You’ve probably read about the high demand for river cruises right now. If you’ve considered taking one this summer, you may want to plan ahead — much further ahead. River cruises during the prime-time months of June, July and August are, for the most part, sold out across the board on many lines.
But all is not lost; in fact, during a recent search, we discovered some interesting trends that could help you in booking your 2013 river cruise vacation.
1. Summer is Gone – Maybe. By and large, June, July and August are generally full up on many lines — but there are some exceptions, with a few prime late-July sailings from Budapest to Amsterdam open onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Longship Rinda. Other lines also show the same patchwork availability. Some may only have high-priced suites left, but a few still show reasonably affordable French Balcony staterooms that are up for grabs.
2. Pick up the phone. Getting Pricing Online Can Be A Drag. A few river cruise lines offer up-to-the-minute inventory status for sailings on their websites, but most still want you to either call them — or your travel agent — for a quote. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s best to arm yourself with a whole swath of departure dates and itineraries if you’re looking for something departing before September of this year.
3. Consider Going Last Minute. Can you leave next week? Tomorrow? You could be in luck: Last-minute cancellations frequently result in ships being less than fully booked, and we’ve seen a few sailings with availability that depart as soon as, well, today. Make sure you research the airfare component in advance before committing; unless you’re a super-duper-Gold member with an airline, flights could cost more than the cruise itself.
4. Consider an “Older” Ship. Let’s face it: The latest-and-greatest routinely command higher prices and fill up faster. So why not sail aboard an “older” ship at a better price and (likely) more availability? In this industry, even ships constructed in the 1990s have been so heavily retrofitted that you may never even notice their true age.
5. Consider Egypt and the Nile. While the European river cruise industry experiences record demand, Egypt is almost wide open. Some ships are operating well under capacity, and these sailings can be a real bargain, given the ongoing turmoil in the region. However, it’s still possible to travel in Egypt safely, provided of course you are comfortable in doing so.
6. Look to the fall – and 2014. If you’re really stuck, give summer a pass entirely. Not only is it more economical to travel during the fall months (and the weather can be just as good as it is during summer) but also fall comes without the crushing crowds. Planning further ahead also gives you more options when it comes to choosing ships and staterooms, and better flexibility with airfare.
Do you have any favorite tips for booking your river cruise of choice? Let us know.