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How to Find Last-Minute Cruise Deals

Say bye to those frantic searches, we’ll tell you how instead.
Last Updated
:
February 7, 2024
by
Editorial Staff
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The beach ball is packed. The terrible Hawaiian shirts are ironed. You and your partner have been giggling for months in anticipation of livin’ it up on your cheap couples getaway cruise to Mexico. But when your better half’s ancient Chevy finally gives out the week before departure, your cruise funds sink faster than your hopes of sipping mudslides in Cabo.

Don’t throw in the floral towel or infamous matching aloha top just yet! Last-minute cruises can be an unexpected treasure for budget- or calamity-stricken travelers like you. Like finding a $20 note in an old pair of Bermuda shorts, scoring a last-minute cruise deal can resurrect your vacation funds from Davy Jones’ locker.

While harpooning a discount cruise with less than a month’s notice requires some patience and a whale-sized dose of luck, the rewards meet their weight in gold. We’re talking buy-one-get-one-free levels of savings here, matey. Much more attractive than walking your own proverbial plank into the office Monday morning after a weekend of moping.

Ahead, we’ll set sail through tricks like stalking European repositioning itineraries and last-minute cancellation sites to reveal how less-seasoned travelers can transform tragedy into tan lines with dreamy discounts. Maybe you’ll even have enough dough leftover from that last-minute cruise steal to invest in some less tragic transportation for your significant other. Grab your floppy hat and life preserver, because we’re about to dive in!

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When to find last-minute cruise deals

Last-minute cruise deals
Celebrity Cruises

The best time to find last-minute cruise deals is before the cruise season starts. These deals tend to be shorter than a week and often include repositioning cruises, which are cruises that move between destinations. Alternatively, you can search during a slow season, which varies from destination to destination. In the Caribbean, this means fall, when school is out, while in Alaska, it means the first few weeks of the cruise season.

When to find last-minute cruise deals varies from year to year, but there are a few key dates that are likely to yield the best savings. Summertime and school holidays are typically peak times for cruises, which means that last-minute deals will be harder to find during these times. However, if you plan to travel later in the season, you might find some good deals during this period.

As far as ship sizes are concerned, the most attractive last-minute cruise deals will be on smaller ships. Royal Caribbean ships, such as the Radiance Class, can offer cheaper prices than Quantum Class ships. Similarly, Voyager Class and Freedom Class ships are known for great savings in the Caribbean.

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August 2023

August 2023 cruise deals
Travel Pursuit

If you want to travel to the Caribbean or Eastern Caribbean in late August 2023, a cruise may be the way to go. Many cruise lines are currently advertising rates under $60 per night on new bookings. This means you can get a great deal on a cruise to the Eastern or Western Caribbean or Mexico. But there are some rules to follow when searching for a last-minute cruise deal. First, you must be flexible with your dates.

Whenever possible, look for deals that will save you money. For example, if you live in the northeast, check for last-minute cruise deals out of Cape Liberty. However, if you live on the west coast, look for cruises out of Los Angeles, Seattle, or Vancouver. You should also look for cheap airfare to get to your cruise port.

Another rule of thumb is to book a last-minute cruise on a ship that isn’t in high demand. Popular shore excursions may have already sold out, and pre-paid drinks packages are limited. Also, be aware of any changes to the cruise line’s vaccination requirements, and make sure to obtain them before sailing.

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Within 90 days of sailing

Crown Princess cruise ship at Port of Lisbon
Vecteezy

The sweet spot for last-minute cruise deals is sixty to ninety days before the sailing date. During these months, cruise lines adjust their pricing to take advantage of unsold cabins and lower the price. They may offer discounts on top staterooms that may have been out of reach months ago.

To be sure you get last-minute cruise deals, it is helpful to make sure that your email is set up for travel-related emails. Make sure it’s one that won’t interfere with your regular mail. Also, make sure your most recent information is on file with the cruise line. Some cruise lines will send you special offers only to repeat customers, so you should make sure to update your information with them.

Before you take a last-minute cruise, make sure you have your passport ready. Passport renewal can take months, so you’ll want to make sure you have one before you leave. Also, remember that cruise lines often offer incentives like extra onboard credit and upgrades. You can even get access to the VIP lounge.

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Fall or spring

Alaska cruise travel luxury vacation woman watching inside passage scenic cruising day on balcony deck enjoying view of mountains and nature landscape. Asian girl tourist with wool blanket
Canva Photos

When looking for last-minute cruise deals, it’s important to keep in mind that the pricing for these trips is similar across all travel agents and online travel sites. However, it’s always worth calling around to see if you can get a better deal. Remember that many of these travel agents belong to large cruise-selling networks, which have access to special group rates and additional perks.

The best time to find a last-minute deal is during off-peak seasons, especially in the Caribbean. Cruises departing from Florida and Cape Liberty, New Jersey tend to be less expensive during this time. Other Florida cruise ports include Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Avoid cruises departing during peak travel times, such as May-September, as they are more expensive.

Summer months are the most expensive, but if you’re flexible, try booking in fall or spring. Cruise lines often offer special deals to encourage fall bookings, so try to book your cruise for this time of year. Also, make sure you book a cruise that includes at least a few sea days.

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Wave season

Ship in the tempest
Vecteezy

Wave season is a great time to book a cruise, because cruise companies are usually more flexible with their pricing during this time. They may offer free upgrades, on-board credits, or other incentives. In addition, some cruise lines have special deals during this time, such as $50-per-day cruises.

Wave season is the time right after Christmas, when cruise lines see their biggest influx of bookings. This is because after the Christmas holidays, more people start to think about taking a vacation, and this boosts demand. Cruise marketers make sure to take advantage of the increased demand by offering attractive incentives to encourage people to book cruises during this time.

Although this season is the best time to book a cruise, there are other ways to save money. Using a rate-tracking app can help you find the lowest fares, but it isn’t always easy. There are a number of websites, such as Cruise Critic, that will alert you to changes in the price of your chosen cruise. Another good way to save money on a cruise is to book early. If you’re planning a Caribbean cruise, the best time is January and February.

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How to find last-minute cruise deals

Old man with magnifying glass finding last-minute cruise deals on his laptop
Envato Elements

If you are looking for a cheap cruise, it can be difficult to find a last-minute deal. There are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, remember that fares on last-minute cruises are not refundable. If you need to cancel your trip, you’ll have to pay the full cost of the cruise at the time of booking. Moreover, you will have to do so at least 30 days before sailing.

While you might not be able to get a great deal if you travel in winter, you can look for a last-minute cruise deal at the end of spring or summer. During these seasons, many cruise companies offer lower rates than during the peak season. Besides, you can also find some great deals by using the Internet. For instance, you can use major travel websites such as Orbitz or Expedia to search for the best deals. Using these websites, you can narrow down the list of last-minute cruises by destination or cruise line.

Secondly, check with travel agents. Many travel agents get information from Royal Caribbean on which ships are offering last-minute cruise deals. You can ask your travel agent to contact you once a deal appears. Even if you find a great cruise deal, you need to keep in mind that the prices of airfare will often negate any cruise savings.

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Cruise line sites

Cruise ships in miami port
Canva Photos

Often, a last-minute cruise deal can be found online. Cruise lines are very good at managing their revenue, and as the sailing date approaches, they usually adjust their fares. If the ship has an unexpectedly large number of cabins available, the prices will drop.

The best time to find a last-minute cruise is during a non-peak time of year. The shoulder season, early summer, and holiday season are good times to search for a last-minute deal. Be sure to check out all the details and make sure the dates and time are flexible.

Another option is to sign up for price alert services. These services will email you alerts whenever the price of a cruise drops. Signing up for these services can help you find deals even before they are available online. Remember, however, that these deals are often for shorter sailings.

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