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The ultimate tips for bagging a cheap cruise deal revealed

Book two years in advance, opt for a 'repositioning' voyage and choose an inside cabin: The ultimate tips for bagging a cheap cruise deal revealed

It can be one of the most infuriating situations on a cruise ship – finding out that the couple in the cabin next to you paid significantly less for exactly the same getaway.

Every holidaymaker loves a bargain and in today’s digital age there are plenty of deals to be had – if you know where to look or when to book a deep sea or river cruise.

Some of the biggest savings can be had on trips booked months in advance or at the last minute, or when the getaway is made at off-peak times or with sacrifices.

MailOnline Travel spoke to cruise industry insiders to learn more about how to bag a bargain before sailing the high seas.

A lot of it comes down to the traveller’s preferences, and whether they have their heart set on a certain route, ship or cruise line.

Raphael Giacardi, Travelzoo’s resident cruise deal expert, said: ‘It depends a lot on people’s flexibility, really.

‘If you are really set on a certain date, a certain cruise ship or cruise line it’s going to be a question of whether the prices drop or not.

‘Generally speaking, if you’re flexible in terms of dates and you’re willing to consider different cruise lines or itineraries, then yes there are deals to be found.’

Book early

Cruise Lines International Association, which represents some of the largest companies, said those who have their hearts set on a specific itinerary or cabin should book early to take advantage of early bird savings.

Adam Coulter, UK editor of, said the booking game played by cruise lines is similar to the one played by airlines.

Holidaymakers who book when itineraries are announced 18 to 24 months before a ship’s departure will generally get a good deal and possibly extras such as on-board credit, a cabin upgrade or a beverage package, he said.

Sukie Rapal, marketing director at, said research conducted by the website in 2014 found that people booked an average of 168 days in advance.

She said: ‘Most cruisers are quite specific about the type of package they want, so to make sure it’s affordable, we would even recommend booking a whole year in advance to save both on cost as well as guarantee it will be the trip of a lifetime.’

Dan Townsley, director of, said early bird rates can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than the brochure price.

He said: ‘It’s best to book a cruise at least six to 12 months in advance to ensure the best selection of cabin types, preferred itineraries and special promotional rates.

It’s important to book early for new ships such as Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and P&O Cruises’ Britannia, he added.

‘Cruise lines often add incentives to book soon after sailings are announced so they can fill their ships early.

‘There will always be great savings and good pricing on inaugural sailings so for the best price on a brand-new vessel, book early.’

Wait until the last minute

It’s a risky game to play, but leaving yourself with fewer options can result in big savings if you're not a picky traveller.

Mr Giacardi said prices will drop as early as 12 weeks before a ship’s departure as unsold cabins become ‘distressed stock’.

But it comes with a caveat.

Mr Coulter said: ‘You will get cabins that they just cannot shift but it’s a risky game because you may not get the cabin you want or the destination or ship that you want.’

Repositioning cruises

Cruise lines offer massive bargains when they reposition their ships from one part of the world to another (from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, for example) to prepare for a change in seasons.

The one-way voyages are known as repositioning cruises, and there are pros and cons to going on one as the ships spend a long time at sea.

Mr Coulter said: ‘It does depend whether they’re an experienced cruise or a first-timer. For someone who has been on a few cruises before, one of the best ways to get a deal is a repositioning cruise.

‘You’re looking at a really good price, but you have to weight that off with, possibly, inclement weather, a long time at sea and sometimes scaled-down facilities.’

Repositioning cruises typically occur during the spring and autumn, the experts said.

Mr Townsley said: ‘Repositioning cruises offer cruisers a very cost effective way to board the finest ships in the world and experience some amazing trips.’

But they aren’t for everyone, especially those who aren’t keen on spending a long time at sea.

Mr Giacardi said: ‘It can mean boring itineraries with very few ports of call, six to seven nights across the Atlantic without calling anywhere, for example.

‘If you do book one of these, focus on modern ships with great facilities to keep you occupied.’

Travel at low season

Those who can go on a cruise at any time of the year will find the best deals in the off-season (winter itineraries in the Mediterranean, for example).

But they should take the local climate into consideration before booking.

Cruise Nation recommends avoiding peak times, including the summer, school holidays, Christmas and Easter, as they are more expensive.

Travellers can find bargains on cruises that take place in ‘shoulder seasons’, including February and late October, said Mr Coulter.

He said those who are planning a Caribbean cruise can find some of the best deals late in the region's hurricane season, which runs until November.

Choose an inside cabin

If a view of the sea isn’t important or if you are planning to spend little time in your room, choose an inside cabin or a cabin with an obstructed view.

They are much cheaper than cabins with sea views and balconies.

Single cabins are probably the most sought after of all, so if you’re thinking of cruising solo then you really need to book as soon as you can, said Saga Cruises.

It also doesn’t hurt to ask for an upgrade.

Cruise Nation said: ‘Always ask what cabin upgrades are available. There are often great deals to be had on cabin upgrades to that need to be filled.’

Consider the ship and port of departure

Do you want to sail on a brand new ship or one that has already been broken in?

When a cruise line launches a new ship, holidaymakers can find discounts on existing vessels thanks to sagging demand, said Mr Giacardi.

Larger vessels offer more choice when it comes to restaurants and entertainment, while smaller ships tend to be more upmarket and have more ‘destination-rich itineraries,’ said Mr Townsley.

Wendy Atkin-Smith, managing director of Viking Cruises UK, said it’s best to book early for river cruises on smaller ships.

She said: ‘The best deals always come at the start with the brochure launch. River cruising is a fairly early booking market.’

Because they are smaller ships, there is far less inventory for those who are booking at the last minute, and the discounts tend to be smaller, she said.

‘Most of the people who travel on a river cruise usually take two or three holidays in a year and they want to plan ahead. It’s generally not a hardship for them to book early.’

Some cruise lines are more affordable than others, so it pays to look at all of them before booking.

Holidaymakers who are working with a tight budget may want to consider an itinerary that has a departure port close to home.

Cruise holidays that don’t include airfare can be cheaper.

Don’t forget the added costs

Costs can add up when you’re on board a cruise ship.

Those who are planning to drink a lot of the hard stuff may want to consider a beverage package, if it’s not an all-inclusive journey.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at TravelSupermarket, said passengers should also budget for tips for crew (if they are accepted), shopping, beauty treatments and excursions in ports of call.

Shop around and do your research

The experts suggest checking out the different fares on offer from cruise lines, and speaking to travel agents or tour operators to find out if they can score a better deal or additional perks.

Mr Giacardi said most cruise lines have different options with a few strings attached, such as full prepayment or cancellation charges, to more expensive fares with added value (booking with a deposit only, choosing your cabin location, or selecting dining times or table sizes).

He said: ‘It's worth investigating what each fare includes. Paying a little more sometimes turns out to be better value.’

Holidaymakers should monitor the prices after they book, because the terms and conditions may allow them to claim money back or get a few additional perks if the fare drops after they have booked, he added.

Ms Rapal said passengers can typically save several hundreds of pounds when they find a good deal.

She said: ‘In some cases, if booking a last minute deal, they may even save several thousand on the trip.

‘Our recommendation would always be to properly investigate the type of packages available, but for anyone looking to make a spontaneous decision and are very focused on keeping the cost to the absolute minimum, this can be a very attractive option.’

She said the most important lesson for holidaymakers is to do their research and not make a rash decision.

‘While deals are fantastic options for seasoned travellers who know what they want, the first-time cruiser should be weary of booking a package purely based on the price because the resulting cruise may not be what they’re looking for.

‘Not doing your research thoroughly could result in an underwhelming experience and regardless of a good deal, this would be equivalent to throwing your money down the drain.’

Source: Daily Mail Online

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