Wave Season is the perfect time to book the cruise you’ve been dreaming about. From January to March (typically), cruise lines make various special deals available. This effort is to get ships filled in advance for the rest of the year.

You should use this savings opportunity to plan your sea getaway before your favorite cruise is completely booked. Don’t miss out on the season at the start of the year. Get your fare discounts, cruise stateroom upgrades, and more before the end of March!

Wave Season has an abundance of great offers and promotions. The Caribbean is an attractive destination for many, with white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water, and inviting hammocks tied between palm trees. Or, perhaps you prefer a cruise along the coast of famous European cities, so you can visit locations like Barcelona, Rome, and Athens.

Key Takeaways

  • Wave Season is a booking window for advantageous cruise deals. Customers enjoy significant savings from lower cruise prices, free perks, and specific deals.
  • The season usually lasts from January to March but can begin as early as the previous Black Friday.
  • Planning is essential for maximizing value. Travelers should research cruise options, compare itineraries and pricing, subscribe to cruise line newsletters, and take advantage of credit card cruise benefits. Consulting with a travel agent can also be beneficial.
  • Numerous cruise lines offer deals, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and more.
  • Other special offers include free cabin upgrades, free meals or drinks, airfare credits, onboard credits, tour credits, free hotel stays, free wi-fi, and more.

Wave Season for Cruises Explained

This is the cruise industry’s peak booking period when cruise lines offer numerous promotions to fill cabins. As the period is essential for businesses, there’s a sizable spike in their promotional activity to boost sales. 

Marketing campaigns offering discounts are common, aiming to attract travelers and secure bookings for the rest of the year. The traditional timeframe of Wave Season is from January 1st to March 31st, but exact start and end dates can vary between cruise lines.

Wave Season is also the time to book farinto the future, including 2 years later. Alternatively, you can grab last-minute voyages on a sale.

Wave Season Discounts: When to Expect Them

While the traditional season starts in January and ends in March, many cruise lines kick off their promotions earlier than they used to. Some start around the winter holidays, while others have offers from as early as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

This is why you should always keep an eye on the ongoing campaigns of your favorite cruise lines. Special offers can spring up anytime, and booking is done even years into the future in some cases.

Still, most great deals are available during the official Wave Season. “But why January to March?” you might ask. Well, the answer is quite simple. People tend to get together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, and other celebrations happening during that time. When people get together, they also tend to plan future get-togethers!


The season is at the beginning of the year because families and friends plan trips in advance towards the end of the year, during holidays. The cold(er) weather of the year’s end also makes travelers dream of warm-weather getaways like cruises.

Wave Season Cruises Special Offers

Even if you don’t find as low of a price for a cruise as you’d like, you could still get other types of freebies that help you stretch your vacation dollars:

  • Cabin upgrades: with certain cabin types, you might get a higher tier for the same price when booking during Wave Season.
  • Onboard credit: just like store credit works in a shop, onboard credit can be used on the ship to get drinks, spa treatments, shore excursions, restaurant meals, and more.
  • Free Wi-Fi: you might get complimentary internet access.
  • Free meals or drinks: these can range from specialty dining experiences to all-inclusive drinks packages.
  • Free or discounted shore excursions: especially great for cruises where the destination is the main attraction. River or expedition cruises could have such offers during Wave Season.
  • Airfare deals or credits: free or discounted airfare to the port of embarkation.
  • Free extra ticket(s): if you’re planning a cruise with a larger group, look for offers where the third or fourth guest in a cabin sails for free or at a reduced rate.
  • Two-for-one fares: similar to the above, you get 2 tickets for the price of one.
  • Reduced deposits: lock in your spot with as little as $1 sometimes, and pay the rest 90 days before sailing out.
  • Kids sail free: even if free isn’t an option, you might find a discounted price.

These offers are bound to be available for lots of major cruise lines. That includes big ships, small ships, river cruises, expedition lines, and even going on a cruise trip across the world. 

Other Wave Season Cruises Perks

Some cruise companies will still keep their prices higher during this period. However, you might find offers for complimentary amenities you’d otherwise pay for. Such free perks include:

  • Prepaid dining or drinking fees
  • Tour credits
  • Prepaid gratuities
  • Free hotel stay for the pre-cruise night
  • Shore excursion packages

Another type of Wave Season perk is a free cabin upgrade. Essentially, you get a fancier cabin than you pay for. Cabin upgrades come in 2 varieties:

  1. Upgrade from a cheaper and smaller inside cabin to a more expensive and larger inside cabin. Or, the cabin could be better located if it’s not larger.
  2. Upgrade from an inside cabin to an outside or balcony cabin.

Planning for Wave Season Cruises

The season allows travelers to capitalize on competitive deals. Having a plan is essential to getting the best deal available. Here are 5 steps to follow:

Research Cruise Options

Start looking for offers as early as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but remember that those deals aren’t likely the best. The most significant discounts and attractive cruise packages are typically reserved for the “official” Wave Season – January to March.

Focus your research on:

  • Destinations: match your travel desires with available options. Do you want a warm or cold weather destination? Want to relax in the Caribbean, or cross Antarctica from your bucket list?
  • Your priorities: decide what’s important for you, and choose accordingly. Different cruises offer different experiences. Do you want a smaller, more intimate ship or a larger one with many entertainment options? Is the destination more critical or the onboard activities?
  • Party size: is it a family trip, a vacation with friends, a solo experience, or are you reuniting with a dozen colleagues from college? Book a cruise accordingly.
  • Customer reviews: check out what others thought of the ship and the cruise line. Reviews will give you a good idea of what to expect.
  • Required visas: even if a cruise leaves from and returns to the US, it might visit foreign ports in between. This means you’ll need a valid passport with the required visas (if applicable).
  • Cruise lines: each line offers a different experience; some cater to families, while others are perfect for luxury or adventure.
  • Travel insurance: as cruise bookings are made way in advance during Wave Season, you never know if you’ll need to cancel. Travel insurance returns your money if you need to back out for reasons like illness. It also reimburses lost luggage and can have other benefits as well.
  • The fine print: carefully review all terms and conditions, such as the cancellation policy, what’s included in your fare, and any additional fees.

Compare Itineraries and Pricing

After identifying a few potential cruises during Wave Season, the next steps are comparing itineraries and pricing:

  • Itineraries: look closely at the port stops and excursion options. Some itineraries offer exclusive experiences.
  • Pricing: compare the overall value, not just the ticket price. Inclusions like onboard credit, free upgrades, and meal packages can enhance savings.

Subscribe to Cruise Lines Newsletters

Sign up for cruise companies’ newsletter way before Wave Season. Also, monitor their websites and social channels for a few months before and during the season. You never know when an offer will get advertised and potentially sell out fast! 

Talk with a Travel Agent

If you’d like a professional’s opinion, contact a travel agent specializing in cruises. They can help you navigate your various options and select the best cruise. Agents also tend to be notified of sales in advance and can access special rates unavailable to the broad public.

Some agents also have private bonuses extending to you if you book through them. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but it can pay out with a dream Wave Season cruise.

Travel agents work individually or as part of large (online) agencies. One way to find an agent is via the Cruise Lines International Association website.

Use Credit Card Benefits

Several credit cards in the US come with cruising benefits. They are handy whether you book during Wave Season or not Here are 5 examples:

  • Carnival World MasterCard: issued by Barclays, this credit card gives you points for each purchase. The points are redeemable for statement credits on any Carnival Cruise Line purchase and onboard gifts and amenities. For example, 20,000 “fun points” translate to a $200 credit statement. You can also get 10% back a statement credit when booking a Carnival shore excursion.
  • Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card: issued by Bank of America, it also works based on points. Points are used towards discounts on Royal Caribbean cruises, upgrades, and onboard credits. You could get a cruise discount, companion fares, VIP status at select luxury hotels, rental car discounts, and more.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line World MasterCard: cardholders earn WorldPoints, which can be redeemed for stateroom upgrades, travel discounts, or onboard credits on Norwegian Cruise Line. For example, 20,000 points become a $200 onboard credit. You can also get offers for hotel stays, cash & gift cards, last-minute deals, and more.
  • Disney Premier Visa Card: holders earn Disney Dream Reward Dollars. These can be used towards Disney products and packages, including parks, resorts, movies, and the Disney Cruise Line. For example, you can get a $300 statement credit after spending $1,000 during the first 3 months of opening your account. Various Disney-related perks are also included.
  • American Express Platinum Card: while not tied to any specific cruise line, it offers generous travel benefits, including access to the Cruise Privileges Program. This program provides benefits such as $300 shipboard credit per stateroom from cruise companies such as AmaWaterways, Crystal Cruises, Holland American Line, Oceania, and more.

Wave Season Cruises Deals from 8 Companies

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival offers attractive deals during Wave Season, such as reduced deposit amounts, onboard credits, discounted fares, and cabin upgrades.

Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • Up to 35% off cruise rates
  • Free room upgrades
  • Up to $100 onboard credit
  • Up to $125 discount per room
  • Free drinks

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean might offer “Buy One, Get One Half Off” Wave Season deals, a discount for second passengers. They’re also known for giving generous onboard credits, free beverage packages, and free Wi-Fi.

Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • Up to $600 onboard credit
  • 60% off for the second guest
  • Kids sail free

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian often offers a “Free at Sea” Wave Season deal where you can select from free offers like unlimited open bar, specialty dining, shore excursion credits, free Wi-Fi, or free third and fourth guests.

Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • 50% off cruises
  • Premium beverages & specialty dining
  • Excursion discounts
  • Up to $330 airfare credit

Princess Cruises

As part of their Wave Season deals, Princess has been known to offer discounted fares, onboard credits, free dining at specialty restaurants, and free room upgrades.

Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • Up to 35% off cruises
  • Free 3rd and 4th guests
  • Over 65% savings on perks like Wi-Fi, beverage packages, unlimited juice bar, fitness classes, premium desserts, photo packages, and more.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity commonly provides their customers free gratuities, unlimited drinks, free Wi-Fi, and significant onboard credits during Wave Season offers.

Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • 75% off 2nd guest
  • Over 65% off on select cruises

Crystal Cruises

Crystal often has Wave Season offers tied to significant room upgrades (even three categories up). Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • Exclusive complimentary suite 
  • Free garment care and dry-cleaning
  • Up to 20% off voyages from 2025

HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions)

HX is known for its Wave Season deposit discounts and flight credits. Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • Up to 40% off
  • Up to 50% off for end-of-season cruises
  • 25% off for 2025 and 2026 cruises
  • Up to 50% off for children

Virgin Voyages


Note that Virgin is an adults-only cruise line!

They regularly offer a Wave Season discount for a second guest, beverage credits and credits for premium drinks. Right now (early March 2024), they have offers such as:

  • 60% off for the second guest
  • Up to $400 in free drinks

How to Maximize Your Wave Season Experience

Wave Season is perfect for getting the most value out of deals on sailing. However, aside from prices, look out for perks and benefits such as:

Onboard Activities

During peak season, cruise lines often present an array of special onboard activities. Dining packages can be a smart purchase for food enthusiasts, providing access to specialty restaurants at a reduced price. Spa deals allow travelers to relax at a lower cost. 

Selecting a cruise with various entertainment options, like live shows or onboard classes, will enhance your vacation experience.

Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are a core part of the cruise experience. Booking them during Wave Season can lead to significant savings. Research ports in advance and look for excursions that cater to your preferences: cultural tours, adventure activities, or relaxing beach days. 

Advanced booking is recommended to secure a spot in the more popular outings. Securing these excursions during the peak season could also offer the advantage of limited-time promotions or packages, adding further value to the overall experience.

Booking Post-Wave Season Cruises

Securing deals during peak season could need a bit of hustling. However, the months after March are a quieter time. You can use them to evaluate post-season offers and plan future cruises with a clear strategy.

Evaluate Post-Season Offers

  • Comparison: compare post-season offers with those from peak season, assessing value against price. Consider benefits such as room upgrades, dining packages, and excursion credits.
  • Validity: check the expiration dates and restrictions of offers received during Wave Season. Some can extend beyond the traditional booking period.

Future Cruise Planning

  • Budgeting: plan future cruises by factoring in post-season promotions. Consider not only cost but also desired destinations and experiences.
  • Itinerary selection: looking at peak and post-season offers will help you select the ideal itinerary for future travel. Take into account seasonal variations and personal preferences.

Wave Season FAQs

What Is Wave Season for Cruises?

It refers to a period when the cruising industry has a wave of bookings, thanks to various sales and promotional activities. It’s a high tide in customer interest and cruise line offerings.

What’s the Best Time to Find Cruise Deals?

Wave Season typically happens from January to March. That’s when you should look up offers for your favorite cruise lines. Nowadays, some companies also make offers available as early as the winter holidays or even Black Friday.

Which Cruise Lines Have Wave Season Deals?

Almost all major cruise lines offer great promotions during this time. These can include discounted fares, cabin upgrades, and additional amenities. For example, check out:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions)
  • Virgin Voyages

What Wave Season Perks Can I Get?

Aside from lower prices, cruise lines also have other special offers during peak season, such as:

  • Cabin upgrades
  • Onboard credit
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Free meals or drinks
  • Free or discounted shore excursions
  • Airfare deals or credits
  • Free extra ticket(s)
  • Two-for-one fares
  • Reduced deposits
  • Kids sail free

Many travelers prefer cruises that let them escape colder climates and enjoy some sun. So, the most popular destinations are warmer locales. Here are some destinations that US cruisers tend to enjoy:

  • Caribbean: the Caribbean is the most popular cruise destination during Wave Season. The region offers warm weather, beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse cultures. The Caribbean is accessible by numerous cruise lines offering different routes and itineraries.
  • Hawaii: with its stunning natural beauty, warm climate, and unique culture, Hawaii is another popular destination. Cruises to Hawaii often leave from the West Coast of the United States and visit different islands in one trip.
  • Mexico: Mexican Riviera cruises are also popular. These cruises typically depart from California and stop at ports like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlán.
  • Bahamas: easier to reach for those living on the East Coast, the Bahamas offers a tropical getaway with clear waters, sandy beaches, and the vibrant culture of Nassau and Freeport.
  • Florida: home to the world’s busiest cruise ports, Florida is not just a point of departure but also a destination in itself. Cruises can also coincide with trips to popular theme parks in Orlando.
  • Panama Canal: for those looking for a slightly longer adventure, a Panama Canal cruise can be a fantastic experience. A marvel of engineering, the Panama Canal also presents the opportunity to explore Central American destinations.