It’s a heated subject of debate in the world of cruising – well, as heated as a debate can get when you’re talking about amazing holidays to sun-kissed destinations. Regardless, it’s a topic that can split opinion with no definitive answer, and that topic is whether the best time to book a cruise is far in advance or wait for a last minute break.
The one true answer to the question is: it depends. There are benefits to both, which means that it is never an exact science. This is a good thing though, otherwise everyone would book at the same time and you’d never see some of the great offers that are sometimes offered to entice people.
The thing that most people care about is price, and the best advice for anyone who wants to make sure they get the lowest price is to book as early as possible. This doesn’t guarantee it, as it depends on who you book with and how in-demand the sailing is. Cruise prices go up and down, that’s just how it is, but for the majority of voyages the price they go on sale for is the best price you’ll get.
The exception for this is when you can get a great package, which may be on a last minute deal. Whether there are some staterooms that haven’t sold, or some guests have had to cancel their booking as they reach the final payment date, you’ll find that sometimes there are some great bargains to be had on cruises departing within the next few weeks. These may not just have a lower price but you may get some added extras thrown in too, such as on-board spend or inclusive transfers, making the deal even sweeter.
But then the flipside to that is you aren’t sure what will be available last-minute, so it’s a bit of a risk. Not only that, but a number of cruise lines have a promise that when you book early, if the price drops to one below yours they may offer to upgrade you or make your deal better with the same added extras as a late deal may get. So for the odds, if you want the most chance of a good price you should book early but take a look at last minute deals and you may be able to grab some great bargains.
Beyond price, the availability is the other main issue. The further in advance you book the more choice you’ll have; you’ll be able to grab your dream cruise in the exact stateroom or suite you want on your preferred ship. Relying on last minute bookings may get limited options.
There are benefits to both early booking and looking for late deals. In the end it comes down to whether you’re happy getting a good price and want to be comfortable knowing you’ve got everything sorted in advance, or whether you want the best bargain possible and are happy to wait and see what’s available closer to the time.
By Ian Lewis