Saturday, 30 June 2012 7:49 AM
Cruises are becoming an increasingly popular way to go on holiday, meaning travellers have lots of options when it comes to where to go and what to do. Follow our tips to make sure you grab the best deal and don't pay over the odds for your next cruise.
Book at the right time
It's easy to think that last-minute cruises are just that - holidays you can book at the very last second. However, these are actually only available up to around two days before the departure date, so make sure you book as soon as possible if your days off are looming.
Having said that, you'll usually find the best prices if you reserve your cabin further in advance, typically about two months before the cruise ship sails. The fare will be even lower if your cruise departs during off-peak periods; it's inevitable that any remaining places on summer cruises to, say, the Mediterranean will come at a premium because they're practically guaranteed to be quickly snapped up.
This won't necessarily make for a bad holiday; cruise lines are increasingly sailing to destinations offering great weather for most of the year, if not all year round, so do your research to find off-peak cruises going to these places.
It's pretty obvious, but looking at prices in different places and comparing them can make all the difference when trying to book a low-cost cruise. It can seem like a lot of effort to search online and then head to your local travel agent to see what their prices are like, but it's worth it if you then know exactly where to find the cheapest cruise.
You can make your web search easier by using an impartial cruise portal that lets you look at cruises from different companies in one place, rather than heading to the website of each cruise line that you're interested in.
Don't just look at the headline cost; delve into the fine print to see what exactly is included. The more that comes as part of the deal, the better value the cruise is - as long as what's included consists of things you will actually take advantage of!
One important factor to consider here is travel to the departure port; some cruises will include flights and any other transfers, while others will only account for the cost of the holiday itself, leaving you to stump up for your transport to the ship.
Compromise on your cabin
If you've never been on a cruise before, it's worth noting that different cabins will be priced according to their size and where they're located on the ship. Inside cabins - i.e. those with no windows - will be among the cheapest, while rooms with balconies or portholes will cost more.
This doesn't necessarily have to mean that you must always settle for an inside cabin. Book at the right time - as outlined in the first section above - and you might find better quality accommodation at a bargain price. It's perhaps a little unrealistic to expect to pick up a balconied stateroom for a rock-bottom price by booking months in advance, however.
Having said that, some lucky passengers do get to benefit from a free or low-cost upgrade after paying for their place on the ship. It's not really possible to predict when or even why this will happen, but grab the opportunity with both hands if it does come up!