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The best time to book cruises by day, month, and last-minute

In:
11 Dec 2023
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Experts will tell you the best time to book a cruise is as soon as you pick out the right ship and itinerary, but some people still wonder if they're better off waiting to book a cruise later to try to get a better deal.

Ship tendering

It's understandable why you might think there's a special or better time to book a cruise, because in other forms of travel there are inside scoops on when is the best time to book. 

The reality is a cruise ship is priced differently, and waiting to book is usually a mistake because of how the industry works.

While there are exceptions and times when a promotion seems lucrative, the best time to book a cruise is when you see a price that fits in your budget and and seems like a good price. If you think it's a good deal, go ahead and pull the trigger on booking it. There's no telling if or when the price may go down.

What is the best day to book a cruise?

Calendar

There are definitely better days of the week to book a flight, but that's not the case with cruises.

Royal Caribbean does offer "Going, Going, Gone" rates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they tend to be very limited offers on close-in sailings. If you're planning your family vacation, waiting for one of these to roll around isn't a great strategy.

Prices of a cruise can change by the minute, and there isn't any kind of pattern that favors one day over another. While the cruise line's internal pricing logic isn't publicly known, anecdotally, there isn't any reason a price would be less on a certain day.  When it's time to raise or lower the price, it happens in real-time.

Just to confirm this theory, I reached out to a travel agent to get a sense of their experience.  Considering how many cruises they book every day, I wanted to know if there was a better day of the week to book a cruise.

"There isn't a best day of the week to book a cruise, as prices change often," said Sharla Manglass, Travel Planner with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel.

"Some people seem to believe that waiting for Black Friday, WOW, or Kids Sail Free sales will be the best option for them."

What is the best month to book a cruise?

There isn't necessarily one month that's better than another, but cruise lines love to tie sales to major holidays.

The month of November stands out because it has two of the most well-known shopping holidays: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While these sales tend to favor retail sales more, the truth is cruise lines trot out special bonus incentives for those that book a cruise during these days.

In fact, cruise lines get into the "spirit" of Black Friday by starting sales a week or more in advance, so you'll have time in the second half of November to take advantage of the sales.

However, it's a mistake to wait to book a cruise until Black Friday. Instead, book the cruise now.

Odyssey of the Seas

Royal Caribbean allows price adjustments with no penalty until final payment date, so if you do notice a price drop when Black Friday rolls around, call Royal Caribbean or your travel agent to get the cruise fare adjustment.

Plus, you might find that Black Friday cruise deals are not very different from promotions you’ll see throughout the rest of the year. Unlike retail and technology stores, for example, cruise pricing does not drastically change on Black Friday. You might find that the Black Friday promotion is nearly the same as other promotions during the year.

What is the best time of year to book a cruise?

Skagway, Alaska, pier with Serenade of the Seas docked

If you had the inspiration to book a cruise, ideally it would be in the beginning of the year during Wave Season.

“Wave Season” is a cruise industry term for the time of year in which cruise lines tend to offer their best promotions. Wave season traditionally occurs between January and March. The name comes from the fact bookings in this period are what carry the cruise industry for the rest of the year.

Wave season promotions vary based on year, but you might see savings like 60% off a second guest and up to $150 onboard credit to use onboard. If you’re browsing Royal Caribbean’s website during wave season, you should take advantage of the offer to hopefully save some money and get onboard perks.

icon-sea-trial-official

The other really good time of year to book a cruise is when Royal Caribbean releases new itineraries.

Generally speaking, the best prices for a cruise are when a new sailing is put on sale and all the cabins are open to book. Inventory is at its highest, and prices only go up as rooms get booked.

Cruise itineraries are usually released around two years in advance. The first batch of new cruises go on sale around November and December, and the rest come out in February, March or April.

One way to stay informed about new cruise itineraries is by subscribing to Royal Caribbean’s marketing emails or following Royal Caribbean Blog.

Can I book a cruise at the last minute?

Navigator-Exterior-Cabo

Your best bet is to always book as far in advance as possible, you could try for a last-minute booking instead.

Truthfully, booking a cruise at the last minute is a crapshoot.  If there are any good deals, the choices are going to be limited in terms of dates, ships, and cabin choice.

Equally importantly, you'll have to pay the entire fare at once, because cruises booked less than 90 days before sailing require deposit and the full fare to be paid at the same time.

JS balcony

The bigger issue is there may simply not be a last-minute cruise deal to be had.  Cruise ships are sailing full, and people are booking cruises earlier and in more numbers than ever before. 

However, if you're very flexible with when and where you sail, there could be something out there if you keep your eyes out for price drops. If a cruise is past final payment date and not all rooms have been booked, Royal Caribbean may drop prices in order to encourage more passengers to book the cruise.

It helps a lot if you can drive to your cruise so that you don't have to then figure out last-minute airfare or hotels.

Should you book your next cruise on the ship?

NextCruise sign

Cruise lines offer additional incentives if you book another cruise once on their ship, but it's not always the best strategy.

If you're on a ship and are suddenly struck with the inspiration to book another cruise, yes, booking onboard is a good idea. You will receive up to $600 in onboard credit  and a lower deposit amount simply for booking a cruise on the ship.

That may sound like a great reason to wait to book onboard, but waiting to book a cruise until you get on a ship is a mistake. Even if you have a cruise coming up in a few weeks or months, it’s almost always better to book a future cruise you are interested in while at home now because the price could go up between now and your sailing, negating the advantage of booking on the ship.

How do I know if I'm getting a good deal when I book?


Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost experts on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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