With Summer vacations over and Fall weather taking over most of the country, many government workers are starting to think about escaping the winter colds to warm-weather destinations. But while there are still some good deals to be had during for this holiday season, few people know that now is the best time to start planning a cruise for 2019. The cruise industry calls October through December “Wave Season” because this is the time when they come out with their best promotions and lowest prices for the following year. From free drinks to free airfare and hundreds of dollars in onboard spending money, Feds can score some great deals if they know how to take advantage of them.

Caribbean Cruises

Caribbean cruises run throughout the year and they are the perfect option for first-time cruisers or those looking for a quick and easy vacation. Cruises to the Caribbean leave from many different ports including Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Galveston, New York, Baltimore and even Boston, which means many Feds can easily drive to a cruise port near them. Also, Caribbean cruises last from 3 to over 14 days, allowing everyone to find an option that works with their time frame and price range.

Feds looking for the best pricing, should look to sail during the so-called shoulder seasons. Early January through mid-March, late-April through late May and September through mid-
November can give you some amazing prices as low as $499 pp for a 7-day cruise. For those with kids, who need to travel during one of the children’s vacations, it is best to book early and look for a cruise line that offers significant discounts for children. Right now, both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises have great discounts for children sharing cabins with their parents.

In addition to scoring some great prices during Wave Season, Feds can sweeten the deal if they choose a cruise line that offers extra perks, and there are many to choose from. For example, Celebrity cruises have a special offer for Caribbean cruises for Summer 2019 where they are offering free drinks, free Internet, pre-paid gratuities and hundreds of dollars of onboard cash.

Governments employees who want to make sure they are maximizing their savings should turn to one of the several companies offering extra deals and discounts just for Feds. Cruise Deals for Feds, SATO Travel and GovVacationRewards all offer Federal employees extras in addition to any current offers by the cruise lines.

Alaska Cruises – Book Ahead for Best Deals

Alaska’s cruising season is quite short – from late May to early September – and that is why Alaska cruises command higher prices than the Caribbean. However, booking a cruise during Wave Season will help Feds take advantage of discounted early-bird prices.

Choosing a cruise at the tail end of the season – late May or early September – will give you the lowest prices, but which itinerary you choose can also give you substantial savings. Most people prefer to cruise to Alaska from Seattle because of convenience. However, choosing a one-way cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage will give you lower pricing as well as the opportunity to stay in Alaska for a few days after your cruise and explore Fairbanks, Anchorage and Denali National Park.

A one-way Alaska cruise for Summer 2019 right now can cost you as little as $550 pp and on top of that you may be able to get free extras such as free drinks or excursion credit, if you book early.

Alaska has traditionally attracted older travelers, but in the summer of 2019 there is a brand new ship that will be sailing 7-day cruises from Seattle and it will be perfect for families. The Norwegian Joy will offer all the activities and entertainment typically available only on Caribbean cruises including laser tag, racing cars, a climbing wall, water park as well as many restaurants and entertainment venues for adults. And while prices for the Joy are generally higher than those on the other ships, current promotions offer heavily discounted rates for children. Plus, it is one of the few ships that offers cabins that can accommodate five or six people which is perfect for larger families.

Cuba Cruises

Taking a cruise to Cuba is currently the easiest and most affordable way to visit Cuba completely legally. While most organized tours to Cuba cost thousands of dollars and require a lot of documents, cruises to Cuba cost as low as $400 per person with no extra documents (except a valid passport) needed.

Cuba cruises run year-round and typically last between 4 and 7 days. For the most affordable option, look for a cruise leaving within the next 3 months. For those who want to spend more time exploring Cuba, there are a number of cruises that spend two full days in Havana, allowing you to enjoy the nightlife as well as many cultural tours offered by the cruise (like visiting Hemingway’s house, driving around in an retro car or taking an authentic cooking class.)

The best offers on Cuba cruises right now can be found on Royal Caribbean (their prices for a 4-night cruise start from around $400 pp) and Norwegian Cruise Line (they offer Free Drinks on all of their Cuba cruises and prices start around $500 pp for a 4-5 night cruise).

Feds can save even more by booking through one of the agencies serving the government employee community as those agencies often have special group pricing on many Cuba cruises.

River Cruises

Cruise ship. Douro river. Porto, Portugal.

Feds looking for a more intimate and culture-oriented cruise experience should consider taking a river cruise. Contrary to the ocean cruise ship that can hold 5000+ people, river cruises feature small ships (average of only 150 people), gourmet food and most include drinks, shore excursions, internet and many other extras in the price of the cruise.

Because of their small size, river ships can stop in even the smallest towns and the included excursions provide a great way to explore the local culture, taste the local cuisine and there are even some river cruises that entirely focus on wine, food, golf or history (like visiting WWII sites).

Most river cruises sail in Europe and focus on one country or region. You can find river cruise options through Germany, France, Austria, Central/Eastern Europe as well as sailing the wine regions of Portugal or visiting Holland/Belgium during tulip time. Some of the most popular ones are the Christmas Markets cruises in December each year, that stop at some of the most lavishly-decorated towns around Western Europe. Those sell out way in advance and are completely full for this Christmas season, but for Feds interested in going in 2019 there are many good offers starting as low as $2499 pp.

While river cruises are typically more expensive than ocean cruises, there are still some great deals to be had during the current Wave Season. Many are offering free airfare and 2-for-1 cruise fares or hundreds of dollars in discounts for those booking their trip early. And if you book through one of the Fed-focused agencies you can get even further discounts as well as various amounts of onboard money or pre-cruise hotel offers.

Tips for First-Time Fed Cruisers
– Do not worry about having to pay up for your cruise a year in advance. Most cruises require only a small amount (as low as $50 per person) to hold your spot and guarantee your early-bird price.
– Many Caribbean and Alaska cruises do not require travelers to have a passport. You can travel with only a driver’s license and a birth certificate.
– Kids under 16 can travel with only a birth certificate on most cruises leaving from a U.S. port.
– Get the best prices by either booking early or booking last-minute (2-3 months in advance). Last-minute bookings are not recommended for families cruising with kids because there is only a small number of family cabins on each ship and those usually fill up way in advance, especially during the summer months.

Poli Marinova is a federal employee spouse, who is a partner in www.CruiseDealsforFeds.com - a travel service that negotiates special cruise deals and discounts exclusively for government employees. Poli has been on over 40 cruises around the world and is always searching for the next best deal or amazing destination to explore.