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Enjoying a tropical escape (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)
Enjoying a tropical escape (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)

Finding the Best Winter Cruise Deals: 5 Things to Watch

Enjoying a tropical escape (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)
Enjoying a tropical escape (Photo: Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)
Lori A. May

Last updated
Jan 8, 2020

Read time
5 min read

Dreaming of a cruise in January? You’re not alone. Winter may be a magical time for cozying up with a good book and cup of cocoa, but it’s also a cruise-lover’s optimal time for seeking out cruise deals.

In between the various holiday sailings and spring break cruises, deals during shoulder season can stretch your vacation dollar. That means more days at sea and additional ports to explore, while often saving enough for your next cruise getaway.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday cruise deals may offer some of the best deals for vacation planning, but Wave Season -- which runs January through March -- is another sure bet for cheap winter cruises.

Want to know more ways to save and plan for the best winter cruise deals ever? The following tips should have you packing your bags in no time.

1. Understand How Holidays Impact the Best Winter Cruise Deals

Holiday cruises are great vacations, especially since no one has to play host at home and all the festive decorations are taken care of for you. Among the tips you need to know, though, holiday cruises can have a hefty price tag depending on when you book.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's cruises are often in high demand, but there are a few tricks to finding the best winter cruise deals. Make it a habit to check December cruise deals in the months leading up to the holidays. You will likely find cheap winter cruises, particularly if you are open-minded about itineraries.

If you’re not determined to sail exactly on the holidays, scan booking dates just before Thanksgiving or between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These off-peak sail dates offer budget-friendly fares, if not downright deals, and many ships will already be showcasing seasonal decor and onboard events.

2. Consider Less Tropical Destinations for Surprising Winter Cruise Deals

If you’re dreaming about sailing to the Caribbean, remember that you’re not alone. Since hot, sunny destinations are top picks for January cruises, their demand often means higher price points. Consider alternatives for the best last minute cruise deals in December, January and February.

Cruisers love sailing the Mediterranean during summer months, but there are amazing winter cruise deals to exciting destinations you can sail to in Europe. Cruise lines like Costa and MSC offer cheap winter cruises, and even Celebrity has incredible last minute cruise deals.

As you plan for cheap winter cruises, know that cruising to Europe in the winter is considered off-season, and therefore many ships are looking to fill their cabins with passengers who don't mind stepping out into port with more than a few layers.

Balcony cabins become a challenge, and pool decks are only for the brave, but if you're more so focused on the destination, the winter season can make charming itineraries available at a fraction of their spring or summer pricing.

3. Book Last Minute January Cruise Deals and Cheap Winter Cruises

Eri Vincent, Sasha Sydnor, Carlos Martinez and Micah Ramos relax on a catamaran. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)
Eri Vincent, Sasha Sydnor, Carlos Martinez and Micah Ramos relax on a catamaran. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)

If you’ve missed your chance with last minute cruise deals in December, keep in mind the new year often rolls out amazing promotions on cheap winter cruises.

For January and February cruise deals, expect to find the start of Wave Season immediately after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Last minute cruising deals are extra tempting during this seasonal sale, and you might be able to pack your bag in less than a week.

Wave Season extends through March, and you can often take advantage of these promotions for late-winter cruises or possibly even spring break getaways. You may even save on bundled promotions and all-inclusive perks like onboard credit, ship Wi-Fi, specialty dining or other incentives. That’s particularly true of cruise lines like Holland America with their Have It All promotions and the extra perks Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) offers its Latitudes Rewards members.

If you are flexible on travel dates and itineraries, last minute winter cruise deals can be a great way to save on exciting family cruises, or to take advantage of discounted solo cabins.

4. Try a Chilly Embarkation Port for the Best Winter Cruise Deals

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, is one of the Most Visited Attractions in Iceland (Photo: Puripat Lertpunyaroj/Shutterstock)
The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, is one of the Most Visited Attractions in Iceland (Photo: Puripat Lertpunyaroj/Shutterstock)

Just because sun-seekers are drawn south around the winter solstice, don't think you can't find deals on popular warm-weather cruise itineraries in January. Cheap winter cruises can be found on sailings departing from ports such as New York, New Jersey or Maryland because, in the wintertime, you have to wait a day or so for the fun and sun to begin.

Embarking in Manhattan for January cruise deals to the Caribbean islands likely means no sunbathing for your first full sea day (at least). There may also be choppy waters, as rougher seas set in this time of year and can mean an unpleasant beginning for those prone to seasickness.

But if you can hold out on wearing your new swim trunks for a vacation day or two, a cheap tropical cruise is fair game. Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean offer incredible winter cruise deals from these chillier embarkation ports, which can translate to steep savings on fun family travel.

5. Beat the Rush on Next Year’s Best Winter Cruise Deals

Cruise Critic Editor Brittany Chrusciel swimming in the tropical waters of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Swimming in Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (Photo: Brittany Chrusciel/Cruise Critic)

Black Friday sales and Wave Season bargains aren’t restrictive to saving on imminent cruise itineraries. While last minute cruise deals in December, January and February offer instant gratification, consider using this time to plan ahead for future winter cruise deals.

Sometimes the best way to save on cheap winter cruises is to plan a year or more in advance. That way, only a cruise deposit will be required to secure next year’s December cruise deals. Plus, the additional lead time might inspire trying something new, like a repositioning cruise. As an added bonus, if your cruise fare drops after booking, you may be eligible for a price adjustment.

Before you jump on January cruise deals for next year, ensure you receive promotional emails from your favorite cruise loyalty programs and understand the true value of inclusive cruise perks. That way you can judge upcoming January or February cruise deals and take advantage of the best winter cruise deals when you see them.

Check out our post comparing summer cruises vs. winter cruises.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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