For years cruise lines and agencies have encouraged passengers to book a year or more in advance to get the best price. Today, CruiseFuse released a study preview that found booking early or at the last-minute does not always guarantee the lowest price.
After researching prices for over 5,000 cruises each week, the preview reports several patterns at many of the most popular cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Holland-America, Celebrity and NCL. The preview is limited to Suites, the largest and most expensive cabins, and offers several money saving tips.
The review indicates deals could be found at Carnival Cruise Lines during a short booking window about one month before departure. Thirty days prior to sailing, published double occupancy prices for Suites were $200 lower than last-minute prices and $55-110 less than prices two or three-months prior to sailing.
Carnival Cruise Line’s highest prices were 14-days before sailing for cruises of 6-nights or longer and three to four-months in advance for 5-nights or less.
At Holland-America Cruise Line, consumers not able to book far in advance found some of the best cruise deals up to 60-days prior to sailing. After that point, average rates increased rapidly. The preview reports that Holland-America rates for 6 to 8-night cruises increased $737 from two months prior to departure up to sailing.
Similar patterns were found at Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines where average prices remained flat up to three months prior to sailing. Within the last 90-days, average published fares increased over $750 at Princess and $500 at NCL.
CruiseFuse recommended buying Suites at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruises as far in advance as possible. Average rates almost always increased as sailing dates approached. The report said booking at least six months in advance saved an average of $425 at Royal Caribbean and over $1600 at Celebrity.
The preview encourages passengers to book early. Early purchase ensures the best selection of cabins and prices that are almost always at or near the lowest rates. But the preview offered hope for deal seekers without the luxury of planning a cruise vacation far in advance.
According to the preview, average pricing patterns changed by cabin category. In most cases, the pricing for Inside, Oceanview and Balcony cabins did not follow the Suite category trends.
CruiseFuse encouraged customers that had already purchased a cruise to check for price drops. Many cruise lines offer price protection policies to make lower rates available to passengers that booked at a higher price.