If you want to trade white snow for white sand this Christmas and bundle up in a beach towel instead of a parka when you go out for New Year’s, look into a holiday sailing from your favorite cruise line. Booking early can save you money, and saving money around the holidays is something worth celebrating.
One of the most popular times of year to cruise is around the holidays. There are many perks such as decorations, parties, special menus, and the opportunity to relax in the sun, away from the hustle and bustle of the season. However, holiday cruises come with a higher price tag than sailings during the rest of the year.
Since holiday cruise prices tend to creep continually up as the sail date approaches, the best way to snag a bargain is to book early. It may seem premature to be planning winter cruises now, but in doing so you can ensure a reduced fare and you’ll be more likely to successfully book the itinerary and the stateroom that you want. Although you can book as soon as the brochure comes out, early fall is potentially the best time to book, as there’s still enough time to take advantage of early booking savings, and it’s also when cruise lines start promoting those sailings with special discounts.
We’ve found some cruise lines with discounts for early booking and a hefty dose of the holiday spirit:
Carnival dresses up its ships for the holidays and offers caroling; visits from Santa; special menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s; and a New Year’s Eve party.
Carnival offers 21 cruises with dates that include either Christmas or New Year’s in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and along the Mexican Riviera. Cruises range in length from three to eight days, and different departure dates are available. Early booking prices in mid-summer started at $399 per person for a three-day cruise, $449 per person for a four-day cruise, $549 per person for a five-day cruise, or $649 per person for a seven-day cruise.
These fares will likely rise as the dates approach, and it’s good to consider that some of the brochure rates are almost double the best price you can get by booking early.
For more information, visit Carnival’s website and choose the month of December and your desired area in the “Quick Pricing” box on the right.
Holland America offers seven- to 16-day holiday cruises in the Caribbean. The best fares are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis when you book early. The line offers trimmed trees, decorated ships, holiday drinks, and special menus. You can even order a miniature tree for your stateroom. With 17 different shore excursions and the chance for a reggae Christmas Eve in Montego Bay, there are many different ways to tailor a holiday cruise to your preferences.
Holland America offers seven-day Thanksgiving cruises from $699 per person. The line also offers a wider variety of December holiday cruises. Choose from 14 different Christmas and New Year’s cruises, which vary in length from seven to 16 days and offer different itineraries in the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Prices for inside staterooms start at $799 per person when you book early, but can cost as much as $1,789 if you wait. Prices for outside staterooms start at $889 but can rise as high as $2,199, depending on how long you wait to book.
To find out about the specific holiday cruises, visit the Holland America website and click on a specific sailing date.
Cunard, too, offers a ship in the holiday spirit with decorations and formal Christmas and New Year’s parties. A 15-day Christmas Caribbean cruise aboard the QE2 is currently available from $2,939 per person. With a brochure price of $5,339 per person, the reduction is significant, and may not last long.
To find out more about the QE2’s holiday cruise, visit Cunard’s website.
Crystal Cruises offers two 14-day holiday cruises at discounted prices with advance booking fares. It too, decorates its ships; provides special holiday menus; and celebrates both Christmas and the New Year with parties and champagne, and of course, noisemakers on New Year’s. All cruises depart on December 22.
Choose different points of departure and sail in the Caribbean. The advance booking fare for an inside stateroom starts at $3,930 per person, that’s 40 percent less than the brochure fare. And those who have sailed at least once with Crystal are eligible to join the Crystal Society and save at least an additional $275 per person.
For information on Crystal’s holiday sailings, visit their website. Click on “Voyages” and then choose the month and sailing area.
Other cruise lines
Other cruise lines offer holiday sailings with early booking savings as well. Princess Cruises has many cruises in November and December to the Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, Polynesia, and Hawaii. Costa Cruises is offering free upgrades to balcony staterooms on some of its holiday cruises. Royal Caribbean has Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s cruises with prices starting at $599 per person for seven-day Thanksgiving cruises, or $669 per person for seven-day Christmas cruises.
Booking early is the best way to save money on these typically higher-priced voyages; but keep in mind that if you’re willing to gamble, some companies offer reduced rates at the last minute as well. The last-minute rates are only offered on ships that don’t sell out early, and not all cruise lines have them, so check with a travel agent or the cruise line for advice if you are thinking about waiting to buy your cruise.