Of all the questions Cruise Critic's editorial staff are asked, "When Should I Book My Cruise" comes up the most. And, while it may sound odd, the best time to book your summer cruise vacation is in January, February and March, when the best cruise deals are rolled out from cruise lines eager to secure bookings for the rest of the year.
Here's why you should consider booking your summer cruise vacation in the dead of winter.
Starting in mid-to-late December and continuing on into January, cruise lines begin rolling out deals, perks and incentives to entice cruisers to set sail. Known in the industry as "Wave Season", these deals used to be all about discounts on cruise fares.
Today, however, these cruise deals have evolved into something else: enticing packages with value-loaded add-ons. Cruise lines might throw in a complimentary drink package, or a specialty dining experience at one (or more) of the ship's for-fee restaurant venues. Some cruise lines will offer onboard credits, free Wi-Fi internet access, free shore excursions, and even free or discounted economy and business-class airfare -- particularly if you're booking an ultra-luxury cruise vacation.
While it's true that cruise lines roll out deals and specials all year long, few lines do so at the same time -- except during Wave Season. Between December and March, every cruise line is running some sort of value-added promotion. And that makes the possibilities and choices endless.
It's no secret that booking in advance guarantees better cabin availability and location on a ship's deckplan. Simply put, the earlier you book, the better the chance that your ideal cabin will be available, whether it's the value-laden inside cabin of your dreams, or the aft-corner balcony stateroom that's slightly bigger than all the rest in that category.
Some of the newest cruise ships on order typically come out in time for the popular summer cruise season, and the preceding winter can be your best shot at getting a cabin aboard one of these noteworthy marvels.
New ships always fill up faster than older ships, particularly during the summertime when families can travel more freely with kids out of school and temperatures warm across the northern hemisphere. New ships tend to debut in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean -- always popular summer family destinations -- and that means increased competition to be onboard the biggest and best new cruise ships.
Trust us when we say you don't want to wait for a last-minute booking on a new cruise ship, unless you're very flexible about your cabin type and date of departure.
Finally, booking a cruise in the cold, dark months of winter provides you with something even more valuable: a vacation to look forward to.
Nothing beats the winter doldrums better than researching and planning a cruise vacation, and those booking in January for a cruise in July will find that provides nearly seven months in which to research airfare, hotels, shore excursions, dining packages, and other fun things to do both onboard and ashore.