The early bird gets the cruise

When is the best time to book a cruise?  I have been a professional travel agent for over 6 years and that is one of my most frequently asked questions.  The best time to book your cruise is as soon as you can.  I specialize in cruises so I can confidently speak on cruise value and booking strategy.  I’m also a mom of four kids so I always need to get all the value that I can from my own vacation dollars.   I have strong opinions on why booking your cruise as soon as possible is the way to go and I offer 5 reasons here.

Save Money

Hands down, booking as soon as possible is the best way to save money on a cruise.  Ignore all the marketing noise.  That “last minute deal” on your cruise may sound like a bonanza but you most likely would have been far better off financially by booking that same cabin a year ago, or more.  The numbers don’t lie and historically the price of a cruise cabin generally goes up the closer you are to the sail date.  For example, this past summer I booked a number of Mediterranean cruises for the summer of 2019.  Every single one of those cruises has gone way up in price since we booked them.  My clients on the Disney Magic sailing in June 2019 have saved $4,842 so far by reserving their cabins when they did.

The savvy traveler books their cruise cabin as soon as the deployment has been announced.  A good travel agent is familiar with the ship deployments and can keep an eye out for the itineraries that their customers are interested in.

Disney Dream
My personal photo of the Disney Dream at Castaway Cay

Cabin location

The other huge downside of booking a cruise last minute is your cabin location.  The best and quietest locations on the ship are usually scooped up first.  If you wait until the last minute, you may run the risk of having a cabin above a noisy venue like a nightclub or in front of an elevator.  Also, if you are concerned about sea sickness you want to be very thoughtful about the location and type of your cabin.  Cruise travel agents are familiar with the ship layouts, and seasickness concerns, and can really assist in finding you the best cabin option.

If you have very definite ideas on your cabin configurations you should strike while the iron is hot.  Some configurations to consider are adjoining cabins and cabins next to or across the hall from each other.

If you have accessibility or mobility concerns you will want to reserve one of the handicapped/accessible cabins and there are only a certain number of these cabins on any given ship.  Also, folks with mobility issues may prefer certain decks that maximize the ease of traveling to the areas on the ship that interest them most.  For example, I have had customers who want to minimize the need to take an elevator to the buffet or the spa.

If you have any of the above type of cabin considerations you should not risk waiting to book.

Luxury cabins book quickly

This may seem counter-intuitive to the budget shopper but the more luxurious accommodations often book up more quickly.  This is particularly true in certain locations like the Mediterranean.  If you want a 2 bedroom family suite on your Med cruise, book it now!

High occupancy cabins 

Also, the higher occupancy cabins fill up sooner as well.  If you are interested in a 3 or 4 or even 5 person cabin you definitely want to place your deposit as soon as you can.  The 3rd, 4th and 5th guests in a cabin are usually offered at a significant discount so booking your party into one cabin is often cheaper than splitting up into separate ones.  The pros and cons of all those people sharing one cabin is a whole other kettle of fish and warrants it’s own blog post.  Also, once the kid’s clubs on-board are maxed out the cruise line will not allow additional children on the sailing.  Book sooner than later if you are cruising with kids.  I have had customers who were unable to book their last minute cruise because of children in their party.

Kids on ship
I think cruising is the best vacation for families but sometimes high occupancy cabins book up

Travel Agents can monitor the price

Not all travel agents are the same but one thing is generally true – gone are the days of agents simply being order-takers.   The travel space has evolved and so have the agents.  Many travel agents will monitor the price of your cruise and grab savings or value when possible.   There really is no down side to booking sooner than later if you’ve partnered with a travel professional who offers a price monitoring service.

Cabana Views
Get your cabana views for less by booking your cruise ASAP!  Photo: Sheryl Van Aken

No matter when you book your cruise you should always be mindful of the cancellation schedule and penalties for your reservation.  You should be clear on what type of deposit you’ve put down as well – is it refundable or not?

Booking your cruise as soon as possible is the best approach to getting you great pricing, your preferred cabin location, the ideal cabin configuration, the best value and sometimes even on the ship at all.

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