If you are in the market for a cruise, January and February can be a great time to hit the high seas. Many travelers burn through their vacation time during Christmas and New Year’s...
so leisure travel plummets when the holidays are over.
Just like the airlines, cruise companies want to get greenbacks during the slow period, so they drop prices. Don’t feel bad for them though, because they make plenty of revenue from shore excursions, drinks at the bar, gift shops, casinos and more.
The holidays, spring break and summer can cost you triple the price of slow season because demand is high. Not only are January and February good times to cruise, but also September, October and early November have good prices because the peak summer season is over. After early March, cruises go up, up, up for Spring Break and summer prices can be as high as Spring Break.
For example, we looked at a Princess cruise out of Galveston and found a 7-night balcony cabin starting at $699 for a January sailing. That same cabin was almost double the price for travel over Christmas, during Spring Break and in summer. Spring sailings in March and April were also considerably higher.
One of my favorite destinations to visit in the winter is the Eastern Caribbean. Cities like San Juan have average highs of 82-84 degrees in January and February and you can find similarly pleasant weather in St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and other Caribbean destinations. Fares to San Juan have been running in the mid-$300 range from Dallas in January and when you fly to San Juan, you are in the heart of the Caribbean, so you don’t spend the extra sea days to get to the Caribbean like you do when departing out of Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
You also get to visit five or six Caribbean Islands when departing from San Juan on a 7-night cruise but only three or four islands when you depart from Florida. We found 7-night cruises starting in the mid-$500 range for inside cabins per person from San Juan in January. One cruise we found on Royal Caribbean offered balcony cabins for $829 per person, which was only $30 more than an inside cabin, and worked out to be just $4 more per night on this seven-night cruise for a much nicer cabin. Plus it was $20 cheaper than an oceanview cabin, so be sure to compare prices on different cabins before you book.
Galveston is a great port city for Dallas area travelers because you can drive so you don’t have to worry about airfares. Sample cruise prices from Galveston start at $289 per person, or $58 per night, for a 5-night Western Caribbean cruise departing in January and February on Carnival, and Princess and Royal Caribbean both have 7-night Caribbean cruises starting at $499 per person, or $71 per night.
Disney offers cruises from Galveston and we found a 8-night Western Caribbean cruise departing January 18 starting at $698 for an inside cabin, $798 for an oceanview and $898 for a balcony cabin. We compared this to a sailing out of Cape Canaveral on January 19 and found that the cheapest inside cabin was a whopping $1,085 for a similar itinerary. Not only was the cruise price much higher, but you also would have to pay for airfare to Orlando.
Disney is offering a kids sail free promotion on most 6- and 8-night cruises from Galveston from January 12 through March 1, 2013. Children must be 17 and under and must travel in the same stateroom with two full fare guests in room categories 4A to 11B. Government taxes and fees apply to the kids sail free offer. Visit here for more details.
When we checked rates for January and February sailings from Fort Lauderdale, we found a 5-night Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean starting at $309 per person, or $62 per night, and an 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise starting at $529 per person, or $66 per night, on Carnival.
The cruise prices listed above are per person, based on double occupancy and do not include taxes and fees. These prices were valid at press time, but are subject to change.
When checking on cruise rates, don’t forget to look for senior rates, military and veterans discounts and past cruiser discounts. In most cases senior rates are for those 55 and over and as long as one person in the room is a senior, everyone can qualify for the senior discount. Make sure you put in your state of residence when booking, because sometimes there are discounts based on residency and this past week we saw many for those who live in the state of Texas.
We also see extra perks thrown in during slow times, like onboard credits, free shore excursions, half price deposits and more, so be sure to compare any extras before you book. If you are looking for the best price on a cruise for the next nine months, we think January and February will just float your boat.
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