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Insider’s Guide to Booking Cheap Cruises

Everyone loves a good cruise vacation. No one loves overpaying for it. Cruise travel can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to be, and it doesn’t take complicated tricks to score cheap cruises, just a bit of savvy searching.

It doesn’t matter if your dream cruise is a few nights or a week away or if it takes you to some of the top cruise destinations in the world or quieter ports. 

Wherever you hope to sail, we’ve got an insider look at how you can do it with cheap cruise fares for an affordable getaway that spoils you rotten while sparing your wallet.

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Top 6 Tips for Finding Cheap Cruise Deals

So, now the question is, how exactly do you go about finding those cheap cruises? Here are six easy tips to use in your future cruise search to find the best cheap cruise deals.

1. Shop Around

First things first, you never want to settle for the first cruise fare you find, as you could be missing out on incredible savings that only require a bit more legwork.

It pays to consider the options available when perusing for cheap cruise deals, and you’ll find you have a fair amount of options for budget-friendly cruises:

  • Royal Caribbean Cruises
  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Costa Cruises

However, shopping around each of their websites one by one can get tedious. Instead, try using a search engine to comb multiple sites and deals at once:

  1. Cruise Sheet
  2. Cruise Deals
  3. Cruise Critic

If booking through a search engine, be sure it’s a site you trust and read the fine print on the deal details, same as you would when booking directly through the cruise line’s website.

2. Book Early or Last Minute

Grabbing the best cheap cruises is all in the timing. Luckily for us, the good news is that you can find great deals booking early or last minute!

Cruise lines tend to offer some of the best deals when they first go on sale, so it’s worth booking a year or more in advance to take advantage of the discounts on offer through the cruise line. 

On the other hand, far off in the distant future, about 6 to 12 weeks before cruise ships are to set sail, you can scoop up last-minute deals as cruises drop their prices to fill empty rooms.

Each has its pros and cons, and depending on your flexibility—and what you want out of your trip—you may find that one fits your travel style a bit better than the other.

Pros and Cons of Booking Early

Pros: 

  • Secure discounted fares
  • Better cabin selection
  • Price adjustments if fares drop
  • More time to pay it off

Cons:

  • Your plans could change booking more than 1 year in advance
  • Cruise ship itinerary could change between your booking date and the sailing date

Pros and Cons of Booking Last Minute

Pros: 

  • Discounted fares
  • Free amenities

Cons:

  • Rooms are generally in a less desirable location aboard the ship
  • Requires more flexibility

Whatever route you choose, you’ll end up with some great fares. But if you’re planning a dream vacation and want specific rooms or experiences, definitely book earlier. On the other hand, if you live near a cruise port and you’re looking for a quick getaway, booking last minute will serve you better. 

3. Go Through a Travel Agent

Do you want to know one of the best ways to get great cruise deals on your next trip? 

Let the cruise experts find them for you. 

Going through a travel agent to book your cheap cruises has multiple benefits, but the two most important are it’ll save you both money and a headache.

Because travel agents will work directly with cruise lines and get access to group fares, they can often find cheaper deals than you would find searching for them yourself. 

That said, sometimes the deals just aren’t there based on when and where you want to travel. 

In that case, cruise experts can still serve up a win by finding you added perks like future cruise credit to spend on board the cruise ship, pre-paid gratuities, and more. When you add those kinds of exclusive offers and discounts to your vacation, you’ll be surprised to find yourself pocketing a few hundred dollars in savings.

4. Book a Guaranteed Stateroom

Most cruise ships offer a guaranteed stateroom. 

What is that, you might ask? For those unfamiliar, a guaranteed stateroom simply means you book a cabin in a specific category without picking a particular room. This guarantees you a room in that category or higher. 

While this option has its pros and cons, the main sticking point is that you can save big by booking a guaranteed room. There’s also the possibility of getting an upgrade to a better category or room tier. 

Free stateroom upgrades? Sounds like a pretty great deal to us.

Your cabin and location are entirely at the discretion of the cruise line, though, so if you have particular preferences over where you stay, this money-saving option might seem like too much of a concession for a cheaper cruise fare. 

However, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care where you stay or is willing to make the best of whatever room is assigned, then this will be a perfect option for you.

5. Cruise in the Off-Season

Seasoned travelers know that avoiding crowds is a surefire way to score the best prices on everything from flights to accommodations and, you guessed it, cheap cruises. 

So, when are those times you can best avoid the crowds of bodies on cruise ships and catch the best cruise deals on offer? Let’s break it down.

What Is the Cheapest Month to Book a Cruise Ship?

The cheapest month to book a cruise deal is different from the cheapest month to go on a cruise vacation. It’s essential to know the difference to get the best savings possible on your trip. 

When booking your cruise fare, the time to find the best deals is during wave season. If you haven’t heard of wave season, think of it as Black Friday sales for cheap cruises, though instead of a single day, wave season lasts for three whole months, typically from January 1st through March 31st. 

During this time, cruise lines have exclusive offers and discounts, including:

  • Free stateroom upgrades
  • Onboard credit for specialty dining on the cruise ship, shore excursions, and more
  • Free pre-paid gratuities
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • And more 

So, if you’re planning to book your cruise in advance, you’re unlikely to find better cruise deals and perks than what’s on offer during wave season.

What Is the Cheapest Month to Go On a Cruise Ship?

To score the cheapest cruise deals, plan to set sail while the kids are in school. With kids in school, families travel less, meaning you’re most likely to see the best deals in the following months:

  • January to February
  • September to November
  • In between Thanksgiving and Christmas

Prices also vary greatly depending on weather and other factors. Unlike airlines, cruise lines don’t generally have low-season fares, but you can still bag great prices on cheap cruises during the shoulder season and unpopular months for travel. 

For example, try traveling to Alaska in May or September, during the shoulder season, or travel the Caribbean during hurricane season to see some fantastic prices.

6. Use Travel Points and Rewards

Though travel rewards may inherently bring thoughts of airfare and hotels to mind, your savings here are all in the name: travel rewards. 

Cruises are a form of travel just like any other, which means you can use your earned points with your travel card to save big on your next cruise vacation. 

From signup bonuses to earned points off of purchases, you can put your money to good use by making sure purchases you would already need to place can go toward your future travels. And that can help take the financial sting out of some buys you just can’t avoid, or at least make them easier to stomach.

Just be sure to do your research on which travel card is best for you and your travel needs, and don’t get sucked into the first credit card offer you see from a cruise line. You’ll often find yourself better off with a more flexible travel card that doesn’t tie you into using your rewards solely on one cruise line.

Next Vacay Finds the Top Deals on Airfare to and from Ports

After putting in the work to find the best deals on cheap cruises, nothing will kill the glow of accomplishment faster than expensive airfare wiping out your hard-fought savings.

Flying from the west coast to Florida with enough baggage for a week-long cruise in the Caribbean is going to hit you with hefty ticket costs. Or, if you fly via budget airlines, you might find their low fares promises going up in smoke at the reality of expensive luggage add-ons.

No one needs the hassle, especially when all you care about is boarding your cruise to enjoy some fun and sun on the high seas. So, rather than letting expensive airfare or the hunt for elusive cheap fares kill that cruise glow, try signing up for Next Vacay instead. 

With a whole team of airfare experts vetting and verifying the best deals available to ports all over the US, you’ll find countless deals in your inbox taking you where you want to go and inspiring future trips that haven’t yet crossed your mind. 

Read on to discover some of the best cities and seaports Next Vacay’s incredible deals can take you.

Cheap Flights to Port of Miami 

The Port of Miami is the busiest cruise port in the world. Considering its access to the Caribbean, this comes as little surprise. Miami accounts for around one-third of all cruise departures to the Caribbean, making it a great starting point in your search for cheap cruises.

The best way to get to the Port of Miami to set sail is by flying into the Miami Airport. Whether you’re flying from across the country or the east coast, Next Vacay can help you get there for cheap. So fear not—all your cruise savings won’t waste away on expensive airfare.

Port of Miami Cruise Lines

You can set sail with several budget-friendly cruise lines that call the Port of Miami home:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises

Cheap Flights to Port Canaveral 

Located in Brevard County, Port Canaveral is just a 40-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. As the second-busiest cruise port in the US, Port Canaveral sees its fair share of passengers coming through its doors from all over the US, and you can rest easy knowing that Next Vacay will help you snatch up the best rates to fly you there.

Port Canaveral Cruise Lines

If you’re looking to set sail, Port Canaveral is home to several affordable cruise lines:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises

Though not known for its affordability, Disney Cruise Line is a fun option that sails out of Port Canaveral. 

Cheap Flights to Port Everglades

As a state on the edge of the Caribbean, Florida leads into one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, so rounding out our top three busiest ports in North America is another Florida native—Port Everglades.

The closest airport to fly into Broward County, where Port Everglades is located, is Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, just 10 minutes away. With cheap airfare deals from all over the country, no matter where your journey may start in the US, it’ll end at Fort Lauderdale with impressive savings in hand.

Port Everglades Cruise Lines

Once you make your way to Port Everglades, you can set sail on ships from a variety of lines offering cheap cruises:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises

Cheap Flights to Port of Galveston

Moving out of Florida, the island of Galveston off the coast of Texas is home to the US’s fourth-busiest port for cruise ships.

The closest airport to the Port of Galveston is William P. Hobby Airport in Houston. Houston’s central location in the US, on top of its rising popularity as a vacation destination, means the frequent deals here will be a welcome benefit to your budget travel.

Port Galveston Cruise Lines

Thankfully, for passengers flying into Houston hoping to set sail on a cruise vacation, the Hobby Airport offers shuttle services between the airport and seaport to help you get to and from your cheap cruises on the following lines:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises

Cheap Flights to Port of New York City and New Jersey

No surprise, with one of the largest airports in the US,  the Port of New York City and New Jersey is the busiest port on the east coast and consists of three cruise ports. So, depending on which port you’re departing from, one airport will be better than another.

  1. Cape Liberty Cruise Port (EWR)
  2. Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (LGA or EWR)
  3. New York Passenger Ship Terminal (EWR)

Ordinarily, you might sweat having to find the perfect deal to the right airport, but Next Vacay will keep you spoiled for choice, finding the best deals to both Newark and LaGuardia airports. So, no matter which seaport you’re departing from, you can grab a deal that saves you hundreds of dollars and the headache of a longer commute.

H4: Port of New York City and New Jersey Cruise Lines 

To keep those budget savings going, you can find cheap cruise deals on several affordable cruise lines out of NYC and New Jersey:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Holland America Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line

Cheap Flights to Port of Seattle

It may be the busiest cruise port on the west coast, but with its prime location just several miles north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, cruise-goers will find getting from the airport to the seaport a breeze. 

And after your trip, the port also offers complimentary luggage transfers to the airport, so visitors can tour some of the best parts of downtown Seattle like the iconic Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, all luggage-free. 

Next Vacay can help make it happen, with flexible booking dates and enough savings to do some guilt-free splurging and spoil yourself. 

Port of Seattle Cruise Lines

Cruise lovers can delight in a multitude of options available to set sail from Seattle’s shores:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises 
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises

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