The new year is off to a hot start for the travel industry, particularly with cruising. Travel professionals with AAA – The Auto Club Group say cruise lines saw record breaking booking days last year, and that trend has carried into 2024.
“We’ve seen cruise ships already sell out of suites and cabins with balconies for various spring and summer itineraries,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travel demand is off to a strong start, which means availability will continue to shrink in the next couple of months. So, if you want a specific itinerary, ship, or cabin type, act fast or you’ll have to start planning for next year instead.”
Best Time to Book a Cruise
The first three months of the year are referred to as “wave season”. AAA says this is the best time to book a cruise, because cruise lines offer a wide range of discounts that can vary from 30-60% discounted pricing, cabin upgrades, BOGOs, on-board credits, pre-paid gratuities, and drink packages.
Benefits of Booking with a Travel Advisor
“What travelers may not realize is that if they book their cruise with AAA, we offer additional benefits and savings that can be combined with what the cruise lines provide,” Haas said.
AAA says travel advisors provide additional value by helping you set up all aspects of your trip including excursions, dining times, and transportation. They can also help identify what documentation you’ll need, like passports, which are required for cruises to international destinations.
U.S. Passport processing times have improved. Last fall, it took 8-11 weeks for a new passport. Now it takes 6-8 weeks. AAA offers special rates on expedited passport and travel visa services online at AAA.com/RushMyPassport.
Popular Cruise Trends
The most sought-after dates for cruising are when students are out of school. That’s why spring break, summer, and the holidays tend to book the fastest. Those who are flexible on dates may find more availability and competitive pricing by sailing during the fall and the period between spring break and summer.
- The Caribbean is popular year-round, but spring and summer are the most popular sailing times.
- Alaska cruise season runs from May to September. Because this is an abbreviated period, there’s more competition for availability.
- Weekend cruises have gained popularity in recent years. Weekend warriors have realized the value an all-inclusive cruise compared to a weekend getaway in a big city resort. Cruise lines have recognized this growing trend and are making weekend cruises more of a priority in 2024, by mobilizing some of their newest ships to accessible ports for weekend excursions.
- European River cruising is now operational year-round. Because European travel is most popular during the summer, travelers can avoid the crowds and find lower priced cruises and airfares in the early and later parts of the year.