It’s no longer conceivable to arrive at the pier on embarkation day with a suitcase in hand, trying to haggle your way on board for the best last-minute cruise offer. However, getting a good deal is easier than ever.
Last-minute cruises, which are defined as sailings booked between several days and three months before the embarkation date, provide savings to those of us who either procrastinate for a living or love the luxury of cruising on the spur of the moment. Even better, the Internet is a fantastic resource for bargains, and travel firms frequently receive offers from cruise lines attempting to fill ships on close-in excursions.
Like any other “too good to be true” offer, buying a last-minute cruise has advantages and disadvantages. Read on for tips and tricks on how to cruise on the cheap while avoiding potential savings mistakes.
Book at the Appropriate Time
60 to 90 days before departure is one of the greatest times to get last-minute deals on a specific cruise. What’s the reason? This is the final opportunity for travelers to cancel current reservations without penalty (for most, but not all, cruise lines and itineraries). At that point, the cruise operator will know exactly how many cabins are still available – and if there is more space available than the cruise line would like, it will swiftly (and frequently dramatically) decrease the ticket to sell out the ship.
Expect “Peak” Travel
There’s a reason why a cruise ship is being unloaded with little time to spare, and it’s not because it’s a best-seller. You’re unlikely to discover a last-minute deal on Christmas or New Year’s sailings or spring break weeks. You might be able to, but don’t count on it if you want to travel during certain hours. On the other hand, Caribbean during peak hurricane season (September through early November) or during the pre-holiday (first week or two of December) and post-holiday (first two weeks of January) vacation lulls are sure to offer plenty of variation. However, nothing should ever be ruled out. Some years, vacation cruises or peak summer sailings may not sell out as quickly as they should, and there are incredible deals on ordinarily popular itineraries.
Accept Repositioning Cruises
Last-minute offers are common when odd-duck itineraries do not sell successfully. Repositioning cruises are among them, in which ships move “regions” for the season and sail unconventional routes to their new homeports, frequently over an ocean or sea. These excursions are frequently longer — perhaps two weeks instead of seven days — and feature a lot of sea days as well as a smattering of ports, all at a fair price. There is a catch: because these trips start in one port and terminate in another, travelers must purchase pricey one-way or open-jaw airfares. Still, do the math; if you can find a reasonable price on airfare, you’ll save a lot on last-minute repositionings.
Though cruise lines have strong limits on travel agency discounts, cruise vendors can acquire lower pricing or offer different booking bonuses than their competitors. Shop around to find the best deals. Many agencies have websites dedicated to last-minute offers or weekly deals emails. If you don’t find something you like, give us a call. Frequently, agencies have cheap costs that they can only disclose to customers over the phone. (Also, don’t forget to check out Cruise Critic’s last-minute discounts page.)
It is critical to define value.
How much of a save is a low-cost cruise that necessitates spending twice as much on airfare? For example, you’ll see more Anchorage-to-Vancouver itineraries on last-minute lists than more reasonable round-trip Seattle itineraries. Why? The latter, which sails into and out of the same city, is usually less expensive. The former has you flying in and out of various airports, including Alaska, where tickets are frequently excessive. Consider the cost before committing.