When it comes to cruise deals, everyone wants to know: What's the best day of the week to book a cruise?
We've all heard the myths about airfare -- that flights are cheaper on Tuesdays or after midnight, or maybe it's weekends and Wednesdays. Is there a similar guiding principle for getting the best cruise deal? If we book a cruise on a Monday or Thursday, or if we call our travel agent at 3:24 p.m., are we guaranteed the lowest price?
We spoke with some travel agents who are in the business of selling cruises and asked them if there is a best day to book a cruise. Here's what they said.
There Are Trends to When People Plan and Book Cruises
"The most popular days are Sundays and Mondays -- people tend to use their time on Sunday to hunt for deals and call or email for a quote, then on a Monday they are spurred into action to book by the beginning of a fresh week. That's what our call stats reflect anyway!" said Neil Page, online manager at Cruise Nation.
It's the same story at The Luxury Cruise Company, where General Manager Scott Anderson said: "We are always busier towards the beginning of the week, with Mondays being the busiest."
During the middle of the week, inquiries slow down, and as Scott says: "If you are new to cruise and need more time, guidance and knowledge from your travel agent, then maybe contact them Thursday or Friday when they are not as busy and can afford to spend more time with you."
Harriet agrees, saying that most people discuss holiday plans over the weekend and then call or visit their travel agent or research online at the beginning of the week. She says: "My advice on booking a cruise would be to opt for Wednesday or Thursday."
Seasonality matters, too. In the winter, weekends are busy with calls because people are people are on holiday or day trips out of doors.
How can knowing these trends help you? If you want to discuss your cruise holiday plans with a travel agent, you might have an easier time getting through on the phone or have your call returned more promptly midweek or on a winter weekend.
There Are Better Times of Years for Getting Deals
While there might not be a best day to book a cruise, agents do acknowledge that there are better times of year to book cruises.
Scott said: "January and February are traditionally peak booking times (the so called "Wave" period), we have recently seen booking spikes in April and September too. Clients can use this to their advantage as the cruise lines will have strong promotions out during these times."
Scott offers a good insider tip: "Having said that -- slow booking times, such as August, will see the lines panic and get out some great deals on distressed sailings that need a push -- so keep your eyes peeled for that bargain."
Simone Clark sees booking patterns reflect pay days and -- for the savvy cruiser that has bargain alerts on -- when a cruise line offer is coming to an end. She says: "Christmas and school holidays book early as do family cabins -- we are open until 10 p.m. most nights and find that we are steadily busy throughout the week but it does get busier post pay day and also when a cruise lines offer is coming to an end."
Some lines run almost continuous offers that they threaten will come to an end, but seem to go on. Norwegian Cruise Line is a good example, as Harriet explains: "Norwegian Cruise Line have had some spectacular deals throughout this year and customers can still book a 2017 departure with a free Ultimate Drinks Package on selected sailings -- customers should look out for this promo combined with a seven-day sale where they could save an extra £50 on their booking."
In terms of how far out you should book, it's that perpetual balancing act between either as far out as possible, when you're likely to get some great added extras such as onboard credit; and last-minute when you're likely to bag a bargain.
Harriet said: "The best time to book a deal is either nine months in advance, or last minute with a month to go before departure. This is more applicable to winter departures -- summer sailings need to be booked in advance especially if you have a family."
If you have a specific cabin in mind, especially high-end suites, you might even want to book a year or more out. Don't forget -- if the price drops after you book, you might be able to get your cruise fare adjusted, a cabin upgrade or the difference in onboard credit.
And the Best Day of the Week to Book a Cruise Is ...
Wednesday (or Thursday, or possibly Friday).
"My advice on booking a cruise would be to opt for Wednesday or Thursday. Monday and Tuesday we get a lot of pricing updates and those are then live for Wednesday and Thursday before usually getting updated again. That's why we do our top 20 offers email on a Wednesday," said Page.
Simone Clark said: "The cruise lines generally review prices at the beginning of the week and we send out a newsletter each Wednesday morning with the top 10 new deals on that have come out."
Cruise lines generally release their lowest fares when itinerary schedules are first published, and then run sales every so often to encourage bookings. As cabins fill up, the prices go up. If a certain sailing is not selling out as quickly as the line would like, it might drop prices or offer additional incentives. But they don't make these pricing changes on a set schedule, and certainly no one can predict when a price class will sell out, bumping fares up.
The truth is, it's difficult to game the system. Low prices come with limited availability, and waiting for the right deal might mean missing out on your desired cabin or suite. When you know your cruise plans, don't wait -- call a knowledgeable travel agent. These professionals can help you find the best value for the ship, cabin and sail date you want, and might even get you a better package than the cruise line. They can even advise you whether it makes sense to wait for an upcoming sale or lock in that suite right away.
Because, at the end of the day, it's about the total value of your cruise holiday. You can chase that mythical booking sweet spot to save a hundred pounds or get a free drinks package, but is it worth it if you can't get that special suite, connecting cabins or ideal sail date for your birthday or anniversary celebration?