I often see articles in the news with a focus on the best day to purchase an airline ticket. That led me to ponder, when is the best day to purchase a cruise? Cruise pricing is dynamic, and can change from day to day just like airlines. On the other hand, most people need to plan their vacations in advance which leads to a bit less flexibility when making decisions about purchasing a cruise vacation.
In general, I’ve had good luck following some rules of thumb. If I have visibility for my vacation plans far into the future, you can often find some reasonable pricing the moment an itinerary becomes available for sale. A good example of this would be my upcoming cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas. As a Diamond Plus member of Royal’s loyalty program, I had the ability to book the cruise I wanted before the itinerary became available to the general public. I forwarded a short list of desirable staterooms to my travel agent, booked that day, and got the exact room I wanted. New ships are usually in demand, and Quantum is not an exception. The price I confirmed our stateroom at has only gone up since we booked.
At the other end of the spectrum is having some flexibility and living within driving distance of a port. While I don’t consider 7.5 hours a short drive, it is doable, and that’s how far I live from Port Canaveral, an embarkation port for Carnival, Disney, NCL, and Royal Caribbean. Often, if a cruise is not filling at a rate that the line desires, attractive pricing will become available after the final payment window – the date in which those who booked early have to make their last payment, and those who book closer-in must pay in full immediately. This is generally 60 to 75 days from departure. Travel agents who have been holding group bookings begin to release staterooms back into inventory that they haven’t sold during this timeframe as well. As you move even closer to sail date, within 30 days to 1 week out, really attractive pricing may appear. While I think the theory that cruise lines would rather give away the cabin and have a body on board to buy booze and gamble is overblown, there is a modicum of truth to it. The lines desire to sail full, and with that in mind, if there is unsold inventory in the days before a cruise, it will be priced to move. Here is where flexibility and living near a port can be key to saving a lot of money.
As to when is the best day of the week to buy a cruise, I’m not sure there is one. A lot of lines tend to email sale prices early to mid week, so there could be something there. I’ve personally seen prices rise on Mondays after being lower throughout a weekend, but that may have more to do with people thinking about vacation time over a weekend and closing the deal than anything else. In the end, the best price for a cruise is a state of mind. If you don’t have flexibility in scheduling vacation time, shop for what feels right for your budget, and go for it. Setting up a pricing alert on a service like cruisefish.net, which I’ve covered before, can be useful. As long as you are not beyond the final payment window, most lines will refund the difference in fare if the price of your cabin drops, but be mindful of specific terms and conditions of some fare sale offers which specifically restrict the best price to new bookings.
Enjoy your cruise!
-MJ, September 6, 2014