We all love getting a great deal, an upgrade or a little VIP treatment. Here are some invaluable insider tips for making your holiday even more special

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Book early

“MSC Cruises is keen to reward clients who book early,” says Giles Hawke, Executive Director, MSC. “For 2015 sailings we have rejigged our pricing structure into four distinct sales periods. Bookings made before the end of June this year attract the very best deals – an ‘experience’ upgrade and up to £200 off the published brochure price. We’re also offering some excellent deals on MSC Yacht Club for early bookers. An upgrade from a balcony cabin with Fantastica to an MSC Yacht Club Suite, which includes exclusive areas, butler service, private restaurant and all-inclusive dining and drinks, is available from £650.”

In the rapidly growing river cruise market, planning ahead is essential. Viking River Cruises Managing Director Wendy Atkin-Smith advises, “As a matter of course, our guests book early. River cruising is an early-booking market and so we encourage our guests to plan ahead – offering incentives to do so.”

“If you book early, you can name your cabin, pre-book dining and you’ll be offered extra incentives, such as free onboard spending money,” says Simone Clark from iglu.com. “And with some cruise lines, you can state you’ll accept an automatic upgrade if available.”

Some companies also offer online booking discounts so you can take advantage of add-ons, knowing that you’ll pay less overall.

Top tip

Early booking not only gives you a better choice of stateroom, it may also give you free onboard spend and the potential for a cabin upgrade.

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Turn left instead of right

Another great add-on is flight upgrades. Oceania Cruises, for example, which includes free flights on all its cruises, is offering Business Class upgrades from just £99 on 24 of its summer 2014 sailings (subject to availability). “The Business Class upgrade offer is proving to be an enormously popular promotion with many guests taking the flight upgrade option for these sailings,” says Bernard Carter, Managing Director, UK & Europe, Oceania Cruises.

Looking ahead to summer 2015, there are also some great deals around. “For our summer 2015 Mediterranean cruises, guests booking cabin categories A-D will receive a free upgrade to Club Europe flights (British Airways), subject to availability,” says Olly Symonds from Voyages to Antiquity.

Plenty of offers can be found online. Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director, Celebrity Cruises UK & Ireland says, “We have news of our latest offers, promotions and stateroom upgrades on our website (celebritycruises.com).”

Princess Cruises offers a reduced deposit of £99 until 30 June with complimentary drinks package on its Southampton cruises (worth £49 per day, includes 40 per cent discount on wine under $100*.

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Luxury for less

“Luxury cruise lines have smaller capacity, so they don’t have to offer last minute price slashing,” says Scott Anderson, General Manager of The Luxury Cruise Company. “They also tend to offer their best prices up front for early bookers, and as the cruise fills up, the prices increase. But by booking early you are more likely to be upgraded to a better stateroom if the cruise isn’t selling well, so the cruise line can release the lower rates at a more attractive rate to fill the ship.”

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A room with a view

If you’re considering booking a balcony room or suite, you’ll often find special deals and offers to make the cruise price even more enticing.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests who book a balcony stateroom or higher on Norwegian Getaway or Norwegian Breakaway a complimentary Ultimate Dining Package – selected speciality dining every night.

If you book a balcony cabin on the 2016 Maiden Grand Voyage with Fred. Olsen Cruises, a balcony to suite upgrade, pre-cruise hotel stay, car parking and even up to £1,000 onboard spend are all included in the price of your holiday.

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All inclusive…and then some 

Several cruise lines include everything in the price, especially at the top end of the market: airfare, tips, all food and drink and even excursions, plus added incentives as well. If you book a river cruise with Uniworld, for example, you’ll be able to experience the Titan VIP Home Departure Service. This involves door to door transfers to and from the airport, and alcohol and tours are included in the price of your cruise.

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Talk to your travel agent

“Some agents offer added-value complimentary add-ons,” says Scott Anderson. “For example The Luxury Cruise Company always includes a complimentary VIP airport lounge on our fly-cruises, as well as other complimentary surprises for all our clients.”

Oceania Cruises works with cruise specialist travel agents and promotes Added Value offers such as free airfare, gratuities, Internet and free shipboard credit. These are also sent as a mail shot to clients of Oceania Cruises, and these offers can add up to an impressive sum of money saved.

Go to the cruise shows

Both regional and London-based cruise shows offer direct purchase opportunities with ocean and river cruise lines, and there will often be incentives offered for booking there and then, including upgrades to balcony cabins or discounts. There will be promotions and savings on cruise related products as well. Watch out for The Telegraph Cruise Show, taking place in Liverpool in October and in London in January.

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Sign up for anything you can 

Whether you’re looking for a great deal or added value, make sure you sign up for e-mail updates and newsletters (including ones from Cruise International, of course) and check out the cruise lines’ websites regularly.  “The cruise lines’ own loyalty clubs offer savings, especially if you rebook on board or put a deposit down,” says Simone Clark.

See you by the pool…