The Great Debate: Book Early or Book Late?

When it comes to planning your next cruise, is it better to book early or book late? Travelers have been debating this idea for years.

Cruising is more popular than ever and many ships fill up fast. If you wait too long, you may miss the opportunity to get exactly what you want- or to sail at all. On the other hand, some of the best cruise deals have historically been found just before ships are scheduled to sail.

Both arguments have merit, so what’s the best travel policy?

The answer varies and depends on a variety of factors, so consider the following things as you plan your next cruise:

Book early if:

  1. You need to travel on specific dates, including pre-planned vacations, holiday vacations, school breaks, weddings, family reunions or corporate meetings.
  2. You want to lock down the best possible price on air travel to the port of departure, or if you are using frequent flyer miles to buy an airline ticket.
  3. You want a specific cabin type or location. This may include adjoining cabins or one that accommodates a third or fourth guests. If you require a handicap-accessible cabin, it’s also a good idea to book early to ensure one is available.
  4. You wait to sail on a ship’s inaugural cruise or want to travel to a specific destination with limited availability, such as Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands or a world cruise – these cruises tend to sell out quickly.
  5. You like to eat dinner at a certain time. Many ships offer multiple seating times. Book early to guarantee your desired time.
  6. You want to put your cruise on vacation lay-away and make manageable monthly payments.
  7. You want to travel with a group. In these situations, it makes sense to book early to ensure that enough cabins can be reserved to accommodate everyone. Plus, you can hold a block of cabins without names, allowing time for additional people to join.
  8. You want to take advantage of special early booking savings.

There are also a set of circumstances where it makes sense to book shortly before sailing.

Book last-minute if:

  1. Your job or circumstances dictate last-minute travel decisions.
  2. You are traveling with just one or two couples and everyone is very flexible.
  3. You are not especially particular about cabin type and formal dining times.
  4. You can pay for a cruise in its entirety, rather than in installments.
  5. You want to leave from your own port city or can easily drive to the port of departure.
  6. Your goal is to find a lower price than others may pay. These cruise travel “steals” are typically offered by cruise lines to fill up a ship just before it sails.

Regardless of your choice, remember to provide your loyalty number to get the best possible deal on your cruise!

Read more about loyalty programs here:



Leave a Comment