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Don’t expect a lot of deals and offers at the last minute these days on river cruises or expedition cruises. In the world of cruising, these are hot properties. Most cruise lines actually offer the lowest prices as far in advance as possible and then gradually raise the price as the sailing nears. It’s called yield management and the cruise lines have become masters of this strategy. They want to fill a ship as full as possible with people paying as much as possible. Select Waterways will endeavor to find you the right cruise at just the right price and though these strategies might seem incompatible, they actually aren’t.


For the best offers, book early. The earlier the better. If for any reason the cruise line lowers the price after you book, almost all will match the new lower prices for you if it’s brought to their attention. Sometimes, they’ll even do it on their own. You also want to book early to get the suite or stateroom of your choice. Many lines will not just guarantee you a certain category of accommodations, but will allow you to request a specific stateroom. If you wait too long, it won’t be available. In fact, sometimes the pricing category you wanted will not even be available.


Another advantage to booking early is that there is a greater chance we can work with the cruise line to get you a free upgrade. Generally, ships are booked from the bottom up and the top down. That simply means that both the cheapest and most expensive accommodations are reserved first. If you book earlier and you’re not already in a top suite, cruise lines will often upgrade guests in lower categories to higher categories located in the center of the ship or even higher up to make room for new customers who, if they can’t get a lower-priced accommodation, won’t book at all.


As a general rule, the longer the cruise or the more exotic the destination, the earlier you should book. There are fewer longer cruises and fewer ships going to exotic destinations which means they are in higher demand and book faster. Also, if the cruise requires long flights, such as an Antarctic cruise, an Amazon River cruise or cruises in China, Vietnam and Australia, people plan further in advance for their once-in-a-lifetime vacation. For cruises in North America (American rivers, Alaska, Canada/New England), we suggest booking 4 to 9 months in advance. For Europe,  especially European river cruises, you should firm up your plans 6 to 12 months in advance. For more far-flung destinations such as the South Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, Asia, Africa, India, and South America, you should try to make reservations 10 to 15 months in advance.


But don’t worry if you just now decided today that you want to be in Europe on a river cruise in 2 months. We can probably still find you a spot but there will be fewer ships, stateroom categories and destinations from which to choose.


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