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The Best Time to Book a Cruise: Tips & Tricks

When is the best time to book a cruise? Answering this question can be tricky, but the key is to be as informed as possible. What's best for you depends on where you want to travel, how flexible your plans are, what type of cruise deals you're looking for, and other factors, such as when you book — both in terms of the time of year and whether you make a reservation far in advance or two months before leaving.

Here's a quick summary of the cruise deal strategies discussed below:

  • Book a cruise early or late
  • Book a cruise during Wave Season
  • Book a vacation during “Plan a Cruise Month”
  • Book a cruise during low-booking periods
  • Book in the offseason for your preferred destination

Look through these approaches to see which might be the best time to book a cruise with Norwegian in your price range and to a destination that you'd love to visit.

When Is the Best Time to Book a Cruise?

Cruise to Great Stirrup Cay with Norwegian

1. Book a Cruise Early or Late

You can book early or late — either approach can save you some money!

Booking early is one of the most popular strategies for snagging deals, and it's best for people who want to plan ahead and know exactly where they want to visit. Fares tend to be affordable while the sailing date is still far away. If you can book between six and nine months out, you're more likely to get a wonderful deal.

For popular destinations or those with limited sailings, such as cruises to Alaska or The Caribbean, you might need to purchase your tickets further out from the sail date if you want to avoid price spikes. Aim to book a minimum of 12 months out for such trips.

Another strategy is to book as close to the departure time as possible. Though this will mean you're limited to available destinations and departure dates, cruise lines do typically drop their prices or offer specials so they can fill up remaining rooms before casting off.

The best time to book late is within passengers' cancellation deadlines — typically three months out. Cruise lines know exactly how many rooms they need to fill at this point, so you’re more likely to find discounts. Look to book about two months from the departure date for the ripest markdowns, and check in periodically on Norwegian's Cruise Deals page to see what last-minute offers are available.

Experience a Kayak Tour on a Caribbean Cruise with Norwegian

2. Book a Cruise during Wave Season

January through March is the first discount period of the year - also known as Wave Season. During this promotional period, cruise lines typically offer enticing rate reductions and package deals. This is usually considered the peak time to save. Watch for early bird discounts as well as things like two-for-one offers. Companies may also offer incentives during this time for onboard perks, such as food and drink packages. 

3. Book a Vacation during “Plan a Cruise Month”

October is the Cruise Lines International Association's “Plan a Cruise Month,” which is the second industry-wide annual discount period. Some people find deals in the surrounding months as well, making fall a great time in general to book a cruise. This is especially true for travelers looking for last-minute voyages late in the year or during off-season times for specific destinations, such as an Atlantic trip during hurricane season.

Much like booking late, this strategy is best for those who have some flexibility about when they leave and where they go. You still want to book as early as possible, though, to get a good offer and reserve your spot.

4. Apply Special Deals & Promotions

Wave Season and Plan a Cruise Month are industry-wide trends. However, if you look at individual cruise lines, you'll find deals during these months and at other key times throughout the year. Norwegian also offers the Free at Sea promotion, which allows guests to choose up to five free offers for their cruise, such as free specialty dining, free Wi-Fi, and free open bar. Check out Norwegian's page devoted to listing the lowest prices available for upcoming trips.

Norwegian Getaway in The Caribbean

5. Sign Up for Emails for Cruise Specials

Signing up to receive emails is a great way to stay in-the-know about cruise deals and promotions. Sign up for emails from Norwegian to receive info about cruise deals the moment they're announced, and use the pricing tool to compare Free at Sea rates and Sail Away rates to see which is the better option for you.

6. Book Your Next Cruise While on Your Current Cruise

Norwegian offers specials for customers who are currently on vacation — a pretty sweet incentive if you've enjoyed the experience and have the flexibility to book again on the spot! If you make a deposit on a future cruise through the CruiseNext program, you'll get up to $500 in onboard credits to use on your current vacation. Also, take advantage of Norwegian's loyalty program, Latitudes Rewards. Each night you cruise, you earn points that give you access to benefits like discounts, photo packages, and free days at sea.

7. Book In the Off-Season for Your Preferred Destination

You'll find fewer travel choices outside of peak seasons, particularly for cruise destinations like Alaska and The Caribbean. Cruising to locations when the weather isn't best can mean lower rates. Caribbean cruises, for instance, tend to be most affordable if you make a reservation between September and January. For a trip to Alaska, though, prices are higher for vacations in the summer months.

Just know that in exchange for better prices or extra perks, you may have to deal with less-than-ideal temperatures. So, if you do save on a trip to the Pacific Northwest in November, just know that you'll need to bring warm-weather clothes.

Book a Caribbean Cruise with Norwegian

Whether you're a first-time cruiser or this is your preferred method of vacationing, nothing beats a good deal. Try out some of these strategies with Norwegian Cruise Line to see which cruise savings you can snag!