AmaWaterways river cruise ship, Viking Ocean, Windstar, and Oceania. Credits to the respective cruise lines except Windstar image by Mimi Auchter
More than 24 million people cruised the world in 2017, contributing $42.85 billion to the U.S. economy alone, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. The price tag for a cruise can range from a few hundred dollars for a two-person cabin for a shorter cruise to thousands of dollars for a top-of-the-line luxury voyage. If you want to be on board a luxury cruise for your next vacation, we have some tips to help you determine which one is right for you.
Not all cruises are exuberantly expensive or even out of reach. Newly christened ships with live entertainment tend to book fast and early, so look for cruise ships that have been sailing for awhile or from destinations that don’t require as much planning. An exotic Asian cruise probably requires booking more than a year out, while booking a Caribbean cruise with inclusive amenities can be done on six months before sailing, Cruise Critic reports.
Book Far in Advance
Booking well ahead of time can mean the difference between saving hundreds or winding up with a last-minute full fare. “Wave season” represents the cruise industry busy booking periods of January through March on the mass market lines, where value options are even offered by premium and luxury lines more than a year out.
Shoulder season (or low season) represents lower travel demand with a price tag to match. The industry has changed over the years—summer was once low season for taking a cruise, but now more families cruise during summer months to accommodate school vacations.
For more value at lower prices, look for cruises departing North America and Europe during fall or spring. Australia’s fall to winter stretches from about May to September. Weather is still relatively mild, but cruisers can enjoy deeper discounts than during its high season in November to March. Caribbean cruises may be priced lower during early spring and fall, but it can also coincide with hurricane season. Look into travel insurance options that cover hurricanes and inclement weather threats.
Choose Smaller Ships
Look for small to mid-sized ships for adults only with fewer room category options. Some ships have mini- or suites exclusively, such as Windstar, Oceania, and Viking Ocean, yet are somewhat inclusive. Wine may be included at lunch and dinner, excursions may or may not be included; inclusive specialty restaurants; complimentary room-service; unlimited soft drinks and specialty coffees, tea & juices; wi-fi is usually complimentary; and for longer voyages, laundry is complimentary, thereby avoiding taking twice the quantity of clothing. Some ships also have launderettes for self-serve laundry cleaning. Oceania offers an upgrade package called O’ Life that includes your choice of some excursions, beverage package, discounted air, or shipboard credit.
Consider a River Cruise
River cruises are mostly inclusive, providing one shore excursion per port, wine with lunch and dinner, alcoholic beverages on some lines, specialty coffees and soft drinks, and room service on some. Food is excellent since menus are focused on the local destination’s culinary offerings.
So if you spend lots of extra money on board mass market ships for shore excursions, drink package or wine bottles, soda package, specialty dining packages, internet packages, room service, or a coffee card, you may want to consider a cruise line that includes all or most of those items. Yes, your up front cost will be higher, but your premium/luxury cruise will be a much better experience.
Plan and book at least a year out and earmark your usual spending money on board to be added to the up-front price of the cruise. Remember only a small deposit is needed at the time of booking. A few lines now allow you to make payments directly to the cruise line or through your travel advisor as frequently as desired up until final payment (usually 90 days before sailing).
Everyone can afford to cruise, it’s just a matter of finding out which line fits your spending pattern and choosing off-season or longer sailings. We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel will assist you in matching your spending habits and desired itineraries with the appropriate cruise line for you.
You may also wish to view additional posted blogs to assist you in choosing the cruise line for you: