Planning a cruise requires a lot of decision making. Some things come down to preference, but if you're looking for the cheapest time of the year to cruise Alaska or the Caribbean we can help. After analyzing thousands of price points across the year, we go over the most economical and most expensive times to sail, as well as why the time of year matters.
Link Related to This Episode
One planning a cruise there are many things to consider including which cruise line you'll sail where you'll visit and even what fancy socks you're going to pack for formal night some decisions are amatter of preference others are based on constraints like price and schedule that's why we're covering the best time to cruise on this episode of the cruise habit podcast.
You have to set sail on the cruise have a point cast and it will be a voyage through the will of ship's pullets and beyond welcome a boat a question we run across almost every single day on theinternet machines has to do with the best time to cruise people ask that they want to they want to book something they ask what is the best time well what does that mean really so we shouldprobably start out by defining that and it doesn't mean that there is 11 definition for the best time but for the purpose of this conversation and based on why most people ask me or the way that whatmost people are trying to figure out when they ask that question we're going to be talking one primarily about cost so best time being the least expensive time or the most economical time. But thisrelates to a variety of options and because this question's frequently asked by people who are reasonably new to cruising and because most of you listening are in North America we're going tomostly talk about the Caribbean though I will mention that a couple points how this relates to Alaska and the to actually kind of connect in their pricing funny enough we're also going to be talking forthat same reason about mostly pricing that has to with contemporary lines and to a degree premium lines what I mean contemporary lines I mean like Norwegian cruise line Carnival cruises andCoco Cay premium lines being Holland America princess and celebrity there are others nor always clear lines we talk about this in in the 1st time section of Cruise have a dot com There's anarticle all about choosing the best cruise line for you and in there we explain the difference between those different types of cruise lines so we'll put a link to that in the show notes you can check thatout but the reason again that we're talking mostly about contemporary and somewhat premium lines here. It is not just because that's where a lot of people start out in their cruising career but also asyou move up market the rules change a lot because the ships move around more you don't see you know OK well for this 6 month period this ship is in this part of the world you don't see that asmuch so what are we going to cover Well we're going to talk about the best times to to book for the sake of pricing but also the most expensive time so maybe you know you don't have the option ofgoing when things are absolutely the best deal or maybe that's not critically important to you but you still perhaps one of void the most expensive times to cruise will also talk about why these highsand lows happen I think that that can help in understanding the industry if that's something you're interested in how these ships move around and how pricing happens but also. And so that you canapply this knowledge on in different ways different scales different cruise lines even even if you're listening to this episode in the future I may not like your in the future I mean I mean like when thisEpisodes 2 years old you know what I mean so if perhaps things change a little bit you can still understand how this tends to apply Now on to the part that you actually tuned in for maybe an hour andwe'll talk about the dates right so we'll go in chronological order here and I want to start just by saying as a blanket statement January through the beginning of March can be a fantasticallyeconomical time to cruise the Caribbean and there are reasons for this for one a lot of people just took their winter holidays whether weather on a cruise or not you know kids are off school inDecember a lot of people have some days off or may take you know an entire part of the month off so a lot of people are already going on vacation visiting family or cruising during that time soJanuary for most of us that's the time to get back to work and get back to school whether you like it or not.
In addition Well I would say along with that spring break hasn't started yet so you know it's funny winter break ends and I have and having not been in school for a long time I tend to forget what abreak ends but spring break really isn't that far around the corner unless of course your student sitting in a class from January 4th and then you're probably thinking what are you talking about Billy.
It seems like forever I get that fair fair enough.
Within this January through beginning of March period remember there is Presidents' Day and while often holidays mean higher pricing Presidents' Day can be one of the more reasonable longweekends you will find and we for this for this recording we looked at a lot of pricing data I made all sorts of charts I crashed Excel like 1000 times and if any of my were pretty broad put it in the shownotes but I'm not that good at that but you will see some spike so while January through beginning of March is can be an inexpensive time to go and President's Day can be one of the moreeconomical long weekends you will still see that a shorter sailing where the focus is that Monday that many people have off could be a little bit higher than the surrounding dates but it can still be areasonable time to go
once you get into like the 2nd week of March that's when you start to see prices really go up in the Caribbean because of spring break. This is obviously going to be more true in the contemporarypart of the market then premium lines just because spring breakers generally speaking we're talking about you know high school college and you know so families in college and they're more likely tocruise on lines like Norwegian Caribbean or Norwegian carnival her Coco Cay Scuse me.
After that 1st part of the year then we get into you know the Spring Break peak and the next time that it gets to be that would that we really see some consistently low consistent pricing I should say isactually summertime and Summertime is really the most expensive time of the year to cruise the Caribbean and that can seem funny if you haven't if you haven't looked at why a lot of these thingshappen it's like well Billie when I think of summertime I think of beach vacations so why would it be more expensive Well there's 2 reasons one a lot of people are thinking beach vacations so supplyand demand you know it's a real high demand and coupled with that is low supply.
Why is it low supply Well a lot of the ships that cruise the Caribbean for a lot of the or their home port and let's say Port Miami or Port Everglades and they actually leave to go sail in Europe or Alaskaduring the summer months because you can't.
You can't sail Alaska in the winter obviously and the med tends to be more popular summer weather is nicer in the summer it's not really convenient winter time crews so you run into this school's outpeople are thinking that it's it's summertime time to do beach things everyone wants to do it and not nearly as many ships if you watch our broadcast on periscope which have been a little problematiclately because of some Internet connectivity issues but if you watch those you can check out crews have a dot com slash periscope to find out how we will often during the summertime we'll go outthere and on a Saturday or Sunday there are one or 2 ships leaving but then you look at other times of year and maybe there are 7 ships leaving even 8 ships leaving from Port Everglades thedifference a little more extreme Port Everglades and Port Miami just the way that ships are deployed but you get the idea there are just fewer ships cruising the Caribbean during the summertime andthat really drives prices up. For Alaska.
You know that's the only time as I mentioned they really cancel so at the beginning usually around May which in South Florida we think of that is like summer because once you get to May It's it's hotand it's going to be hot for a while so as a South Florida person you'll pardon my lack of sense of seasons here.
In May we see the beginning of all the Alaska cruise season and the edge of Alaska cruise season can be a great time if you're looking for a deal in sailing Alaska now some people will respond tothat and say well the weather can be kind of unpredictable or lousy in Alaska that time of year and my response to that is yeah it can but from what I've experienced and from from what I'veresearched of the weather in that part of Alaska it's kind of like the weather in South Florida in that there are some trends but really it's unpredictable and anything could happen. Anecdotally I've beento Alaska in May It was absolutely lovely I'm sure there are plenty of people that had lousy weather but I think you could probably find that many times of the year you can also find repositioningsailings as ships are leaving South Florida to head to Alaska they're going to do a Panama Canal sailing those are usually expensive for a few reasons but then they'll often stop in off in Californiaeither San Francisco or San Diego and then sail up maybe they'll stop in Oregon maybe not know they'll head up the coast before starting Alaska those repositioning is can be a great deal as well wedid one of those and for him San Francisco stopped in Oregon went up through Alaska and Canada and in Vancouver was fantastic with a whole article about what repositioning is are why they canbe a good deal we'll put that in the show notes as well. Do keep in mind whether you're talking Alaska or the Caribbean or Europe or anywhere else.
Any cruise line specially those that cater to. North Americans or Americans in particular Memorial Day is probably going to be higher than surrounding sailings you're already taking a peak seasonand you're taking a big vacation holiday so keep that in mind going to be more expensive we definitely see some spikes there
as you get toward the.
Further along in the summer you get to the August and the beginning of September things get cheaper again why well kids just went back to school so much like the reasons that we saw in for lowerprices in January everyone already did their holidays now kids are back in school not as many families taking off especially sometimes depending on the cruise line the year little bit of luck you'll you'lleven see a slightly be better set of prices in October you can see a little bit of a dip there it just depends something to keep in mind September is also the end of Alaska season so everything that Isaid just a minute ago about cruising Alaska in May and edge she's in the same type of things apply weather patterns can be different in different wildlife you'll see one time of the universe the otherbut same overwrite overall idea including those repositioning sailings but that are now coming south from Alaska from Vancouver from Seattle now to November and December. Are probably some ofthe your 2 of the stranger months to in terms of pricing there's just a lot of fluctuation but there can be some really good deals within that fluctuation.
Part of the fluctuation exists because different schools have different schedules stuff like that did the timing of different holidays once we get into December but one thing that I like to point out in youmay have heard me talk about this before is that Thanksgiving if you're looking to take a family vacation or vacate maybe it's just you if you're looking to take a vacation and use as little vacation timeas possible Thanksgiving can be a good time because while there are certainly less expensive times to cruise out of any time that you're going to likely have a couple days off already from work orschool as the case maybe Thanksgiving is is really the most economical period of time like that.
And I want to get into a 2nd about when to book and the short answer is as far as possible that in mind I've actually booked last minute on some sailings many i Book far ahead Thanksgiving I oftensee some dips I'm not telling you to wait until last minute book ahead of time but it's just something I've noticed with Thanksgiving sailings outside of thanksgiving for November and December.Obviously the holidays are our expensive Christmas and New Year's Eve sailings those are probably the highest peaks not even probably looking at the charts I made those are the highest peaks inpricing that you see consistent across pretty much every cruise line every part of the world even. You know and lines that cater to mostly European audiences South Americans New Year's Eve andChristmas that's an expensive time to cruise keep in mind I've done one Christmas cruise haven't done a New Year's Eve one I'm sure it's a great time and maybe that's what you're looking for maybethat's the time you have just know you're definitely going to be paying a premium around then but if you're saying you know what I want to cruise November December I hear it's expensive look at theexact sailings because maybe not it just depends early December especially 10 can offer some really great deals some of the lowest that we see all year in fact and what's nice about early Decemberis flights tend to be more reasonable than 2 because I talked about how much I like cruising over Thanksgiving done a number of times. We did let's see last year we did the Symphony of the Seaswith the Blog dot com group cruise that was also a year before that we sailed on America's New Amsterdam you can check out that live blog in the show notes that's really great for me and for thoseof us who drive to the port because we have to fly flights around holidays in the wintertime a really really expensive however that 1st part of December you see some low cruise fares in the Caribbeanand airfares are not nearly as on reasonable as other times that part of the year other dates that part of the year so that that's a strong consideration if you're looking for.
End of your cruise.
Also you should keep in mind that when looking at sailing is just on each side of Christmas and New Year's Eve sailings even the you know it's a calendar so we're background even into Januaryyou'll know you may notice some weird anomalies Let's say you know you're looking at a ship that generally sails 7 night sailings But just before and or after those 2 winter holiday holidays you maysee that they're doing a 6 night or 5 night or whatever the case may be and that's because they may want to be at sea on New Year's Eve And you know that they don't want to actually back that upyou probably don't want to disembark on New Years right you have a lot of tired of people just not making off the ship there's a lot of reasons that just seems like a bad idea plus people people wouldwant that they want to be out you know whether it's import or at sea on New Year's Eve Not at the embarkation porter to some park Asian port so for that reason some ships that sail regular 7 night or$59.00 combos or whatever the case may be they may change it up so you can see some unusually time sailings on either side which may offer some some good deals in and of themselves. So thatcovers the calendar year and and listen there are going to be exceptions to everything I said they're going to be weird outliers I'll get e-mails about some ridiculously inexpensive Christmas cruise orsome absurdly expensive cruise you know that leaves on January 5th I'm sure they're out there I know they're out there I can see the spikes but we're just talking about guidelines here if you want tomake it easier to find sailings that work for you whether that has to do with the lowest price or the most visits to countries that contain the letter Q I don't know any and whatever your criteria I alwaysrecommend using a good travel agent emphasis on good travel agent or people who use a travel agent once wasn't a good experience Well don't use them again and when we go into that the 1sttime or series I'll put a link in the show notes to an article all about where I sing the praises of using a good travel agent there can be financial value to that but it also just can save you a whole lot oftime and energy it's not it's not a matter of oh but it's so easy to use the cruise line websites great yeah it's easy for me too it's even easier for me to send a text message and have it taken care ofthat way have somebody that knows my preferences can give me good advice so check that out if you've not read that article before.
So yeah we covered the calendar talked about the fact that there are exceptions now there's another element to best time to cruise and that's when people say well when should i Book and if you talkabout when should you actually pick up the phone send an e-mail gone to a website and actually book the cruise the answer to that is as I mentioned earlier as far in advance as possible.
People tell me all the time oh it must be great living in south Florida it is because you can book all these last minute deals isn't really cheap don't cruise lines give you really great Leitz rates when youbook at the last minute well sure if they have a ton of space. Then yeah because they don't want to sail empty however some lines Coco Cay notably in the last several years they don't want todrop too low because they don't want to devalue their product which I get. There are still some good deals to be had last minute sometimes the overwhelming majority of cruises sail full and theybook long in advance even if they don't book 100 percent say well I'm looking there are a lot of cruises with space in the next several weeks
to probably a couple cabins in each category and as that happens the prices will keep going up as a ship fills the prices go up so what you will sometimes see is one of his final payment datedepending on the length of the cruise the cruise on stuff like that that could be 60 days out 90 days out 120 days out whatever the case maybe you will sometimes see a dip in the price don't let thatfool you though just because it's cheaper after final payment then it was 3 weeks before final payment doesn't mean that that cost isn't a lot higher than it was let's say 18 months ago or 24 monthsago when that itinerary 1st came out when you could 1st book that online through a travel agent whatever the case may be so.
It's still overall best to book as far out as possible the other reason that you want to do that is simply that. Maybe you you are so sure that you can get a good deal if you just wait but you know youonly have this one week to take vacation and maybe you're even willing to make the fight and make a little bit of fine and take a little bit of financial risk use me.
But you only have this one week it has to be this week this ship Well what happens if it fills up.
Well you're outta luck so Book early especially if you have your heart set on something last minute sailings when when there is crazy space and when you do get those rare really good deals that canbe great if you have that flexibility in general book Far out I think I said that enough that I say that enough I said enough all right.
What happens though if you book far out and you see the price drop well this can depend on what country you're in the cruise line and the type of ferry booked if you are in the US Canada andAustralia or Australia.
Then there's a good chance that if it's before final payment you can simply get the difference back however you gotta look you have to look at the entirety of the cruise fare you know if you drop 200dollars but you're giving up $400.00 on board credit well is that a better deal probably not. Yes you do have to keep that in mind different cruise lines have different policies and you know if you havecertain types of fares there or it may be easier or harder now more and more cruise lines have these best rate guarantees but there is a lot of fine print I'm glad they do it but there's a lot of fine printin there so lot of variables if a price drops after the final payment date then at that point you're probably probably not getting money back however maybe you booked an ocean view and now theprice of brand is the same or just a couple more you may be able to do something there talk to your travel agent we've got a whole article on price drops that we will link in the show notes as well inaddition episode 15 actually the very last episode we did of the cruise have a podcast was about the way the D.S. all these fairs work with nonrefundable rates and and different promotions and thatcan relate to this as well so you may want to check out episode episode 15 of the cruise habit podcast.
Now I want to take some time to read some e-mails on the last episode I asked you what lines you cruise what lines you'd like to cruise why and I got some great responses so 1st e-mail comes fromG.J. Marmet I'm not sure how that was posed come together I do me a favor when you when you do write in make sure you include your name so I can thank you for writing in.
G J Marmont whoever that is sorry writes Hey Billy I really enjoy your podcast it is thoughtful and does not appear to be a hype show for any particular line you know because I can't I can't choosefavorites. G.J. I love all of them and my family has sailed on Oasis class and Voyager class with my wife and I are excited about the edge virgin and M.S.C. me to they all of exciting new ships andexperiences were booked for a Med cruise on Crystal this year so we're getting off Coco Cay at least one soon but have 2 big 2 more big ships booked as a cold Wisconsinite I'm alwaysconscious of the lack of Midwestern Cruise perspectives most podcasts are rightfully from frequent travelers with easy access looking for a new ship information on Caribbean itineraries and I reallythink you do a great job of looking across the lines Thanks for all the great work Well 1st thank you for writing 2nd I'm sorry that my very next podcast after you wrote in was largely about occur incontemporary lines so ill timed on my part but yes thank you I appreciate it I love feedback I love knowing I love hearing what people like what people want to hear more of and I'll tell you I'm veryjealous hearing me sailing on Crystal I would love to to get a full review from you whether that's I don't know send me another email maybe will maybe have you on the podcast or you can just write itup by even if it's just private I want to hear your thoughts because Crystal is a very cool cruise line and the mad is beautiful so thanks for writing it. It's a great point on the perspectives as far as youknow from non cruisers maybe we can work on doing something about that including perhaps a review of your crystal sailing I think that's a great idea it would be interesting to think of or to to learnhow others who can't cruise often who have more steps you know in terms of more frequently dealing with airfare and hotels and stuff like that how they think about things so that's a good idea Iappreciate it.
The next e-mail comes from I believe it's probably Crystal I have Chris tall so I keep wanting to rejoin in that way I apologize. Crystal Hi Billy I have been on 5 cruises one princess almost 20 yearsago and the past 4 on Royal I have to roll cruises booked this year in one celebrity that I will likely have to reschedule potentially one more royal I'm ready to branch out to other less flashy cruiselines I love traveling America canard and Viking I have 10 year old sons we need some activity so need some activities but she's not an adrenaline junkie she'll love America's Test Kitchen on HollandAmerica Line once she's out on her own and I hope to try to see one or Virgin if they do longer cruises but not itching to go I'd love to hear about some more lines then Carnival Princess Royal inNorwegian gets repetitive I like the did a number of episodes on edge and look forward to hearing something about Holland America Me Maybe even some info on canard happy sailing Crystal to addin say Crystal very proud of myself so thank you for the email crystal. Lot to unpack there 20 years since you sell princess 1st I read that and I thought wow.
I did I love your perspective you sail princess again just to hear what it's like I mean every cruise line has changed so much over over the last 20 years that that would that would be cool to hear butsounds like you've got a number of cruise lined up none none princess right now I did like the termes less flashy lines. That's great you know so much of the big 3 will say N.C.L. Carnival and worldCaribbean there there's a lot of flashiness and that's not a bad thing I actually think some of it looks really cool M.S.E. is well some of the looks amazing but that's not always what you're looking foryou know different depending on your preference and just the type of vacation you want I think that's a neat way of putting that and there's a lot kind of built into that.
So your 10 year old daughter and I may have some things in common you such none adrenaline junkie angel of America's Test Kitchen I did not say all hell in America when I was 10 but I felt a lot ofdifferent cruise lines when I was 10 and I think I probably would have loved Holland America and America's Test Kitchen I don't cook much when I do it's very very simple I'd the main thing I make fordinners reservations but I did love America's Test Kitchen partially because I'm kind of an N.P.R. junkie but I thought it was on the ship really cool and I look forward to seeing more stuff like that onHelen American and another line because cooking demos can be neat but America's Test Kitchen it was you know kind of the science and some tricks behind it really cool enjoyed that a lot hope ofhope your daughter gets to enjoy that some time upmarket lines like see we're definitely do longer sailings you asked about that in fact they primarily do longer sailings some ones like Oceana upuntil very recently only did 10 nights above now there are some 700 Caribbean things like that but yes as you go out market generally longer sailing Coco Cay will see if they end up with longersailings because right now they only have limited I 10 or ease out and just for one ship where they're brand new There's a new kid on the block people probably aren't going to commit to a really longcruise with a cruise line that has never sailed before so so we'll see as they as they announce more itineraries on more ships across their fleet it'll be neat to see I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin cameout with some longer itineraries in time we are booked on Coco Cay September of 2020 we're really excited about that you can check out everything we know about Coco Cay on episode. Idon't have that in front of me with the crew 7th cast a couple episodes ago we talked about Coco Cay check that out it's really cool to see a new cruise line get birthed lastly Chris Lee said youwanted to hear more about how in America I'm so glad that you said that because in about 2 weeks we're going to be sailing on her own home in America's new start and down their newest ship shejust started feeling the very end of December she's the 2nd pinnacle class ship a little bit different from her sister ship coming Sam So stay tuned we'll have Coco Cay live broadcast will do a podcastrecap photos all sorts of stuff from America's new start and look forward to that and we are planning on a canard sailing in the future have been on canard a while would love to do that and would loveto bring that to all of you so thank you again for all of your comments questions Crystal appreciate it last one is going to read actually some excerpts from this this is from Kurt and Kurt wrote in himand I am kind of back and forth that's why I just took a couple parts out of a couple of Kurt's emails initially any idea how much air fare through the cruise line Coco Cay might be to Barcelona.So unfortunately I can't answer that question directly just because there are so many variables so so so many variables you know where you're coming from the time of your luck airfare pricing isbananas right.
But I will mention that booking air through Cruise Lines is something that I wanted to Scott's at length at some point on this show the short answer is that sometimes it cost last and other times it cancost more compared to booking airfare on your own so always check because you never know if you're going to get a good deal plus people talk all the time about the benefit of booking shoreexcursions through the cruise line but rarely do they talk about air which comes with kind of some of the same benefits and that you know if your flight's delayed or something happens they're goingto make sure that you're taken care of and if you're going to spend money on a hotel to fly in a day 2 days early Whatever the case may be so that you knew you were going to be able to get on theship well even if the air fare through the cruise line cost you just a little bit more you can kind of avoid that because you know you're getting on the ship if you if you book air through them so it'ssomething to consider some lines include transfers again will probably dedicate an episode to that in the future but I definitely recommend checking out the price and there are 2 other. Excerpt thatwe took from his email here another idea is more detail in options about what to do in port like multiple activity level options also how does the port feel safe very comfortable or hectic and watch yourwallet I'm very glad to hear you mention that occurred as a suggestion for future episodes one of our very 1st episodes which will link in the show notes was about Coco Cay that was a fun one to talkabout us is kind of a unique point for a lot of reasons but I enjoy talking about us. We have an upcoming up so that I was actually hoping to have released already I haven't things you're busy Iapologize will get there on a very very popular report and I will say it is important that if you're listening this pod cast needs taken a cruise it is the most likely port for you to have visited here at out butyeah we're going have a special guest on for that episode and and if feedbacks good then yeah we'll keep doing more destination podcasts I like that idea
next Amber writes Hi guys love the pond cast you to crack me up and make my work day bearable Thanks for all the work you put into it thank you Amber for writing in let us know if you need us towrite a note to your boss explaining why your workday giggling leads to more time off requests common question we get come to us will be glad to to write that out on a cruise have a prescriptionpad.
Also ever put another note in just for Rick with some information which I'm going to pass along to recoup who we can get him back on the mike soon but Yes Thank you Amber for writing in and forsing your praises I appreciate it. If any of you have any questions or comments suggestions anything at all for us do me a favor e-mail pod cast at cruise had it dot com and we'll see if we can get to iton a future episode that's pod cast at cruise habit dot com Another awesome way that some of you have commented on the show is in reviews so I want to reach out and thank meadow falls B.Carney and speed noodles we're glad you like our podcast those reviews were left on the on i Tunes slash Apple podcasts not even sure where the line of demarcation is anymore there if you takethe time to leave a serve you will take the time to thank you so I appreciate it the 3 of you and everyone else that we've mentioned before who's left a Review thank you so much however you arelistening to our podcast do us a favor and search crews have it in i Tunes or Apple pod cast and leave us a review there that would be really fantastic it helps get the word out the last thing I will ask isthat if you enjoy our podcast articles videos broadcasts.
I don't know crews have a brand doilies that's not a thing but you know who knows what the future holds maybe you find the content helpful for vacation planning maybe you just like laughing at theweird things that that I say sometimes. Whatever the case if you enjoy it share the content with somebody else who will appreciate it knowing that you enjoy Cruise habit enough to share our contentwith others really honestly means the world to us I appreciate it it helps get the word out but also it shows just how much you guys appreciate it and ultimately you know what it leads to it leads tomore people writing in asking questions that I love helping answer I enjoy reading and informs what we talk about write about and share with you in the future we've got a lot of cool stuff coming up infact as I record this tomorrow we've got something coming up that haven't even announced yet but you'll see it I know you will so be sure to follow along on cruise habit. Subscribe to the crews havea podcast if you don't already where ever you get your podcast whether that's on Apple podcast Spotify stitcher we're on all the things with Google podcast we're everywhere I appreciate it make sureyou subscribe check out crews have a dot com right to his podcast agrees Abbott dot com and leave us a review on Apple podcast or i Tunes appreciate it have a wonderful rest of your day and we'lllook forward to talking shop with you again real soon.
Hi This is Crystal from cold but sunny Chicago and life coaching for gifted dot com A friend of Cruz have dot com Follow Chris Heben on Twitter Instagram and Facebook subscribe to the crews havea podcast on i Tunes Google Play over ever you enjoy your pod cast and please do leave them review search crews have it on the periscope app to join the broadcast from ship and shore they'd loveto talk ship with you real soon take care.