different room types to determine if you're getting the best deal possible.
Choose a non-refundable rate if you dare
Make sure to read all of the fine print on any advertised deal. Many of the major cruise lines now offer different rates for cruises based on the cancellation policy included with your fare. Once upon a time, cruisers could cancel their cruise up to 90 days before the sail date without worrying about losing any deposits or refunds.
Now, cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer some of their cruises with lower fares coupled with non-refundable deposits. Make sure to know which rate you're being quoted and be aware that the cheapest fares could be non-refundable. This might be fine for those who are certain of their vacation days and times, but others with more a more uncertain job or family situation might want to think twice before choosing a non-refundable fare.
Your deposit will vary, depending on the length of your cruise and how far off it is, but you can expect it to come in at a few hundred dollars per person. No matter what you decide, we suggest you consider travel insurance for your trip so that you're covered if there are any unplanned disruptions that occur before your trip.
Bundle cruise line deals & travel agent promotions
Perhaps the best way to save during wave season is to work with a cruise specialist, such as your own travel agent or a Cruiseable travel advocate. Monitor the major cruise lines’ promotions, then pick out a specific cruise itinerary, cabin category and the dates you want to travel. Pricing is dependent on these factors, so you'll want to make sure you're comparing apples to apples when working with an agent.
Once you've narrowed things down a bit, contact a travel professional to see which additional perks or add-ons they can offer you for the itinerary you have in mind. Essentially, it's like combining coupons with the end result being additional savings.
Prices for cruise fares are pretty standard, so when shopping around, you'll want to size up the additional perks that the travel agent bring to the table on top of the cruise line’s already advertised promotion. (Remember, there's no fee involved in using a travel agent; they earn their commissions from the cruise lines.) These perks can include a higher onboard credit, room upgrades, free shore excursions or free gratuities.
Use Cruiseable's Bliss filters
Our philosophy is not to go for the latest fare but to go for the best value. That means deciding on what kind of cruise experience would be ideal for you and your traveling companion(s). Start by using Cruiseable's Bliss filters there at the top right and then contact a travel advocate when you spot a cruise that looks good. Call 1-877-322-3773 and a Cruiseable rep will track down the best deal with all the available perks at the lowest rate.
Putting it all together
With a little planning and some research, you can save you and your family a bundle this wave season. We're already eyeing a few cruises for the coming years, so what are you waiting for? Make sure to use the tools here on Cruiseable to help find that perfect vacation for your next wave season reservation.