Sometimes, you do not know when you are going to get time off. Nonetheless, you can book a last-minute cruise deal if you would like to sail somewhere.
The best part? Many last-minute cruise deals come with discounts!
There is no denying that taking a voyage to a fabulous destination can be fun. After all, who would not want to say, “I’m going to the Caribbean this weekend!”?
But how can you score last-minute cruise deals?
Most of the time, you can book a deal when someone canceled their reservation. This means that you can stay in a fantastic stateroom for a fraction of a cost.
But keep in mind that prices for last-minute cruise deals vary depending on the available vessel, preferred destination, and time of the year. Take the time to read some of the tips that might help you find a great last-minute cruise deal:
The Best Cruise Liners for Last-minute Cruises
Most last-minute sales happen on the larger ships leaving from U.S. homeports on a Caribbean cruise. We’re talking about giant vessels like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and other similar lines.
It’ll be challenging to find a last-minute spot on any smaller luxury ships like the Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Crystal Cruises. That’s because they tend to book up far in advance.
Understanding “Booking Window”
Sure, cruise cabins tend to be fully-booked in advance compared to hotel rooms and airline seats. But there is this thing called “booking window.”
It refers to the number of days between the time a customer books and a ship sail. Over recent years, many cruise lines tend to extend their book windows for at least six months. This means that a large percentage of cabins on any given cruise is already booked up even three or four months in advance.
That said, the booking window varies depending on the itinerary. If you’re taking a long route or sailing in a faraway destination, the booking window can be as long as a full year. But that also means that these kinds of cruises are fully-booked between three and six months in advance.
The Perfect Time to Book for a Last-minute Cruise
A good time to start looking for last-minute deals is about 90 days before sailing. This is the “final payment” deadline.
This is where customers who have put down deposits on trips can cancel or send in the full amount due. Once the deadline is over, cruise lines will have a better idea of how many cabins they have left to sell. And then they will start adjusting pricing to accept more bookings.
But if a ship is almost fully-booked after the final payment, fares for the remaining cabins will remain or will become more expensive.
If there is an unexpectedly large number of cabins left to sell, pricing will inevitably come down.
The final payment deadline varies by line and itinerary. At Royal Caribbean, it’s 75 days for shorter voyages. The Regent Seven Seas makes the final payment deadline up to 150 days on some trips.
The Right Season
You’re more likely to find last-minute cruises on ships with a reasonable or even rock-bottom prices during the slow seasons. You might also score a deal that allows you to explore various destinations!
In the Caribbean, that means the fall, when the kids are back at school, and the hurricane-season worries are keeping some travelers away. In Alaska, you can find excellent last-minute deals during the first few weeks of May and the last few weeks of September.
The Repositioning Cruise
Cruise lines sometimes need to sail for long distances between major markets. This results in what we call a “repositioning cruise.”
Most repositioning cruises have odd itineraries that are often tough to sell. Thus, they only become available at the last minute.
For example, many lines move vessels from the Caribbean to Europe in the spring. And then they’ll head back to the Caribbean in the fall.
This can lead to long, one-off sailing with so many sea days that only suit a small subset of cruisers.
That said, repositioning cruises between Europe and Asia in spring and fall allows you to score awesome last-minute deals. Mind you; there are websites like VacationsToGo.Com that offer last-minute repositioning cruises.
Calling the Right Travel Agent
The pricing you find online for last-minute cruises is often the same from other sites. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a cruise line’s official website or an online travel agency.
Yet, you can get a better deal if you call the right travel agent.
Big cruise-selling travel agent networks like Avoya Travel often have access to lower “group rate” pricing. Their cruise also comes with value-added perks like free drinks packages.
Mind you; most of these perks are unavailable on a cruise line’s website.
Keeping it Close to Home
One of the biggest challenges when looking for a last-minute cruise deal is finding a package that fits your budget. More so, when the ports are far from where you currently live.
The cost of a cruise will depend on the line, vessel, destination, and itinerary.
That said, look for voyages from ports that are near your place. Preferably, a location you can reach via car or plane. That way, the travel time will be short and inexpensive.
For travelers on the East Coast, that might mean sailings out of New York or Boston. As for the people living on the West Coast, it could mean sailing from Los Angeles or San Diego.
If a cruise line is doing its revenue management right, there will always be a few cabins available on any given voyage as the sailing date approaches.
It might not be the type of cabin that you want, like a coveted mid-ship balcony. And it might not be at the price you were hoping to pay.
But if you don’t care about the cabin type, destination, or vessel, you’ll have a lot easier time finding a last-minute cruise deal.
More often than not, suites and connecting cabins are the first to sell. That’s because they are popular among families.
The same thing goes for cabins that have a third or fourth berth.
Still, you’ll never know what will be available a few weeks before a cruise ship sets sail. That’s why it is very crucial for a last-minute cruise passenger to be very flexible.
The lowest cruise fare is often available between September and January. There are also budget-friendly cruises available during mid-April and the end of May.
Nonetheless, last-minute cruise deals can be cheaper at any given time as long as you know when and where to look for a discount.
Better yet, you can book your next sea voyage on CruiseDirect, as they are guaranteed to have the lowest cruise prices. They do not even charge for booking fees, so you will be able to save more for your pocket money!
Still, it would help if you looked at what’s included in the package. Some packages include free food, which you can avail of in the cruise ship’s exclusive or high-end restaurants.
And whatever amount you can save in this last-minute cruise deal, use it to spend on fine dining or another round of exquisite drinks.