Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Fri January 29 2016

When is the Best Time To Buy a Cruise?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Chris Owen | January 29, 2016

When is the Best Time To Buy a Cruise?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The best time to buy a cruise may very well be right now, as cruise lines put their best offers out there for the January-to-March wave season.  It’s the time of year when a large percentage of cruise travelers plan future sailings — and cruise lines know it.  A wave season special may just be the call to action consumers need to buy. 

Still, going more long term with your cruise buying strategy and investigating other booking times, different promotions and future benefits is not a bad idea — for a number of reasons.

Reserving Far In Advance Gains Location Advantages

Buying far in advance, say a year or so, means the widest possible selection of staterooms. This luxury of time can also be helpful to those prone to motion sickness. You can pick that super-stable mid-ship stateroom that feels the ship’s front-to-back, side-to-side and up-and-down motion the least.

READ MORE: 10 Awe-Inspiring Cruise Ship Atriums

Reserving A Flexible Fare Can Help

A special offer, bringing unusual benefits like a reduced deposit, onboard credit, complimentary upgrades and more, are common during wave season. The trick when booking far in advance is not locking in to a restricted promotion that prevents or discourages future changes to the booking.  What sounds like a great fare when making the initial reservation could look much less beneficial six months from now. 

Consider Your Booking A Work In Progress

One of the biggest mistakes budget-conscious cruise travelers make is to pay a lot of attention to the ship, sailing date, itinerary, cabin location and price initially, then forget about it. Even if all aspects of the sailing represent a long-dreamed-of vacation, continue to watch pricing and availability. A good travel agent can help with this, but they are more of an asset when it comes to new promotions that may show up after the initial booking — which brings us to the next point.

Build a Long-Term Business Relationship With a Travel Agent

Finding and being comfortable using a travel agent takes a bit of work.  A Google search of “good travel agents” does not really produce a lot of usable information.  A recommendation from a friend who has a good agent is usually a wise place to start. First-time cruisers can gain tremendously from having a travel professional in their back pocket:

Travel Agents Know About Pricing Ahead Of Time, Most Of The Time

Cruise lines commonly release information about a new sale or promotion to travel agents first. Agents also have money-saving tools at their disposal that are not available to the public.

However, there may still be offers sent directly to the consumer by email or regular mail that travel agents have not received, so be on the lookout for those as well.

READ MORE: WATCH: Disney Cruise Line's Star Wars Day at Sea Review

So when is the best time to buy a cruise? With all the variables involved, there can be no specific answer, but do remember to keep your options open, even after the booking is made.


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