Early Bookers vs. Late Bargain Hunters: Who Comes Out On Top?

The question of whether you should book early or wait for a cheap last minute cruise is one that comes up time and time again, but what’s our recommendation on getting the best bargain cruises, go early or wait it out?

Do you book as soon as itineraries are launched and snag the perfect cabin on the perfect ship, often with some extra incentives thrown in, like thousands are doing this month with P&O Cruises 2021/22 Holiday Collection? Or do you wait until a couple of months before departure? After all, you might not get the incentives or choices you do when you book early, but chances are you could save a few hundred on the cost of the cruise, right? Saver? Early Saver? Select Price? Cunard Fare? Late Deal? Last Minute?

Book early or bag a last-minute bargain? It’s a hard question to answer and it all comes down to personal preference. Here are our top tips on how to decide which is best for you.

The Early Booker Gets the Bargain Cruise

Save the date

You’re Cruising as a Family and Need a Large Cabin (3 or 4 berth)

You’ve decided that this summer, you will pack up the kids and head for the seas on a family cruise holiday. Booking early allows you to choose your cabin and guarantees you will get the 3 or 4 berth cabin you need for you and the kids. Booking early in this kind of scenario also ensures a place on the cruise you want as waiting for a last-minute cruise deal when looking for a 3 or 4 berth cabin can often leave you disappointed.

Kids on a beach holiday

You Want a Certain Cabin Type

Need an accessible cabin? Got your eye on a certain suite? Perhaps you’re travelling with older kids or in a group and would prefer adjoining cabins? Historically, these cabin types have been limited to just a handful on each ship, (though this is changing if P&O Iona’s recent announcement about connecting balcony cabins is anything to go by) and for this reason, they sell out fast! Book early to guarantee the cabin you want!

You are Limited To Travelling on Certain Dates

If you’re booking a family cruise to coincide with the school holidays or are only able to take certain weeks of annual leave at work, then booking early is a must. Wait for a last-minute deal and you risk missing out on your preferred dates and having to make do with an alternative ship and itinerary. Book early, enjoy the added incentives and let the holiday countdown begin.

Countdown calendar

You Want to Sail on a New Ship For Its Inaugural Season

If you’ve set your heart on sailing on a brand new ship during its inaugural season, we always advise booking early to guarantee a place. Inaugural season cruises are really popular and while late deals may become available, sometimes with celebratory treats such as champagne thrown in, there’s always a chance you’ll miss out on your preferred itinerary or cabin if you hold out until the last minute.

You Want to Join an Adventure Cruise

Cruising around Alaska or the Galapagos Islands is a once in a lifetime experience and the kind of cruise holiday that tends to sell out quickly. Expedition cruise ships are often smaller in size than those sailing Caribbean or Mediterranean itineraries, and more people than ever are looking to venture off the beaten path on more unique exploration holidays. If you’ve decided that a Galapagos adventure is the one for you, book early and spend the extra time between booking and going with your head in the guidebooks.

View from Bartolome Island, Galapagos Island

You Like To Eat at a Certain Time/Certain Restaurant Every Evening

If you’ve cruised before and are returning to a familiar ship, you probably already know which restaurant kept you coming back for more. If you prefer routine on holiday and like to know that you have reservations at your favourite hotel and preferred table size each evening, book early. It’s the only way to guarantee your spot at the table!

You Like a Freebie

Most cruise lines offer tempting incentives to persuade you to book early. Free parking, shuttle buses to town, free onboard spending money; it all adds up and it could save you some serious cash – even when you take into consideration the slightly higher price of an early fare compared to a late deal. You’ll also be first in line for any free upgrades that become available later on – BONUS!

Close up of money

The Late Bargain Hunters

late bargain hunter cruise deals

You’re Flexible With Your Dates

Whether you’re enjoying retirement or simply have plenty of annual leave to use and no constraints on when you go away, grabbing a late deal could work perfectly for you. If you’re free to travel whenever the price is right, holding out for a last minute cruise deal could save you a pretty penny.

You Are Open to Cabin Location and Type

If you spend very little time in your cabin and just use it as a base for sleeping and dressing, then a last minute cruise deal could be for you. You’ll have much less choice than those who book early, but you’ll still benefit from all of the ship’s activities and facilities once you’re on deck. If you love cruising for the food, facilities and destinations then your cabin type won’t have much impact on your holiday and the pounds saved can be put towards even better excursions.

Alcohol on board cruise ships

You Don’t Have Your Heart Set On A Certain Ship Or Itinerary

If you’re happy to give any ship a go then a late cruise deal is a great choice. As ships become bigger and more people cruise, cruise lines are offering better deals than ever before. If you’re flexible when it comes to which ship and don’t mind which destinations in the Mediterranean or Caribbean you visit, go for a last-minute deal and reap the rewards of your flexibility.

Caribbean beach with cruise ship in background

You Are Looking Purely For The Cheapest Price and Aren’t Interested In Early Booking Incentives

If your main concern is getting your holiday for the cheapest possible price, then a late cruise deal is the answer. You’ll need to be flexible when it comes to cabin type, ship, itineraries and dates, but you’ll benefit from the most competitive prices if places are available at the last minute.

One Last Tip? Once You’ve Booked, Stop Looking!

There’s nothing more annoying than buying something full price, only to find out that it’s gone into the sale a month after. However, when it comes to cruising, it pays to look at the full picture. Yes, sometimes last-minute deals may come up at considerably less than you paid to book early, but they won’t offer the same incentives and options available to those who got in early. Whether you book a year in advance or just a few weeks before, as long as you are happy with the price you paid that is all that matters. Let the holiday countdown begin – however long or short it may be!

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