Some of the best deals on cruises – including those for government employees – expire at the end of February and in early March.

With winter weather gripping the country, many of us are starting to think about much needed vacation time or a quick getaway to somewhere warm, or just new, or both. There are many vacation options that government employees can take advantage of, but few people know that cruises are the one option that offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Cruise discounts for government employees

There are several online services which provide exclusive cruise deals for government employees. Leveraging bulk discounts, they negotiate special fares and perks for federal employees directly with the cruise lines.

Perks can range from onboard spending money, to VISA pre-paid cards or credit towards a pre-cruise hotel. In addition, they set up group pricing for federal workers on select high-demand cruises, with prices sometimes hundreds of dollars cheaper than the published pricing, especially for balcony cabins.

A big plus for these deals is that they are can often be combined with other promotions, allowing federal employees to save hundreds of dollars in some cases. Keep in mind that fed deals are not available on all cruise lines or sail dates, so you have to be somewhat flexible in order to take advantage of the deals.

Also, these exclusive deals would not normally be posted on the cruise lines’ web sites. In order to take advantage of them, federal workers need to pre-register on the company’s web site to be sent a weekly list of deals and instructions how to book them.

Best time to book

The months of January through March are called “Wave Season” in the cruise industry because these months see the best discounts and deals out of the entire year. They are also prime season for booking Caribbean sailings for the Spring, European and Alaska sailings for the summer or save your spot on a Christmas or New Year holiday sailing. Currently, many cruise lines are offering discounts of 30-40% off their regular fares plus hundreds of dollars of onboard credit, free drinks, free shore excursions and even “Kids Sail Free” promotions.

Choosing a cruise line

There are so many cruise lines out there that sometimes the choice is difficult, especially if you have never cruised before. As a general rules of thumb, if you are looking for a fun, exciting, family vacation, especially if you have kids, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines would be a good starting point.

These companies offer cruises out of many US ports including New York City, Baltimore, Galveston, Miami, Tampa and Seattle, and some of their new “mega-ships” are like floating cities complete with water parks, climbing walls, mini golf, laser tag and the like. These cruise lines also offer the best options for budget-friendly travel with some cruises starting at a little over $70 per day.

If you are looking for an adult vacation and spectacular food, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America are good options. While these cruise lines offer some activities for kids, their focus is on service, feeling pampered and offering some of the best food options at sea included in the cost of the cruise. Their price point is often times slightly higher starting at about $100 per day.

And for a truly luxurious experience, premium lines like Crystal Cruises and Oceania Cruises offer all-inclusive sailings that spend more time in the ports and include premium drinks, tips, concierge service and sometimes even shore excursions as part of the cost of the cruise. Those cruises typically start at about $2,500 per person but if you are lucky, you may take advantage of occasional 2-for-1 or free airfare offers.

Chris Ang is a retired federal employee, who currently manages - a travel service that negotiates special cruise deals and discounts exclusively for government employees. Chris has been on over 30 cruises and is always searching for the next best deal or amazing destination to explore.