Wondering when to book a river cruise? Since river cruising has increased in popularity I am getting a lot of calls from first timers asking to book a river cruise. Unfortunately those that have never been on a river cruise are quick to learn that many dates sell out 12-18 months in advance. Although anytime is a good time for a river cruise the most popular dates are May, June & September. When to book?
Here are a few common misconceptions clients new to river cruising have:
The cost is lower if I wait...right?
If I wait to book they will lower the price - Actually the mass market cruise lines are finally figuring out what river cruise lines already know. Offer your best deals upfront and you will sell out early. The lowest prices are offered first and designed to award guests that book early. As you get closer to the sailing time if there is a cabin or 2 left you are not going to get a better price by waiting. You will pay more because the early payment discounts will have long ended.
I'll always have my choice of cabin...right?
First timers don't realize how small the ships are. My favorite river cruise company AmaWaterway's largest ship has only 164 passengers. That's only 82 cabins. You would need about 33 AmaWaterways ships to have enough space for all the passengers on Oasis of the Seas. Currently AmaWaterways only has 20 ships. Think how quickly that can sell out. The advantage of the small ships is a much more intimate feel. It's like being in a small boutique hotel. You are made to feel welcome and special. It is a truly unique luxury travel experience.
I need my balcony
Yes many new river cruise ships have both french(sliding glass door opens but you can't step out) & outside balcony cabins. What happens if you can only get away the 3rd week in September and all the balcony cabins are sold out? Do you just say forget it? Maybe you should consider a different type of cabin? Here is the good news, there are no inside cabins. The least expensive cabin is what I like to call the Swan view. It's a high fixed window & when you look out you are eye to eye with the swans. It is as nicely appointed as the french and outside balcony cabins.
In reality on a river cruise you spend very little time in your cabin with the exception of 1 or 2 itineraries there is very little time spent on the ship. There are no "days at sea". You are on the go and spend very little time in your cabin. In fact when you are passing something of importance such as the Rhine Gorge you will notice that the Lords & Ladies did not know river cruising was going to be so popular and they built their castles on both sides of the river. If you stay in your cabin you will miss half of the castles.
River Cruising is for Old People
Did you know how river cruise ships dock? - They actually dock side to side so many times you have to go through another ship to depart yours. You may have to go up and down stairs or over a gangplank. You must be able to walk up and down stair and be on your feet for hours at a time while you tour the cities on foot. Back to the "I have to have a balcony " misconception...since the ships dock side to side in port your beautiful balcony may look into someone else's beautiful balcony.
River cruises are too expensive compared to Ocean cruises
Well it is certainly not cheap but remember it is a luxury travel experience. On most lines not only are your meals included but they also include beer & wine with lunch and dinner, wifi, bottled water and most importantly excursions. On a ocean cruises you can spend thousands of dollars on excursions not to mention a hefty bar bill. However, on a river cruise the excursions are included and some lines even give you choices. So when to book? As early as possible since all waiting does is ensure you have less choice of cabin categories.
Why not book direct? Book with your travel agent instead