When it comes to buying a cruise, there isn’t any time of year that gets as much focus as “wave season.”
If you aren’t familiar, wave season is the time between January and March when many people look to book their cruises for the coming year. Meanwhile, cruise lines — knowing that passengers are looking to book — offer up discounts, deals, and perks to get passengers in the buying mood.
You can think of it as the equivalent to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when many stores put everything on sale to get customers through the door.
So are wave season deals really all that special? And what kind of deals can you get?
The Truth About Wave Season Sales
While you’ll hear lots about wave season, in our experience the sales offered during this time actually aren’t that much different than what you can find the rest of the year.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines is currently offering up to six free perks for those booking cruises during wave season. Depending on the cabin you select, you can get your choice of a number of items, ranging from unlimited open bar to free wifi to roundtrip airfare (details below).
While that’s a mouth-watering deal, we also know that it’s been offered since at least Black Friday in November. In other words, waiting until wave season didn’t really matter on what deal you’ll get.
This actually makes sense. If every cruise line waited and offered their best deals only during wave season, then passengers would wait to book their trip as well. Since cruise lines obviously want passengers to book as soon as possible, offering the greatest deals only at a certain time of year would defeat that purpose.
Still, while we think that wave season cruise deals are similar to what you might find at other times of the year, there is no doubt that many people do book during this time of year. With that in mind, we went in search of the discounts and perks we could find for booking right now with major cruise lines.
Note: Cruise line sales change regularly. The deals might be different by the time you read this article.
Best Wave Season Cruise Deals
Norwegian Cruise Lines
As mentioned above, Norwegian is offering a perk-based deal right now during wave season. While this sale has been around for some time, it appears to be extremely popular. The premise is simple — depending on what type of cabin you book, you can get anywhere from one to all six of the following perks with your cruise:
- Unlimited open bar
- Free specialty dining
- Free shore excursions
- Free wi-fi
- Friends and family sail free
- Free/discounted airfare (select cruises)
If you book a studio or inside cabin, you can select one of these perks. Oceanview rooms gets three perks. Balcony and mini-suites currently get all six offers (this isn’t always the case), as do suite bookings. Of course there is some fine print you need to know before you book (such as paying gratuities on the drink package), but if you are interested in sailing Norwegian, this is one of the better deals we’ve found.
One of the most-talked-about deals that Carnival runs is its $50 deposit sale, where it costs you only $50 per person to make a deposit to book some cruises. This wave season the cruise line is offering a “Let Fun Live” sales event that offers up $50 deposits, up to $50 onboard credit ($25 per person up to $50) and free price protection. That means if the price drops later, you can get the price difference back.
To qualify for the $50 deposit, you’ll need to book a cruise between 2-8 days. Note that the deposit amount is $50 per person, so it’s $100 per cabin for two people sailing.
The second-largest cruise line in the U.S., Royal Caribbean is offering the “New Year | New Thrills” sale. The sale is obviously geared toward the New Year’s time instead of just wave season. In fact, it may not last very long into January. Still, the deal is fairly decent.
Book during the sale and you will get 60% off of a second guest and up to $300 in instant savings. We have seen similar deals offered in the past, so if this isn’t the best deal for you then don’t worry. You may get a better deal later in wave season.
During this wave season, Celebrity is offering the “Sail Beyond Event.” Similar to Norwegian Cruise Lines, it’s a perk-based deal. Depending on which type of cabin you select, you can get up to four different perks:
- Classic beverage package
- Free wi-fi
- Prepaid tips
- Up to $150 per person to spend on the ship
Inside cabins don’t get perks, but oceanview and balcony rooms get to select two. Suites get to select all four perks. In addition, if you book a nonrefundable deposit fare you can also get an additional choice of perk.
On top of this, the sale also features up to $400 in savings and 50% off of third and fourth guests.
During the wave season Princess Cruises is having an “All Aboard” sale. This sale is a three-parter, with $200 in “EZair” credit (flight credit) on select trips. As well, there is free specialty dining (one meal for up to four guests) and up to $900 to spend on the ship, depending on the trip length.