When and Where to Book a Wave Season Cruise Deal

When to book for bargains galore.

ByABC News
January 25, 2017, 1:23 PM

— -- It’s that time of year where cruisers plan their voyages for the year ahead and cruise lines put their best offers forward. It’s wave season.

Generally defined as January to March, wave season is when cruise lines step up their offerings -- and discounts -- in an effort to secure bookings for the calendar year.

“Flexibility to build your own deal is a trend we’ve been seeing at Cruise Critic, for this year’s Wave Season,” said Carolyn Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. "There’s an increase in optional packages, which let travelers choose free amenities, from beverage packages to all-you-can-use Wi-Fi.”

And while cruisers may see significant sales during wave season, it’s not always the time to find a rock-bottom price. For that, you’re better off waiting for a last-minute bargain.

“Cruise lines are offering bargains right now because it is their strongest booking season -- that does not mean the lowest prices of the year,” said Paul Motter, cruise columnist for CruiseMates. That said, “there are bargains available.”

Both Brown and Motter point to Europe for strong offers.

“We’re seeing everything from free [airfare] to two-for-one fares,” Brown said.

Motter said that demand for Europe is still “relatively low,” which can be good news for bargain-hunters. He attributes this to security concerns in the eastern Mediterranean, most prominently in Turkey. “For cost, it is a very good year to book a summer European cruise," he said.

Cunard’s “Ultimate Upgrade on Us” offers a balcony cabin for the price of an inside cabin and free drinks in some suites. Holland America’s deals include some Europe itineraries, with free cabin upgrades, free internet and up to $500 in on-board ship credit.

Brown said that as far as summer cruises go, this year stands out from those prior because river lines are “offering a range of deals for this year, particularly on Europe’s key tributaries, such as France’s Seine and Rhone, and the multi-country Rhine and Danube.” Brown also said she’s seeing upmarket lines finally begin to court families with kids, especially during the summer holidays.

Aside from Europe, she points to the Panama Canal and the Caribbean as good-value destinations because there are many ships to fill.

Viking Cruises, for example, offers a 2-for-1 cruise deal on the West Indies Explorer sailing. It’s an 11-day cruise calling on nine ports, originating and ending in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In addition to the 2-for-1 deal, it also offers $45 airfare. There’s also a 4-night cruise on the Carnival Victory priced from $274 leaving from Miami and calling on Key West and Cozumel.

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