Want to know how to add some extra sparkle to your cruise without spending a fortune? Nick Dalton has the answers

Luxury cruising on a budget

Just because you’re going upmarket doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expect competitive prices and special offers. So how do we go about finding them? Well, there are still good prices to be had on top-end cruises, and there are people able to offer you deals, or at least make them available if you look.

Finding cheaper holidays

Keep on top of the websites, which is where you’ll find most of the deals, at various times and for short periods – luxury ships tend to be much smaller than the mainstream versions, so you won’t find a glut of last-minute bargains. Oceania, one of the leading US luxury companies, has just started including flights in its prices, which can save hundreds of pounds – if you leave booking late in high-season, flight costs can be astronomical. It also advises signing up for its online newsletters, which contain one-off offers that can include both money off and on-board credits.

MSC Yacht Club, the ship-within-a-ship retreat of suites, butlers and private pools, is the place to be on one of four MSC ships, including Preziosa, which debuts in March. MSC has regular offers on its website for upgrades, and you can also find free flights, transfers and spa treatments.

While some companies suggest low season for good deals, Lynn Narraway, managing director of Seabourn UK, finds the opposite. “Experienced cruisers may avoid the hotter months in favour of late spring and early summer,” she says. “But school holidays are a great time to make the most of the July and August weather on deck, long evenings and grown-up company. It is possible to snap up deals on shorter Mediterranean routes – Seabourn releases ‘lates’ prices for July and August in April – and guests may also benefit from suite upgrades and on-board credit on premium suites.”

“Buying early applies even more to luxury brands than regular cruises, because of the smaller ships.”

She also suggests buying early. Indeed, that’s one of the basic rules that applies even more to luxury brands than regular cruises, because of the smaller ships. SeaDream, through its near 12-year history, has stuck to a basic premise – prices start low and then rise. However, the company says that there are special deals on its repositioning cruises, and good prices on more typical new-port-every-day voyages in shoulder seasons – May,
early June and October in the Med and November and early December in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Asia.

Getting more value

When it comes to getting the most value from luxury cruises, many of which are all-inclusive, Scott Anderson from The Luxury Cruise Company has this advice: “Eat and drink as much as you can. You can often try exotic foods from the finest producers in the world.” He suggests booking as many alternative dining venues you can before you set off – you can always change them, but it means that you won’t find they’re full up.

Making the most of everything on offer is also worthwhile – luxury cruises can often supply you with an espresso machine or have complimentary laundry and pressing services.When it comes to river cruises, Titan, the escorted tour company, offers its award-winining VIP Home Departure Service, a chauffeur-driven transfer to and from your UK airport, which can save lots of money and trouble.This luxury touch also applies to ocean cruises that the company offers, including a free transfer for UK port departures. There are also free regional connecting flights from Northern England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The trick, whether you’re looking for a better deal or added value, is to sign up for e-mail updates (which often contain one-off offers) and to keep an eye on websites. If you’re flexible on when you can travel you’ll often notice a dip in prices out of the usual holiday seasons, as well as added extras. Luxury cruises rarely offer much in the way of last-minute deals. The best prices are almost always with early bookings (which put you at the front of the queue for any upgrades) but always make sure you know exactly what you get for your money – and what you have to pay for as extras.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise with our Cruise Finder.