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11 Ways to Find a Cheap Cruise: The Secrets of Cruise Discounts in 2024  | Frommer's MSC Cruises

11 Ways to Find a Cheap Cruise: The Secrets of Cruise Discounts in 2024

We’ve got the lowdown on how to make your hard-earned cruise vacation cash go even further. Here are 11 methods for booking a cheap cruise.

Bag a shoulder season deal

In travel, shoulder season is the period between peak season and low season, and you’ll find it in cruising, too. Cruise lines don’t only offer consistently lower prices during shoulder season sailings—they’ll typically offer regular flash sales during these times, too. 

“Keep an eye out for flash sales during shoulder seasons,” says Elaine Warren, founder of specialist cruise travel agency “Cruise lines are desperate to fill ships during these times. I've found some real steals by being ready to book as soon as I see a great offer pop up.” 

Bear in mind that different regions have different shoulder seasons. In Alaska, for example, the main shoulder seasons are April and early May, and then at the end of summer between September and mid-October. Europe’s shoulder seasons are April and May, and then again in September to November. For Caribbean cruises, it’s May, June, and July and then in December, January, and March.

Try to book at least six months in advance 

Passionate cruisers Don and Heidi Bucolo, founders of top cruise blog, say that advance booking can be a key to great deals. 

“Our advice is to book cruises between 6 and 12 months in advance. Typically, cruise prices tend to go up closer to the sail date, especially for newer ships or for more desirable travel dates.”

Consider repositioning cruises 

Repositioning cruises are one-way sailings during which ships relocate from one region to another, like when they switch between summer Europe sailings to a winter Caribbean schedule. Because these voyages typically cross entire oceans, they’re a great way to see multiple regions. 

You’ll need to brush up on shoulder seasons to find the best deals. For example, autumn is when ships based in the Mediterranean are most likely to head to the Caribbean’s sunnier shores, while spring is when ships based in the Middle East often reposition to the Mediterranean. But when you find a good repositioning run the savings can be huge.  

“Repositioning cruises can be 50% cheaper than regular sailings, offering great value and the chance to discover destinations many travelers overlook,” says Jeremy Clubb, founder of Antarctica Cruises.

Consider an itinerary with fewer port days 

On the itinerary of the cruise you’re considering, pay extra attention to the number of in-port days and the number of sea days. Doing so can help make your money go further while also making sure you get the most out of your sailing.  

“I always try to weigh up port days versus sea days based on the [client’s] interests and budget,” says travel advisor Elaine Warren, founder of “Extra time on board means fewer shore excursions, and excursion costs can really add up over a week.”

Leverage your loyalty

If you’re considering booking with a cruise line you’ve sailed with before, ask for a loyalty discount. Remember that it always pays to ask. "Even if your preferred cruise line doesn’t explicitly promote loyalty discounts, there’s absolutely no harm in asking for one,” says Jeremy Clubb at Antarctica Cruises. “More often than not, you’ll be successful because cruise lines prefer to incentivize repeat business rather than spend more attracting new customers.”

Book your next cruise while you’re still aboard

When you’re still on a cruise, you’ll almost always be able to get a discount off future sailings on the same cruise line, and many ships have special booking desks set up expressly to handle new reservations. Some lines will also give you onboard credits to use for expenses on your next voyage. So if you’re planning another vacation with the same cruise line, don’t wait until you’re on dry land.

Ask about special discounts

You may not know that many cruise lines offer fixed discounts to shareholders, military personnel, senior citizens, and members of the armed forces. And the reason you may not know is they’re usually poorly advertised, and when they are, details are often vague at best. 

For example, Royal Caribbean promotes discounts for anyone aged 55 and over ( but only on selected cruises, while Cunard touts onboard credit offers to members of the armed forces ( Norwegian Cruise Line gets bonus points for clearly laying out its discounts for shareholders on a dedicated page ( although there’s no information relating to other discounts.

It’s important to bear in mind that cruise lines won’t necessarily shout about available discounts—if you don’t ask, you won’t get them.

Don’t hold out for last-minute bargains 

These days, waiting for last-minute cruise discounts can end up costing you more. 

“While cruise lines once used last-minute reductions to fill their ships, there’s not currently any need for them,” says Chris Owen, founder of “This is because, currently, post-pandemic, there’s no need as there’s still this huge pent-up demand.”

Hold off booking that expedition cruise

If you dream of exploring Antarctica or gawping at the Galapagos’ sea lions but you’re put off by the high prices associated with this type of cruise, don’t despair. Cruise lines are constructing an ever-growing number of expedition-style ships serving these destinations, and as availability to these regions increases with time, prices are likely to fall. 

“More cruise lines are starting to offer expedition voyages,” say Don and Heidi at “In the coming years, there will be an increase in the number of cruises being offered to places once considered remote—destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic Circle and the Galapagos are all becoming more accessible.”

Consider older ships

Only looking at new ships could cost you dearly, and the rewards aren’t necessarily worth it.

 “Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, has cruise fares which are close to double what you might pay for similar sailings on other megaships from the brand's older Oasis-class ships, which were once record-breaking ships and still have loads of onboard attractions and amenities,” says the team behind “To get the most value for your money, we’d suggest looking at ships which are between 5 and 7 years old. These will still offer some of the best on-board options in terms of restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife but will be considerably cheaper than ships which are 1 or 2 years old.”

Use a trusted travel advisor

As tempting as it might be to go it alone, booking through a travel agency—ideally, one specializing in cruises—will frequently result in the best deals. Because they deal with the cruise lines often, travel advisors may know how to find the best discounts, too. 

“Travel advisors can access the best perks, like on-board credit and free gratuities, as well as other promotions in addition to the deals the cruise line might be offering at that time,” say Don and Heidi of “Additionally, they’ll be able to help with any issues that may arise before or during your trip.”

If you know the specific line and departure date you want to take but don’t know a good travel agent to book it with,, which has been running since 2003, allows travelers to obtain free price quotes from multiple travel agents at the same time. Many of them will throw in upgrades or onboard credits to earn your business.