Looking for the best deals on cruises? With a high demand for cruises once they resume and an overall increase in pricing, cruise passengers are looking for ways to continue to cruise affordably.
While there are many cruise travel hacks that still work, there are also specific things you can do to actually find those great deals and promotions this year.
In this post, I share 5 simple, but great ways to find the cruise deals, promotions and specials that aren’t highly publicized. This will give you the best chance of finding lower priced cruises, as well as cruises with extra perks which provide value in the form of on-board cash credits (OBC), free gratuities, beverage packages and more.
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5 Ways to Find the Best Cruise Deals and Promotions
1. Cruise line emails
Sign up for the email list of your favorite cruise lines. Cruise lines will email their newest promotions and may send promotion codes with a discount. These will not be seen elsewhere, and may even be only for certain passengers.
If you’re open to sailing with more than one cruise line, sign up for several.
Being flexible can open up more opportunities to take advantage of cruise deals and perks offered by various cruise lines.
By signing up for cruise line emails, you’ll also know about their promotions as soon, or even before they happen. For instance, you may be told about an upcoming perks promotion like free gratuities or a beverage package, a day or two before it happens.
You can also find some great last minute deals, which could be handy if you’re waiting to book a cruise for 2021 once cruises resume.
Cruise for less
One of the best resources I’ve seen, if you want to cruise for less, is course by my friend and fellow cruise blogger Emma. I have gone through the whole course and found the information invaluable. Yes, it will give you tips on saving money, but it actually gives you cruise advice that is often reserved for travel agents.
Check your cruise line’s past passenger program often for perks and promotions on new bookings.
Being a Princess Cruises Captain’s Circle member, Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor member or becoming a member of most other cruise line loyalty programs will earn you some perks. While the advantages grow the more you sail with the same cruise line, there can be booking discounts associated with your membership number, so it’s always worth checking.
In some cases, becoming a member of your cruise line’s loyalty program is automatic. However, other times you do need to actually join on the cruise line’s website. If you’ve been on a few cruises with a cruise line and are not enrolled, give their loyalty department a call and they can add your past cruises retroactively.
While cruise line promotions often targeted new cruisers in the past, things have changed. With new safety and health protocols and what will be a “new normal” as cruises resume, there is still strong demand from past cruisers.
Cruise lines have said that they know that past cruisers are most likely to cruise first. Therefore, they are creating brand new promotions that are particularly enticing to loyal cruisers, such as earning double points on bookings.
Important cruise tip: If you’re working with a travel agent and have a discount code from a cruise line email, let them know and they will be able to apply it.
3. Check online travel sites
Did you know that you will never pay less by booking directly with the cruise line. It’s actually cruise line policy and the arrangement they have with travel agents.
Large online travel agency sites like Expedia Cruises, Costco Travel, Vacations To Go and other websites will be running promotions as they partner with various cruise lines.
Popular online travel agencies have always had great deals on cruises. One of the ways that they can do this is by partnering with the cruise lines and offering specific promotions and extra amenities to their clients.
These extra bonuses could be extra on board cash credit (OBC), dining packages, or free gratuities, or even a bottle of wine. You might also find better prices than directly with cruise line.
Don’t forget to sign up for emails – as there may be offers there that you don’t see on the website.
4. Work with a travel agent
Individual travel agents from smaller agencies to larger companies can be a great asset as you’re planning your cruise. Travel agents are notified before new sales and promotions are coming out – however there’s more.
The fact is that a travel agent who’s experienced in selling cruises will know how to find the best deals. Plus, they’ll also be able to counsel you on the best cruise and value for your vacation preferences. If you’re new to cruising this is most important.
If your cruise was canceled, travel agents also can help you navigate how to redeem your Future Cruise Credits and the best way to stretch those dollars.
But, guess what? Both large and smaller travel agencies have a bit of a secret up their sleeve. As prices have gone up with the cruise line for 2021 and beyond, travel agents just may have access to lower prices, and some bargains!
How? You may ask…
Travel agencies with high volume actually reserve blocks of cabins a year and more ahead of the cruise. Online travel sites and individual agencies do this regularly.
Basically, when cruise lines release their new itineraries, agencies choose what they think will likely be popular cruises, and they hold several cabins as a “group”.
They may hold some inside cabins, oceanview cabins, balcony cabins and suites. They may or may not be holding cabins for three and four passengers. If you’re planning a cruise with kids, you may want to deal with a cruise consultant that often books family cruises.
When a group is held by the travel agency, the cruise fare is locked in from the time of early booking. So as prices go up by the cruise line, which happens, the agency continues to have cabins at that lower early price.
This is why both cruise booking websites and independent travel agents that specialize in cruise travel may have cruise prices that are hundreds of dollars less than the cruise line.
5. Online website vs local travel agency
If you do choose to use a travel agent, you might wonder if it’s better to use an online agency or an individual or local travel agent?
No matter who you choose to work with, it’s important that your travel agent has experience specifically with cruises and is knowledgeable. Cruise travel agents are often passionate cruisers themselves.
Both large online websites and smaller travel agencies have their merits.
Sometimes a local agent may be even be part of a larger company, which can give you both individual attention and have access to promotions, specials and even deals that that may not be advertised. Personally, I like this best!
If you prefer to do the research yourself and know what you want, using an online travel website might work well for you. If you’d like more guidance then you want to speak with a dedicated cruise travel consultant.
Do cruise travel agents cost extra?
Most of the time, travel agents do not have an extra charge to book cruises. This is because the commission for the cruise is payed to the travel agent by the cruise line. When booking, do inquire if there are service fees or any other additional costs to their services.
Looking to save more on your next cruise vacation? Read these posts next:
Final thoughts: How to Get the Best Deals, Specials and Promotions on a Cruise in 2021-22
After almost a year of a cruise shutdown, cruise passengers are looking forward to cruising again in 2021 and 2022. These tips and tricks are simple, but will help you find the best deals and promotions and save money on your next cruise.
Have you seen any deals not found anywhere else either with a cruise line, the loyalty program or through a travel agent? Please let me know your best tips for finding the best cruises at the best price in the comments below.
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