When is the Best Time to Cruise?

By ,   January 7, 2016 ,   Tips & Tricks

Here CruiseMapper answers the questions about when is the best time to cruise to Hawaii, Alaska, Europe, Caribbean, Canada New England, Australia?

The answer of this question depends on a lot of variables. Do you need scheduling around breaks at school or may be a holiday week is the best time for a cruise? Is your goal to escape cold winter at home or you're flexible and don't mind making tradeoffs in timing. Your answer will tell you which sailing season is the best bet for you. Most cruise regions feature high season - periods of peak demand, shoulder season - with moderate demand and low season - low demand. Not long ago, high season was when weather was best in a certain area.

Since more and more families choose cruising for a vacation, summer months have become the period with peak demand, regardless of the weather in the region or at home. Families need to book sailings during high season as early as possible. The reason is that some lines limit the number of kids per sailing, as well as each vessel has limited number of staterooms that accommodate three or more guests. Low and shoulder seasons bring the best bargain opportunities for year-round destinations which feature longer off season. The off season in places like Bermuda and Alaska where the sailing season is five or six months, is a matter of weeks in the end of season.

On the other hand, regions like Northern Europe and the Panama Canal, provide almost all sailings priced "in season". Low season in many areas has shrunk, thanks to the boom in homeports and new cruising destinations, the smart thinking of lines in repositioning their vessels to places where passengers want to sail, at the times they want. Read through the list of cruising regions with some variability in seasons, and learn about the tradeoffs and advantages for traveling within each of them. This way you will know your prferences and when is the best time to cruise.

when is the best time to cruise

When is the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska?

What/when is the best time to cruise to Alaska - the time-money question, with a ship-fun-sun flavor. It totally depends on YOUR business schedule, YOUR family vacation ideas, YOUR "fun" predilections, YOUR age/energy. Another "best time" factors are YOUR money, of course, and often - your very own "best for Alaska" cruise line and ship preferences.

Alaskan travel months for money people

The largest, strangest, and the most unique of all the United states, Alaska is a territory of over 660,000 ml2 (over 1,700,000 km2), with population density of 1 person per sq-mi, and offering unique, and almost out-of-this-world experiences, mesmerising scenery, amazing wildlife and unpredictable weather that could be very extreme. Seasons change at different times in different regions, and the Alaskan temperatures range from 100F (38C) to -80F (-62C).

When is the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska

Alaska high/peak season is June-July-August. It's the best time to be there for FUN. The style is "Money's-Not-An-Issue", the season - the highest/worst prices.

  • Alaskan family deals must be booked at least half year in advance (though an year is preferable) - limited number of family cabins on ships (3+ passengers), and additionally, some operators limit the total number of kids per sailing.
  • An influx of people, visiting also for business (the seasonal fishing and construction industries).
  • The summer school-break time, warm temperatures for swimming
  • Months characteristics: warmest and the most expensive (July), rainiest (August). The best is June - the longest days of the year (June 21st has 20hrs of daylight), not all facilities/activities at Denali Park are open until late June. June is the worst if you don't like mosquitoes.
  • Bargains with lower prices available before June 15, and after August 15.

Best months for Alaskan "budget travel"

Alaska "shoulder" season is May and September. The style is "Me-Myself-and-Alaska" - reduced crowds, lowest prices, special rates. And if you're asking how to get the best Alaskan deals, the short answer is repositioning cruise ships to and from Alaska (RepositionCruises.com).

  • The lowest prices on Alaskan deals (most of the facilities stay open until Sept 15, excepting those in the Arctic).
  • The best Alaskan passenger ships operate Inside Passage trips well into October.
  • Short, but beautiful - the green of spring, and the red and gold of the September fall-foliage, more wildlife seeing (especially bears and moose), on Kenai Peninsula the Silver Salmon fishing is active until the end of the month.
  • Before May 15 most tourist facilities/activities are still closed (some don't open until the last Monday of May - the Memorial Day).
  • Risky, with unpredictable weather patterns (clouds, frequent rainstorms, cool weather). September is among the wettest months.

Cheapest-best months to go to Alaska (low and off season travel)

Low season Alaska ship travel deals for October-November-April. Best time to take a cruise and enjoy the last cheapest  ship relocation deals. Cheap Alaskan air and land packages are also offered, along with unending rains, snow and ice. Winter starts in November, April means ice melting and mud, no in-town activities, few visitors, many facilities are closed.

Alaska off-season travel (December through March) - best time to go if you don't like sea voyages at all, "Aurora-Borealis" style. It's the time of the Northern Lights nature phenomenon, the Alaskan best carnivals, best for sightseeing, less wildlife-viewing opportunities.

  • the lowest most cheap Alaskan hotel rates, reaching 50% discounts, and deluxe accommodations at budget prices.
  • late winter (Feb and Mar) is the peak of the Alaskan winter activities, like the "Fur Rendezvous" of Anchorage (late Feb), "Iditarod Sled Dog Race" (early Mar), Homer Salmon fishing, cross-country skiing, dog-sledging, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, and ice carving competitions.
  • some of the most famous Alaska-only events - "Arctic Man Ski & Sno-Go Classic" (April, near Summit Lake), "Tesoro Iron Dog Snowmobile Race" (February, over 3,200 km race, starting from Wasilla, near Anchorage), the "Tour of Anchorage" (the first Sunday in March, 50km ski race - similar ski marathons are organized also in Homer, Talkeetna, and Fairbanks).

Alaskan discount deals

Best deals to Alaska usually signifies cheap 7-day Alaskan itineraries with either discounted prices or value added (bonuses). Often operated as Alaska Fly-Cruise deals, the Alaska all-inclusive sea and land tours, besides the deluxe lodging and gourmet meals, also include the flights, all the transfers, and guided Alaskan land tours. The miraculous Alaska is a feast to the eyes, gorgeously beautiful, and charmingly pure, so whatever the money tells you, reward yourselves with the touch of this uniqueness - no matter the price, or because of it.

The best and the least advisable option are the last minute Alaskan deals. They are the most risky, since the Alaska destination is the second most attractive after the Caribbean, but opened for business for slightly over 4 months a year, with almost 2 million tourists tightly packed in the span. Cheap to affordable Alaska land and sea packages are offered with the following options:

  • Early Saver discounts of up to 40% with early booking (at least 6 months). For the family package deals, booking a year in advance is mostly recommended, due to the limited number of family  cabins (3+ guests).
  • Up to 45% cheaper deals to Alaska in the side-seasons - the "Shoulder" (May and Sep), and the Low (Oct, Nov, and Apr). The Cheapest cheap Alaskan hotel rates - up to 50% discounts, and budget priced luxury accommodations.
  • The lines loyalty programs. The Past Guest recognition programs offer up to 25% discounts, special amenities and on-board events, and some even free cruise offers with a certain amount of points accumulated.
  • The most cheap passenger ships to Alaska  are big and mid-sized vessels. The passenger capacity of Alaskan ships can readily exceed 3,500 (guests only) - and that's for every 7-day sailing. Bigger crowd always means lower prices. These are mostly the Alaskan fleets of Celebrity (cheapest), Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and to a certain extent Disney and Princess.

Luxury Alaskan all-inclusive cruise vacation deals are offered by Regent, Crystal, Silversea, Oceania, as well as numerous smaller Alaskan lines, such as The Boat Company, Lindblad, UN-Cruise Adventures (remember American Safari and Innersea?), ACL (American Cruise Lines) and Hapag-Lloyd - among the very best. The cheapest deals on luxury voyages are the exclusive one way Alaska repositioning trips. They are operated only in late Spring and early Fall, when the luxury ships change their operational region (Caribbean, Australia, or Asia). As a rule, Gov taxes and port fees on Alaskan cruises are much higher in comparison to other destinations (~US$400 on a 7-day sailing).

High Season - from June through August. Temperatures are the warmest with highs between 50's-70's. The further into summer, the better are your chances to see wildlife on various expeditions. A downside is the strong demand, and you'll need to book months (or even a year) in advance to get the best packages. With so many vessels sailing to Alaska, expect a huge amount of congestion in ports. Minimize joining masses, and select a ship sailing off-schedule (Carnival Cruise Lines Tuesday and Holland America Wednesday departures, for example). Pricing advantage are the northbound glacier routes which tend to be cheaper. 

Low season - includes May and September. Smaller crowds, cheaper prices, however - weather gamble with highs between 50's-60's and possibility of snow. Sailings in May usually encounter less rain, and the scenery is so beautiful with much more snow-capped mountains. Voyages in September benefit from the souvenir bargains in the end of season and the possibility to catch the Northern Lights. There is greater chance for cancelling shore excursions, especially helicopter and boat tours. Due to snow, Denali National Park is usually closed in September.

Best time to cruise Australia

High Season includes the period from late November to March. More and more lines now bring their ships to Oz country, and offer cruises both within Australia region and as part of South Pacific larger voyages and world sailings. North America winter is summer in Australia - expect ideal temperate conditions in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide on western side, as well as sub-tropical climate in northeast Queensland region. This is typhoon season as well, which may affect a few ports of call (Cairns, Brisbane) and lead to rough waters. 

Low (Shoulder) Season is from May through September. The Australia climate varies widely, but winter temperatures are not extreme. Fewer crowds and good bargains, especially on Great Barrier Reef  voyages are available year-round. A downside is that expedition cruises and Tasmania sailings are often limited in June, July and August, which are the rainier months.

Best time to cruise to Bermuda

High Season includes the months between June and August. Choose from a wide variety of homeports on the East Coast and a wide selection of ships. Plus - perfect water temperatures for water sports. Kids can find new friends onboard during such family-friendly season, and those who crave for adult-oriented cruises might want to select something different. 

Low (Shoulder) Season includes April, May, September and October. Those of you who hate humidity will love the breezy weather and mild temperatures. However, there are some weather trends you should note: Bermuda doesn't have a month sieged by rain, but October tends to be the rainiest. Hurricane season affects the island once a year (at least), between the end of August and October. A Bermuda cruise can easily turn into Canada, New England or Bahamas jaunt as a substitute. If you insist on visiting Bermuda, May is the best bet for travelling shoulder-season.

Best time to cruise Canada and New England

High Season here is in September and October with pretty high prices on land and sea during New England autumn, with leaves at various color stages plus cooler temperatures, nice for strolling about in the port cities. Most kids are back in school at this time of year, so you can enjoy a quieter cruise. Have in mind, however that October cruises often feature quite chilly temperatures, especially in the farther north. Low (Shoulder) Season comprises the period from May through August. The excellent weather during summer makes touring Canadian towns really nice. Highs are in the low 70's, (50's in fall). It's the best time for water sports as well, as the temperatures are warm in and out of the water. Holland America and Carnival are good bets for such off-season sailings.

Best time to cruise Caribbean

When is the best time to cruise Caribbean Sea and its charmingly beautiful islands? The best time for Caribbean cruise time-and-money question relates to:

  • when the seasonal discounts happen for all the cheap prices on ships and cheap rates on the best Caribbean hotels and resorts
  • when the no-school-time frenzy happens - kids, lots of kids!
  • the Caribbean weather - the "hurricane discounts" time
  • and the "almost affordable" Caribbean cruise travel deals during the Holidays.

Best time to cruise Caribbean - children/kids-free, weather/hurricanes

Choosing the best time to go to Caribbean for FUN depends mostly on your definition of fun, and whether or not you have/like kids. The cheapest tickets to Caribbean are usually attainable with "kids-free deals" (for the school months), and by avoiding weekend and holiday sailings.

Best Time to Cruise Caribbean Islands

The best time of year to Caribbean with children is during June-July-August. So, you may refer to all the other months as "best time Caribbean kids-free deals". As a rule, the Caribbean peak summer provides the most FUN voyages, the worst prices, all the children of USA, and the best ship cabins are in expensive categories (the rest being occupied). The peak-summer storm-season is totally not the best time to cruise Caribbean by a sailboat.

If you can afford the luxury of a flexible schedule, the best time is whenever last minute deals are available. Late deals are the best option for a cheap sea travel vacation year-round. "Last Minute" is generally defined as "more casual" and risky, but extremely well paying off - only if you are willing to take a gamble with the whole trip. The "formal" way to get the most cheap Caribbean deals is by early booking - at least a few months, and preferably - an year in advance.

While the best time to Eastern Caribbean is winter, the best time to Western Caribbean is considered spring-mid May, and fall - less crowded resorts, perfect weather for the best snorkeling at Cozumel, and "modest" temperatures for the whole Caribbean Mexico Riviera Maya region.

Best time for Caribbean cruise - ship repositioning/low-season travel discounts

The best time of year to cruise Caribbean on longer and adventurous vacations presents itself with the repositioning cruise deals in late April/ early May, and mid September/ early October. Such offers are the best option for a cheap Transatlantic ship travel to/from Europe. With few ports of call (lots of sea days) and low-season discounted rates, these special voyages may last up to 2-weeks. As far as the Caribbean is concerned, your possible itinerary will include either Transatlantic or Panama Canal crossing, or one-way cruise to/from South America with calling on Caribbean ports. Keep in mind, that most of the island resorts close down in late September and all of October for refurbishments and renovations.

The best time for Caribbean best cheap prices guaranteed is the early booking time. The best cabins on ships, often with free cabin upgrades, significant on-board credits, bonus amenities, and even free shore excursions are generally offered with early booking (you may consider purchasing a vacation insurance for more distant dates). Hugely discounted rates are also attainable with the lines' loyalty programs, and various not-advertised promotions (age-related and residence-based benefits, big organizations member discounts for military, police, fire, unions, etc). Most of the websites offer really great deals, but lack the personalized attention, so at least for your first sea ship vacation, use the services of a good travel agent. And don't hesitate to ask about available discounts and promos!

The best time for your Caribbean Sea vacation is YOUR choice exclusively - the whole region has an year-round tropical climate, with its "lowest" temperatures between 70 and 90 F (21 to 32 C) during winter. With its year long water temperatures at around 80 F (27 C), the Caribbean is more than perfect for swimming and sea-kayaking, and for the best snorkeling and scuba experiences with the world's best coral reefs. The Caribbean Sea boasts more than 7,000 most beautiful islands and cays, among which is the best USA autonomous territory - Puerto Rico. A feature "homeland" sea vacation destination, its capital San Juan is one of the largest Caribbean cities, and the most popular Southern Caribbean cruise port of call.

Best time to cruise Caribbean - cheapest months for discounts & special/low prices on all-inclusive packages

The best time to Caribbean with the cheapest rates is between Labor Day (the September's 1st Monday) and Thanksgiving (the November's 4th Thursday in USA, and the October's 2nd Monday in Canada). Another best deals option for Caribbean is traveling between Thanksgiving and Christmas (during these periods, Disney parks are less crowded, as well). And by all means, if money really is an issue, avoid Thanksgiving and Christmas sailings - they are both the most crowded and the most expensive of all.

The best time for the Caribbean discounts and specially cheap cruise prices is the "Hurricane Season" (Jun 1st to Nov 30th). It's also the best time for Caribbean shore excursions - if you prefer the "thrill" over the "eternal life" (just kidding). But still, these are the wettest months, with the lowest low rates being for Aug and Sep - the storms-peak, with heavy, warm, and quick passing tropical rains. As to the hurricanes, the modern big passenger ships are safe enough - with top-notch navigation and communication systems, enabling them to avoid this particular Nature phenomenon. Still, to keep the risk at bay, and YOUR money safe - purchasing a travel insurance is recommended ($150 covers about $5,000).

The best months to cruise to Bahamas are between December and March. Some of the cheapest Caribbean all-inclusive deals are offered right after the winter holiday season - in January and February. Besides, namely winter is the best time of year for  a Caribbean Sea vacation - more visitors from colder climates, the same regularity of sailings, fewer mosquitoes and kids (I mean, they're at school, the kids). The most affordable packages to Caribbean are for the Winter "Off" Season (excluding the Holidays and the Spring Break) - from early November through mid May.

High Season is from late June through August and also includes Christmas and New Year's week, and the period between February and mid-April. Two main groups of tourists sail in the peak season - the families with kids off from school and the northerners who seek for a break from cold. Holidays are the best time to sail with children. Kids' programs are available even on cruise lines that don't cater to children. Prices are higher, and especially after you add the delays of winter flights, can be much time-consuming. However, four-season Caribbean cruising from multiple homeports in Gulf Coast, Southeast, and Northeast, allow residents of these areas to save money by driving to the departure ports. Summer cruises season coincides with the hurricane season, though storms do not start to peak until mid-August. Spring break brings when thousands of people to Florida cruise ports and resorts, so think about booking airline tickets in advance, previously than your cruise, though prices can be high. Passengers who are looking for peace away from kids always avoid break weeks. 

Low Season includes late April and May plus the period from September to early January (excluding holidays). The best benefits are the smaller crowds and great weather, and usually you would pay hundreds less than you'd do at peak times. Fall is especially great time for last-minute bargains. Hurricanes are still a threat from June through November and if a storm is brewing in Florida, it can mean a change in call ports and a challenge to get to embarkation ports as ships alter courses to avoid the storm. However, your cruise may not be impacted, but get ready for rain and rough seas.

Best time for European river cruises

High Season is from April through October. The designed specially cruise barges and river ships offer unique port-intensive experience if you want to see more of Europe, especially in fall and spring. Spring means flowers' glorious bloom (the favorites are Tulip Time spring cruises visiting Belgium and the Netherlands). Keep in mind that can make rivers swell and locks impassable. When boats can't move, passengers are taken by motorcoach to the sights. Some cruises tailor itineries to families, so don't expect many kids there even during summer. 

Low Season includes March, late November and December. Most European river ships do not offer cruises during January and February as they operate seasonally. Cruise itineraries don't depend on weather conditions, so March sailings mean you can enjoy the cathedrals, castles, and little shops without the usual summer crowds. Viking Cruises and Avalon Waterways offer pre-Christmas shopping cruisetours to Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe. Weather can be cold, but for Christmas-lovers it is the best way to experience seasonal markets' charm along the riverside.

Best time to cruise Hawaii

"Winter" in Hawaii is really a misnomer. When the northern United States are blanketed in snow, Hawaii temperature remains balmy 80 degrees. During December, January and February, the seas can be a little rough, especially if your voyage starts in California. The lack of crowds, however, can more than make up for the inconvenience. Avoid the days between Christmas and New Year's, when many go on vacation. 

If you choose to visit Hawaii during the spring, you're more likely to join crowds on your cruise ship, but you'll have a bigger chance of spotting a whale. Humpbacks travel south from Alaska during March and April, to give birth in the warm waters of Hawaii. The Lei Day celebrations occur on May 1st. This day is famous for festivals on every island, celebrating the native culture. When booking a spring cruise, better avoid the weeks when all colleges are on break.

During summer Hawaii is packed with tourists. It can get very hot during July and August. But if you have kids in school or your job allows taking the summer off, these months are great to cruise to Hawaii. Keep in mind that the Pacific is great to cool off.

During autumn, Hawaii gets much rain, but it is often localized to some areas of the state. Hawaii is not like other tropical islands featuring monsoon winds and massive storms on a regular basis. Many consider fall the best time to cruise to Hawaii as summer crowds die down and fares are reasonable. 

Now that you know more about the best time to cruise to Hawaii, it's up to you to choose the best time to cruise to Hawaii for you. There are many cruise companies that will take you there, including Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

High Season is from late December through April. Winter months, and especially Christmas holidays season, are the most popular time to visit Hawaii. Air fares are the most expensive then if you decide to fly to Honolulu. Though temperatures usually remain warm, it's the rainiest time between December and March. A wide selection of vessels is available in early spring - the best time for whale-watching. Summer is popular for general Hawaii travel because it is family season, but NCL is the only line that offers voyages at that time - Norwegian is the only one to offer Hawaii cruises year-round. Consider a summer cruise, but note that August is sometimes humid and hot, with rough seas. 

Low (Shoulder) Season comprises May, June and the period from September through mid-December. Less-crowded vessels (kids are in school) and great weather are often found on such late-spring voyages. Hurricanes may affect the islands - they come closer in September, and bring humid, hot weather. They can welcome storms leading to rough seas. Good deals are available between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Late September and October also see a wide selection of ships visiting the Hawaii islands, as vessels tack on such cruises after the end of Alaska season, before transitting to the next seasonal home port.

Best time to cruise Mediterranean

High Season comprises the period between May and September. Both American and European families flock to the summer sailings, especially in August. The higher prices (both airfares and cruises), bigger crowds, and steamy temperatures may sap your energy for sightseeing. Most of the of Europeans also go on holiday in August, and you may find some restaurants closed. September is increasingly popular to cruise western Mediterranean, as you can avoid school kids but still enjoy mild weather. 

Low (Shoulder) Season is from October through April. Late fall and early spring sailings offer an advantage of fewer crowd in port and competitive fares. The weather is usually mild (though often rainy in March and November ). A few vessels remain year-round in the region. Look for low fares and cruises to warmer Mediterranean regions, such as Morocco, Spain, the Canary Islands.

Best time to cruise to Mexico

High Season in the Mexican Riviera includes Holiday weeks and time from February to mid-April. Break weeks and holiday sailings continue to be those with highest demand with families. The weather is dry, and temperatures are in the 70's-80's, which makes it popular escape for northerners; February and March are the best months for whale-watching. A negative tendency is that college-aged youths take port destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada at this time, creating a boisterous atmosphere. Summer season is the most popular travel time, especially for families. However, it offers less choice as most lines reposition ships to Alaska. 

Low (Shoulder) Season includes early January, May, October and November. In fall the atmosphere is more adult-oriented, along with cruise options' variety. January and May dates are good value with fewer kids and small crowds, since school's back after holiday and spring breaks. The downsides are the unpredictable weather, ranging from humid and hot to chilly, with temperatures into the 40's and 50's.

Best time to cruise Northern Europe

High Season is from June through August. Northern Europe is most lovely during summer, with ports lining the Norway's fjords and Baltic Sea. Temperatures are tender and even sometimes steamy. Generally, the skies are sunny, and cities turn inside out. Real life is outdoors. Baltic summer cruises are often the most expensive cruises in Europe. 

Low (Shoulder) Season includes May and September. Sailing off season is great - kids are back in school, ports are not overcrowded, the weather (autumnal or spring-like) can be lovely. Temperatures may be more variable at those times, but fares are lower. Some lines, including Fred. Olsen and Hurtigruten, offer winter cruises - low season's epitome. While lines tout the Northern Lights display which is really spectacular, keep in mind that weather is unpredictable and can force you inside most of the time.

Best time to cruise South America

High Season is from November through March. The two South American primary cruising routes are the channel voyages between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, Chile and the steamy equatorial Amazon. High season is during South America summer, however prepare for varied climates changing rapidly. The warm temperatures (mid-70's) could quickly become rainy and windy low 40's. When in Buenos Aires it's steamy, in ports like Ushuaia and Punta Arenas it can be quite chilly. At this time you may choose from a wide selection of itineraries. However, cruise vessels fill up pretty quickly with South Americans who enjoy vacation. Also expect crowds over Easter, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Carnival Week. However, try to find bargains in the weeks after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. In the Galapagos Islands high season is year-round - the tropical and warm climate is quite unchanging. 

Low (Shoulder) Season includes April and October. It's better to avoid crowds, so prefer traveling in shoulder months, when weather is mild and the competition for tourist attractions is not so huge. Cruising waters in Galapagos can get choppy (not appealing for passengers prone to sea sickness) in August and September.

Best time to cruise South Pacific Islands

High Season is from May through October and in South Pacific occurs during winter months when the weather is favorable, rainss less frequently, the possibility of tropical cyclones is reduced though the strongest winds kick up usually at this time.The dry season of the region is at the same time as the school summer holidays and the wedding season, which makes cruises popular with just married couples and American and European families on prolonged vacations. 

Low (Shoulder) Season is from November through April - this is South Pacific summer, the wettest time of the year, when rain, humidity and temperatures increase. However, fares are significantly lower, but temperatures of water are still great for swimming. March and April nowadays tend to get less rain than earlier in summer season.

Wave Season Cruise Deals

Wave season originated from the recognition that a big percentage of travelers book their cruises in the early months of year. To benefit from such a "cruise-booking state of mind", cruise travel agents and cruise lines offer extra incentives, ordinarily including reduced cruise fares and free perks in the hopes that such promotions will be the final urge travelers need to book these cruise vacations.

How to get the best Wave Season deals?

Wave season cruise deals are for cruisers who want value for money - an upgrade to a better cabin or free onboard credit for spa indulgencies. Fares are usually discounted, but don't hit rock-bottom at the time. Wave season is not the only way to get cruise promotions. If you dream of a dirt-cheap fare (one of those less-than-$79.99-per-night sales) you'd better wait for a last-minute deal. 

If you have been observing cruise pricing, you may have noticed that sales like "choose-your-own-bonus" appear year-round from lines like Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America. The sale periods occur in regular intervals, but may be advertised more during holiday seasons. The difference between such deals and wave season offers is that wave season cruise deals typically include a longer booking window and the most bonuses.

3 Tips to Find the Best Wave Deals

  1. Figure out the rough cost of your voyage. To know if you are getting a good deal, you have to know first what the average fare you would normally pay is. Do research on typical prices for the itinerary you wish to book. Remember that a 14-night Mediterranean sailing will have a higher base price than a 7-night Caribbean trip. And don't just think about fares. If you are curious about free upgrades, you'll have to know the price differential between oceanview and balcony staterooms. If it's the onboard credit you are interested in, try to figure out how much you might spend on drinks, excursions or spa treatments. If you're hoping to get free airfare, look up the price of airfare between your hometown and the homeport city.
  2. Read the fine print to evaluate the sales. Be active as you look for sales through your favorite travel agency or the cruise lines. Read the fine print because the perk or discount being advertised may not apply to the specific cabin category or itinerary you are interested in. Remember to check expiration dates. Some cruise lines give only a couple of weeks to take advantage of the wave season offers, while others give a few months. These easy steps will let you evaluate how good this year's promotions are. A good tip is to compare cruise line promotional fares with the same cruises sold through a travel agent. Often, agencies boast with additional incentives above the offers of the cruise lines. One cruise line, for example, might offer free airfare and 2-for-1 cruise fares on select Europe voyages. But another might pamper with perks like a welcome bottle of Champagne, onboard credit, spa and shore excursion credits. Just call and ask in case you don't see any promoted discounts. Agencies may sometimes offer better prices and perks than those listed in promotional materials or on their websites.
  3. Compare the offers. Now that you've got all the needed information, compare cost benefits. Would you choose one agent's cruise fare discount or another's onboard credit? Is the free upgrade on one cruise line more expensive than a regular balcony room on another? Are the wave season deals good enough to make you book now, or do you need prices to fall further before you make a deposit? If your numbers work out, you've made an informed decision: time to book now!

Wave Season cruise promotions

Company Promotion Details
Azamara Club Cruises
  • "More to Love" promotion - 3 inclusive packages of up to $3,220 pp for 2016 and 2017 if booked through February 29.
  • The "Like" package, included in every Azamara cruise experience, comprises a wine and cheese platter, premium beverage package, shore excursion credit and free Internet.
  • If you pay an additional $600 for "Adore" package, you receive all "Like" amenities, plus a dinner at the chef's table, top-shelf beverage package and spa treatment.
  • The "Love" package will cost you $1,400 but you'll receive all above, plus the experience "Nights in Private Places", including a private dining experience, personal butler and outdoor accommodations under the stars.
Carnival Cruise Line
  • Get up to 20% off fares, reduced deposits and free price protection on select sailings through April 2018 if booked in January. With its Carnivaldays promotion, Carnival offers "new deals for the new year, all month long".
  • Each week the company promotes a new deal, with everything from free upgrades and onboard credit offers to 20% off cruise fares. The promotion offers a variety of itineraries and dates at more affordable fares.
Celebrity Cruises
  • Receive 2 free perks on almost any voyage with the "Best Offer Ever," for savings of up to $2,150, if booked through January 31.
  • Choose from $300 onboard credit, free prepaid gratuities, a classic beverage package for two and unlimited Internet when you book an ocean-view or higher cabin grade. Itineraries include Hawaii, the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Australia.
Crystal Cruises
  • Get 2-for-1 luxury cruise prices from $1,845 if booked through February 29. During January and February, with "Crystal Exclusive Journeys" promotion, travelers can save up to $5,435 per person.
  • If you are interested in exploring Australasia, cruising the Northwest or visiting Antarctica, this is a great opportunity to book.
  • Cunard's "Ultimate Upgrade" promotion offers free drinks, free gratuities and free upgrades on select 2016 voyages for Grill Suite bookings through February 29.
  • This deal is best for travelers looking to book a transatlantic cruise or luxury itineraries with added perks in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Iberia and the Canary Islands, Canada and New England.
Holland America
  • Take advantage of up to 10% off shore excursions, cruise savings up to 25% and free cabin upgrades, when you book with the "View & Verandah" promotion through February 29, or discounted shore trips through March 15.
  • Holland America Line is known for its around-the-world itineraries.
MSC Cruises
  • 2-for-1 balcony rates on select 7- or 10-night Caribbean voyages departing during the period April 23, 2016-March 25, 2017 if booked through February 28. On select voyages, kids 12 years and younger sail free.
  • If you're looking for a cheap warm-weather cruise from Miami, this is the opportunity to capitalize on low fares during peak times. 
Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Choose from 4 free offers on select 2016 and 2017 cruises, including free specialty dining, unlimited beverages, free Wi-Fi and shore excursions if booked through April 10.
  • Receive all 4 offers when you book any Suite or Haven cabin. 3rd and 4th passengers sail free on select voyages. "Free At Sea," the Norwegian's rebranded deal, is applicable to the newest ship of the line, Norwegian Escape and if you're looking for a new ship with some added benefits, that's the deal for you.
Oceania Cruises
  • Earn free perks with Oceania's "OLife Choice" promotion and reach a total bonus of up to $20,200 if booked through March 31. The line offers free perks on over 260 itineraries.
  • Enjoy free, unlimited Internet, and choose from three other offers, including an onboard credit, free beverage package and free shore excursions. Cruises include South America and the Amazon, Asia, Africa, Australia New Zealand, and range from 1 week to 90 days.
Princess Cruises
  • Save up to $1,000 per stateroom, and receive up to $600 OBC with the "Twice as Nice" sale if booked through February 29. Princess Cruises fares start from $549 per person.
  • The best part about the deal is that all stateroom categories qualify for onboard credit: interior and ocean-view receive up to $300 per stateroom; balcony, mini-suite and suite bookings receive up to $600 per stateroom.
  • An added bonus is that the third and fourth guests sail from $199 per person.
Royal Caribbean
  • "BOGO Further" promotes up to $300 onboard credit and buy-1-get-1 cruise fares if booked through February 15. Select Greece and Italy sailings receive complimentary beverage packages for two. Royal Caribbean is taking advantage of wave season to promote another version of its popular, buy-1-get-1 sale.
  • The promotion is combinable with other onboard credit offers, as well as the select beverage one, for even greater perks.
  • Pay reduced deposits on 2016 and 2017 cruises, and get up to $1,000 OBC and complimentary veranda suite upgrades with "Signature Savings Event" if you book any voyage departing during the period May 1, 2016-April 30, 2017.
  • On select Europe sailings Seabourn offers $200 OBC per suite, as well as $1,000 OBC for premium and penthouse suites.
  • Receive up to $1,500 onboard credit and 10% off on select voyages if booked through February 29. Silversea is adding more amenities to its itineraries departing in October, November and December 2016.
  • Receive 10% off your cruise price when you book one of 35 sailings, including Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. New bookings also win up to $1,200 onboard credit. Venetian Society passengers receive full $1,500 onboard credit offered. 

Cruise lines also offer plenty of 3-day, value-added and last-minute sales throughout the year, so you'll easily find great deals. However, unlike wave season, you won't know when such sales are coming.