Folks always seem surprised when I say that I love cruises. I guess they think that adventure gal doesn’t like being pampered. Not so! I love it! The best part about cruises is that you travel as you’re sleeping, eating, or being entertained. Also, you don’t have to pack and regroup every night or two. Plus, most cruise ships these days are floating resorts so there’s great food, great shows, and so much more. What’s not to like? But while there are cheap cruises to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean, real deals are harder to find.
Here are my best tips for getting the lowest cruise rates:
- Use social media. Follow on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to learn about limited time offers on www.cruise.com (@cruisecom), www.cruisedeals.com (@cruisedeals) and www.besttraveldeals.com (@cruisedealsbtd).
- If you’re like me and you’re as into social media as most other folks, that’s okay. You can still learn about best pricing by subscribing to their newsletters. You don’t need to sign up for a bunch of them, just 2 or 3 that best suit your needs. So do a little research if you don’t know of any off the top of your head. Use keywords that pertain to your topic, such as florida camping or Europe tours or adventure trips or Caribbean cruises. Two of my favorites are Cruise Critic’s “Cruise Sails” and TravelZoo.
- Plan! The key to getting the best deal is to plan well. For example, there is a “wave season” for cruising. This is from January – March. This is the best time to find the best prices for any and all cruises for the rest of the year. Booking early also scores you shipboard credits and upgrades, as well as early bird rates.
- Last minute deals. If a ship is not full and it is less than 90 days until departure, prices get slashed to get those cabins booked. Like with hotels, cruise lines would rather give a cabin away than have it sit empty. They make more money off the casinos, special dining, shore excursions, and spa packages than they do the cabins. There are typically some great deals offered on last minute Caribbean cruises. You will also save if you go in the low or shoulder season or take a repositioning cruise.
- Use a travel agent. Hands down the best advice I can give you is to use a cruise specialist. Not only are they privy to the best deals and the latest news, but they know the industry far better than you will ever know it. They know the best and worst ships. They know the best and worst times. They have invaluable advice. They can book your shore excursions, flights, arrange transfers, make specialty dining reservations, and much more. Good agents get incentives from the cruise lines that they pass on to their clients–you! This can include cabin upgrades, shipboard credits, and more. Also, a good agent keeps an eye on pricing and rebooks the cruise using the lower rate if it becomes available. Be sure to tell your agent (or the rep if you deal directly with the cruise line) if you qualify for any discounts, such as being a senior, child, military, AARP member, loyalty program member/frequent cruiser, etc.