For cruisers, it’s like Black Friday. Except these discounts last longer than a day, and you don’t have to wake up at 3 a.m., deal with hordes of people, and break down any doors to get them.
It’s called Wave Season — that glorious period in late winter when cruise lines offer their best deals. Maybe you were visiting your friends and family over the holidays and thinking about how good it’d be to vacation with them once the kids were out of school. Or maybe you’re freezing your butt off in the winter weather and fantasizing about your future getaway.
Either way, cruise lines know that many are planning their trips now. And the point of Wave Season is to entice you to book your cruises now.
“Whether you’re in hotels or bed and breakfasts or cruising, January is a huge peak time to plan travel,” says Geraldine Ree, senior vice president of sales and marketing for cruise booking agency Expedia CruiseShipCenters. She says there are some amazing deals for Caribbean, European, and river cruises this Wave Season on some of the newest ships on the water. “The cruise lines are trying to out-value each other.”
But not everyone is that bullish on Wave Season. “We haven’t seen a true Wave Season in 14 years,” says cruise expert Stewart Chiron, also known as The Cruise Guy. He notes cruise lines aren’t that motivated to offer big discounts nowadays because they’re seeing record bookings, especially from passengers who booked their summer trips even before the traditional Wave Season. “The cruise lines aren’t giving anything away,” Chiron says. “The offers that are being made really aren’t different from what’s being offered throughout the year.”
But if you know you’re going to cruise this spring or summer, it’s still an ideal time to book your trip. Here are some tips for riding the Wave.
Waiting to score last-minute cruising discounts may end badly. “You might get a cheaper fare here or there, but you may be disappointed that the cabin you wanted, the itinerary, the sailing dates you wanted, are no longer available,” Ree says. Chiron agrees, noting that procrastinators often “wind up getting a lower-class cabin and spending more money” than they otherwise would, had they booked early.
And even if you manage to score a cheap, desirable last-minute cruise fare, the small fortune you’ll likely pay for that last-minute plane ticket to the departure port will wipe out any savings. “Why not get a great deal on a cruise and get your airfare and everything you need to have a great vacation?” Ree suggests.
Use a travel agent
“One of the worst things you can do is book a cruise directly,” Chiron says. “I recommend people research online but don’t book online.” He says only an experienced travel agent can help you navigate all the different cruise lines and Wave Season discounts out there — a point with which Ree, from Expedia CruiseShipCenters, is all too happy to agree. “You want to work with someone that is really interested in asking great questions and really getting to what is important to you on your vacation.” Speaking of which…
Figure out what you want
This is crucial to finding the best Wave Season deal for you, as many discounts come in a variety of forms: fares, cabin upgrades, shipboard credits. “Focus on what’s really important to you as a traveler,” Ree suggests. “There are so many great deals in the market, chances are, whichever cruise line you choose, it’s going to have a deal with you.”
For instance, if you’re cruising just to see the destinations — and don’t plan to spend a lot of time on board drinking, shopping, or doing much else besides sleeping — a sale package offering a few hundred dollars of shipboard credit is worthless to you; look for a lower overall fare instead. But if you tend to spend a lot on board, that shipboard credit is a lot more valuable (but make sure it doesn’t come with an unreasonably high fare — “Shipboard credits mask higher cruise pricing,” Chiron warns).
Here are some Wave Season deals worth checking out.
Princess Cruises: This is Princess Cruises’ 50th anniversary, so the company is definitely doing things up this year. Its Wave Season deal offers savings of $500 per person, plus up to $200 in onboard credit (per stateroom) and free specialty dining for two. Plus, it’s open for all sailing dates.
Royal Caribbean: This cruise line is offering a “buy one, get one 50 percent off” discount, plus up to $200 in onboard credit per stateroom (ocean view and above). The deal expires Jan. 31 and covers all sale departures (excluding Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and China departures).
Celebrity Cruises: Ree is a big fan of Celebrity’s “123go!” offers. “They pretty much can’t be beat,” she says. For its Wave Season discount, the cruise line is offering passengers a choice between a free Classic Beverage package for two; free prepaid gratuities for two; or up to $300 in onboard credit per stateroom. If you book a Europe sailing, you get to choose two offers. Those who book a Concierge-class stateroom or higher will get all three. The offer expires Feb. 28 and covers sailings between April 1, 2015, and April 30, 2017.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian is also offering a choice of deals for those who book ocean view or above: an unlimited beverage package; an unlimited dining package; or up to $300 in onboard credit per stateroom. Those who book Europe or Hawaii are eligible for two of those offers, while those who book the Haven get all three. It’s open for all sail departures, but you have to book by Jan. 31, 2015.
MSC Cruises: MSC hopes to make a Wave Season splash with its own promotion, which applies to select Caribbean, Bermuda, Europe, Canary Islands, and Transatlantic Grand Voyage sailings that are five days or longer and booked through Feb. 15, 2015. The deals offer a mix of perks, such as up to $200 in shipboard credits, beverage packages, and reduced deposits. Plus, MSC is offering free sailing for children 11 and under.
Cunard Line: Cunard is celebrating its 175th anniversary with complimentary amenities — including a wine package, Internet minutes, a keepsake photo, a specialty coffee card, gratuities, balcony upgrades, and shipboard credits — to those who sail in its luxury Grills Suites aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth. The Grills Suites Inclusive Package is available for bookings made now through Feb. 28, 2015.
Original article found on www.yahoo.com