Best Time to Buy

The Best Time to Book a Cruise

Most people book their spring and summer cruises between January and March, meaning the cruise companies compete with each other by running tons of promotions during this time. This is known as "Wave Season".

An artistic illustration of a house filled with products with cruises highlighted

The best times to book a cruise are Black Friday, Black Friday Weekend, Cyber Monday, and Wave Season.

  • Now
  • Wait 2 months
  • Buy November 24th

Cruises are rarely on sale—about 22% of the year, or an average of 1-in-4.6 days.

rarely on sale
22%
of year on sale
4
sale periods
80
sale days
Check prices at Expedia

The best months to buy cruises are January, February, March, November, and December.

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    Jan
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    Feb
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    Mar
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    May
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    Jun
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    Jul
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    Aug
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    Sep
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    Oct
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    Nov
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    Dec

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Best time to buy cruises
Victoria Pena's Profile Picture
Victoria Pena
BTTB Researcher
11 min. read

Did you know there’s a specific time to get the best deals to buy a cruise? Learn the best time to book the cruise of your dreams at incredible prices.

A much-needed vacation doesn’t have to cost a fortune, in fact, there are specific times of the year when booking a cruise is very affordable compared to the rest. Overall, the increment or decrease of prices relies on different factors such as the age of the ship, the closeness to the departure time, the type of cruise, and location among other important things. Further, the addition of specific features or bonuses at once or onboard can as well make the final price rise or fall.

Booking Early vs Booking Last Minute

Many websites tend to offer the best prices to those who book early and all-in-one, with as many additional features or pre-paid activities and feeds, but there are also significant differences between the different websites and cruise lines that might seem overwhelming for tourists to compare all at once.

Booking 6-12 months in advance is recommended to grab the best prices and accommodations.

Booking 6-12 months in advance is recommended to grab the best prices and accommodations before they start to become occupied. What’s more, most cruise lines offer a free cancellation policy up to 48 hours before sailing for those who booked their place early. Further, the new price protection policies allow tourists to take full advantage of the lower rates if they come up after they’ve booked. This means that customers can book their trip as early as possible and when the price drops, they can request to have their rates lowered as well.

Fall is known among the cruise enthusiast community for having the best deals for incredible locations.

Fall is known among the cruise enthusiast community for having the best deals for incredible locations. The Caribbean, the most in-demand destination, offers never-seen rates and discounts that customers can benefit from if they’re looking for a last-minute Caribbean cruise and don’t mind having any type of cabin or visiting the island during the hurricane season.

Booking early has many advantages as well, especially for those who want cabins in short supply such as the ones who have the latest and most advanced furniture and technology, and the most availability to let up to five passengers sleep in the same suit, with a big space and incredible accommodations. As for the discount, there’s not much of a price difference, but there are more chances of getting the suite or top-end activities that you want before they are all booked.

Cruise lines want to fill up the ship as soon as possible and to do that they tend to offer special prices and one-in-a-lifetime offers months before the departure date and even a little before wave season as well, in some cases. Therefore, around that time, if you see a good deal for a nice-looking ship to your desired destination with outstanding board and shore activities, book right away!

Another thing to note is the current climate for travelers. With travel being nearly halted for the majority of the 2020/2021 season, booking your cruise early or the same day as they become available is essential. Bloomberg noted that upon opening sales, some cruise lines sell out in one day.

“Wave Season”

Cruise ship sailing into the sunset during Wave Season

Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

To make things easier, below you can find a very useful and informative article that explains why the best time to book a cruise happens during January, February, and March, also known as the wave season, and some certified websites to obtain the best discounts and deals on your next dream cruise.

January

January is by far one of the best times of the year to book a cruise due to its amazing prices. School is in session at this time of the year meaning that there’s a lot of demand from cruises to keep working, therefore cruise lines offer incredible discount rates to fill up the ship.

School is in session at this time of the year meaning that there’s a lot of demand from cruises to keep working, therefore cruise lines offer incredible discount rates to fill up the ship

It can be difficult for families with children to accommodate a small getaway but the difference in prices in comparison with the rest of the year is relatively big. Although it is winter in North America at that time of the year, the Caribbean still provides tourists with sun and warm weather.

Best Cruise Time for Fewer Crowds and Fewer Kids

January offers small-crowded exotic destinations at never-seen-before prices. Many cruises have similar discounts in December to allow travelers to spend the holidays and start a new year onboard.

January offers small-crowded exotic destinations at never-seen-before prices.

One of the reasons January is traveler’s number one choice for embarking on a cruise has to do with the very small number of children on the ship, allowing a more peaceful and quieter environment inside the cruise.

February

February shares the same advantages as January, featuring lower rates and amazing weather as well. Many cruise lines offer tourists incredible bonuses that are most often free or very cheap, such as reduced deposits, cabin upgrades, Beverage packages, prepaid specialty dining fees, spa treatments, complimentary shore excursions, and more.

Best Time for Cruise Cabin Availability

Cruise ship cabin

Booking early in February can give customers more cabin availability than in the following months. While prices might not be extremely different, tourists can have first-class accommodations before they all become unavailable.

March

Once the warm weather and Spring Break approaches, a cruise in March is a great option to have in mind. With affordable prices and one-of-a-kind offers, March provides tourists with a beautiful getaway to the beach without the worry and stress of overpriced flights and hotels with a huge amount of people. Cruise lines tend to offer booking incentives during this time that include onboard credits (which allows you to spend money without actually spending it), added value offers, and considerable discounts.

Best Time for Police, Firefighters, and Military Cruise Discounts

Police officers, firefighters, and military members almost always have additional programs that might be included in their profession that can be chosen during this month.

Best Places To Buy Your Next Cruise

Unlike many people might think, there are not many special offers in terms of the best place to buy a cruise. Much of the time, the actual cruise line’s website offers excellent prices that are sometimes cheaper than other cruise booking sites. This happens because they are not allowed to undercut the price the cruise line sets, and to this they have to add their own add-value, making the final price more expensive than the one cruise lines offer.

What makes the difference relies on the ability of certain websites to show customers the lower prices at the top of their search and to compare hundreds of cruise line’s rates at once, filtering by departure date or month, type of cruise, onboard activities, cruise length and more.

There are not many special offers in terms of the best place to buy a cruise. However, the actual cruise line’s website offers excellent prices that are sometimes cheaper than other cruise booking sites. This happens because they are not allowed to undercut the price the cruise line sets, and to this, they have to add their own add-value, making the final price more expensive than the one cruise lines offer.

That said, there is still some room for savings on your next cruiser vacation if you know where to look. Here are our top 5 places:

  1. Cruise Line Websites
  2. Online Travel Agencies
  3. Specialist Cruise Sites
  4. Local Travel Agents
  5. Low-Cost Cruises

Cruise Line Websites

In many cases, even cruise lines advertise on their own websites sales and offer to celebrate a season of the year or an event. Sometimes they run these promotions only for repeat customers, who get access after logging in with their username and password. In any case before booking make sure you check the conditions and know exactly what you are eligible for.

Online Travel Agencies (OTA)

Booking a cruise with an OTA's site is quick, easy, and stress-free. The main advantage here is that if you have a problem or want to change something about your booking they can do it on the spot or within hours, even minutes after you land the final price.

One of the drawbacks is that they often charge more for what you get when compared to cruise lines or specialist sites. But if your budget doesn’t allow you to spend too much on your trip and you only need a place in a cabin to sleep at night or go back during the day there are two points: first: they may be your only choice and second: you should consider booking a low-cost cruise to avoid paying extra charges.

Local Travel Agents

You can save some bucks if you book through a travel agent in your country of residence, as they charge less for their services than international agents. Their main drawback is that they often do not have the same flexibility in terms of price and cancellation and refund policies, and they aren’t able to assist you abroad, like customer or medical services.

Specialist Cruise Sites

They usually charge a commission for their services, but you can find good deals there if you do enough research to compare prices with cruise lines and OTAs. In addition, they can often offer more flexible cancellation and refund policies, better deals on last-minute cruises, or members of certain organizations.

Low-Cost Cruises

This is one of the best options if you want to travel but your budget doesn’t allow you to spend much on your trip. The main advantage here is that you have many choices available, from historical cruises to party cruises. You can also enjoy an exclusive room with a comfortable bed and great amenities for little money on some luxury cruise lines.

The main drawbacks are that you don’t get the same degree of personalization or services offered by regular cruises - remember you are paying low-cost prices after all - and that these cruises are often short.

As cruises begin to function as before the pandemic hit, the demand for filling the ships fast increases, making cruise lines drop their prices into the market rises again. This means that the best offers and deals are slowly but surely appearing, and since the wave season is near, the possibilities for booking a cruise at never-seen prices are huge.

Here are some of the best places to book a cruise and the most affordable destination during the wave season.

Expedia

Expedia Cruises is one of the most known cruise interfaces that provide comparative prices among a wide selection of cruises. By just selecting the destination and the number of passengers, Expedia provides users with the best prices and results, making them by far the most chosen cruise search engine.

Expedia shows the best offers and deals at the top of the page, so customers don’t have to spend countless hours scrolling down for the best price. Further, this website has incredible discounts for pre-departure hotels when tourists book both their hotel and cruise through this site.

A great feature this cruise interface has is the exclusively dedicated 800 number that connects customers with a cruise expert, ready to help them decide which cruise to book according to their needs, budget, and ideal destination.

By far the greatest quality this cruise-booking website developed is the rapid and optimized search engine with the best prices atop of the page, almost always equaling the cruise line’s rate.

Priceline

Priceline is another go-to choice for cruise enthusiasts that want to have the best trip at the most affordable prices. Their website is not as optimized as Expedia’s where they can show stunning rates at first sight but in Priceline, tourists can customize their search by selecting the desired cruise line, both standard and luxury, along with specific requirements they want such as suite and balcony deals, themed cruises and last-minute booking options.

This cruise interface is known to show one-in-a-lifetime deals very often as well as affordable bonuses like onboard credits and $50-off shore excursions. But what really differentiates Priceline from other websites is their “110% Best Price Guarantee” which promises customers a full 110% refund (of the cost difference, including port charges) to those who found a better price on another cruise interface up to 48 later after they’ve booked through Priceline.

FAQ

Let's recap by answering some key questions:

When is the best time to buy cruises?

The best times to book a cruise are Black Friday, Black Friday Weekend, Cyber Monday, and Wave Season.

How often are cruises on sale?

Cruises are rarely on sale, approximately 80 days each year, spanning 4 distinct sale periods—that's 22% of the year.

What are the best months to buy cruises?

The best months to buy cruises are January, February, March, November, and December.

What's the best place to buy cruises?

The best places to buy cruises are Expedia and Priceline.

  1. "These Are the Best Times to Book a Cruise for Deals, Optimal Rooms, and More" (Travel + Leisure)
  2. "How to Save on a Cruise" (The Points Guy)
  3. "Cruises 101: The Best Time to Book a Cruise" (Royal Caribbean)
  4. "Round-the-World Cruises Are Selling Out More Than a Year in Advance" (Bloomberg)
  5. "Best Month to Cruise: Pros & Cons of Sailing Each Month of the Year" (Cruzely)
  6. "The 10 Best Sites to Book a Cruise" (Smarter Travel)

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