Why You Should Book Your First (or 500th) Cruise Now
Whether you’ve been cruise-curious, but haven’t yet taken the plunge—or you’re a longtime veteran of the lido deck—now’s one of the best times to book a sailing. Wave Season 2019 (industry speak for deal season) has rolled in with not just the usual raft of savings, but with cruise lines picking up the tab for ever greater add-ons (hefty airfares, for example). For the quickest-ever immersion course, read on.
From January through March, the cruise industry is all about value. And while some lines do offer straight fare discounts, Wave Season deals more commonly come in the form of bonuses—anything from free WiFi to epic suite upgrades. Though you will have to buy during these three months, you won’t have to jump right on board: The sailings on offer now depart as late as early 2020.
If you are looking for discounts alone, be aware that they come in varying forms during Wave Season: You might find some sailings that are a certain percentage off, end of story. But because cruise prices are listed per person, you should also look for second-passenger discounts. That’s where you’ll often find the 50-60%-off deals, as long as your roomie’s paying full freight. And if you’re traveling alone, hey, no judgment. In fact, some lines even scrap their single supplements (the surcharge you often pay as a solo traveler) for Wave Season. One more place to look for discounts now? Recently launched ships (just be sure to select “past year” from the drop-down menu before you have Google search for them).
But if you aren’t actually saving on your fare, is booking now really such a deal? Depending on the kinds of things you like to do, yes. Like your cocktails? Drink packages—which you’d typically pay for (often dearly) a la carte—are common add-ons during Wave Season. Do you do most things for the ‘gram? Free WiFi is another common Wave Season perk. In fact, even staff tips—the logistics of which can be stressful even after a colada-filled week in the tropics—show up as add-ons now. And though all of the above varies by line, here’s a rule of thumb: The more expensive the cabin you choose, the more Wave Season bonuses you get.
Onboard credits—which basically work like a gift card that you use for shore excursions, drinks, and specialty meals (among other things)—are also plentiful in Wave Season. And with some lines going north of $500 with these offers, you might escape the dread bill of extras in the end.
While the big ocean lines have historically dominated the Wave Season deal-scape, many smaller luxury lines have started to go all-in. Of course, the base price will be higher here, but the extras can be extra sweet. Rather than saving on the likes of WiFi and drinks (which tend to be included in luxury cruise fares anyway), you’ll find major cabin upgrades and generous onboard credit.
But one of the best trends now is discounted airfare. More lines are offering it, and they’re upping the ante (we’ve seen $1,000 air credits this year). You can typically book directly through the cruise company, or get a credit towards booking your own flight. But veteran cruisers know there’s extra incentive to book through the cruise line: If your flight is delayed or cancelled, the ship’s got to wait for you—or the line has to cover your flight to the next port of call. If you book your own ticket, that’s all on you.
And with the river cruise scene expanding in general, so have its Wave Season deals—with top lines offering free or discounted international airfare, cabin upgrades and free trip tour extensions. And that last perk is a crowd favorite—because really, who’s ever raring to deactivate that OOO message as early as possible?
For 10 of the moment’s best cruise deals, check out the Travelzoo Wave Season collection.