This is The Best Time to Book a Cruise to the Caribbean

Ask any experienced cruise traveler when the best time of year to sail to the islands of the Caribbean is, and they’ll immediately say shoulder season.

Shoulder season is January through March, the chilliest months of the year. During shoulder season, cruises tend to offer their absolute lowest prices and deepest discounts. Also called “wave season,” this time of year is characterized by rougher seas and fewer cruise passengers. With more rooms going unbooked, shoulder season traditionally comes with slashed cruise fares, free upgrades, discounted add-on packages, and lower excursion prices.

Though shoulder season has long been the industry standard for cheap cruises, things are suddenly changing. Cruise experts around the world are noting that the lowest cruise prices are starting to appear during less predictable times of year.

Now, the best time to book a cruise is changing—and formerly “bad” seasons are becoming popular periods for steep sailing discounts.

Hit the Caribbean During Hurricane Season to Save Big

Hurricane season might sound like a horrible time to hit the open seas of the Caribbean. If you’re looking for a deep discount on a cruise, though, this is the time to save. The Los Angeles Times reports that cruise lines drop the price of Caribbean trips by as much as 30% to entice passengers during hurricane season.

Passengers don’t want to set sail during this season (the months of August through October) because they worry they’ll encounter danger. So, cruises are left with half the ship or more empty. Cruise lines desperately need to fill these cabins before heading out to the ocean—otherwise, they won’t make any money while sailing.

You might even get a retroactive discount—if a hurricane hits while at sea, the cruise line might refund all passengers between 20% to 30% of their money at the end of the vacation.

One warning about cruising during hurricane season: your cruise may get canceled if the weather poses too great a danger. If this happens, you’ll be given a refund and receive a discount towards a different cruise.

Head Out Before The Holidays

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, few people are thinking about taking a cruise. They’re more focused on preparing for the biggest dates of the holiday season—but they’re missing out on awesome Caribbean cruise deals.

The quietest weeks of the year for cruise lines are the last week of November and the first two weeks of December. You can escape to sandy beaches and tropical locales before cruise lines see a crazy busy holiday rush over Christmas and New Year’s. You won’t be paying full price thanks to all of those unsold staterooms. It’s common for cruise veterans to find 7- or 9-day cruises during this time for around $500.

You won’t encounter cold weather at all, either. December brings the start of the dry season in the Caribbean; hurricanes have already passed through and the region is gearing up for spring with warm temperatures and sunny skies.

Sometimes, Shoulder Season Still Wins

For decades, shoulder season was the best time of year to set sail on a cruise. With changing trends, this off-season that runs from January to March isn’t always the cheapest anymore. However, it can still provide steep savings.

To score a shoulder season steal, you just need to keep a close eye on cruise prices during fall and winter. Cruise lines start advertising should season itineraries in August. If demand doesn’t increase, prices will drop even farther as the departure dates draw near.

In addition to dropping cabin prices on shoulder season cruises, companies will also start piling on incentives to encourage bookings. You could score a free beverage package, discounts on dining, and even excursion deals on top of your low-priced stateroom.

Make The Most Out of Your Cruise Savings

Now that you know when smart cruise goers head to the Caribbean, you can book the vacation of your dreams without breaking the bank. You simply need to time your travel right and book when cruise lines are most desperate to fill cabins.

Always do your research before you pick an itinerary—and browse every deal you can find online to comparison shop. A great rule of thumb that will ensure you score saving is to ask yourself, “Does this deal add value to my cruise?” If not, it’s not really a deal.

Featured Tip

Don’t let your vacation days go to waste – make sure you travel! Only 23% of full-time employees use all of their days off each year, Forbes reports.