4 Great Tips for Booking a Fall Caribbean Cruise
By Burt Carey
Looking to slip away to the Caribbean for a week or two in the fall is a smart decision for those who enjoy cruises. Hurricane season in the Caribbean is classic deal season for experienced cruisers.
With families and kids back in school and stormy weather threatening the region, the Caribbean actually becomes an adult playground in the fall, but you’ll have to be flexible to take advantage of the opportunities.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you plan your fall getaway.
Pick the Right Month
Typically you’d like to plan your vacation based on a cruise line’s ports of call, on-board amenities (did someone say gambling?), and other more relaxing activities such as sipping drinks with umbrellas in them around a pool. Just keep in mind that hurricane season occasionally throws you a curveball, and some of those ports or activities may be impacted by bad weather.
Don’t worry about the ship or its crew. They’re experienced and have at their disposal some of the most modern meteorological instruments known to humans. If a storm rears up in the eastern Caribbean, you may instead found yourself floating around in the Western Caribbean, or vice-versa. Go with it! Hang loose.
Plan your trip sometime from late August through early February, excluding the weeks surrounding holidays, to get the best deals.
Find Last-Minute Deals
Fall is when experienced cruisers really shine by staying flexible to take advantage of unsold cabins before a ship sets sail. Some cruise lines seem to relish selling last-minute deals at dirt-cheap prices — anything to fill the ship with paying customers — but there are some buyer-beware tidbits you should know about.
Sometime between 45 and 90 days before a ship sails is the best window to determine which cabins might be available, and cruise lines will chop prices to fill them. Imagine cruising the Caribbean for as low as $250 per person. It happens every fall.
Keep in mind that you have to sacrifice for last-minute deals. You can’t be picky about which ship you’ll be boarding, the cabin you’ll inhabit or which deck it is on, or where you’ll be going. Sometimes the best deals just pop up, and experienced cruises grab them because it’s cruising and it’s cheap. Last-minute cruise fares are typically non-refundable, and the full fare is due upon booking.
Most cruise lines offer discounts, but you have to ask for:
- Senior discounts for those 55 and older.
- Military discounts for active or retired military personnel.
- Repeat passengers may be able to get 5 to 10 percent off.
- Third and fourth passengers staying a cabin typically booked by two people may qualify for a discounted ticket rate.
Find a Good Cruise Specialist Travel Agent
Sometimes travel professionals are the best at finding great fall cruise deals. And since they do this type of thing every day, they can make your vacation just that much easier and less stressful. Just make sure that your travel agent of choice specializes in Caribbean cruises who know not only how to find discounted fares but also which itineraries are best avoided and which ports of call are the best.
Look to your travel agent for advice on how to get the best amenities, and always ask about shipboard credits, free upgrades, drink specials, port activities and other specials that may not be advertised to the general public. And then watch them roll. They’ll handle everything with the cruise line, from booking to dietary restrictions, and then they will help you with the documents you’ll need for travel.
Go With a Budget
Yes, the dreaded B-word is incredibly important when cruising. Your travel agent can help you with identifying what comes with your ticket and what added expenses you might incur.
Swiping your shipboard pass (the cruising equivalent of charging items to your cabin) for alcoholic beverages, trips to the spa and other pricey items can bring about sticker shock if you don’t have a plan.
The price of your ticket will include your cabin, on-board entertainment and food. Other items to consider when budgeting your trip include:
- Surcharges, taxes, fees and port charges.
- Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and bottled. Some ships offer soda or drink packages that come with a per-day overall charge that covers your beverage consumption.
- Travel to the ship, including airline tickets not booked as part of the package, shuttle service or in-port parking fees.
- The cost of staying at or near port before or after the cruise, such as hotel, transportation and meals.
- Shopping purchases made both on and off the ship.
- On board extras, such as gambling, spas, massages and ship-to-shore calls.
- Most cruise lines will offer suggestions for tipping, which is customary in the industry.
Most cruise lines use a convenient billing system set up through an imprint of your credit card. They will present you with the total bill at the end of the cruise. Keep all the receipts you sign to verify the tab’s total.
Source: Sportsmans Lifestyle