Find Out the Best Time to Book a Cruise Depending on Itinerary and Amenities
When it comes to the best time to book a cruise, it’s not as straightforward as you might think. It largely depends on your itinerary, your accommodation desires for the vacation, and what time of year it is.
We understand how important it is to score the best itinerary, best stateroom and best deal on a vacation which is why we created this guide to help you figure out the best time to book the cruise you're interested in. However, don't worry if you're being a little more spontaneous and booking last minute. You'll still feel like you've hit the jackpot when sailing with us.
Early vs. Last Minute: Which is the Best Time to Book a Cruise?
In general, you’ll often hear the best time to book a cruise is either really early or really late in the booking window timeframe – meaning from when a cruise itinerary is released to when it actually departs. With cruises being announced earlier and earlier – this means in-depth planning may be needed to figure out a vacation that’s still over a year away, or you’ll probably be taking a gamble that the cruise won’t be sold out by the time any last minute fares might roll around.
THE BENEFITS OF BOOKING EARLY
Booking early has two main benefits: price and first-pick.
For price, you’ll find the first advertised price for a sailing is often one of the best (if not the best) price you’ll find for that cruise. Once the ship starts to fill up and the cruise price goes up, it may not go down again if that sailing stays in high-demand.
Booking early also means you get your first pick of lots of features on board. Some of these include:
First Choice of Dining Time in Main Dining Room
Booking early means you’re more likely to be able to reserve your preferred dining time. The early seating often fills up first along with our Celebrity Select Dining option.
The first option, preferred seating, is often a popular one with cruisers because you get the same servers and table each night, giving you a personalized and intimate dining experience even in the large Main Dining Room of the ship. For those who don’t care as much about that, but want flexibility, booking your cruise early enough to get the Celebrity Select Dining option is preferable since it lets you decide each day what time you want to dine and then you just call the restaurant reservations on your ship to solidify your desired time.
Access to More Accommodations
Booking early also gives you a wider option of staterooms to choose from. Unlike a hotel, when you book a cruise, you don’t just book a cruise stateroom category and then show up wondering where reception will place you. Instead, you can look at deck plans and pick your exact cruise ship stateroom. The most desired locations fill up first, such as mid-ship staterooms (less noticeable movement and you’re closer to the main dining rooms and many of the lounges); top decks (more of a birds-eye view from your veranda and close proximity to the pool and sun deck); and one-side versus the other (certain sides of the ship are more desirable on certain itineraries for the view).
Plus, cruisers in the know (like yourself since you’re reading this blog!) know booking early can get them access to little-known accommodation gems that may have a bit of extra space, like the “Sweet 16 Staterooms” on our Millennium-class ships that are veranda staterooms located toward the front of the ship and come with an extra bonus of having larger verandas.
Reserve Popular Shore Excursions and Onboard Activities
You’ll have the opportunity to book shore excursions sooner if you book early, which gives you access to all the excursions we offer before the most popular ones sell out.
For example, you don’t want to miss your only chance for an excursion when cruising near the Hubbard Glacier on an Alaska cruise; Celebrity Cruises has an extremely limited number of shore excursion spots for a special excursion that picks you up right from the ship in a smaller vessel and takes you closer to the icebergs, wildlife, waterfalls, and glaciers located along the fjord that your ship sails down. This will likely sell out long before any last-minute cruise deals are offered.
Another benefit of booking early means you can start to reserve your specialty restaurant times, spa appointments, and more, before the most desired times and locations are all booked up.
Book Early and Start Planning
At Celebrity Cruises, we don’t want to make all these advantages to booking early complicated for you, so we provide you with your own online account after booking your cruise. From this account you can easily access your cruise itinerary and make shore excursion and other reservations right online for extra convenience.
When booking early, don’t feel too daunted if the cruise is still a year or two away – lots of itineraries have cancellation policies up until a certain point that is usually a few months before the sailing date; so as long as you cancel before then, you won’t be charged the fare for the cruise – though you might have to deal with being sad that you aren’t about to depart on a luxuriously relaxing cruise vacation!
THE BENEFITS OF BOOKING LAST MINUTE
While there are numerous benefits of booking early, waiting until the last minute does have its advantages, too. Booking a last minute cruise is particularly beneficial to travelers who have a lot of flexibility and don’t mind gambling a bit on stateroom location and dining times, and also won’t get upset if their desired shore excursions sell out and specialty restaurants fill up.
If your main cruise goals are to get away from real life for awhile on a luxurious and exciting Celebrity Cruises itinerary while getting a good deal, then planning last minute may be the best time to book a cruise for you.
When it comes to booking last minute cruises, generally that doesn’t mean waiting until literally the last minute. The ideal time is to look three to eight weeks before a cruise is set to depart, with the six to eight week mark before embarkation being a golden timeframe. This is because that’s around the time that most cruisers will have had to cancel their reservation by in order to not lose their deposit. This then provides a better idea of how many staterooms still need to be filled for that sailing. Depending on the number, the price may be dropped to get those cabins filled at the last minute. Some tips to find a last minute cruise fare:
Be flexible on dates and location – have a few different itinerary options in mind to check for last minute price drops.
Be flexible on stateroom category – you might have your heart set on a veranda, but the great deals to be found are for inside staterooms. Become familiar with the deck plan so you know where you can still get some peaceful outdoor time. Also, know that you’re rarely going to see much of a price drop for suites.
Be flexible on embarkation ports – look close to home if you’re in driving distance to a cruise port and be open to the destinations the cruise ships that embark from there visit. This is because while you may find a last minute cruise deal, a last minute flight deal might be harder to come by so choosing a cruise you can drive to is a great way to stay on budget.
You probably noticed a theme there – be flexible! Stay open to new itineraries and stateroom location and you’ll be on your way to a great last minute cruise deal. You can also read our article on how to get last minute cruise deals for more expert tips.
Wave Season Promotions
Another prominent time to book is during Wave season, the moniker given to the time of year right after the December holidays and before spring break is underway.
Wave season is a best time to book a cruise because it’s a common time for stellar cruise promotions to attract future travelers who are finally winding down after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season; they’ve had a chance to talk with family members and make travel plans – and now they’re ready to book. Sound familiar? Then you’ll want to stay tuned for upcoming cruise deals with us, since Wave Season is a prime time to roll out huge savings and special promotions.
A great way to make sure you hear about Wave season specials as soon as they’re announced is to sign up for our newsletter that announces deals as well as other Celebrity Cruises news that will help you to plan an amazing cruise vacation.
The Best Time to Book a Cruise is When a Promotion is the Perfect Fit For You
Though there are peak timeframes that are the best time to book a cruise, it really comes down to you and your specific needs. Cruise deals are offered throughout the year, but they differ.
So even if it’s not one of the “best times to cruise” part of the year, you might see a deal that you should book if it’s one that will save you money.
For example, if you know you want to do spa treatments during your cruise, a special promotion that lets you save on an upgrade to AquaClass is a great deal for you. Or if you are a foodie who wants to try all the specialty restaurants on board, and you see a promotion that has a substantial onboard credit offer, quickly take advantage of those savings and book it.
Book a Cruise While at Sea
Another one of the best times to book a cruise is when you’re actually on a cruise. We have booking specialists on board our ships who are available to meet with you and help you plan your next cruise. An advantage to this is you can easily tell them what you love about your current cruise and they can help you find that on your next sailing, whether it’s an early seating time, similar suite location, or a stateroom that’s in close proximity to the pool or game room or whatever part of the ship you’ve found you’ve utilized most on your current cruise.
Another benefit of booking your next cruise while you’re already on board is that there are often great incentives to do so. Bonuses differ depending on itinerary and timing of your cruise booking, but you’ll often see special offers that include dollars off or an onboard credit you can use toward spa treatments, drinks, shore excursions, and other activities. You might even get a stateroom upgrade or free drink package. These special limited time offers (you have to book before your last day of the cruise) are worth seeking out while you’re on the cruise. 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 deals are being offered during your cruise.
If you’re not sure where you want to cruise next, also check your daily Celebrity Today schedule of onboard events to see if there are any destination-focused information sessions. These helpful and informative sessions are conducted by an expert who can tell you all you need to know about cruising to the feature destination, whether it’s the stark beauty and inquisitive wildlife of the Galapagos, or the cobblestone villages and vibrant cities of the Mediterranean, and beyond.
What Season is the Best Time to Book a Cruise?
Now, the above information is when you should book your cruise in terms of reserving your stateroom or suite. But when should you book a cruise in terms of when you’re actually going on that cruise? This greatly depends on season and location, but in general if you have the vacation time off to make it work – booking in shoulder season is often ideal.
Shoulder season refers to the period of time just before or just after a destination’s peak season. So, for example, Europe is especially popular in the summer, with July and August being peak travel times. That means booking a Europe cruise in May or September when there are fewer crowds with mild weather would be an especially ideal time to go.
Keep in mind those spring and fall shoulder seasons don’t apply to everywhere. The autumn shoulder season for Caribbean cruises falls during hurricane season; while this isn’t a deal breaker for many cruisers since cruise lines have the technology to avoid hurricanes, it does mean you have to be flexible to port schedule changes so some travelers prefer not to cruise during hurricane season.
You also might not necessarily want to travel to Southeast Asia in September since that month is still usually in monsoon mode and you may find yourself getting constantly drenched and dealing with high heat.
In Alaska, a spring cruise in May will find less crowds in America’s last frontier land, but the passageways might still be a bit icy from winter, meaning schedule changes are a bit more likely than other times of year.
Book a Cruise Any Time of Year and You’ll Have a Great Time
So really, when it comes to the best time to book a cruise, it largely depends on your desires for the trip and you’ll need to weigh fewer crowds vs. better weather and other contingencies. Regardless of when you go, though, cruising is able to provide you with a luxurious vacation that can change its itinerary on a whim to accommodate for poor weather, or escort you on thrilling and cultural shore excursions that can take you to places away from the crowds. It’s the recipe for a blissful vacation and we can’t wait to cook it up with you.
To see if now is the right time for you to book a cruise with us, check out our current cruise offers and then use our simple “find a cruise” function to search for the perfect itinerary on which you can apply that special offer.