TripAdvisor Cruise, which launched in April, is already among the best websites for cruise deals—it lets you nab the lowest price by comparing more than 70, ocean and river cruises from some 60 of the best cruise websites. Though TripAdvisor is technically a meta-search site for cruises, which means that it will send you elsewhere to actually book, its search engine lets users sort by destination, length, cabin type, and month of travel. Best feature: What makes TripAdvisor one of the best sites to book a cruise?
A rarity on the internet, Avoya Travel is a family-owned company that has been dealing in travel for more than 55 years. Technology will take you part of the way, but there are limits only real human interaction can overcome. Like several of the other best cruise websites, Avoya offers a low-price guarantee; if you book a cruise with Avoya and then find a lower rate on another website within 24 hours of booking, Avoya will refund the difference.
Here Is How to Get the Best Deal on a Cruise
Best feature: Avoya offers free membership, and members get exclusive deals and discounts, access to unpublished fares, first dibs on promotions, the ability to save favorite searches, and the right to book, change, or cancel travel without incurring any Avoya fees. There you can search by cruise line, ship, destination, departure date, and cruise theme, including family-friendly cruises and cruises from ports near you.
Best feature: Helping to make CheapCaribbean. Its front page is clunky and sort of in your face, but CruiseDirect is still one of the best cruise sites for a variety of reasons. On the site, you can search by keyword, destination, departure port, month, length of cruise, cruise line, and last-minute cruises. When you think of Costco, you probably think of bulk food and toilet paper. Melissa Lagerquist, who runs Cruise Advice , says that Costco Travel is by far her favorite website for booking cruises. On the other hand, if you're a single traveler, be on the lookout for reductions in the "single supplement," which is an additional charge for one person in a cabin.
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Cruise Critic reports that single supplements can range from an additional 10 percent of the rate up to a percent. That could be on a river cruise; they're really nice for solo passengers," Kennedy says.
Wave season or not, you can get really great rates if you book to travel during cruising off-season, when rates are lower, according to Kennedy. Yeah, you're going to get a good rate. A Caribbean cruise in the middle of June? No, it's going to be high, no matter what you do," she says.
Kennedy says slow travel periods typically occur in the first few days after the New Year in January, right before Memorial Day in May, the first week of September, shortly before Thanksgiving in November and the middle of December.
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After all, if a room sails empty, the cruise line earns nothing from that cabin.
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They should want to get you on board for as badly as possible and hope to earn more on excursions, drinks, and shopping. If that were how things actually worked, however, the cruise lines would go insane trying to plan. If rates were lowest right before the trip sailed, then every passenger would wait until the last minute. In fact, if you look at our chart of prices for the cruise below, you can see that the price you pay for a cruise about to depart is inline with the same time a year later.
Where you can really get burned by waiting until the last minute is in your room selection. When you book late, many of the prime rooms have been taken already. In fact, with balcony rooms usually selling out the fastest, you may find that there are no balcony rooms available. The cruise lines are like department stores — they constantly run sales and special offers.
Yes, it is possible that one deal might be better than another. However, they typically end up around the same price. If a cruise line really needs to fill rooms, they will simply lower the price of the specific cruise instead of offering a fleetwide discount. Over the past years ships have seemingly transformed from seagoing vessels to floating amusement parks. Sailing aboard the older vessel costs less than half per person of sailing aboard the newer Anthem of the Seas.
While not every cruise line does it, many including Carnival will charge you different amounts for the same class of room in different locations of the ship. For example, a room on a higher deck will cost more than one on a lower deck. Through years and years of bookings, the cruise lines know which rooms are most desirable and charge accordingly. That may not sound like much to some of you, but that comes about to about eight drinks from the bar if you were to want to spend your money on alcohol instead.
The rule of thumb is that the higher up your room is on the ship, the more you will pay. You will also pay a little more for rooms in the middle of the ship versus those either forward or aft. For the absolute best rate for your particular room class, let the cruise line place you automatically at their lowest rate. Our take? Rates vary the most by time of year… not by how far in advance the departure is.
If the cruise line has trouble filling rooms, they will certainly drop the rate. But many times, there is no huge advantage to booking a year or more in advance. We know that trying to find the best rate can be nerve-wracking. We think the key is to do some research first on the cruises offered and what they are selling for.
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In fact, put down the smallest deposit allowed.