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Whether you’re a seasoned cruise expert or new to cruising, the question remains relevant. When is the best time to book a cruise?
Right now, to take advantage of early-bird rates and good availability? Or are you more inclined to book last-minute cruises? The best time to book a cruise really depends on your preferences and requirements. The itinerary, the ship, booking windows and seasons, public holidays and school breaks, and special considerations like family cabins or accessible cabins are all aspects that influence when you should book.
We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you find the best time to book a cruise for you.
Book early for the best selection and early-bird discounts
If you book early, you can take advantage of special early-booking rates. These special rates start right when booking opens up – potentially up to two years before departure – and are only available for a limited time. Miss the boat and you’ll be paying normal rates like everyone else.
There are other benefits to booking early too besides just saving money. If you have a specific itinerary or a certain ship in mind already, then it’s best to start thinking about your cabin selection early. The earlier you book, the more likely the availability of different cabin categories will be. By booking early, you’ll be able to choose not just the category of cabin you want, you’ll also be able to choose the deck and location onboard. Even if there’s no early-bird discount for your particular cruise, you can be sure to secure the itinerary, ship, and cabin that you prefer.
Note: Higher-level suite categories are popular and fill up early. If you’re determined to stay in an Owner’s Suite during your cruise, book early, or it may be sold out!
Cruisers who are interested in special voyages like world cruises, maiden voyages or Europe early bird cruise holidays will also want to book early. These popular cruise categories are likely to sell out quickly.
School holidays – the best time for families to cruise
If you’re planning a family cruise, booking early is nearly always the best choice – especially if you want to travel over the holidays or school breaks. By booking early, you’ll secure not only the best rates, but have the most selection of connecting and group cabins – perfect for families travelling together.
Connecting cabins are two cabins next to each other connected by a door – perfect for families if they want to be close to their children, but not sleep in the same room. The number of connecting cabins on any given ship is limited, so be sure to ask about them early. If you require a crib, baby monitor, or any additional items, be sure to request them early. On holidays and school breaks, there are lots of children on board. As children’s services are first-come, first-serve, they might not be available anymore if you book too late.
Special needs onboard
People with limited mobility, chronic illnesses, as well as dialysis patients are all welcome on a cruise ship. Cruising can be a low-stress way for people with special needs to enjoy a relaxing holiday. It’s just important to ensure in advance that the cruise line can accommodate your needs.
Today, nearly every ship at sea has at least a few wheelchair-accessible cabins. The number, however, will vary from ship to ship, and they often sell out quickly. If you’ll be needing an accessible cabin or special care during your cruise, it’s also a good idea to book early.
Cruising in high season
Most people want to go on holiday in summer, when the thought of warm temperatures and tanning by the pool helps them get through the dreary winter months. The demand for cruising is highest in summer. If you cruise during this time, you’ll be competing with increased passengers demand, and may have to make some compromises on your preferred itinerary, ship, or cabin if you wait too long to book. For Australian passengers looking for a winter escape, bear in mind it is European Summer and therefore peak season if you’re cruising internationally. Likewise, a summer cruise around Oceania is bound to be busy.
Cruising through the holidays: spending Christmas and New Year’s at sea
Similar to high season, cruises over the holidays are also extremely popular. The highest demand is for Christmas and New Year’s. While cruises leading up to Christmas will have attractive prices and may be available last-minute, you’ll have to reckon with higher price tags and early planning if you want to go on a Christmas cruise or a New Year’s cruise. School-age children are on summer holidays, so the demand for family cruises during this time is particularly high. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any last-minute availability on these in-demand cruises, so if you want to go on a holiday cruise, book early, book early, book early!
Last-minute deals are possible, but flexibility is limited
But what if you want to book a cruise at the last minute? It’s always possible that you’ll find a great deal on the perfect cruise departing soon. Some cruise lines even offer discounts on last-minute cruises, giving away their unsold cabins at rock-bottom prices.
During high season, demand is so high, you’ll rarely find a last-minute discount. Ships tend to be booked to capacity, and you’ll be pressed to find an available cabin if you wait too long. But it’s a much different story in the low season. Here, there’s a much better chance you’ll be able to snag a last-minute deal. Just keep in mind that your preferred travel dates, your favourite ship, or your dream cabin may not be available. You’ll also be travelling in the low season, so you may have to contend with cool weather in the Mediterranean or hurricanes in the Caribbean. But if you’re a flexible cruiser and don’t mind compromising on some of these things, then it may just be worth it to hold out for a last-minute deal.