Advantages of Early Booking
If you have been cruising for a long time, you probably don’t need to read this article. You’ve been booking your cruises well in advance – most of the time – so chances are, you are not going to change. But come-lately cruisers or those new cruisers accustomed to all inclusive resort vacations may be in the habit of waiting for that “last minute” deal to come along. Who’s doing it the right way?
Well, it depends on your life style and cruise expectations, but here is my opinion as a long standing lover of cruising and having once been in the travel business. Personally, I love spontaneous travel – but never in cruising.
Last minute deals are wonderful but in this age many employers require holiday leave be requested well in advance, sometimes up to a year ahead! Risking your hard-earned vacation on finding just the right last minute cruise deal as vacation time looms on the horizon is risky. If you are one of the lucky ones that can pick up and leave for your holiday with little notice, maybe you will luck out. Or perhaps you are retired and have no obligations to keep you from buying your fare, packing your suitcase and going within weeks or days … but from my experience, older folks are a little more …particular, shall I say? When it comes to our vacations and money spent, we look for value versus the deal.
So why am I saying “particular”? Because a cruise line sale you are seeing advertised is either for one of 2 reasons usually – to kick start reservations on a new year of cruising itineraries ( these would be over a year out from sail date), or to sell any remaining stock on a sailing, that is the staterooms no one else wants. Maybe you don’t care if you have an obstructed view, or your room is miles from the elevator (a slight
exaggeration except when you are tired, hot and dirty from your daily adventures and just want to freshen up – maybe a nap – before dinner). Or when all you can get is a cabin on a high deck forward on an ocean ship (which does wonders – for diets!- if you suffer from sea sickness).
If you want a certain category of stateroom in a preferred area of a ship, book early to ensure you get what and where you want, even on the big ships. It’s absolutely critical on a river ship. Ocean going cruises have up to hundreds of staterooms while river cruises will have forty or less rooms usually. But don’t despair over the misconception of the last minute savings deal. If you reserve your cruise with a travel professional, he/she will monitor prices so if a reduction comes up later for which you are eligible, it is arranged you receive the better price.
Side or shore excursions may be an important part of your cruising holiday too. Some of the popular ones will sell out early because they have limited capacity. Again you are left to pick from the ones no one else wants.
Another solution that allows you to a) get what you want and B) save money, is to watch for exclusive agency offers on an itinerary you fancy. Some travel agencies block allotments of popular categories of staterooms as soon as a new season is released for sale on a cruise line: they are reserving prime rooms at special discounts off the lower launch pricing, or they may receive complimentary special amenities, or both. Cruise lines, as many travel vendors do, control pricing on the supply and demand principle. The closer to the sail date, the scarcer the quantity of the more popular rooms available, the higher the price goes. It is not uncommon to save over a thousand dollars per person by buying into one of these exclusive “groups” agencies put together. And guess what? That may be a thousand less than the cruise line concerned is selling a similar room for, same category! You can feel very smug.
So does the early bird get the worm in cruising? Definitely, yes ! Plus there are the added bonuses of the months of anticipation leading up to the cruise which can be a very enjoyable time itself; the time to leisurely arrange your affairs at home such as house sitters, kennels, even buying your “new “ cruise wardrobe; and the ability to pay for the cruise over a number of instalments instead of in full as would be required when you book within a few months of sail date.
Article written by D MacIntyre who will vacation on a moment’s notice when possible but likes to reserve her cruises at least 8-12 months ahead. Photos courtesy of bigstock.com.