17 Proven Ways to Save Money on Your Next Cruise

Considering a cruise but put off by the cost? Here are 17 top tips to help you score cheap cruise tickets and discounts.

Cruise liners have every amenity under the sun and take you between some of the most sought-after destinations on the planet! However, they’re not cheap.

According to US News, while many factors impact price, a seven-night cruise in the Western Mediterranean in June can set you back over $3,200 per person. And that’s only the base cost. Prices can skyrocket further when you add more perks and amenities.

Thankfully, if you know what you’re doing, there are many ways to save money on cruise tickets! Here are 17 ways to get the best possible deal.

1. Cruise In the Off-Season

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This rule applies to any type of travel, but it’s particularly true for cruises. Ticket prices skyrocket in peak season. So, if you’re looking for a bargain, don’t go when school’s out.

If you have the luxury of waiting until shoulder season, you can enjoy the same trip for a fraction of the cost and still experience enviable weather.

2. Skip Christmas and Summer

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This tip leads on from the last. Two specific times of year to avoid cruises are summer break and Christmas/New Year’s. The latter tends to be the most expensive time of year, but summer isn’t far behind.

Conversely, the periods right after these holidays can be the cheapest. It’s like a wave: Prices peak and then fall. Talking of fall, October is a great time to land cheap cruise tickets.

3. Don’t Wait Until Last Minute

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Logic would say the best time to land cheap cruise tickets is right before the ship departs. Surely the cruise line would drop its prices to fill up empty cabins rather than earn nothing from them?

Unfortunately, while you can sometimes find discounts before sailing, it’s not guaranteed to deliver the best possible price. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to book early. Furthermore, waiting too long means you’re less likely to get the room you want.

4. Older Ships Are Cheaper

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Newer ships offer the latest and greatest on-board amenities and entertainment. But they also charge premium prices.

The opposite is true for older cruise ships. While they’ll still be comfortable, they don’t have all the bells and whistles. However, that has a silver lining. It makes them less appealing to customers, which translates to lower prices.

5. Set Up a Fare Tracker

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Tracking cruise fares is one of the best ways to save money on tickets. It helps in two ways. First, tracking prices over the year will reveal the cheapest time to book. Second, you can track prices for the cruises you’ve already booked!

If you get an alert saying the fare dropped, you can then contact the cruise liner and ask them to match it. They may give you money back, upgrade your cabin, or offer on-board credit. Cruisewatch.com and Cruiseline.com are two sites where you can track prices.

6. Pick Less Popular Rooms

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Like any product, the twin forces of supply and demand dictate the price of cruise tickets. Anything with a limited supply that people want costs more. The result? Being content with slightly less ideal circumstances can save you money!

That’s why opting for less popular rooms makes sense. Rooms on lower decks tend to be cheaper. For obvious reasons, the same is true for rooms without windows.

7. Wait for Wave Season

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Remember how post-holiday periods can be great for discount cruises? The so-called wave season is the name given to the months from January through March. Industry-wide sales and promotions make it a great time to book.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find equivalent deals at other points in the year. Cruise lines run regular sales, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled at all times for the right bargain.

8. Be Flexible With Locations

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Ultimately, being flexible with your travel plans is the best way to get the best cruise deals. We’ve seen that with things like trip timings and the type of cabin you book already. But it also applies to location.

As you’d expect, certain destinations are more sought-after than others, making them more expensive. If you’re less bothered about where you go, you have the freedom to shop around and find locations with the cheapest cruises.

9. Be Flexible with Ports

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Another area where flexibility helps is your point of departure. Let’s say you’re in Florida. You’ll have several ports in reach, such as Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port Everglades. It makes sense to look for the one with the cheapest prices.

The same is true wherever you are. The closest, most convenient port might not be the best value for money. You may land a better deal if you’re willing to depart from further afield.

10. Shorten Your Trip

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The thought of going away for less time is unlikely to appeal! But it’s undoubtedly an effective way to save money on a cruise.

Longer cruises are always more expensive. So, if price is paramount, keep shorter ones in mind. You’ll find some killer deals, which might mean you can afford to go to the place you wanted, on the ship you wanted, and in your first-choice cabin.

11. Price Hunt

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This one goes without saying, but if you’re hunting for the cheapest possible cruise, checking prices on multiple websites makes sense.

You may be surprised at how similar they are, but it’s always worth looking into. Some third-party sites offer things like on-board credits as an incentive to book through them.

12. Book Far in Advance

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Booking your cruise as soon as tickets become available is another way to get a deal, especially if you plan on going during peak times.

Unlike waiting until the last minute, this helps you secure a place and get the room(s) you want. Moreover, prices usually increase as the ship fills up, meaning you can find relative bargains by buying super early.

13. Book Through a Travel Agent

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Booking through a travel agent might sound old-fashioned nowadays! But it a) is convenient and b) can make financial sense.

The relationships the agents have built with the cruise companies can get you better rates than the DIY route. They can also help if something goes wrong by acting as a liaison to the cruise liner.

14. Book a Repositioning Cruise

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Cruise ships have to sail between destinations in readiness for the coming season. This is called a repositioning cruise, and you can book tickets for them at discounted prices. They’re often less crowded, too.

The downside from a travel perspective is there may be fewer stops along the way. However, if you want the experience of a cruise and are searching for a bargain, it’s another excellent option.

15. Be Smart with On-Board Spending

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Let’s fast-forward and imagine that you’re now on the cruise. Being smart with your spending on board will help you offset the cost of the ticket. A few ways to save money include sticking to the free drinks instead of buying soda, avoiding the bar as much as possible, and steering clear of the fancy restaurants.

Likewise, check the rules first, but some cruise companies let you bring non-perishable food and drinks aboard. Stocking up at the store beforehand could be a financial lifeline on the cruise itself.  

16. Look for Free Extras

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As part of your pre-cruise price hunting, search for cruises with incentives, like all-inclusive offers. For instance, can you get a package with drinks and internet access thrown in? Or can you get free food and entertainment as part of the room rate?

Even if you pay extra when booking, it may still be cheaper than buying the base fare now and then everything else when you’re on board.

17. Join Cruise Loyalty Programs

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People who go on regular cruises and use the same cruise line should look into available loyalty programs. Of course, the more points you accrue, the more valuable perks you’ll receive! Yet even entry-level tiers can grant you access to exclusive offers.

As you progress up the ladder, you can expect everything from complimentary food and drinks to on-board discounts. At the very top tiers, you can even get free cruises.


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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.