Curious how to get the best deal on your next cruise?

We’ve taken over forty cruises. As frequent cruisers, we often get asked for tips on getting the best price on a cruise. There are quite a few strategies, but in this short article I will give you a few of the most important ways I know to ensure that you get the best cruise deals.

🔖 Booking Direct with the Line or Through a Cruise Travel Agent?

When booking, you have two choices: book direct with the cruise line or book through a cruise travel agent. But which is better?

These days, whether you book directly with the cruise line or with your chosen travel agent, you will not find a difference (typically) in the price of the cruise.

There was a time when travel agents would discount the cruise fare by basically rebating back some of their commissions to you. While it can still be done, the cruise lines generally don’t allow it, and the agency could get into trouble. And the last thing you want is have your reservation caught in the middle of a dispute.

However, every travel agent can offer free onboard credit (OBC) if you book through them. And sometimes they have additional bulk deal arrangements that allow them to add special bonuses.

I can tell you that in virtually all of the bookings I make through either of my two preferred cruise travel agencies, I typically receive 10% and even up to 15% (on occasion) of my cruise fare in OBC, which I can then use for anything from internet, upgraded dining, spa services, shore excursions, shopping or beverage packages.

👩‍🦰 Finding a Cruise Travel Agent

If you prefer to work through a cruise travel agent, how do you find the agents willing to make your reservation and provide you with this substantial bonus?

Feel free to contact us directly and we’d be happy to make a personal introduction for you if you’re ready to consider booking with our agents. They’ve been fantastic.

It is best if you already have a good idea of what you want to book, since they are not making much money on you. For us, the value in using them is in the OBC; we do our own research and decide on a cruise or two before ever contacting them for pricing and any potential bonuses.

🥊 Let Them Fight it Out for Your Business

Another way to find a cruise travel agent is to go to CruiseCompete and submit your request there. Multiple cruise travel agents may bid on your potential booking. This is how I found my preferred agents.

I realize the website still looks like it is from 1999, but hey, you just want to use it to get the referrals and the discounts and not admire its aesthetics :-).

🛳️ Choosing a Cruise

Remember, you’ll get the best deal if you’re willing to do the preliminary research and figure out what you want.

How do you do that?

Check out our post on choosing a cruise to get familiar with the lines and the many available options.

Factors to consider:

  • Where you want to go
  • Which cruise lines you’d like to try
  • Which ships you are interested in checking out
  • Whether you’re a couple, a family, or extended family
  • How active you are
  • Your budget

Once you have a general idea where and when you want to cruise and which lines you want to try, I find these two websites great to scan for fantastic deals, perfect sail dates, and more:

*️⃣ CruiseWatch

A powerful cruise search engine, CruiseWatch can help you zero in on the right cruise and save you money.

*️⃣ CruisePlum

CruisePlum is another great way to find your next cruise with deal lists, price drops and a great search engine.

Cruises as Transportation: Repositioning Cruises

If you have the time and are interested in continuing your travels after the cruise, you should definitely consider a repositioning cruise – a cruise in which the embarkation and disembarkation ports are different. They are generally one-off, one-way itineraries designed to move the ship across an ocean or to a different homeport. You can find amazing deals on repo cruises, especially if you plan ahead. Check out our post on repositioning cruises to learn more.

📅 Book Your Next Cruise While Onboard the Last

Another great tip: once you fall in love with cruising and discover a line you really like, I suggest booking your next cruise(s) onboard the ship.

Why? Because they always toss in bonuses for booking onboard. I’ve received onboard credit ($200 – $500), free internet, upgraded beverage packages, free shore excursions, lower deposits, better terms, and more, just for booking onboard. Each ship has a Future Cruises desk and they even do presentations on upcoming cruises, so this is an awesome way to book at a great price and with bonuses.

➡️ Here’s the Best Part

And the great news? If you book onboard, you get all of the cruise line deals, and then you can attach your preferred travel agent to the booking and stack their bonus offers on top of what you get from the cruise line. Score!

💵 Watch Pricing After You’ve Booked

Cruise pricing changes all the time. Sometimes it goes up; sometimes it goes down. A final way to ensure that you are getting the absolute best deal on your cruise is to check the pricing periodically. If you see it go down, then contact your agent (or the cruise line if you booked direct) and they will either match it or give you additional OBC (as long as you haven’t made the final payment).

😍 Loyalty Programs

As you establish loyalty status with a cruise line, you will have access to more deals, better amenities, and other perks. Plus, once you’re booked, they will often offer stateroom upgrades, deals on beverage packages, and other perks. Make sure you get credit for the cruises you take, and as these add up and your status improves, more deals will be available to you.

👇 Follow Your Favorite Cruise Lines

All the cruise lines run promotions to their followers by email and on social media. Sign up on their websites and social media and you will see any promos that are offered. Check in on holidays and for shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well.

Conclusion: Cruise Deals

Although cruise pricing is the same whether you book with the cruise line or with a cruise travel agent, there are still ways to ensure that you get the best deal. Powerful online resources can assist with researching cruises, an agent can book it and throw in bonuses, and booking onboard can also set up future cruises at a great price.