Cruises: What is wave season? And are these early-season deals really worth it?


Scoring great cruise deals is possible year-round, but wave season remains a peak time for cruise lines to include free upgrades, onboard credit and other incentives.

Cruise Ship in Road bay. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

Wave season, the sales period that has historically taken place between January and March, was born out of the recognition that a large percentage of cruisers book their sailings in the early months of the year. The combination of a new year with an empty calendar and, for most of us, chilly winter weather gets travelers thinking about sunny island getaways and the vacations to come. So, bookings take off. To capitalize on this cruise-booking state of mind, cruise lines and travel agents offer extra incentives – typically free perks and reduced cruise fares – in the hopes that the promotions will be the final push travelers need to book those cruises.

Wave season deals aren’t always the least expensive, but they’re great for travelers who want value for money, such as an upgrade to a nicer cabin or free onboard credit for some guilt-free indulgence at the spa or onboard boutiques. Fares are generally discounted, but they don’t hit rock-bottom at this time.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

If you’ve been paying attention to cruise pricing, you’ve likely noticed that choose-your-own-bonus sales now appear year-round from lines that include Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean. These sale periods occur in pretty regular intervals, but they may be promoted more during holiday seasons. What’s the difference between these promotions and wave season offers? Wave season deals typically include the most bonuses and a longer booking window.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, follow these three steps:

1. Figure out the ballpark cost of your cruise

To know if you’re getting a deal, you have to know what the average price you’d normally pay is. Do some research on typical fares for the itinerary you have in mind. Remember that a 12-night Mediterranean cruise will have a much higher base price than a five-night Caribbean escape; you’ll want to compare apples to apples. And don’t just look at fares.

If you’re interested in free upgrades, you’ll need to know the price differential between an outside and a balcony cabin. If it’s onboard credit you’re after, plan out how much you might typically spend on spa treatments, excursions, drinks and souvenirs. If you’re hoping for free airfare, look up the cost of airfare between your hometown and your homeport city.

2. Evaluate the sales

As you look for sales through the cruise lines or your favorite travel agency, be an active – rather than a passive – deal-hunter. Read the fine print because sometimes the discount or perk being advertised won’t apply to the specific itinerary or cabin category you’re interested in. Don’t forget to check expiration dates, too. Some lines give you only a few weeks to take advantage of their offers, while others give you a couple of months. These steps let you evaluate what this year’s promotions are and how good they are.

Another helpful trick is to always compare cruise line promotions with the same sailings sold through an agent. Often, agencies will offer additional incentives above what the cruise lines are offering. For example, one cruise line might offer two-for-one cruise fares and free airfare on select Europe cruises. But another might throw in perks like prepaid gratuities, onboard credit, spa credits, shore excursion credits and a welcome bottle of Champagne. If you don’t see any advertised discounts, call and ask. Sometimes agencies are able to offer better perks and prices than those listed on their websites and in promotional materials.

3. Compare cost benefits

Now that you’ve got all the information, compare the offers. Is the free upgrade on one line still more expensive than a regular balcony cabin on another? Would you prefer one agent’s onboard credit or another’s extra cruise fare discount? Are the deals good enough to make you want to book now, or do you need prices to drop further before you plunk down a deposit? If the numbers work out, congratulations: You’ve made an informed decision. Now it’s time to book that cruise and start dreaming of sightseeing in Europe, sunbathing in the Caribbean or even dog-sledding in Alaska.

And if the wave season sales aren’t tempting enough, or if you’re just not ready to book yet, don’t fret. Cruise lines will hold plenty of last-minute, three-day or extra-value sales throughout the year for you to find great deals. But, unlike wave season, you just won’t know when those sales are coming.

Related video: ‘Game of Thrones’ cruise will take you to many of the show’s filming locations (Provided by Buzz60)


  • a car covered in snowThis is why you should book spring break travel nowIt may seem like the dead of winter, but it’s the perfect time to book spring break travel. Buzz60’s TC Newman has the reasons to start planning your spring getaway!Buzz60 LogoBuzz60
  • a group of people walking in front of a crowdHere’s why Washington, DC as topped NYT’s “52 places to go” listThe New York Times released its annual “52 Places to Go” list, and this year Washington, DC, landed the top spot. This vibrant city is filled with history, culture, and political background and has a lot to offer travelers. We spoke with The Times’ travel editor, Amy Virshup, about why her team chose the city as the No. 1 place to travel in 2020. For those who wish to visit the capital city, we’ve also rounded up a fun travel guide on the best ways to explore Washington, DC.INSIDER LogoINSIDER
  • a house surrounded by waterAustrian village that inspired ‘Frozen’ overwhelmed by touristsSome tourists can’t let it go! Buzz60’s Lenneia Batiste has more on why the village that’s believed to have inspired ‘Frozen’ wants to limit visitors!Buzz60 LogoBuzz60

Buzz60 Logo
Source: Read Full Article