I was recently speaking with some cruise industry experts, and they shared with me the following cruise booking tips:
Mike Driscoll, editor of Cruise Week, says:
“Generally speaking one doesn't need to book six months in advance for a short hop Caribbean cruise out of Miami; there's space available one month out in most cases except the peak summer season. But if booking a European cruise, the traveler is best served by booking a minimum of five months in advance. At issue here is not only the cost of the cruise, but the cost of airfare to Europe; it's already high by historical standards and predictions are space will be minimal.”
Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates, the online guide to cruise travel, says:
"The best prices on ships can be found by being flexible with dates. The same exact ship, cabin and itinerary may vary as much as 40 percent based on sail date availability alone."
For example, Motter recently checked out cruisedeals.com and found that a seven-night trip to Bermuda on Norwegian Cruise Line costs $749 for a Sunday, June 1 departure, compared to $1,419 for a Sunday, July 6 sailing in the same interior cabin class.
You can also save money if you drive, instead of fly, to your departure port. For tips on how to do that at five "drive-up ports," see our story Take a Cruise Without Getting On an Airplane.
And here's a tip from Budget Travel's How to Travel Now guide:
Let cruise brokers fight over you
CruiseCompete.com is a website where you post info on the cruise you want to take, and then agents bid against each other to get your business. You're under no obligation to buy anything if you don't like what you see.