These Are The Best Times Of Year For Cruise Discounts

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Your dream cruise probably comes with a hefty price tag, right? But what if there was a way to turn this dream into a reality without stretching your budget too thin?

The key ingredient is timing.

Just like there’s a perfect time to buy those concert tickets or snag that must-have Black Friday deal, there’s a golden window for booking cruises at a fraction of the cost. 

A cruise ship with the word "discount" across the photo.

But where do you start? And how can you ensure you’re getting the best deal? Read on to find out all you need to know.

1. Wave Season: The Prime Time for Cruise Deals

Wave season – have you ever heard of it? If you’re eyeing up a cruise holiday but want to make your money stretch further, this is a term you should become familiar with.

Spanning from Late December until February, wave season is the cruise industry’s equivalent of the retail world’s January sales. It’s the time of year when cruise lines roll out some of their most enticing promotions, discounts and special offers.

But why does this happen at the start of the year?

Well, as soon as Christmas is out of the way, people start dreaming of their next getaway. Cruise lines, keen on filling their ships for the coming months, capitalise on this wanderlust by offering deals that are too good to ignore. 

A birdseye view of about the beach with the gentle waves of the sea.

From significant price drops and cabin upgrades to onboard credit and reduced deposits, the variety of offers means there’s something tempting for every kind of cruiser.

Booking your cruise during wave season doesn’t just mean you’ll save money, though that’s a big part of the appeal. It also often means getting the best choice of cabins and itineraries.

Want that room with a view or a balcony? Or itching to explore a specific corner of the globe? Securing your booking in this prime window can make all the difference.

However, there’s a savvy way to approach these deals. Not all offers are created equal, and it pays to read the fine print. Look beyond the headline discount and consider what each promotion truly offers in terms of value. 

And remember, while wave season can offer some fantastic deals, the early bird catches the worm. Popular routes and cabins sell out quickly, so it pays to be decisive.


Don’t miss these hot cruise offers…

2. The Early Bird Advantage

The booking window plays a crucial role in how much you’ll pay. Generally, the earlier you book, the better the rate you can secure.

Cruise lines are keen to fill their cabins well in advance, offering enticing rates to early birds who plan ahead.

For those of us with families, booking early can be a game-changer, especially for popular travel times like the summer holidays.

When cruising with the kids, I often book over two years before the departure date.

A tag with with "early bird discount" printed onto it.

To some, booking this far in advance might seem excessive, but it allowed me to lock in a price far lower than what it would be as the departure date approached.

This strategy ensured that we secured the cheapest cabin. It also means that you have plenty of time to save up, or to pay in monthly instalments.

This approach to booking isn’t just about financial savings; it’s also about peace of mind. Knowing you’ve secured a great deal well in advance takes the pressure off the months leading up to the holiday. 

Suggested read: 5 Reasons Families Should Book Cruises in Advance

3. Last-Minute Bookings

Booking your cruise at the last minute is another strategy with the potential for hefty discounts.

Cruise lines aim to sail at full capacity. They will offer significant price cuts on remaining cabins as the departure date nears. This can result in substantial savings for those with flexible plans.

However, this approach does have limitations. The selection of cabins and destinations will be much narrower, potentially leaving you with less-than-ideal options.

You’ll need to have a flexible schedule, as the best deals often require quick decision-making and travel.

An hourglass on a beach, with the letters of "last minute" printed on each one.

It’s also important to consider the additional costs that can accumulate with last-minute travel, such as pricier flights or accommodations.

Despite these potential drawbacks, last-minute bookings can unlock unparalleled deals and adventures for the spontaneous traveller. This strategy is perfect for those open to exploring new destinations on a whim and at a fraction of the cost.

Suggested read: How Late Can You Book A Last Minute Cruise?

4. The Shoulder Season

Another tip for booking your cruise is to look for a cruise without the heavy crowds and high prices that come with peak season.

Aiming for the shoulder seasons might be your best bet. These are periods just before and after the busiest times for cruise destinations, and they offer a great mix of pleasant weather, fewer tourists, and better prices.

In the Caribbean, for instance, consider planning your cruise for May or early June or between late September and early November.

You’ll miss the busiest times of the year and could enjoy more of the islands to yourself. Just keep in mind that from June to November, hurricanes are a risk, but the lower prices might be worth it for some.

A photo of the Caribbean with the birght blue sea and mountains in the distance.

For those drawn to the Mediterranean’s charm, April to early June and September to October offer a sweet spot. The weather is still beautiful without the peak season’s crowds, making for a more relaxed experience. 

Alaska’s breathtaking scenery is perhaps best enjoyed in May and September. With fewer tourists, you can appreciate the natural beauty and wildlife more peacefully. Cruising during these months also means lower costs, making the trip even more appealing.

Europe’s river cruises have similar off-peak periods in March and April and again in October and November.

The rivers are quieter, the sights less crowded, and the atmosphere more tranquil. It’s an ideal time for those who prefer a more laid-back travel experience, with the added benefit of finding some great deals.

Read more: What Is The Cheapest Month To Go On A Cruise?

Other Tips for Finding Discounts

It’s also not just about the time of year to book the best discounts; it’s about keeping an eye on any discounts.

Signing up for newsletters from cruise lines and dedicated cruise deal websites will give you the latest discounts and specials directly to your inbox. This means you’re always in the loop on flash sales, limited-time offers, and exclusive deals.

I also send out a selection of hand-picked offers every week, so be sure to sign up to my email list if you’s like those.

Use a Travel Agent

While finding good deals on your own is possible, using a travel agent can often lead to even better savings and perks. Travel agents have insider knowledge and access to exclusive deals that aren’t available to the public. 

A lady wearing a pink blouse, sat at her laptop passing over a passport and tickets for travelling.

They can also provide invaluable advice on the best times to cruise, help with complicated booking procedures, and offer personalised suggestions based on your preferences. For those in the UK, Cruise 118 is the one I use most often. 

They’re known for their exceptional customer service and access to a wide range of exclusive offers and perks that can make your cruise experience even more enjoyable and affordable.


Don’t miss these hot cruise offers…

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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