Upgrade: This is the No. 1 cruise line for your money

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These cruise lines offer a sea of savings.

U.S. News & World Report released its 2020 list of the best cruise lines, on Tuesday, naming Royal Caribbean International as the best cruise line for your money. Royal Caribbean inched up from its No. 2 spot on the previous year’s list, knocking Celebrity Cruises — which had been the No. 1 best cruise line for your money — down a spot. Norwegian Cruise Line took the No. 3 slot.

Factors like an “impressive list of amenities (including zip lines and ice skating rinks), abundance of dining options and variety of itineraries at an affordable price point” propelled Royal Caribbean into the top spot, the U.S. News report revealed.

U.S. News looked at 17 cruise lines and 176 ships, evaluating them on cruise ship quality, reputation among travelers, results from health assessments conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, price class, itinerary offerings and more.

Here are the top-ranking ships in each category.

For the money:
1. Royal Caribbean
2. Celebrity Cruises
3. Norwegian Cruises

For luxury:
1. Viking Ocean Cruises
2. Seabourn Cruise Lines
3. Crystal Cruises

For Families:
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean International
3. Carnival Cruise Line

For Couples:
1. Viking Ocean Cruises
2. Seabourn Cruise Lines
3. Crystal Cruises

In the Mediterranean
1. Seabourn Cruise LIne
2. Crystal Cruises
3. Viking Ocean Cruises

In the Caribbean
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean International
3. Seabourn Cruise Line

No matter which cruise line you decide to take, experts say there are a number of strategies that can help you save big when booking a cruise.

Book a cruise on an upgraded ship. “Cruise lines introduce brand-new ships almost every year, which generally command a premium. But the cruise lines are also investing an incredible amount of money into upgrading their full fleet – meaning some of the older ships are getting complete makeovers, by receiving some of the lines’ latest and greatest features,” explains Chris Gray Faust, Managing Editor of Cruise Critic. “With lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Oceania announcing significant upgrade programs, you can often save a significant amount of money on your base fare by booking some of these recently upgraded ships. You get the shiny new experience, without the higher price that often comes with a brand-new ship.”

Book your cruise early in the year. The best time to book a cruise is January, February or March, which is a period called the Wave Season, explains Travelzoo’s senior editor Gabe Saglie. “Wave Season is cruising’s equivalent to Black Friday,” explains Faust, adding that the majority of lines introduce some kind of incentive for you to book in the upcoming year. “Savings can come in the form of discounted fares; add-ons like complimentary beverage packages or onboard credit that can be used for drinks, shore excursions or spa treatments; cabin upgrades or even free airfare – allowing travelers to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars,” he says.

Cruise in the shoulder season. Saglie calls this cruising “on the edges.” For example, while the peak pricing for a cruise to Alaska is in the peak of summer — June, July and August — you can save big by going in May or September.

Book a repositioning cruise. Often, when the seasons change, cruise ships must ‘reposition’ so they get to their new port. “These one-way cruises spend most of the time on the high seas, but they are often deeply discounted and are a great way to enjoy everything a cruise ship has to offer,” Saglie explains.

Track fares. “Much like airfares, cruise fares rise and drop frequently – and it’s dependent on a number of factors such as how a sailing is selling, or any canceled cabins that the cruise line is trying to refill. Sign up to be alerted when fares rise and fall, so you’re able to catch a great deal as soon as it’s announced,” syas Faust.