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.
Whatever sort of cruise you choose – resort-style, boutique-luxury, leisurely river or adventure – you want to make the most of your precious time on board. And if you are cruising for the first time, there are lots of things you can do to save time and money that might not apply to land-based holidays.
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.
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.