You’ve decided on a cruise vacation destination—maybe to the sun-warmed Caribbean islands to unwind on powdery white-sand beaches and sip frosty piña coladas, or to Alaska to watch pods of whales at play and see ice-blue glaciers shed their snowy sides with a great showy roar.
You know the time of year you’d like to travel, and you’ve even researched what to pack and what shore excursions to reserve, but what you’re not sure about is when to actually book your cruise.
Discover the best time to book the cruise itinerary you’re considering to ensure your cruise vacation is perfect from the start.
How far in advance should you book a cruise?
Popular cruise itineraries and sailings during peak vacation times can sell out quickly, so you may want to book as soon as the cruise date is announced. Also, when promotional pricing and specials pop up, they tend to sell out quickly, so you’ll want to book as soon as you see these announced.
Book your cruise itinerary as early as possible if you want to spend the holidays on a cruise, desire specific stateroom accommodations, especially suites, have a special occasion to celebrate and want specialty dining reservations, or prefer prime spa services such as couples massages.
Many cruises are open for booking starting two years or more before the sailing date.
Is it better to book a cruise early or late?
You often hear that the best time to book a cruise is either really early or really late in the booking window – that is, from the time a cruise itinerary is released to about six weeks before the cruise departs. Each has benefits and drawbacks, so you’ll need to assess which is the right choice for you.
What are the benefits of booking a cruise early?
Booking your cruise early has two main benefits: price and first pick of accommodations, shore excursions, and dining times.
Generally, you’ll find that the opening advertised price will be the best price for that cruise. As the ship’s staterooms start to fill, the cruise price tends to go up, and it may not go down if that sailing stays in high demand.
With Celebrity’s Best Price Guarantee, you can be assured that if a lower cruise fare is found, or if a promotional cruise fare is advertised after you book, and your booking falls within certain parameters, the lower fare will be applied to your booking.
Booking early also means you have more first-pick selections of some important onboard features, including:
Best Accommodation Choices
Booking early allows for the widest choice of staterooms. Unlike a hotel reservation, when you book a cruise, you don’t just book a stateroom category. You can (and should) choose your exact stateroom at the time of booking. First, choose the best stateroom, then look at the deck plans for your ship to pick out the perfect location.
Suites on every cruise can sell out quickly, as do the most desired locations, such as mid-ship staterooms (which are closer to the main dining rooms, many of the lounges, and have less noticeable movement); top decks (where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view from your veranda and closer proximity to the pool and sundeck); and one side of the ship versus the other (on certain sailings, this may be important for the view).
Preferred Times for Main Dining Room
Booking early also affords you the opportunity to reserve your preferred dining time in the ship’s Main Dining Room by choosing the Celebrity Select Dining option. This gives you the flexibility of dining early or later each day, rather than at a set time.
Early seatings are often booked first, so if you prefer dining at a set time each evening, booking early gives you the best chance of reserving your preferred time with the added benefit of a more personalized dining experience by having the same table and wait staff each evening.
Reserve Popular Shore Excursions and Onboard Activities
When you book your cruise early, you’ll have immediate access to the extensive array of shore excursions offered on Celebrity Cruises, many of which sell out quickly.
For example, when sailing on one of our Hubbard Glacier cruises, there are a very limited number of spots for a spectacular small-vessel excursion that takes you close to Alaska’s amazing native wildlife, spectacular waterfalls, and the magnificent glacier located along the ship’s fjord route.
Early booking also lets you reserve specialty restaurant dates and times, and you can set up spa and fitness center appointments before the most desired times and locations are snapped up.
Early Booking Cancellation Policy
If it feels a bit daunting to book a cruise that’s still a year or more in the future, rest assured that most Celebrity Cruises itineraries have cancellation policies that allow you to cancel your booking up to 90 days before sailing, and as long as you cancel within the stated window, you won’t be charged the fare for the cruise.
What are the benefits of booking a cruise last minute?
For those who think that later is better, waiting until the last minute to book your cruise has some advantages, especially if you’re flexible about stateroom location, dining times, and shore excursions.
If your main vacation goal is to escape the demands of everyday life for a bit and relish the luxurious amenities offered onboard a Celebrity Cruises’ ship, then last minute may be the best time for you to book your cruise vacation.
Do cruises get less expensive closer to the departure date?
Booking a last-minute cruise refers to the later part of the booking window, about three to eight weeks before the cruise is set to depart, with six to eight weeks out being the golden opportunity timeframe.
Six to eight weeks before the cruise departs is the most advantageous time to book last minute because it’s within the window for those who booked early to cancel their reservation without penalty. You may be able to score a mid-ship veranda stateroom or a top-deck stateroom because someone else has just opted out. The cruise fare may drop during this time in order to fill those staterooms before the sail date.
Tips to help you find the best last-minute cruise
- Have a few different itinerary options in mind before you check for last-minute price drops. You might find the most exciting cruise opportunity by chance.
- Check out the deck plan to be sure you understand the location of your stateroom. Also know that you’re rarely going to see much of a price drop for suites.
- If you’re within driving distance of a cruise port, be open to the ships and itineraries that sail from that port.
What month is the best time to book a cruise?
Though there are peak times to book a cruise, the decision to book at a certain or “best” time comes down to your specific needs, wants, and itinerary.
September and October are the best months to book a cruise for the coming year’s summer itineraries, especially for Mediterranean cruises and some popular holiday cruises.
Different offers are available throughout the year. Even if it falls outside the best time to book, you might see a special offer that you should take advantage of if it will save you money.
For example, if you know you want to spend time at the spa during your cruise, a special promotion that lets you save on an upgrade to AquaClass is a great option for you. If you are a foodie and you want to try all the specialty restaurants onboard, and you see a promotion that has a substantial onboard credit offer, take advantage of those savings and book your cruise.
Book a Cruise While You Cruise
Another one of the best times to book a cruise is when you’re actually on a cruise. We have booking specialists onboard our ships who are happy to meet with you to help you plan your next cruise.
Our specialists can help you find exactly what you want to make your next sailing even more special, whether it’s an early seating time, a similar stateroom location close to the pool, or a new destination you haven’t been to yet.
Another benefit of booking your next cruise while you’re onboard is that there are often great incentives offered for booking while cruising. Bonuses differ depending on itinerary and timing of your cruise booking, but you’ll often see special offers that include dollars off or onboard credit you can use toward spa treatments, drinks, shore excursions, and other activities. You might even be offered a stateroom upgrade or free drink package.
These special limited-time offers (you have to book before the last day of your cruise) are worth seeking out. You’ll likely see them advertised during your cruise, but if not, make sure you head to the reservations lounge and ask what sort of onboard booking offers are available during your cruise.
If you’re not sure where you want to cruise next, check your daily Celebrity Today schedule of onboard events to see if there are any destination-focused information sessions.
These informative sessions are conducted by a travel expert who can tell you all you need to know about cruising to the featured destination, whether it’s the magnificent beauty and incredible wildlife of the Galapagos, the cobblestone villages and vibrant cities of the Mediterranean, or the exotic and magical cities of Southeast Asia.
When is the best time to book a cruise to Alaska?
If you’re planning an Alaska cruise, whether you want to sail in shoulder season when you’ll find fewer crowds and drier weather, or in peak season (June through August), you’ll want to book as early as possible.
In shoulder season, the initial posted fares may be the best fares offered, and Celebrity’s Best Price Guarantee ensures you’ll benefit from a price change.
If you’re cruising to Alaska during peak season, June through August, you’ll want to book early for suites and your pick of staterooms. Another reason to book early is to reserve shore excursions like glacier helicopter tours that sell out quickly.
When is the best time to book a cruise to the Caribbean?
The best time to book a Caribbean cruise depends on when you want to sail. Peak season for the Caribbean is December through April, and that takes in the popular winter and spring holidays. These Caribbean cruises fill up fast, so you’ll want to book early to reserve your choice of stateroom or suite, preferred dining times, spa appointments, and specialty dining reservations.
If you are thinking about a Caribbean cruise during late summer or early fall (shoulder season), booking last minute may help you score a great promotional fare, especially if you have no work or school restrictions, are flexible about stateroom selection, and don’t mind cruising during hurricane season.