In most cases, the best deals to be had on a cruise are when you book the next cruise vacation while onboard. Most cruise lines will offer discounts, upgrades or onboard credits for booking onboard. You must make sure however that you pay the required deposit before you leave the ship or you will miss out on the benefits. The best part about booking onboard is when you name your travel agent at the same time, you will also get the benefits that they offer in addition to the benefits offered by the cruise line. Some travel agencies will not be able to offer the same benefits if you transfer your reservation to them after the cruise.
When we booked on Norwegian Cruise Lines, we were given a voucher that we can use towards any future sailing of 6 nights or longer. The deposit we had to pay was $250 but that amount will translate to a reduced deposit on most sailings. Exceptions would be suites or shorter cruises where the certificate does not apply. The best part about this voucher is that it is transferable to anyone else and we got an onboard credit to spend on our existing cruise.
On Celebrity, we received a complementary upgrade, onboard credit and reduced deposit. On Disney we have received a reduced deposit and onboard credit. The onboard credits in both cases were based on the length of the cruise booked. With Disney, the onboard credit for 2011 sailings also will depend on the Castaway Club level you are at for that sailing.
If you did not book with a travel agent on your current cruise, or wish to switch agencies for your future sailings, all you need to do is let the booking agent know who you wish to book with. They will give you a receipt for the booking and will give your travel agent a copy as well. It is always good to touch base with the travel agent when you return home as once in a while a fax or email doesn’t get sent to the agent. Also, you will want to make sure they have all your contact information.
If you want to book onboard for a date that hasn’t been released yet, with most cruise lines you will have to book a “dummy date” or placeholder cruise. This is usually a cruise that is the furthest out at the time. You will get pricing on the cruise and pay a deposit based on the itinerary and date booked, but it will change. You will not be guaranteed the rate that you booked for a new date, just the date that was booked. As soon as the actual date is released, you will want your travel agent to move the “dummy date” to the actual date to secure the earliest booking prices.
Keep in mind that some onboard booking promotions may be specific to dates or ships. For instance, on the Celebrity sailing, we had to pick a particular sailing on a certain ship to get an upgrade. If we change dates, which we fully intend to do, we will have to stay on the same ship to get the upgraded cabin. We will still get the reduced deposit and onboard credit if we switch ships, but not the upgrade.