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Get more bang for your buck with fall cruises

SmarterTravel

Cruisers, we’re just too impatient. As soon as school’s out and the weather gets hot, we’re racing out the door. We simply must board that cruise ship yesterday, and can barely make it to August for our vacation at sea. Many of us can’t even wait for summer’s official start, and are crowding ships in Europe in May and early June.

But what if I told you a little patience could translate into a lot of savings? Ah, I see you pausing on the gangway. Yes, it’s true, if you want the best deal on a cruise, you should sail in the fall. Here are a few reasons why.

Caribbean deals

The start of school and the end of hurricane season are a one-two punch to the Caribbean in the fall. Families try to take their vacations while the kids are on break, and couples with more flexible schedules often sail when there’s less chance of tropical storms. Because of these factors, fall cruises sell far more slowly than summer itineraries and routinely have last-minute availability.

What’s a smart cruise line to do? Discount the itineraries and lure travelers with cheap fares. When I checked, I found three- and four-night cruises in September starting at $199 on [% 11986 | | Carnival %], and seven-night fall cruises starting at $479 on [% 12025 | | Norwegian %] and $499 on [% 14460 | | Princess %]. All those prices are well under $100 a night, which means you’re getting accommodations, food, entertainment, and transportation for less than you’d pay for many land-based hotels.

If you’re still unsure about braving the storms, you can also find fall deals on the last Alaska sailings of the year, as well as on an occasional Europe cruise.

Repositioning cruises

Another way to stretch your cruise dollars is to book a [% 336191 | | repositioning sailing %]. These one-way cruises occur every fall when cruise ships leave their temporary homes in Alaska and Europe and head to warmer climes. These “repo cruises” are usually longer than a week and have more sea days than a regular cruise. They typically combine interesting ports and offer the unique experience of a transoceanic crossing.

Because repo sailings are unusual and don’t attract a lot of attention, they often have lower-than-normal per-night rates. For example, a 14-night transatlantic cruise on [% 14665 | | Celebrity %] that departs in early December costs $849 for an inside cabin. For $61 per night, you’ll visit ports in Morocco, the Canary Islands, and the Caribbean, while still having five sea days in a row for pure relaxation. You couldn’t book another type of trip to Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean for so little money.

Fall travel tips

Every time you cruise, you should take some precautions against cancellations or delays that could cause you to miss the ship. If you prefer to live on the edge, you might want to rethink your strategy when sailing in the autumn. Fall Caribbean cruises especially have a higher chance of problems due to storms.

An easy way to protect your vacation dollars is to buy travel insurance. Read the [% 1293297 | | fine print %] of the policies you’re considering to find one that reimburses you for trip cancellation due to weather or for a hotel stay and meals if cruise or airline delays strand you in port.

Another tip is to build in vacation time before and after your cruise in your embarkation city. A pre- or post-cruise stay gives you breathing room if your flight is delayed due to storms or if your cruise is late returning to port. If problems arise, you’ve got time to deal with them, and if all goes well, you’ll be able to explore a cool oceanside city.

What’s the best part about this advice? It doesn’t cost much to get travel insurance or book an extra night or two in a hotel. You can cover the costs with the money you’ll have saved by cruising in the fall, and if you’re especially thrifty, you may even have some cash left over.

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