How to Find Great Deals on Cruises Online

Finding, booking and paying for a cruise online has never been easier. The internet has made the whole process fast and convenient. What might be more difficult is deciding which cruise to take and just where to cruise to, there are cruises to suit every taste and budget, ranging from a few days sailing around the Bahamas to a once in a lifetime six month luxury world cruise.

Generally speaking, the lowest rates for cruises are going to be found on web sites that specialize in cruise bookings, rather than on the cruise lines’ actual sites. Cruise booking sites are usually linked directly to the main cruise lines’ inventories; not only are they able to sell at a discount, they often have advance notice of when specials or promotions are going to be offered. The savings can vary, but expect to save anything from 10% to 40% by booking this way.

When it comes to finding a great deal on a cruise, should you plan ahead or wait until the last minute to book? Both approaches have their pros and cons; many online cruise booking agents offer features aimed at the last minute traveler, including emailed alerts of any sales or specials. Booking at the last minute means you may have to be flexible as far as your ship, itinerary and cabin are concerned, although if this does not bother you, it is probably the best strategy. Although there is no specific timeframe, around two months before departure is often considered the cheapest time to book.

On the other hand, booking early gives you a lot more choices and discounts are often given to those who book far ahead as an incentive to fill up the ship’s cabins. It can be frustrating booking your cruise a long way ahead of time and then noticing that the price comes down as departure time nears. If this happens to you, call the cruise line and see if they will give you some kind of refund or a credit towards a future cruise, as always, it never hurts to ask.

Just like buying a new car, purchasing a cruise towards the end of the year, especially in November and December, can often provide the best bargains. This is because all the cruise lines are anxious to fill as many cabins on next year’s cruises as possible and often offer what is known in the travel industry as closeout deals. A search online will give you a selection of these deals; you can also sign up to be alerted by email. Also, certain times of the year are regarded as off-peak to take a cruise and sometimes have generally lower rates, such as the last two weeks of January, the first two weeks of May and the first two weeks in November. All of these dates fall into the off-peak category.

You may not have heard of a repositioning cruise as they are known in the travel industry, but those who know about them maintain they offer some of the best cruising bargains around. Suppose a cruise line needs to move its ship from the Caribbean to the Arctic to connect with another cruise. This can be time consuming and costly to move the ship, so the cruise line determines it may as well have paying passengers on board and make some money while doing this.

Most repositioning cruises take place during the spring and fall, when ships are being moved between warmer and colder waters. Many of these cruises are not advertised and you have to do some detective work to find them. The biggest advantage is the cost, the cruise lines tend to offer big discounts to make up for the fact that there may be fewer ports of call and the on-board entertainment may be more limited. Ships tend to be less crowded and the atmosphere on board is more relaxed.

Consider booking a ship’s inaugural cruise. Cruise lines can often offer significant discounts and then rely on word of mouth and repeat bookings to recoup any money they may have lost. Statistically however, a ship’s inaugural cruise has more chance of being cancelled, so if you are doing this it is a good idea to make sure you have adequate travel insurance in case of that eventuality. Book early, as inaugural cruises tend to get booked up quickly.

It is not difficult to find great deals on cruises, but it can be time consuming. You may have to spend some time researching and planning, although that process will be well worth the effort when you cast off to your vacation destination.

Josh Webber is a freelance writer who writes about topics and tips involving the travel industry, such as travel websites and booking cruises .

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