When should I book my cruise? It is one of the most common questions in cruise.

There are lots of pros and cons to booking early or late and there is no one-size-fits-all rule. Some lines offer massive savings when you book early, so they can be sure to fill their ships.

But others give you great deals if you book the week before your cruise, because leaving cabins empty looses money.

Of course, most cruise lines advise you to book early, because it suits their purpose.

Here are some expert tips.

Booking early

Many luxury lines and smaller boutique companies offer their best deals when they first release their fares. For example, Silversea offers a booking bonus which entitles guests a 10 per cent saving when the book and pay in full.

Booking early ensures that guests get the accommodation, ship, destination and itineraries they want. There are also added bonuses to booking early like discounted airfares as well as onboard credit.

Steve Reynolds, the CEO of APT, one of Australia’s leading holiday operators, says the company offers deals for guests who decide to book early.

“I would always recommend booking early to ensure you get the best choice of departure dates, cabin type, price, promotion and air availability, plus you can also normally take advantage of pre-release Superdeals, which are often held at the previous year’s prices. There is nothing worse than planning the dream holiday and missing out at the last minute. Book early and enjoy the excitement and choice in the lead up to your departure,” said Mr Reynolds.

Steve Odell, from Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises says that Regent and Oceania cruisers are booking earlier than ever for their preferred suite and voyages.
“Now through to November is the best time to book a 2019 voyage, particularly for popular destinations Europe and Alaska. This ties in with the release of early-bird airfares, which is a major cost consideration for Australian and New Zealand travellers booking long-haul flights, especially for Business and First Class.

“We operate a market to fill strategy, essentially offering our lowest fares first, with strict booking threshold where fares increase towards departure, so I recommend you book soon to take advantage of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ early booking fares,” he said. 

Last minute bookings

But if you wait to book your cruise, not all is lost. Lines like P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean as well as even upmarket premium lines like Celebrity Cruises and Cunard offer last minute deals.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Pack & Go offers are available around a month before cruise departure dates and you can get, for example, an eight-night New Caledonia cruise departing from Sydney on September 21, 2018 for as little as $799 per person, twin share – that’s less than $100 a night.

While Carnival Cruise Line’s Vice President, Jennifer Vandekreek advocates for cruisers to book early, she says that cruisers who are flexible can snap up some amazing last minute deals.

“For those who have flexible travel schedules, the best value cruises are generally in the Spring and Autumn outside school holidays,” she said.

How to find the best deal:

  • Be open to reposition cruises: While you might not visit many different ports, these cruises often have amazing last minute deals. Cruises from Australia through to Asia, where you can get cheap airfares home, are some of the best repositioning cruises. The cruises are around 14-days and if you’re sailing from Sydney, you’ll stop at places like Brisbane and Bali before sailing to Singapore or Hong Kong. These cruises are generally from the end of Australia’s wave season.
  • Travel off peak: Any wave season in any region is the busiest and most expensive time to travel. Also be mindful of travelling during school holidays, especially in Australia. If you’re looking to sail the Mediterranean, the best time to sail is post-summer. Cruise prices start dropping from around September onwards. And while it’s still warm, you’ll be able to beat the crowds.
  • Don’t be picky: If you’ve left booking your cruise to the last minute, you can’t be picky with the itinerary, departure date or accommodation. You have to be flexible and be open to all options. Remember, this is the reason why the cruise is more affordable.

Listen to the experts

While you can either book your cruise early or chance it and wait, Nick Ferguson, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Princess Cruises advises to listen to the experts for advice.

He says that agents can identify what cruises and deals are the best fit for you and agents are also privy to when the lines are launching campaigns that may earn you onboard credit of even reduced fares.

“My other piece of advice is to book early to ensure you get an optimum selection of cabin types, preferred itineraries, and special promotional rates. Our key booking window is nine to 12 months in advance of sailing and our cabins fill up quickly, so if you have your eye on a cruise itinerary, you should book as soon as you can. On the best time to book a cruise, it depends on the season you want to sail and the destination. October is seasonally Plan a Cruise Month, and you’ll often find great deals on offer then.”