February 20, 2020
Wave season is here and the deals are rolling out as cruise lines look to attract more passengers than ever before.
In addition to discounts, many cruise lines are now electing to offer incentives in the form of perks. Some might throw in a complimentary beverage package, free Wi-Fi internet access, shore excursions or even airfare. All of these are items that can save hundreds of dollars per couple -- if not more.
But which wave season deal is actually the best?
To test it out, we picked a weeklong cruise from four major cruise lines during the first week of June to gauge what the value offered by each line was -- and to see who came out on top. (We selected a balcony cabin -- based on double occupancy -- for each, which typically grants access to most, if not all, of the available perks.) Pricing is listed in USD.
Princess Cruises' "Best. Sale. Ever" promotion offers a good number of perks, advertising drink packages, Wi-Fi and gratuities included. It is also the most value-loaded promotion we came across, with well over $1,000 in savings.
We selected the Saturday, June 13, 2020 departure of Caribbean Princess from Fort Lauderdale sailing to the Eastern Caribbean. The initial price for a balcony was listed at $1,485 per person before taxes, and includes Wi-Fi, gratuities and a beverage package.
Gratuities on Princess are $14.50 per person, per day for passengers in balcony staterooms and lower. This works out to a value of $203 per couple for a weeklong cruise.
Princess Cruises' onboard internet packages start at $9.99 per device, per day. For one device at the lowest price, this works out to a savings of $69.93.
The best deal is the drinks package, which is typically $59.99 per day, plus an 18 percent service charge. This works out to $70.79 per person, per day, for a total value (per couple) of $991.06
Total Savings: $1,263.99 per couple
MSC's "All-In" wave season deals offer perks that include drink packages, reduced deposits, Wi-Fi packages and up to $100 in shipboard credit, depending on cabin category.
We picked MSC's June 6, 2020 departure aboard MSC Seaside sailing from Miami to the Western Caribbean, totaling $1,189 per person in a balcony cabin with MSC's standard "Bella" experience package. Total price, including taxes, came to $2,742 for two people.
This sailing includes a complimentary standard internet package as part of MSC's "All-In" promotion, along with MSC's Easy Beverage Package and a $100 shipboard credit.
The Easy Beverage Package, which includes alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages up to $6, is $35 per person per day, for a total (per couple) of $490.
MSC's standard internet package is approximately $44 for a seven-night cruise.
Total Savings: $634 per couple
We picked a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard Liberty of the Seas departing from Galveston on June 7, 2020. It comes with $50 off the price as part of a bonus booking code, $75 in "included stateroom savings" and a $100 onboard credit. The price for a balcony guarantee during our search was $1,356 per person.
Royal Caribbean's WOW sale offers up to $300 to spend at sea, though you'll need to book a suite to hit this level of onboard credit. Select sailings offer up to $150 in instant savings (our selected voyage clocked in at $125) and up to 60 percent off a second guest -- though this is misleading as the site automatically adjusts the price to reflect the new fare.
Our checkout summary revealed we'd saved $1,443 -- despite the fact that pricing was consistent with pre-wave rates and listed the fare as $2,140 per person (quite a lot in our opinion, considering that Liberty is an older ship sailing from a non-Florida port).
Worth noting, however, is Royal Caribbean's WOW sale also frequently includes discounts on shore excursions and onboard amenities like drink packages, internet and specialty dining. These savings are well advertised on the website, and can be taken advantage of even after booking.
Total Savings: $225 per couple
Holland America Line
Holland America doesn't sail to the Caribbean in June, so we picked an Alaskan departure from Vancouver aboard Koningsdam on June 6, 2020. (The inclusions for the line's current sale are the same for its worldwide itineraries.)
Holland America's "View and Verandah" sale includes $200 in onboard credit for our standard balcony stateroom, plus 10 percent off shore excursions and a 50 percent reduced deposit (negligible for this sailing, which would have had to be paid in full almost immediately).
Holland America also offers free or reduced fares for kids traveling with two adults, plus free gratuities for guests bookings suites.
Total Savings: $200 per couple
Princess Cruises "Best. Sale. Ever" offers the most bang for your cruising buck, with inclusions that add substantial value to any sailing.
For more on wave season deals this year (including when they end) check out Cruise Critic's Wave Season Cruise Deals 2020.