Cruises are a great value considering the opportunity to visit multiple destinations, great service, and what’s included in your cruise fare. However even within brands, the prices can vary and you may find it confusing to understand why a specific 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean is more expensive than some 10-night cruises on the same cruise line. So when considering a cruise it’s important to know how to find the best price on cruises.
In order to keep our brains from exploding with all the possible comparisons, lets assume we are considering cruises within the same cruise line and the same number of nights to begin our process of understanding how cruise lines determine prices.
First, it’s important to understand some of the variables that cruise lines look at to determine prices on specific cruises. The age (and condition) of the ship, time of year, desirability of the itinerary, and how well a sailing is selling all play a part in determining the cost of a specific cruise.
Lets begin with the age of the ship. For this example, we’ll consider a 7 night Bermuda cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. On Prima, NCL’s newest ship (sailing beginning in 2022) a 7-night cruise to Bermuda might cost around $1,000 per person for an inside stateroom while an older ship like Getaway or Joy might cost around $650 per person for an inside stateroom.
Another variable cruise lines use to determine pricing, and therefore part of how to find the best price on cruises, is when you’re planning to sail. Every destination has three “seasons” — peak, shoulder, and off-peak — and those seasons exist for a reason. In some cases, like Alaska, the weather is only appropriate for sailing a few months out of the year and there are very few Alaska cruises during off-peak season. Other places, like the Caribbean, have cruises sailing year round but during shoulder season, there is a greater chance of tropical storms and hurricanes and during off-peak, the chance is greater plus the weather may not be ideal. Also under the heading of when you’re planning to sail is the the typical “high demand” times of the year such as during Winter and Spring break, Christmas and New Years, etc. which are usually more expensive times to cruise.
When looking at how to find the best price on cruises, itineraries can’t be overlooked. I’ve been on numerous cruises and have enjoyed each itinerary but even so, some are more popular than others. Alaska cruises, for example, are very desirable and with the short season, tend to be more expensive. As a general rule, Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries are more popular than Western Caribbean. They’re all great in their own way, but depending on your interests and what you want in a vacation, some destinations have more to offer than others.
In the olden days (you know, 10 or so years ago), prices were determined by these factors and once the prices were published, other than running promotions, they didn’t change. Today knowing how to find the best price on cruises is a little more complicated because of something called dynamic pricing. Technology looks at how well a specific ship, itinerary, and date is selling and adjusts the prices accordingly. If for some reason there are a lot of available staterooms, the prices will drop to encourage more reservations. If the specific sailing is selling better than expected guess what happens? The rates go up. Unfortunately, this is one of the variables that is impossible to forecast but is still an important factor to understand when you’re looking at prices and wonder why some are more expensive than others.
So the question of how to find the best price on cruises remains elusive, time consuming, and intensely frustrating. Researching all these variables is a slow process and even so, how can you be sure you’re really getting a good deal? After all, cruise line websites are designed to benefit the cruise lines. They are not impartial in any way. Booking a cruise at a discount site has it’s own set of pitfalls (read: Booking Online: What You’re Not Getting). So what is a consumer supposed to do? Find a travel agent with experience selling cruises. They’re impartial — meaning their priority is benefiting you not the cruise line — and many (including JJ Travel Associates) don’t charge a fee.
If you don’t have a travel agent, I know a good one *winks* — call me (Joel) at 844-483-6669 or use the contact form and I’ll joyfully help you find the best price for your ideal cruise so your next vacation is your dream vacation.
About the Author
Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise), blogger-in-chief at JoelKnowsTravel.com, lover of all things travel (especially UNESCO World Heritage Sites), wannabe comedian, and the person you should call if you're thinking of planning a vacation.