The best time to book a cruise is right now while you’re thinking about it. That’s because a river cruise is truly a unique and memorable experience. And it sells out fast!

Many people who are interested in taking a river cruise never get around to actually booking one. And those who do get around to it may find that their preferred dates and/or destinations are no longer available.

We hope to change that by encouraging our potential passengers to book a river cruise — and to book it right now!

The best time to book a cruise is usually at least 12 months in advance for peak travel seasons and at least nine months in advance for other times. Depending on popularity, some river cruises may require a booking 18 months in advance.

Peak travel seasons depend, quite naturally, on the destination. For example, peak times for a Florida trip will be different from one that traverses the Pacific Northwest. Speak with an expert to find out the details or consult with your travel agent to see what cruise lines offer when you book early. Some cruise deals can make the price drop tremendously (depending on sail dates).

victoria british columbia canada scenery in june to illustrate Best Time To Book A Cruise

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Now, having said that, there are certain industry trends that together paint a picture of the optimal time to book a cruise. This is a more precise way of getting to the heart of the “best time to book a cruise” question.

Optimal times take into account seasonal variations in pricing, availability, popularity (i.e., how full the ships are at any given time), and other factors.

Let’s examine this topic of the best time to book a cruise for 2021 and 2022 in some detail. In the meantime, please have a look at our river cruise destinations, themed cruises, itineraries, ships, and more to get an idea of the kind of trip you might be interested in taking.

And then book that thing!

Booking A River Cruise: The Best Time

Keep in mind that a river cruise provides a different experience than an ocean cruise.

While a Caribbean cruise line may have thousands of passengers and one or two ports of call, a river cruise is more intimate (often fewer than 200 passengers) and has a wider variety of experiences and destinations.

In fact, USA River Cruises features among its itineraries small ships that have capacities of fewer than 100 passengers. Our customers turn to us for trips of this kind; they enjoy the more personalized service and intimate setting afforded them on these cruises, and they enjoy being able to avoid crowds. Of course, small-capacity ships will book more quickly, too.

River cruise fares also often include more amenities — food, drinks, shore excursions, onboard credits, educational and historical-learning opportunities, etc. — that wind up saving money for passengers.

Those differences alone will cause the price of a river cruise to exceed that of an ocean liner. However, our guests consistently tell us the price difference is well worth it considering the marked improvements in comfort, amenities, and experiences.

In other words, many travelers discover that the inherent value of a river cruise experience exceeds that of a big cruise ship.

Another important consideration is how quickly small cruise ships can fill up. Even ships with multiple departure dates across a wide variety of cruises fill up at a rapid clip. And with the pent-up demand brought about by the pandemic, these cruises are filling up at lightning speed.

Small ships fill up more quickly than your typical 5,000 passenger ocean liner. They provide our passengers with exclusive opportunities and unique experiences.

That’s why booking well in advance of your trip is more important than ever.

Do What You Love

One thing remains clear regardless of what type of excursion you’re considering: The key is to find the best time to book a cruise so that you not only get a great deal but also see and do a great deal.

Pricing can fluctuate based on a variety of factors. It’s a good idea to find out when your favorite cruising partner — USARC, for example — releases travel rates and then book soon after. Rates can change rapidly as ships fill up and cruises become fully booked.

While there’s no 1-to-1 comparison since the cruises and the ships are so different, big ocean liner operators typically encourage bookings during what they call the wave season from January to March. There are often deals, sales, and promotions within reach during this time of the year.

Cruise lines are well into their booking for 2022 river cruises; a few are already opening their books for 2023.

Where would you like to go? What would you like to do once you get there?

Get in touch with USA River Cruises today to get started on your own small ship river cruise itinerary.

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