Regardless of where you want to sail, the sunny Caribbean or majestic Alaska, there are ways to save money on a cruise vacation.
Sailing during shoulder season, that is, the period near the beginning or end of the peak cruising times, is one of the best ways to save money.
Savvy cruisers who book during this period can benefit from major discounts, often 30- 40%. Money to keep for the next cruise, a once in a lifetime excursion, or other fun onboard activities like specialty dining or a massage.
Just how much you can save varies by cruise line, ship and itinerary; however, we found some major differences when searching popular itineraries. Here’s a look at shoulder season by destination with some great saving opportunities.
Cruising to the Caribbean continues to be the number one choice amongst cruisers, and the season has extended well outside traditional winter months. January, May, and September are good times to cruise to the Caribbean to save money.
Since the Caribbean is a year-round destination, you’re going to find the lowest prices on a Caribbean cruise if you sail during times of the year when school is in session. When there are less families looking to cruise, demand dips a bit and you can find a good deal.
Likewise, cruising during hurricane season can get you better prices. Hurricane season runs between the end of June through November, with the peak in the fall months. The prospect of a hurricane is enough to scare away some people. Combined with the fact school is in session, and you can find some great deals.
While many people think of Bermuda as a Caribbean Island, it is actually located in the North Atlantic. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, it has a subtropical climate and enjoys beautiful weather.
Bermuda is a bit of an anomaly in that cruises don’t sail there in the winter, typically a busy time for warm destinations. May to October is the destination’s short cruise season and many itineraries feature an evening in port, a great bonus.
For the most economical fares, cruisers should try to travel in early May or September. For example, a seven night cruise out of New York on the Norwegian Joy in a balcony cabin runs $1,670 in May but jumps to $2,250 in July for the same cabin. A 35% increase in the cruise fare.
Shoulder season often overlaps with hurricane seasonwhich may be a concern for some cruisers sailing to warm climates.
Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. The peak occurs during the months of August to October, accounting for 96% of major hurricanes. Cruise lines monitor the weather closely and do a great job sailing around storms thanks to sophisticated forecasting and the slow progression of storms.
It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance for any vacation, and for those worried about traveling during hurricane season, it can provide peace of mind for any trip interruptions or cancellations.
In recent years, Alaska has become an increasingly popular choice for cruisers wanting to explore the natural beauty and stunning landscapes of the region.
The cruise season is relatively short in Alaska, running from May to September. While many travelers enjoy the milder weather of midsummer, there are savings for those who can brave a little cooler weather.
Typically you will find the best price for an Alaska cruise if you sail in April, May, or September. If you can find a ship that sails earlier or later than those dates, expect even better prices. The reason why prices are lower in these times is it’s far colder in Alaska these months than the peak summer.
Just like the Caribbean, demand spikes in Alaska once school is out of session. Prices will increase steadily in June, reaching a peak in July.
Summer cruises that visit the UK, Baltics, and points beyond are pretty limited because of the shorter season. Typically, the Baltic and Northern European cruise season runs between April to October.
You will find the best price if you can visit at the very beginning or very end of the season. Try for the first or last sailing.
Touring the sun-drenched Mediterranean is another excellent choice for a cruise. The food, history, shopping, and scenic landscape draw many. Springtime in Europe can have milder weather with far fewer tourists than the busy season in July and August when the mercury can hit the 90s in popular port destinations like Rome and Barcelona.
The cruise season generally encompasses May to October, with the occasional outlier.
Flying to the Mediterranean is an added expense for most cruisers. Booking flights during non-peak times can also save a significant amount, a factor to consider when booking a cruise.
A great time for a low price and favorable weather during a Mediterranean cruise is to go in early fall, when the weather is still warm but kids are back in school.
Canada & New England
Cruises up the northeast coast to Canada means fall foliage and comfortable temperatures. The season runs between the months of May through October, although most ships will visit in late summer to early autumn between August and October.
To get the best price for a Canada/New England cruise is anytime before August or after October. It’s fairly rare to find sailings during those times, but they exist.
Australia & New Zealand
The cruise season in Australia sees the most demand in December and January because of the warm temperatures and low risk of rain.
The shoulder season will be the months of November through March (minus the holidays) are when you will find lower prices. Just like in the Caribbean, this is typhoon season and that risk of a storm turns off some people from booking a cruise.
Another good time for a cheap deal is during Australia’s winter, which is between June and September.
For those cruisers who enjoy a longer itinerary, a transatlantic sailing can be a great option. Cruise lines move their ships in between seasons in preparation for the next set of cruises. A perfect opportunity for travelers wanting a relaxing, long cruise, with a much lower cost per day.
Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, the aptly named Wonder of the Seas, has European itineraries leaving from Rome and Barcelona throughout the summer. A seven night cruise in an interior cabin is listed at $1,132 or $162 per day, whereas a fourteen night transatlantic cruise in the same interior cabin is $1,303 or $93 per day in October.
There are also transpacific cruises leaving from destinations such as Hawaii and Australia. Well known cruise lines such as Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Line and Holland America all offer these longer ocean cruises.