How many days in advance should you book a cruise to get the best price?
In part that depends on your destination, according to the website Cruisewatch.com, which uses artificial intelligence to study trends in worldwide cruising. In this case, says a Cruisewatch press release, they undertook a “massive study [that] examined 18,983 sailings by region with departures in 2017.”
They also conducted an “intensive analysis of over 18 million data points” (which are, of course, too numerous to detail in a press release or just about anywhere for that matter, but we are nonetheless grateful for modern technology).
Cruisewatch says the massive study found a “surprising trend: as the date of departure approaches, cruise prices fluctuate to a greater extent.” Some regions, they note, show as much as a 71 percent drop in fares, but there are “huge differences” between destinations.
Dividing the cruise world into various destinations ranging from Alaska to Oceania, Asia to South America and points between, the Cruisewatch bots discovered that, for a number of the regions — including North and South America, the Caribbean, the Mideast and southern Europe — the highest maximum price reduction came between 75 and 55 days prior to sailing.
On the other hand, says Cruisewatch, the cheapest fares for Hawaiian and Mexican cruises come much nearer to departure: 21 days for Hawaii, 32 days for Mexico.
Meanwhile, some cruise destinations — such as Australia and Alaska — stay relatively stable in the price department, though see some “relatively small” price fluctuation around 85 days out.
The “Magic Formula” Revealed
So, with my admittedly somewhat limited human intelligence — and keeping in mind that cruise prices fluctuate like mad for any number of reasons — I’ll defer to the AI bots and pass the results along as a “clip and save” feature for when you book your next cruise. (A surefire way to annoy your travel agent!)
Here’s when to book which destinations and how much you can potentially save by selecting the “right” day:
Alaska: Save 19 percent by booking 87 days out.
North America: Save 71 percent by booking 63 days out.
Hawaii: Save 61 percent when you book 21 days ahead.
Mexico: Save 48 percent by booking 32 days out.
Caribbean and Bermuda: Save 48 percent by booking 55 days ahead.
South America: Save 56 percent by booking 59 days out.
Europe: Save 52 percent by booking 67 days out.
Mideast: Save 64 percent by booking 59 days ahead.
Asia: Save 38 percent when booking 84 days ahead.
Oceania: Save 31 percent by booking 102 days out.
Galapagos: Save 39 percent by booking 79 days out.
Northern Europe: Save 45 percent by booking 70 days out.
Transatlantic or Transpacific cruises: save 41 percent by booking 73 days out.
While it’s hard to argue with 18 million data points, I would make one other point: If you have time flexibility — say, in retirement or a kindly boss, such as yourself — and are willing to keep your bags packed and passport up to date, the absolute best deals you can get on cruises are often at the last minute.
If you don’t believe me, go to the website VacationsToGo.com, and check out their often amazing deals and discounts on cruises that are generally near departure. Cruise lines “dump” their unsold cabins to be claimed on sites like Vacations To Go, and if you can take advantage, I urge you to do so.
The other note worthy of mention is that you should never take the “full” published price of a cruise seriously, because many cruises typically get discounted up to 15-50 percent anyway.
So shop around, use a good cruise-specialist travel agent if you trust her, by all means check out Cruisewatch.com — which keeps track of the latest cruise price drops and deals — but take the above dates with a large sip of saltwater, even though all those data points can’t be wrong. Can they?