Doing your research before you book is key to finding the right sort of ship and itinerary that suits your lifestyle and budget. There are many tempting cheap offers floating around but if you are looking for a cosy couples getaway then a bargain-priced three-night sampler cruise on a ship with two or three thousand fellow passengers is not going to fit the bill.
Many lines, especially river cruise companies, offer bonuses such as free flights, pre-paid gratuities and on-board credits when you book and pay several months in advance. You also have the benefit of booking your preferred deck plan and cabin and if you are planning a family cruise during school holidays, always the busiest times, booking at least six months ahead is almost essential.
Major cruise lines offer discounts, perks or a free deck plan and cabin when a group books a certain number of cabins, whether it is for a bunch of friends or for a special occasion such as a wedding or anniversary.
If you are looking for less busy cruises, whether ocean-going or river, it is best to book in shoulder or low seasons. These vary according to destinations – in Australia, for example, the peak season is the Christmas school holidays and for European river cruises, you are looking at April to October. River cruises in Europe start operating in March and usually go through to December; Christmas-market cruises are becoming increasingly popular but the cold weather doesn not appeal to everyone.
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