While it is certainly true that cruise planning is definitely not be rocket science, it undoubetly can be complicated.
One of the more difficult factors you will have to nail down is when to book your cruise. Should you think about booking a year in advance to lock in just what you want, or, should you hold off as long as possible in order to get the best possible price?
Since we are all unique in our needs and desires, there is probably no single best answer that will fit every traveler, given the variety of cruises, changes in company policy and marketing practices, political events and other factors.
But there are some guidelines that can be helpful.
First, you should definitely shop around before booking a cruise.
The problem is that no two cruises offered are exactly alike, but there are so many good cruise lines today that you still can get an excellent voyage on several different ones. Also, since the Internet has made researching them not only infinitely easier but even fun, you'll find more choices than you could possibly investigate.
After you've done your initial research, in order to get a handle on the range of prices for the season and destination of your choice, you can start to zero in on your perfect cruise.
If, as so often happens, you simply must take your vacation on specific dates, your choices are immediately limited. Just as with airlines, if you have some flexibility on departure and return dates you will be on track to getting a better price. If you're locked in for whatever reason, however, be sure to book as early as possible - preferably at least six months in advance.
Even with early booking of your cruise, you won't always be able to take advantage of the absolute best possible prices.
You need to think twice before locking yourself into a deal, as many cruise lines are not that understanding when it comes to changing dates, though you may be able to get an upgrade to your cabin. But, the upside is that you will have a nearly-guaranteed reservation. No company can fully guarantee any specific departure date or cabin, though most have an excellent record.
If, luckily, you are not locked into set departure and return dates, your flexibility can allow you to take advantage of the deals that do pop up from time to time. You may be able to book a superior cabin on a stellar voyage with little notice that way. But, you need to be prepared to act quickly. That means you need to have a passport and other documentation already in hand and be ready to leave home on short notice.
Naturally, if your destination is one of the less popular ones, or if you are willing and able to go during the off-season, you'll probably have more options. In that instance, you will have a better chance to get a great price for a good cabin.
The Alaska cruise season, for example, runs from May through September. Now, that isn't just because people prefer to travel during the summer months. You might not be aware that Alaska can become horrendously difficult to travel to during the winter. Modern technology hasn't completely conquered the weather, yet.
As a result, the peak sailing dates, which fall between July and August, will generally sell out around 9 months in advance. Booking for early in May will give you more choices, but keep in mind that the weather that early can be challenging in some years.
Booking a cruise can be a bit tricky for many reasons, so, when doing your homework, don't just study up on the cruise line. Learn a bit about where you are going as well.
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