Visits to sites like Orbitz and CruiseDirect can often yield excellent savings on cruise travel. But aside from finding a discounted cruise, what else is important when considering cheap cruises?
1. The cheapest time to cruise isn't necessarily the best time. While cruise deals can be found during the most popular times to cruise, discount cruises are more common outside the peak travel period. Also remember that peak travel periods may vary, depending on location. In most parts of Europe, the cheapest times to go are during early spring and late fall, which bookend the peak travel period. Conversely, Caribbean cruises are most popular during the winter and early spring. Waiting until hurricane season picks up in late summer may yield more discount cruise options.
Additionally, remember that many discount cruises are to be found in areas of the world where the port of origin is close to the destination. For example, cruises from Florida are typically very reasonable in price, in part due to Florida's closeness to popular destinations like the Bahamas and Bermuda. Going on a cruise to Tahiti on the other hand...
2. Read the fine print of discount cruise deals. The folks over at Cruismates.com put it best: "Get out that magnifying glass and read the fine print." While many cruise agencies make it relatively clear what the final price will be, not all do. Make sure that the quoted discount cruise price includes all applicable taxes and fees. This leads in well to tip three.
3. Understand what discounted cruises include and what they don't. AOL Travel's Marilyn Green wrote an excellent article about all-inclusive cruises and how only the most upscale cruise lines are truly all-inclusive. "First-timers may be confused because many elements of the cruise are included in the fare – which makes it difficult to keep track of those that aren't," says Green. "Promotional cruise fares are designed to get passengers on board; the cruise companies assume that passengers will spend once aboard the ship."
4. Carefully consider discount cruises that offer an air/sea package. At least with discount cruises, you're not often going to be offered a cruise package that includes airfare. However, if you run across such an offer, know that real savings can be hit or miss. Occasionally you can save money, but at the cost of flexibility and additional stress. Don't immediately assume that the cruise company will be able to get you cheap airfare.
As cruising and cruise holidays become increasingly popular in the U.S., U.K., and Europe, the competition for cruise passengers will only get more fierce. Discount cruises are one of the tools that operators use to draw in more customers. For more information about discounted cruise travel, check out AOL Travel's "Cruise Travel & Deals" page.
Photo by Bruce Tuten from Flickr