Top Cruise Discounts for Federal Employees & Retirees for 2018 and 2019

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By on July 19, 2018 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments

Hat, sandals and a shell on a tropical beach in the Caribbean with turquoise ocean water

Summer is already in full swing and most Feds and their families have already planned their summer vacations. But few people know that summer is one of the best times to book a cruise for the following year.

Typically, summers are slow for bookings and that is why the cruise lines have some of their best promotions going on right now. From free drinks to free cruise fare for additional guests and hundreds of dollars of onboard spending money, there are many deals to choose from, and Feds and retirees can save even more by utilizing one of the companies offering special discounts for them.

For those booking their first cruise, 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.

Caribbean Cruises

While summer is generally considered hurricane season and most cruise ships move to Europe or Alaska, many of them return to the Caribbean in November, where they sail the Caribbean through the holiday season and all the way until the end of April.

Caribbean cruises are perfect for first-time cruisers because they leave from many different ports, including New Orleans, Galveston, New York and more, providing potential cruisers with an opportunity to save money by driving to their cruise port. The most popular cruise options are 7-day cruises to either the Western (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Belize) or the Eastern Caribbean (St Martin, St. Thomas, St Kitts). For more experience cruises or those with a bit more time, a great option is a 12-14 day Southern Caribbean cruise going to such exotic locations like Barbados, St Barts, Aruba and Curacao. 

The best prices on Caribbean cruises can be found in January and early February, with some 7-day cruises during those months selling for as little as $500 pp right now. For cruisers who reserve their spot in July, there are many great promotions to choose from.

Free Drinks packages are offered by several cruise lines, as well as free cruise fare for the 3rd & 4th person in the cabin (typically those are reserved for kids crising with their parents but some cruise lines have no age limit offering the option of 3 or 4 adults to travel together and save a lot). On many longer cruises, there are additional extra perks like free internet, free phone calls, free excursions and free dining at restaurants that normally require and extra fee.

There are also some deals to be had on holiday cruises for Feds who want to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in a unique way. While those cruises are generally priced much higher, booking in July and August will at least come with a number of extras and will guarantee availability, since many holiday cruises sell out well in advance, especially family cabins that hold more than two people.

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.

The cruise line takes care of securing a Cuba day visa for all guests who book an excursion through the ship. Most Cuba cruises last 4 to 5 days and some of them even spend two full days in Havana, allowing passengers plenty of time to explore the city.

Prices for Cuba cruises typically do not vary too much from month to month but booking early ensures that you get a spot on one of those more coveted sailings that spend two days in Havana, as well as getting some early-bird extras. In addition, some cruise lines include an Open Bar for all passengers on their cruises to Cuba, providing unlimited free drinks at no extra cost.

Panama Canal Cruises

Available only during the winter months, there are three types of Panama Canal cruises. For those looking for a mostly Caribbean vacation with an opportunity to see the Canal, there are 7-10 days cruises from Florida that make a stop in Colon, allowing for a day tour to one of the canal locks, where you can see the ships as they sail from one lock to another. 

A second option for those wanting to experience going through the locks but not wanting to cross all the way, several cruise lines offer “partial crossing” cruises. These go through a few of the newer Santa Clara locks and then return back to Florida after stopping at a few Central American ports like Costa Rica, Colombia and Belize. The full Canal crossing, from Florida to California, typically takes 15-20 days and is mostly popular among retirees looking to enjoy various stops along Central and South America.

Because of the short Panama Canal cruise season, booking early is advisable. There are many great deals offered right now, with cruises starting as low as $749 pp and including extras such as free drinks, free internet and, in some cases, hundreds of dollars on onboard cash.

World Cruises

Few people have heard of the so called “World Cruises”, but for federal retirees, they are an amazing option to see the world without having to make complicated plans, and for a fraction of the cost it would take to do it on your own.

The full world circumnavigation lasts a little over 100 days and prices start from around $15,000 per person. Some cruise lines allow various shorter segments to be reserved separately, ranging from 30 – 80 days, for those who cannot afford to be away for nearly four months.

World cruises focus on visiting many exotic destinations, from Sydney to Zanzibar to the Maldives and Sri Lanka and many of them are planned to coincide with “bucket list” events in the different ports. For example, many world cruises spend a few days in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval, in Monaco during the Grand Prix or in Cannes during the Film Festival.

World cruises have many dedicated repeat customers and for that reason they usually sell out well in advance. For example, most of the itineraries are already sold out for 2019 but now is the perfect time to plan ahead for 2020. Different promotions going on right now offer large early-bird savings as well as $1000+ of onboard spending money.

River Cruises

River cruises have recently gained popularity as a way to explore specific regions of the world in depth. River cruises are small in size (most can only fit about 150 people) and as a result can usually stop right in the middle of a city allowing guests to just walk off the ship and explore. They offer an intimate atmosphere, gourmet food and most include drinks, shore excursions, internet and many other extras in the price of the cruise so there is no feeling of being “nickel and dimed”. 

Some of the most popular river cruises are along the Rhine and Danube rivers in Europe.They offer great options to explore many small and large cities in both Eastern and Western Europe like Amsterdam, Basel, Budapest, Nuremberg and Vienna.

Another popular option are the Wine Cruises in France and Spain/Portugal. Combining wine tastings with visits to local wineries, lectures on wine history and rare wine and food pairings, these are cruises are a rare opportunity for wine lovers.

Christmas Markets cruises are another unique option to visit some of the best Holiday Markets in Europe. Available only during late November and December each year, these cruises are a popular and affordable way to experience the region’s decorations, food and ambiance during the holiday season.

Because they are so small, river cruises generally sell out in advance, sometimes 6 months to a year before the cruise. Booking early has many advantages, not only ensuring that you will get your desired cruise date, but often providing 2-for-1 cruise prices, deeply discounted airfare to the destination and even a free night in a hotel before the cruise.

There are many last-minute discounts right now for those looking to book any still open cabins for the Fall and Winter cruises. By booking in July, you can get free airfare and discounts of up to $1000 per person on some European itineraries.

Are There Any Cruise Discounts for Federal Employees & Retirees? is a web site created specifically for government employees. They work directly with most of the major river and ocean cruise lines to find the best cruise deals for government employees and retirees. Discounted rates or exclusive extras are offered on hundreds of cruises each year. Those are also combinable with the different promotions offered by the cruise lines, so federal employees can end up saving hundreds of dollars by combining the Fed offers with any current cruise line deals.

Save More on Your Cruise with Hotel Discounts

For Feds interested in exploring their departure city before their cruise, there are many hotels chains that offer special government rates in their hotels around the world. Check out Marriott, Sheraton, Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western and Choice Hotels to search for any discounted rates before your cruise.

Though not always available, government rates can save you a lot of money off the regular rate when you can find them. Please note that government rates require a valid federal or state government ID to be presented at check-in so they are not available to Fed retirees or contractors.

© 2020 Polia Marinova. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Polia Marinova.


About the Author

A veteran of the travel industry, Poli Marinova is a travel blogger, avid cruiser and a federal employee spouse who is always looking for the next best vacation deal. As the co-founder of, she negotiates directly with cruise lines to get exclusive deals for federal employees.