We often get asked, when should I book my cruise? That is a great question! Everyone wants to get the best value for their money, and there are nine main factors to consider regarding when you should book your cruise. You will want to consider the destination, size of the ship, special needs, your holiday dates, who you are traveling with, and the time of year, Visa requirements and other factors.
Destination – Part of the decision on when to book a cruise is dependent on the destination. Some itineraries are only seasonal, like Alaska cruises (available April – September), a tulip time river cruise (March – April), Christmas market river cruises, Panama Canal cruises (available October – April), or Canada and New England cruises (picture on the left). These seasonal sailing are limited and very popular, so the sailings are in high demand. These should be booked soon after the sailings become available from the cruise line for the best selection. Re-positioning cruises (Hawaii to Vancouver) and Trans-pacific or Trans-Atlantic cruises also need to be booked very soon after they are available, as they do sell out quickly.
Ship Size – Smaller ships like river ships and the smaller ocean ships fill up quicker as they have fewer stateroom. Most people book a river cruise 8 – 10 months in advance to get the early booking deals, flight promotions, and best selection of cabins.
Some of the Ocean cruise line ships are quite small. Many of the ships of Seabourn, Silversea, Oceania, Seadream Yacht Club, Paul Gauguin, Star Clippers, and Windstar are smaller in size. These should be booked as soon as the itineraries come out, and you know that you want to go. If you are interested in much bigger ships that hold 6,000 passengers, like the ones from Royal Caribbean, then you can book those much closer to the sailing date, and they will likely have cabins still available.
Special needs – It is important to book a cruise as soon as you know you want to go, if you have specific needs or wishes for your stateroom. That way you will have the best selection on the ship. If you require an accessible room, or wish to have connecting staterooms, side-by-side staterooms, or a specially designed solo traveler room, you need to book very early.
If you want to have a stateroom that accommodates 5, 4 or 3 guests in one room, then you need to book early as well, as these rooms are limited in number on the ship. We sometimes have people calling for triple and quad rooms close to a sailing date, and sometimes they are disappointed as only double occupancy cabins are left. If you have a tiny group (less than 8 cabins) but want several cabins all on the same deck, or mid-ship, you will want to book early as well, to get the best selection.
Specific vacation dates – If you only have 1 or 2 weeks for vacation time and want to do a specific itinerary like a sailing through the Greek Islands, then book your cruise as soon as you know your holiday dates from work.
Interline rates – If you are an active or retired airline employee, or a parent of an airline employee, you qualify for discounts called interline rates on most ocean and river cruise lines.
Interline rates are “generally” posted 60 – 90 days before the sailing date. Some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Princess have been offer interline rates way early than 3 months before the travel date and that makes it convenient for people who want to plan ahead.
We can let you know if interline rates are available for a certain time and itinerary. Call us if you are an airline employee or parent and wish to be added to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest interline rates.
Remember, there is no guarantee that interline rates will be offered on a sailing date, or that the cabin types you want will have an interline discount. Interline rates are controlled by the cruise lines inventory department and this department decides when and if, interline rates will be offered for each sailing. Waiting for an interline discount is always a bit of a gamble and every situation is a bit different.
Group bookings – If you are planning a group trip (Wedding, reunion, special occasion, alumni meeting) then group space needs to be secured early. As soon as you know you want to plan the event, it is important to hold the group space. It generally takes 8 cabins with double occupancy to form a group on an Ocean cruise ship, and a smaller number on a river ship. Group rates are not combinable with interline rates.
Holiday Sailings – Summertime (July and August), Christmas, New Year’s, Spring Break sailings (March and April) and other special holiday times, should be booked well in advance as space disappears. If you want to do a Christmas sailing, then consider booking it in the springtime or summer. If you are interested in a summertime sailing with your family, then consider booking it in the fall or very early spring if possible.
Weather – The weather at your destination is also something to consider. Some people may want to avoid rainy seasons, or hot muggy temperatures. Others may want to sail when it is cool and rainy. Areas like the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii and Alaska, showcase different wildlife like green turtles, whales, and bears during different months. If you want to see the whales around Hawaii, then December to March, is a peak time to visit. If you want to see cherry blossoms in Japan, then you need to consider what time of year you are booking your trip. It is easy to check the internet and see what the average temperature and rainfall is like for the area you want to visit for the time of year you are thinking of going. Sometimes there are reasons for a ridiculously cheap price.
Visas – Some itineraries may require you to get a single entry or Multiple entry Visa for the country ahead of time, and therefore you may need more lead-time to get all the paperwork lined up before you travel. Depending on where you are from, countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, China, Russia, India and most countries in Africa will require a Visa.
Sometimes the Visas are covered by the cruise line if you are doing excursions with them, and sometimes you need to get them on your own. You may also need to get certain vaccinations (yellow fever) or medications (malaria medication) to go to certain destinations, so you need extra time to visit a travel clinic, or your doctor.
Call us today for more information, as we are here to help!
If you are an airline employee, we also have a special newsletter that we can send out, that has the latest interline rates for the cruises. Let us know if you wish to be added onto that mailout.
1-877-760-2583 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org