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Savings strategy: Book now for the best deal on a summer cruise

SmarterTravel

Ah, September. The kids are back in school, the weather is turning cooler, and our thoughts turn naturally to … summer cruises. Well, perhaps you need a little prodding to think about next year’s vacation so far in advance. If so, you should know that September and October are the prime months to book a summer cruise.

Why book now?

Summer sailings—those popular cruises between mid-may and the end of August—sell out farther in advance than many people realize. “Most summer cruises are booked in the fall, around September and October,” says Jan Swartz, senior vice president of customer service and sales for Princess Cruises. You’ll need to book at this time if you want your pick of sailing dates, itineraries, cabins, or dinner seatings.

Your window of opportunity is quite short. Most cabin categories sell out during Wave Season, an intense booking period that occurs between January and March. “By this time, the great majority of the balcony cabins are gone,” says Swartz. “After this, there could be some berths available on a sailing, but the selection has narrowed primarily to inside cabins.” She suggests that cruisers book eight to 12 months in advance to lock in their first-choice accommodations.

Does this advice surprise you? Just remember that many families can only take vacations during school breaks, and that summer-only cruise destinations, such as Alaska and Europe, are the most sought-after itineraries. You’re certainly not alone in your desire for a summer getaway at sea. By booking early, you have your pick of cabins and itineraries; book late, and the selections will be picked over.

Savings strategy

You don’t need to wait for a last-minute sale to get a good deal on a cruise. July and August are the peak months for summer cruises, and therefore prices are higher due to increased demand. If you’re looking to save a few dollars, you should book May or September sailings, which tend to be cheaper, even this far in advance. If you do want to wait, Swartz says that you could get lucky and save a little money on an overlooked inside cabin. But if you’re picky about where and when you go, plan this fall to book next summer’s cruise.

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