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When to book to bag a cruise bargain

Cruise linerWhen it comes to bagging a cruise bargain, it pays to book well in advance or as last-minute as possible. We explain why.

Timing is everything when it comes to getting a bargain break.

We recently reported that Tuesday is the best day to book a holiday because this is when tour operators adjust prices on holidays which aren’t selling.

But when it comes to arranging a cruise, the emphasis should be on how far in advance you book, rather than on which day of the week you do it.

Book six to 12 months in advance…

This is according to Mhairi Edwards, head of cruise and travel insurance at Confused.com.

Edwards says that travellers should either book their places well in advance – between six and 12 months before the sailing date – or at the last minute, which means within two or three months of the trip.

"Most cruise lines will put out their best deals early, up to a year in advance," Edwards explains.

"These might be two-for-one offers, free airfare and transfers, onboard credit or a free drinks package.

"But these deals will be pulled as places sell."

…Or book 60 to 90 days ahead

However, Edwards adds, most cruises require the final payment to be made between 60 and 90 days before sailing.

"Some people will put a deposit down and then cancel before paying the full balance.

"At this point, the cruise line has an accurate picture of how many cabins have sold and they may release some bargain deals to fill the ship."

This is why some good offers are more likely to become available two or three months before departure.

But do be aware that making a last-minute reservation is no guarantee of cheaper rates and it could lead to you incurring extra costs, Edwards warns.

Factor in flight costs when booking a last-minute cruise

"If you need to fly somewhere to join the cruise the chances are that there will be limited availability for flights and that they’ll be more expensive than if you’d booked earlier.

"If you’re cruising from the UK or from a destination covered by a budget airline you might be okay.

However, if you’re looking at a Caribbean cruise then the cost of the flights might offset any savings you’ve made on the cruise itself.”

Edwards adds that anyone who has to travel at a specific time, for example during the school holidays, it is best to book early to ensure you get on the cruise you want.

"But if you’re flexible about when and where you go then there are some fantastic last-minute bargains to be had."

What time of year to cruise

The time of year you go on your cruise can also have a significant bearing on price.

If your trip is in Europe, you are likely to find cheaper fares in late March and April or from mid-September to November.

For Caribbean cruises, the best-value months are between September and November – but beware, this is hurricane season – as well as January and February.

Get cover early

Edwards adds that regardless of when you book your break, it is vital to take out travel insurance – you can get specific cruise insurance - as soon as you have booked.

She says: "If you wait until the last minute to buy cover, you won’t be able to claim if you need to cancel your holiday for any reason in advance.

"Most policies include cancellation cover, so the sooner you buy your insurance, the sooner you are protected." 

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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