Travel

5 Steps to Get the Best Deal on a Cruise

There are ways to keep costs down when hitting the high seas.

After a series of high-profile disasters that forced cruises to discount fares, prices are headed up. You can still expect to score a lot of value for your dollar if you book early. Cruises are throwing in freebies, such as gratuities, drink cards and hotel stays, says Carolyn Spencer Brown, of CruiseCritic.com. Some luxury ships add free Internet access.

1. Plan ahead. Want to book a cruise this spring? You may already be too late. By the end of March, cruise lines will have sold 75% of their available cabins for the year, predicts Stewart Chiron, of CruiseGuy.com. Do your homework (vacation studying is fun!) and you’ll get first dibs on cabins, extra amenities and more cruise for your cash. On the flip side, last-minute fares are often the cheapest deals, but you’ll be stuck with the leftovers.

2. Know your seasons. Most vacation destinations have peak and off seasons. The same rule applies to cruises. If you travel during shoulder season, you’ll get big discounts. Sail the Caribbean between September and early January (excluding holidays), European rivers from October to December, and Hawaii between September and mid December. The possibility of less-than-ideal weather is balanced by smaller crowds and cheaper fares. Or go when school is in session to pay less and avoid other people’s kids.

3. Don’t dismiss luxury. You may be tempted to write off luxury lines, such as Crystal, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas, as too pricey. But with alcohol, gratuities and dining in specialty restaurants often included in the purchase price, they can rival the bargain brands. Regent makes a case for its luxury ships with its value comparison table. Or head to independenttraveler.com/travel-budget-calculator to input anticipated expenses.

4. Call an agent. In today’s do-it-yourself travel marketplace, you might think booking a cruise is as straightforward as renting a car. Wrong. You want an insider advocate to plan and book for you. A good agent can land you freebies and the best cabin, as well as offer expertise in whatever kind of cruise you’re taking. At www.cruisecompete.com, cruise agents vie to find you the best deal. Or search on www.travelsense.org/agents.

5. Consider insurance. Cruising is a big investment, and coverage can protect you if lost luggage, a sprained ankle or a canceled flight derails your cruising plans. Book through a third party, such as Travel Guard). One place where it makes sense to bite the bullet on insurance: the Caribbean during hurricane season (June 1 through November 30). A storm probably won’t endanger your vessel (ships can sail around them), but it could leave you stranded in a hotel or at an airport. The cost of insurance typically varies based on the cruiser’s age, destination and insurer. On Travel Guard, we found a $100 policy to cover a $1,500 cruise fare.

Most Popular

4 Big Retirement Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)
retirement

4 Big Retirement Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)

It’s too bad, but financial advisers see these four mistakes all the time. Don’t fall into the same traps.
October 6, 2021
The Best Vanguard Funds for 401(k) Retirement Savers
mutual funds

The Best Vanguard Funds for 401(k) Retirement Savers

Vanguard funds account for roughly a third of the 100 most popular 401(k) retirement products. We rank Vanguard's best actively managed funds, includi…
October 8, 2021
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
October 4, 2021

Recommended

COVID-19 Throws Travel Insurance a Curveball
Travel

COVID-19 Throws Travel Insurance a Curveball

Could “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance be worth the cost for you?
October 13, 2021
How to Haggle for Almost Anything
Smart Buying

How to Haggle for Almost Anything

These strategies will help you negotiate a better price for just about any product or service.
September 30, 2021
New Buy Now, Pay Later Options
Smart Buying

New Buy Now, Pay Later Options

If you’ve been considering a BNPL plan, make sure the credit card in your wallet doesn't already have you covered.
September 29, 2021
36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021
Smart Buying

36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021

Get your money’s worth by taking full advantage of your $119 Amazon Prime membership. Here’s a list of the best Prime perks to use for the rest of 202…
September 29, 2021