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Essential tips for saving big on fall cruises

Aug. 30, 2013 at 8:45 AM ET

Video: If you still haven’t taken that much-needed vacation, you may be in luck: cruises are discounted after Labor Day. Conde Nast Traveler contributing editor Kate Maxwell reveals how to get the best deals.

Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial end of summer—but if you haven’t taken your vacation yet, you could actually be in luck. For the estimated 12 million Americans taking cruises this year, some of the best savings are in the fall, and in fact rates for cruise ship cabins are the most affordable they’ve been in four years. Cabins are an average of $143/night, down 13% from last month. The only catch? It's also hurricane season. Condé Nast Traveler editor Kate Maxwell was on TODAY this morning talking about latest news from the cruise industry and the best ways to find deals for your family.

How to find the best cruise rates

Know your “bargain” cruise season

  • Caribbean: fall months (hurricane season), and non-holiday portions of Nov-Feb
  • Europe: September–November and then again March–April
  • Alaska: September, May (right during the thaw period, still cold but not as icy)
  • River cruises: March, April, and October–December are low season.

Work the discounts
We always recommended you work with travel specialists because they know how to work the good deal to your advantage, getting you upgraded to a better suite, a special shore excursion, etc. Also, there are discounts for seniors, military, police officers and union members.

The pros and cons of sailing during hurricane season

PRO: You can find great bargains on Caribbean cruises, since there are many last-minute deals available.

PRO: Ships can outrun the storms or move around them.If you’re at a hotel on the beach, you would just be stuck inside in the rain.

CON: Shore excursions could change.If your ship reroutes to avoid a story near Jamaica, you could end up missing that diving trip you booked on your own. Tip: Use the ships’ shore excursions programs since they will reimburse or offer equivalent credit for another program. Independent operators won’t.

CON: Let’s say you miss your return flight because your cruise was delayed or re-routed due to storm. The cruise line will not reimburse you for the cost of missing and changing your flight, but third-party insurance through TravelGuard or TravelEx, for example, will. Tip: Buy travel insurance, and double-check that it includes hurricane coverage.

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