Cruise Lines generally finalize their ship itineraries from 12 to 18 months before sailing day and the earlier you book a better chance you have for the "early booking discounts".
Another way to get a reasonable discount is a "last minute booking". The risk here is that your choices of itineraries will be limited as well as ship and cabin choices.
Cruise lines often have a lot of cancellations just prior to the start of their penalty period. If significant enough, the cruise line will likely offer an unannounced fire sale for a day or two to try and fill the space.
If you request a specific date, don't get upset when you hear the price. Check the price a week earlier or later and you may save several hundred dollars. Find a way to adjust your schedule.
A good travel agent should be asking you for the necessary information to get the best deal from the cruise line. The lines are always running specials for particular groups and particular time frames. Discounts are often available for teachers, honeymooners, family reunions, seniors, frequent cruisers, groups and military personnel.
Large discount agencies will often make a significant investment in booking Group Space on a particular cruise. This means they have a lower price locked in, while an individual booking may be higher by hundreds of dollars.
You will Never Pay Brochure Price. Cruise lines all issue gorgeous, glossy brochures with "sample" pricing but consider those prices to be about as accurate as those per-day hotel rates posted on the back of your room's door.
Cruise lines have adapted to Homeland (Homeport) Cruising from ports in cities all along the U.S. coastline. This includes itineraries that sail to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Mexican Riviera, Canada and New England, and Alaska. No need to tack on the cost of an airline ticket to more traditional send-off port cities, like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and San Juan, when you can take a train, a bus or your car.
Surf the Web Before you Book to gather information or you can act as your own travel agent, from selecting a cabin to booking a cruise. The internet is a great place to shop around and gather tips.
Use your Frequent Flyer Miles to pay for your airfare when traveling a great distance to the ship. It is risky but if you arrive a day early, you probably won't miss your ship's sailing.
There are Cruises available in all price ranges, from budget to luxury and all represent perhaps the best value for your vacation dollar.
When traveling with a family, you might consider two regular cabins instead of a Suite for all family members.
Last minute sailings are a thing of the past. Because of heightened security since Sept.11, 2001, it is no longer possible to stand by on sailing day. Most lines now require at least 48 hours lead time for bookings, but these days, a week or two in advance of sailing is regarded as last-minute. Check the Web sites of cruise lines and cruise-line booking agencies, which often have space available for flexible travelers. The plus/minus: You may get a good price, but the most desirable cabins may be booked.
Ask for a "Category Guarantee" booking. This means that you can purchase the specific cabin category on the ship but a stateroom will not be assigned immediately. You will find out the stateroom number at the pier or in advance. You will never receive a cabin in a category less than the category booked and there is a chance for an upgrade to a higher category which means a better cabin at no additional cost.
At specific times during the year you will find great deals. The end of August through to Thanksgiving, when school is back in season will be less expensive. But it is also the time when there will be more children on board. The sailings just before Christmas, but not over the holidays and early January, right after the holidays are always a bargain.
For Alaska, the early and late season months of May, early June, and September offers the biggest savings. If you travel during these "book end" periods it's often possible to pay half of what you'd pay for an equivalent cruise in July or August.
All the cruise lines will be running EXTRA SPECIAL discounts during these periods.
One-way REPOSITIONING CRUISES are excellent values, when ships move to new bases. These occur twice a year: In spring, ships relocate from Florida and the Caribbean to Europe and Alaska. In fall, they move in the reverse direction. Most voyages run 14 to 17 days. Keep in mind that there will be fewer ports of call and more sea days on repositioning cruises.
Cruise agencies will often book blocks of cabins from the cruise lines called Group Bookings. An agent that has one of those blocks for your sailing date can give you a better rate than one that does not. This explains the public appearance of disparity in rates for the same cruise among Travel Agents.
No matter how good of a price you have gotten on your cruise, ask to be put on the upgrade list. Give them a good reason, such as checking out the ship for a future family reunion.
Cruise Auctions should be investigated. Do your homework. Of course eBay Cruise Auctions is the auction GIANT but you should consider skyauction. com also.
Now that you know how to get the best price on your cruise, Set Sail!