Cruise lines typically entice travelers to book cruises during Wave Season (January through March) by offering value-added promotions like free upgrades and onboard credit. But as spring break approaches, we're finding more and more bargains for those traveling in groups of three or four -- if you can book early (by the end of February or March in most cases).
There are three types of deals to look for:
Kids Sail Free: Disney, Costa, MSC Cruises and Regent Seven Seas are letting children ages 17 and under sail gratis as the third or fourth passenger in a cabin on select itineraries (click on each line for related deals). The most noteworthy deal here is Disney's -- the family-friendly line is so popular, it rarely offers discounts, let alone freebies. It's worthwhile to note that you'll have to pay taxes and fees or port charges on most "free" cruise fares.
Third/Fourth Passenger Deals: These offers are available to anyone, but families are the most likely to take advantage of low prices for squeezing three or four people into one cabin. Current offers include free fares for third guests on Regent Seven Seas' Tahiti cruises; fares from $99 for third through eighth passengers sharing a cabin on NCL; and 50 percent off cruise fares for third and fourth guests on Oceania. When taking advantage of these deals, always remember to factor in the size of the cabin you're booking and how comfortable your family will be sharing.
Second Cabin Deal: Windstar Cruises is alone in offering this unique family deal: Families (two adults and two children) who book one cabin at full price can book a second at 50 percent off. The benefit to this offer is you end up with privacy for the parents in their own room, plus the convenience of two bathrooms. Windstar does not offer a kids' club or activities, so its cruises are best for independent children who will enjoy the destination-heavy itineraries and water sports from the ship's onboard sports platform.
For details on these offers, visit Cruise Critic's Family Cruise Deals page. If you prefer to book two cabins to accommodate all family members, but are looking for a cheaper line than Windstar, check our list of all Wave Season Cruise Deals. With low rates and extra-value offers, you can score low fares on adjoining cabins and benefit from expansive onboard kids' clubs, not to mention the space and privacy of two cabins, rather than one.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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