Check These Discounts Before Booking Your Next Cruise
Never, ever book a cruise online at face value without checking these major deals first.
Cruising is one of the best budget-friendly ways to travel since your lodging, transportation and meals are already combined into one fare, but savvy cruisers know when and where to book for even lower fares on sailings. Here are our top tips and tricks for scoring a stateroom for less plus all the discounts available to cruisers that most cruise lines offer...but don't display on their websites.
Save During Wave Season
The early bird catches the worm and that's true for booking cruises. You can score great rates by booking nine months to a year in advance, however, it's not the only way to save. Procrastinators: Wave Season is for you. The shopping blitz takes place in January and February to push last-minute bookings for Winter Break, Spring Break and early summer travel. And the deals, oh the deals! You can find everything from discounted staterooms to onboard credits such as free drink packages. Norwegian has some insane deals on Caribbean itineraries for early March and late February. (AKA right now!) But if you need more time to plan, Royal Caribbean and their luxury brand Celebrity Cruises have some serious savings on Alaskan cruises this Spring.
Expedia is a great place to search for discounted itineraries plus they get in on the action with their own Wave Season incentives. Right now, if you book a qualifying sailing with Expedia, you can score free $$$ to spend onboard, from spa services to pool drinks. The promo is a buy more, save more model with cruises $500-$999 earning a $50 credit, $1,000-$1,999 earning $100, $2,000-$2,999 earning $200, $3,000-$4,999 earning $300, $5,000-$9,999 earning $500 and cruises more than $10,000 earning $1,000. But this deal ends Feb. 29 so don't sleep on it!
Travel Deal Sites
Just like hotels, when cruise lines don't sell enough staterooms, they release discounted room bookings to travel sites such as Expedia. If you don't qualify for any of the discounts listed above, you can still score some crazy insane deals for cruises on Expedia. And this is the site to watch on shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The cool thing about booking through Expedia vs. booking on a cruise website is that you'll earn Expedia rewards points on the booking. And you can usually score a good deal on a hotel stay close to your cruise terminal if you're flying in from out of town.
Not to be outdone by their parent company, Expedia's site CheapTickets has started listing good cruise deals, too. And, unlike other travel sites, they offer a student discount on flights and hotels which comes in handy if you're traveling to a cruise terminal from out of town. All you have to do is plug in your school and ID number and once you're verified you can save up to 18 percent on flights and hotels.
And you might not think of Kayak as the first place to book a cruise, but the flights-focused brand has really stepped up their travel game covering hotels, cars and cruises. Just like their flight deals page, Kayak's search engine scans multiple travel booking sites and displays all the discounted cruise results in one place.
You can score a cheaper stateroom just by living in a particular state. Yes, really. If you live in a state with a major cruise terminal you may be eligible for a state resident discount. And even if you don't see the discount listed online, it's always a good idea to call and ask before booking. Carnival has been known to give discounts to cruisers in states in the Southeast as an incentive to travel to nearby terminals in New Orleans, Tampa and Miami. And Disney Cruise Line often slashes prices for Florida residents if cruising out of their Port Canaveral terminal.
Not all the good deals are in Florida, though! If you're a Canadian resident, you can score discounts, too. Disney Cruise Line is actually running a special for Canadian cruisers right now with 25 percent off select sailings. And if you've always wanted to do a bucket-list Alaskan cruise, you may be able to save, too. Vancouver has grown and become the gateway port to Southeastern Alaska over Seattle's port, so you may be able to score a Canadian resident discount on sailings out of Vancouver even though the cruise itinerary is based in the U.S.
One of the most common discounts in the cruise industry is for seniors, and the industry is pretty loose and liberal with their definition of a senior. 55+ is the standard age for senior discounts. You do not have to be officially retired for the discount. You just have to be 55 or older. If you don't see a checkbox or promo field when booking a cruise online, stop and call the cruise line to make sure you're getting that discount. And travel deal sites such as Expedia keep up with that senior discount, too, so you won't miss out on those savings if you choose to book a discounted sailing with them.
The second most common cruise discount is for military service members. And for most cruise lines, you don't have to be active in the military to access the promo. Veterans and retired personnel are eligible, too. Carnival has been known to offer free stateroom upgrades for military families in addition to promotions up to 35 percent off. And if you haven't heard about the site GovX, definitely register before booking a cruise. The site is exclusive to military members and features negotiated deals on travel that you can book through GovX as well as information on current travel deals for military on other sites.
Other Service Discounts
In addition to the military, some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, offer discounts for servicemen and women like police officers and first responders. GovX includes discounts for first responders and law enforcement, too.
There's one more discount that GovX offers on cruises, and even if you were already aware of GovX, you probably missed it. In addition to special rates for servicemen and women, GovX has partnered with several cruise lines to offer discounts for other government employees such as public school teachers and school personnel. And most discounts still apply if you're a retired teacher, too.
And the last "low-hanging fruit" discount you should always ask about when booking a cruise – even if you don't see it listed on the website – is that AAA discount. Several cruise lines such as Carnival will even honor the AAA discount on top of other discounts such as seniors and state residents. And that's not the only member-discount around. If you're a Costco member, you can find some amazing deals on sailings through Costco's travel website. Though most deals are usually for last-minute bookings, so you need to be flexible for those.