Use a Cruise Travel Agent
- Although the day when people use travel agents for almost all travel is gone, they are still valuable when it comes to booking cruises. Because there are so many moving parts involved with planning a luxury cruise -- getting to port, making sure you get on the ship, ports of call, international travel, food/drink packages and onboard entertainment, etc. -- it's helpful to have a knowledgeable, experienced travel agent helping you through the process. In addition to helping you if problems or issues arise, travel agents have relationships with cruise lines and usually have insider information on deals, special perks and upgrades. Even if they can't get you a cheaper price, chances are they can get a few upgrades thrown in. There is no fee for you to use a travel agent, so it's free guidance -- if you're spending the money for a luxury cruise, you'll want to make sure it's done right and that you get the most bang for your buck.
Book Well in Advance or Last Minute
- There are two ways to save money on cruise lines: booking either very far in advance or booking last minute. Typically, you may be able to save more by booking last minute, but this requires that you are flexible and okay with taking the risk that you may not get on the ship at all. Typically, Caribbean and other warm-weather cruises can be booked last minute at deep discounts. Alaskan and European cruises, on the other hand, usually fill up because they have shorter sailing seasons, so you may not have as great a chance of booking a cheap last-minute cruise. You can also take advantage of programs that cater specifically to those flexible enough to travel on a moment's notice. "Stowaway" programs, as they are known on some lines, allow you to select a month-or-so long window of time in which you would be willing to cruise, and put down a deposit. Rather than setting sail with empty rooms, the cruise line is able to fill these rooms last minute this way, and the traveler can save up to 25 percent.
Know When and How to Go
- As with any kind of travel, going in the off season, or at the tail end of the high season, can help you save hundreds on your luxury cruise. In addition to saving money, you will also avoid the crowd -- a good thing, especially at normally busy ports of call when you have limited time to explore. You can even choose a repositioning cruise, which is basically the cruise that the ship takes to get from one place to another to start another season or cruise itinerary. These are usually longer, with more time at sea and fewer stops at ports of call, but you can save up to 50 percent off the price of the ship's normal cruise rates. Here are the best times to travel for some popular cruise types:
Caribbean: Late April to early May and September to January (except for holiday weeks). The weather is great and you'll get better deals.
Alaskan: Alaskan cruises are not year-round, so the "off-season" is the first and last months of the season: May and September. The drawbacks are chillier weather and possibly even snow, but you can save money and avoid crowds.
European: This depends on where in Europe you are cruising, but generally the off-seasons are fall and spring (and winter for year-round Southern Mediterranean cruises). The crowds in Europe in the summer are massive, making cruise prices high and making it hard to get the most out of your stops at ports of call. Be prepared to wait in long lines at popular attractions.