The Best Time to Book a Cruise

Cruises set sail around the globe all year long, but when is the best time to book a cruise? The answer isn’t as obvious as it might seem.
carnival cruise

Cruising is a great vacation for the whole family – with itineraries and events for almost every type of traveler. Whether you’re headed to the Caribbean, the rivers of Europe or the waters of Alaska, you can find a cruise that fits you. Cruises set sail around the globe all year long, but when is the best time to book a cruise?

The time that you book a cruise and the time that your cruise sets sail can affect how much your vacation is going to cost – big time. You don’t want to make the wrong move and get stuck with a pricey stay in the smallest cabin aboard. Besides, knowing the best time to book a cruise will make sure you don’t miss out! Nothing is worse than deciding to go on a trip only to be blocked out by other people who got there first.

When to Book

The best time to book a cruise is generally early, according to Kate McGowan, AAA Northeast’s travel product manager for cruises. Cruises want to make sure they can fill up their ships far in advance. “Cruise lines want you to book further out, so they reward earlier bookings with special incentives,” McGowan said.

While booking a cruise as soon as possible can often get you a better price (the AAA Travel team often sees cruises booked up to a year ahead), you can still find good rates if you wait. “Sometimes ships don’t necessarily fill up all the way. So if you’re looking for a deal for something leaving in the next couple of weeks, you might be able to find one,” McGowan said. “There’s deals to be had any time you book.”

It all depends on how you prioritize your preferences. “You just have to keep in mind that the availability is limited on some of these ships. The best way to put it is that if you are very particular with your cabin or where you want to be on the ship, you definitely want to book further out. But if you’re flexible, you can be able to book closer to the trip.”

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When to Sail

Of course, the best time to book a cruise also depends on the time of year you plan to set sail. As with many other types of vacations, cruise prices are lowest when school is in session. You’ll get hit with the highest prices on holidays and school breaks (especially spring break).

Hurricane season can sometimes affect when you should book your cruise, McGowan said, though it’s pretty difficult to avoid.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say to avoid it, because technically hurricane season is almost from May to November,” she said. “The best time of year to go on a cruise can really be any time of year. Wintertime is great, and in the summer you can go north to Alaska or Europe. They really only have those types of cruises in the summer. But wherever you go, there’s going to be a specific travel season for that area.”

Months that are more cost-effective are January and February, October and November and the sliver between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Early spring months like April and May can also have some more reasonably priced cruises.

all inclusive vacation
The Celebrity Eclipse in the Caribbean. (Photo: Celebrity Cruises Inc.)

Repositioning Cruises

Those looking for the best time to book a cruise should take advantage of the unique characteristics of the cruising world. Whenever these huge ships have to travel, it benefits the cruise line to put passengers on them.

“A cool cruising tip is to look at repositioning cruises,” McGowan said. “Those are cruises for when a cruise line wants to move their ship to a different cruising region. The prices on those are usually really good.”

One-way repositioning cruises are a great way to use the cruising ecosystem to your advantage. Most cruise ships have special itineraries and events for repositioning cruises – and you’ll get to travel farther than you would have on a more common round-trip cruise.

The best way to book travel is by taking your specific type of vacation into consideration. National parks vacations or European holidays will have different rules and best practices for booking than cruises or theme parks.

When you’re looking for the best time to book a cruise, it helps to do your research and get insider knowledge. Or at least some sea legs.

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