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How Far In Advance Should I Book a Cruise?

When you decided that you wanted to take a cruise, you likely researched which cruise line you wanted to sail on, and what ship on that cruise line fit you best. And finally, how much would it cost to cruise on that ship.

With all that out the way, the next question is “when” do you pay? In order to get the process started, you have to leave a deposit. The next question you have to ask is, ‘Do I pay it off and get it out the way or wait until closer to sailing?’

Maybe, Maybe Not

There’s a sound philosophy that says if you have the money, pay for it. In other words, if you planned on making a specific purchase and you have the money to do it, why drag it out. And that makes sense. The advantage of doing this when booking a cruise is that everything is taken care of and you just have to wait for the calendar to flip to your sailing date.

But there is a very good reason not to pay off your cruise early.

Assuming you booked your cruise a year out, there is the possibility that the closer you get to your cruise, the price may drop. That’s right, cruise ships run a lot like hotels. Supply and demand. If there’s more supply than demand, the price will go down.

This is why some people wait until a couple of months to a week before sailing to see if they can get “a deal”. And sometimes, they can. Especially if the sailing dates are during off-peak times. 

And it’s also the reason why you shouldn’t pay for your cruise in full early.

If you pay off your cruise early, if prices drop, you will have paid a higher price for your vacation. Now, it is possible to cash in on the lower price. But it requires canceling and rebooking at the lower price. 

There’s a catch, though.

There’s no guarantee the cruise line will give you the lower rate. And even if they do, there’s is a possibility that the room you booked in the perfect location might get snatched up during your rebooking. 

Now, there is the chance that the cruise line will issue you a room credit for the difference. But there’s no guarantee.

There are casinos onboard every cruise ship. If you’re into gambling, you can do it there. Rolling the dice on your vacation is probably not the way you want to gamble with your money.

Should You Wait?

That begs the question of whether you should just wait until the sailing date gets closer. As I said earlier, you can get some good deals on cruises if you wait until the last minute. Just like a hotel that expected to have a lot of people come to town for a major event, the cruise lines price their rooms the same way.

But just like a hotel, if the major event gets canceled, those hotels can’t justify charging what they would have if the event was still on. 

In the same way, if the cruise line has lots of rooms that haven’t been booked, they need to entice people to grab them. So they will lower the prices and perhaps even throw in some things for free. You might even be able to get a room upgrade because of the limited number of passengers.

Keep in mind, all these things are a roll of the dice; none are guaranteed. In fact, that sailing might get popular and the prices could go up. Even if the prices remain the same, your choices will be limited. The price might be low but the only rooms available might be inside cabins. And remember, everyone who booked early got to choose the rooms they wanted. So even if you get the category of room you want (inside, balcony, suite, etc), it may not be in a location that will be ideal.

The Case For Travel Agents

It’s for all these reasons using a travel agent is a good idea. You don’t have to pay a fee to use a travel agent. And they can work around the caveats listed above. 

Even more, the cruise lines will inform travel agents of specials they might be running to try to fill up those cabins. As such, trying to book yourself will result in not getting things a travel agent could supply. Like those freebies (free drink packages, free wifi, a night or two at a specialty restaurant, etc).

And if the price of your cruise does change, there’s a much stronger chance you’ll be able to get that adjustment if you used a travel agent.

The choice is yours. There are advantages to paying off your cruise early. There is an argument for waiting until the last minute. Whatever your decision, once you make your selection, make sure you have your documents in order. The last thing you want is to get to the ship and be denied access to the ship.

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