I often book cruises a month or two before the sailing date. But there are some really good reasons for booking well before that, with one main reason that you should consider.

Last-minute cruises have their place as well, and for certain situations it’s the ideal way for whimsical travelers to grab a quick vacation at sea.  

However, to really maximize savings — and I mean savings potentially in the thousands of dollars— booking almost a year or more ahead of the cruise has a huge perk some people overlook.

Booking a cruise a year or more in advance has one major advantage. Photo credit: Cruise Fever

We recently ran a poll on our Facebook page, asking our readers how far in advance they like to book a cruise.

After over 1,200 responses, “6-12 months out” was the most common answer.  In fact, almost half of the poll voters (48%) selected this option.

31% said that booking 1 – 2 years before a cruise was right for them, with only 5% saying they typically booked less than 3 months before a cruise departed port.

Biggest benefit to booking a cruise far in advance

The biggest benefit is repricing.   Any “price drops” along the way can be extra money in your pocket.

By booking early you’ve locked in that price.  And if the price goes down it’s actually a good thing for you. 

This is because most cruise lines allow you to rebook for the newly dropped cruise fare if you have not yet final payment.

Cruise fare prices are constantly changing.   Weaker than expected demand can lead to a drop in price, with the stronger demand doing the opposite. 

Cruise lines need to fill cabins– all of them if they can.   So, if that means enticing more cruise travelers with a better deal, they’ll make it happen.

By booking far out in advance you have more flexibility. 

If the price only goes up after you book, then you know you locked in the best price right off the bat.
If the price goes down considerably, you can take advantage of it and book a lower fare.

The earlier you book and the less you pay upfront, the more flexibility you have to rebook at a lower rate if the price drops.

This is why I’m constantly using price alert tools (more on this later) to help keep an eye on any price fluctuations after I book.

Some people are afraid to book too early because they want to wait for the price to go down.  But most of the time they can do both.  Book first, and then give yourself time for the price to drop to lock in more savings.

Keep in mind that last-minute cruises are not as easy to reprice since final payment will be due right at booking. 

Ships in Costa Maya (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)

How often can you reprice your cruise?

You can reprice as often as you would like before making final payment, depending on the cruise line’s policy.

The price drop has to be significant enough to justify a request for repricing as well.

How can you get the process started?

All it takes is a phone call to your cruise line.  Some cruise lines have forms on their website that you can fill out as well. 

Some cruisers will cancel their booking and then rebook on their own, but you really have to see what the cancellation penalty is to see if this is even worth it. 

Also, know you run the risk of your same cabin category not being available if your cancellation is still lagging in the system.  The same goes for excursions you might have booked along with your cruise.

Carnival Cruise Line has Early Saver deals that include price protection for free.  This deal is usually available on cruises at least 5 months out.   More on Early Saver deals here.

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Royal Caribbean will let you reprice your cruise if it is within a 48-hour window of booking (using the form here) with their Best Price Guarantee program.  But this isn’t much time to snag a better deal.   If you have not made final payment yet you can request repricing on your cruise with a phone call or a quick note to your travel agent.

Note: Not all cruise lines will allow you to reprice your cruise.  They are not obligated to honor a drop in price but will often offer compensation or at least some onboard credit.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Repricing is super simple with a travel agent

Honestly, the easiest way to get your cruise repriced is to just use a good travel agent.  One phone call or email with a link to the new-found price and you’re done. 

A good travel agent will save you money in the long run, but more importantly they will save you time and help you avoid frustration.

Just make sure that the cruise price you find is for the exact cruise and cabin category that you’ve already booked, and send this information along to your travel agent.

Read more: 5 reasons you need a travel agent and one reason you don’t

The advantage of price alerts

You don’t have to constantly check the cruise line’s website to see if there was a price drop.  Price alert services make this very easy.

I like using Cruisewatch as I can set what parameters I’m looking for, click a button, and then wait for an email when the price drops to whatever level I set.

I recently found some great deals on Carnival cruises using these price alerts, after the fare dropped a couple hundred dollars.

You can find a ton of great information on cruise price alerts here on Cruise Fever and see some other great free tools I use for monitoring cruise fares.

Final Payment

Getting your cruise price reduced after finding a lower advertised price is much easier if you haven’t yet made your final payment.

After the final payment has been made you are more limited with your options, but it’s still possible in some cases.

For many cruise lines, if you’ve made final payment you will only be able to get a refund in the form of onboard credit or future cruise credit.  

Final payments are usually due 75 – 90 days before the sailing date, depending on the cruise line. 

On a separate point, final payment deadlines are usually a good time to scoop up some cruise deals for last-minute cruise watchers.  Some potential travelers end up changing their mind, opening up cabins which need to be sold.

What is typically required to get a reprice on your cruise

Same exact sailing. Same date, itinerary, cabin category
Significant difference in price
A lower price that is publicly available
Often there are more limitations after final payment has been made

A few other benefits of booking early

I get it.  Booking that far in advance is not for everyone.  And it’s another good reason to have cruise travel insurance taken care of in case something comes up in the meantime.

But taking care of cruise plans this far ahead of time is a much less stressful process.  You can take the time to make excursion arrangements, figure out flights, and do some research on all of the destinations you will see.

Another benefit is that you will have the best selection of cabins available the earlier you try to book.  This is why many cruisers try to put down a deposit on a cruise the moment bookings open.  If there is a special cabin category or suite you really want on a ship, book as early as you can to lock it in.

And lastly, by booking a cruise early you don’t have to worry about price hikes.  I know we’ve focused more on price drops in this article, but pricing can go both ways.

Read more:19 things to do on embarkation dayCabins on cruise ships that should probably be avoided

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