Clark Howard

Where Should I Look for a Great Deal on a Cruise in 2023?

Now that the holidays are over, many people are thinking about travel plans for 2023.

Feel like hitting the seas on a family cruise this year? Especially if you can get a great deal? You’ll need to know where and when to look.

That's what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

Where Can I Find Deals on Cruises?

Clark, how do I score the best possible deal on a cruise?

That's what a listener wondered on the Jan. 5 episode of the podcast.

Dwight in Ohio asked: Planning to go on a cruise this year with my girlfriend. Any suggestions where to look for great deals?

The most important factor isn’t where you look — it’s when you go. Basic supply and demand means that the best deals happen when kids are in school.

“If you and your girlfriend don’t have kids, use the school calendar to your advantage booking a cruise,” Clark says. “Summer is very expensive. Why? Kids are out of school.”

January is a much cheaper time than Christmas and New Year’s. But September is a “fantastic” time to find a deal on a cruise, Clark says. (“You’ll be shocked how much cheaper it is.”)

The cruise industry has gone through a tumultuous period of bankruptcy, consolidation and financial and staff disruption since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it will take research to pinpoint the right discounter for you.

“I would ask people at work, friends, colleagues. If you know they talk about going on this cruise or that cruise. Or you see them post on social media,” Clark says. “Ask them who they use. And many people who cruise regularly will have tried several cruise discounters and they’ll have their favorite.”

Cruise Discounters vs. Travel Planners

When it comes to cruise advice, Clark says there are two markets.

  1. A true discounter. These, Clark says, are built for "somebody like me who just wants rock-gut cheap."
  2. A travel agent or agency. This is what you do if you need advice. For example, Clark says, "I want you to stay in Cabin 6240. It's got great views. It's got a little bit bigger balcony than other ones."

Clark Uses Costco Travel for Cruise Discounts

It should come as no surprise that the man who recommends Costco for everything from engagement rings to furniture to detergent also uses the retail membership club for travel.

“Even though the service is rather minimal, Costco rebates most of the commission that they earn back to the Costco member as a cash card,” Clark says. “And so you get a meaningful discount on the cruise.

"I'm an executive member. I use the Costco credit card. So I end up getting 11-13% back of the cruise fare using Costco Travel."

Final Thoughts

Want a deal on a cruise? The most important factor is when you travel. Target September and other school months if you can. And avoid cruises during the summer or around holidays.

As far as finding the right cruise for you, you can go through a discounter or you can seek qualitative advice.

Clark uses Costco Travel. Combined with his executive membership and Costco credit card, he gets between 11% and 13% back.

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