'Wave Season,' the Black Friday of Cruises, Is Here

About River or Ocean Cruises

Source: What is 'Wave Season,' And Why Should You Care? | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)

What if we told you that cruise vacations have their own version of Black Friday—but that instead of a single day of deals, it's an entire season of discounts that take you from “should we take a cruise” to “book this right now"? Welcome to cruising’s “wave season.”

Cruise lines typically push out their best promotions from January through March—the so-called wave season (so known because it's like a "wave" of deals and bookings) can include anything from deeply discounted prices on a specific cruise to boosts on amenities, like unlimited onboard internet, or getting gratuities and beverage packages included in the costs of a booking. Regardless of the promotion, the timing couldn't be better, giving you a moment’s escape from the gray skies, cold temperatures, and post-holiday doldrums of late winter—which the industry does by design. “Historically, wave season started about the same time as the arrival of the first seed and gardening catalogs, when those in colder climates were ready to look forward to spring and start planning for warmer weather and outdoor pursuits”.

Wave season may capitalize on cabin fever, but for travelers, it's a huge opportunity—especially if they've been thinking about taking a cruise for the first time—as they can rack up some serious discounts and amenities at little to no extra cost during this time. “The entire travel marketplace is built on a revenue model that rewards early bookers, as prices increase based on the supply and demand cycle”. “Most cruise lines go into the new year already 50 to 60 percent booked, but another 20 percent is typically booked during this period. This is really the opportunity [for travelers] to take advantage of early booking specials, upgrades, onboard credits, and incentives before prices begin to rapidly increase.”

Wave season deals aren’t hard to find—they're well advertised. Tap through Instagram Stories, and there’s a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ad touting 60 percent off the second guest with a reservation for a sailing. Scroll down your Facebook wall, and a sponsored Holland America post entices with the promise of cruises for only $99 to reserve. Dive into a long read online, and paragraphs are interspersed with a Cunard banner teasing double cabin upgrades. There are almost too many deals to choose from, which is why wave season is also boom time for travel specialists, who track such trends and can often negotiate additional, agency-exclusive perks—and help guide you on which one to book.

“If you're cruising [on a major cruise line] and not getting complimentary drinks, internet, gratuities, or onboard credit, you may be doing something wrong,” This is where having an excellent travel agent comes in handy. They can keep an eye out for the best deals available for you.