We’ve all heard the age old adage “the early bird gets the worm” and cruising is no exception! When it comes to booking a cruise, earlier is always better! If you are waiting for a last minute deal, you may be waiting a very long time, so don’t miss the boat (literally)! Whether you book your next cruise right when the itinerary is hot off the press, or onboard during a cruise, here are five key factors to consider when it comes to the best time to book a cruise.
River boats, small ships, yachts, barges, and expedition ships are much smaller than their other cruising counterparts, which means less availability. These vessels may sail a few knots slower, but they sell fast! Determine your travel dates well in advance so you can secure your cabin as soon as itineraries are released.
Destinations and booking times depend on a several variables. The number of ships and cruise lines that are able to access and visit a destination can affect availability. Thinking of spending Christmas at sea? Holidays, school breaks, and other seasonal facets will also have an impact on the timing of your booking. Festive cruises are the first to sell out! And last but not least, the destination’s cruising window will affect how many sailings are available due to weather and climate. Below is a loose outline of how far in advance you should be booking for popular destinations:
- Caribbean: 6 months to 1 year in advance. More ships visit the Caribbean every year than any other destination so there is higher availability.
- Alaska: 1 year in advance. Due to weather, Alaska’s cruising window is around 6 months, so there are not as many sailings.
- Europe: 6 to 8 months in advance. European itineraries are prone to change from time to time and are sometimes not posted until one year out from sailing.
- Galapagos: 1 year in advance. The ships that are able to access ports in the Galapagos are much smaller so space fills up quickly!
- River Cruises: 1 year in advance. Similar to the Galapagos, river boats are smaller so there are fewer cabins.
- Antarctica: 1 year in advance. Availability is limited because not as many cruise lines offer Antarctica itineraries.
Pre- and Post-Cruise Accommodations & Flights
The sooner you secure your booking, the sooner you are able to plan for the rest of your trip. Flying to the port of call? Airfare is always best when booked early. And if you are planning to tack on a pre- or post-cruise stay, you’ll have plenty of time to make your hotel reservations.
Cabin Selection & Onboard Activities
Cabins are first come, first serve. If you have your heart set on a particular cabin, book as soon as you can! Having flexibility in your dates can also be helpful when you just can’t live without that gorgeous suite with a wraparound balcony and butler service.
Ensure you get your choice of shore excursions by securing your booking as early as possible. Spa appointments and specialty dining reservations are also quick to go (days at sea are the most popular times booking spa appointments), so have all of your ducks in a row so that you can be at the top of the list.
Booking Methods and Promotions
While earlier is always better, there are benefits to other booking methods. Booking onboard can entitle you to amenities and shipboard credits that you may not have otherwise get access to. Get the full scoop about booking onboard here.
While rare, cruise lines do occasionally run promotions if they have sailings that are undersold. With the uncertainty of these promotions, these sailings are best for guests who are able to make last minute travel plans. Keep in mind, you may be extremely limited on your choice of stateroom if going this route.
No matter when you book your cruise, the best way to find the cruise perfect for you is to work with a knowledgeable travel advisor. They know the ins and outs of the different cruise lines, itineraries, cabins, excursions, and more and will work closely with you to find the cruise that fits your unique needs. To start planning your cruise with an advisor, click here.