How to find the best cruise line deals: Family Edition

Royal Caribbean is an known as excellent choice for families due to their outstanding children's programs and amenities.  Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is an excellent choice for families due to their outstanding children’s programs and amenities. Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

When you’re planning a family cruise, you often have to play by a different set of rules than, say, singles, childless couples, or the retired set.  There’s a certain obligation to demands and schedules that’s unique to families, and it generally requires more planning and research to get the best possible deal.

With that in mind, here are my best tips for getting the vacation you want, at a price that’s workable for your family finances.

Pick the right cruise line for your needs:

Think about the kind of vacation you want. A luxury cruise sounds wonderful, but consider this: my family didn’t eat in a really nice restaurant for years. We tried when the kids were very small, but I always felt deprived of the true experience when I was trying to entertain a cranky toddler or was busy cutting up someone’s food.

The same thing applies to cruises- if your family is not at the “we can all relax on vacation” phase, avoid those lines that suggest they’re not well-equipped for children. Believe me when I say they tell you that for a reason. These lines may be an absolutely lovely experience for say, a couple’s cruise, but may not translate well for families- especially those with young children.

Instead, pick a cruise line that’s truly family friendly, where the kids will be entertained, and you can actually enjoy your time onboard.  It will feel much more like money well-spent that way.  Want a list of suggestions?  Click here.

Go old school:

Here’s a little insider tip- once you choose a line, take a look at the age of their ships.  The brand new ships are likely to have a higher price tag than their older counterparts.  You won’t be missing out, I promise.   With the way the cruise lines upgrade their vessels on an ongoing basis, even a 5 year old ship will have amazing amenities.  If you want to know more about the lines themselves, check out this page.

It’s all in the timing:

The cruise lines see a bump in family bookings during summer and the school holidays, so if you can swing it, try to cruise in the off season.  There can be a substantial savings offered when demand is lower.  “Wave Season” runs from the first of January until the end of March, and often has the best pricing of the year.

Use an agent:

This is a big one that some people overlook in our technology-driven age. Yes, I know there’s a certain thrill to surfing the ‘net and comparing pricing between the lines to get the best deal.  Go ahead and do it if you must.  But before  you book, contact a travel agent and see what a difference they can make.  They know when and where to look for the best deals, and they’re privy to perks and specials that aren’t available to the general public.

Remember: a travel agent, especially one who specializes in cruises, knows the industry inside and out in a way that you and I probably never will.

You can read more tips general savings tips here.

Got any tips of your own?  I’d love to hear them.

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