7 cruise tips for making the most of Wave Season

By JASON LEPPERT | TravelPulse | Published: January 26, 2017

The so-called Wave Season is an annual period usually around January to March when cruise lines typically extend some of their best savings, specials, deals, incentives, you name it. Sure, there are Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to be had on sailings earlier on, but the industry-specific perks can be even more enticing. Here's a guide.

Why does it exist?

The cruise industry realized over time that a large number of cruises were being booked regularly following the winter holidays and leading into spring. Whether it be because potential cruisers have Christmas money to spend or they have an itch to seek out warmer weather after suffering from cold cabin fever, the desire to make reservations is there, and the specials exist to leverage that urge to book, but there are also some tips and suggestions to consider before jumping on any deal prematurely.

What deals to expect

You may first be wondering what kind of deals are out there, and they are plentiful: anything and everything from reduced deposits and onboard credits to savings off bottom-line fares. Cruise companies will often offer bonuses such as complimentary third- and fourth-guest passage, specialty dining or unlimited drink packages, shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, cabin upgrades, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, airfare considerations and more.

Consider your existing plans

While it's certainly easy to be impulsive when a seemingly unbeatable sale comes your way, don't book something merely because it flags your attention then and there. If you've been planning on a vacation to a specific destination on a specific cruise line, see if that brand has its own specials. Chances are it will, and it just might apply to the sailing of your choice.

Wait it out

Just as it's smart to consider buying a car at the end of a year because dealerships offer their best prices to clear remaining units before bringing in next year's models, it may be worth your time to wait until Wave Season before purchasing your preferred cruise. Often, deals at this time only apply to newly made bookings, and if you've already made a reservation, you will not be able to retroactively apply any perks.

Keep a weather eye out

Wave Season deals literally come in waves with some announced right at the start in January and others coming a bit later.

Don't wait too long

If Wave Season is drawing to a close and you still haven't found the sale you are hoping for, it might be best to choose a different one or buy the cruise of your dreams regardless of perks. Even without these specials, cruising consistently remains one of the best values in travel, and you can be sure a brochure rate will still be worth your hard-earned cash.

Let a travel agent help

If there is one thing that is certain about Wave Season it's that it can be overwhelming to sift through all the sales and settle on the one that is right for you to take advantage of. That's where a travel agent can come in and help you navigate toward the best one for your needs. It doesn't cost any more to book through a travel professional, and they can make all the difference in getting you the best deal, also sometimes combining it with their own incentives.

Break the rules

Of course, another strategy entirely is to break all the rules and see how the wind will catch your sails and where it will take you. This may be a fun approach for veteran cruisers to take in order to perhaps try an entirely new cruise line, ship or itinerary based on the specials that pique your interest.

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