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How to Find Last-Minute Cruise Deals

With the rising cost of hotels and airfare, cruises are still one of the most affordable ways to travel.

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Cruising on a budget? There are many resources available for travelers looking to save money.

Cruising is back – in a big way – after all the turmoil and shutdowns in the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Cruise Lines International Association's 2023 State of the Cruise Industry report, the intent to cruise is higher now than it was in December 2019, before the pandemic. About 85% of travelers who have been on a cruise will cruise again, which is 6% higher than it was pre-COVID.

John Lovell, president of the Travel Leaders Group division of Internova Travel Group, tells us, "Cruising has roared back since the pandemic and the lifting of sailing restrictions. It's a true success story! That means that we will see (and are seeing) full ships, even more so than pre-pandemic." He adds, "While Caribbean cruises remain popular, travelers are embracing river cruises, expedition cruises, smaller ships and off-the-beaten-path ports. There really is a cruise for everyone."

CLIA's report also states that passenger volume for 2023 is projected to reach an astounding 31.5 million passengers – 106% of the volume in 2019. In addition, the cruise industry is seeing higher numbers of solo travelers and people with mobility challenges – and there are more Gen X and millennials booking cruise vacations.

Chris Gray Faust, the executive editor of Cruise Critic, says that cancellation policies have also returned to normal with cruise bookings back to pre-pandemic levels, particularly for mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line . You also probably won't find many deals on sailings in high season and on the most anticipated new ships .

With more demand for cruise travel – one of the fastest-growing sectors of tourism – how can you find a last-minute cruise deal in 2023? Read on to find out how to book your dream cruise vacation for less.

When to find the best cruise deals

A cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Alaska.

Scoring a great cruise deal depends on several factors, including the type of experience you're looking for ( adults-only or family-friendly , for example), the destination, the length of the sailing, the time of year and your flexibility to travel.

Lovell recommends booking early for the best pricing. "For many cruise lines, especially the expedition products and with some luxury lines, the best time to find deals is when they open new sailings," he says. "The cruises fill up quickly, so usually the best offer is the first offering in terms of pricing. Some of the larger cruise lines will have pricing and value-added promotions on sailings that still have open space about 100 days prior to sailing."

Summer 2023

If you're planning on traveling within the next few months, you may be able to score a last-minute cruise deal to some destinations, such as Alaska . According to Bob Levinstein, CEO of CruiseCompete.com, "There are still some great deals for the summer, especially in Alaska, which is particularly soft right now."

A representative from Priceline notes that the travel agency is also offering great deals for summer cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

When you're looking at pricing for cruises, be sure to compare fares that include the same costs, Levinstein advises. Some advertised fares that seem like an incredible deal don't include the port taxes and fees, which can substantially raise the price of your vacation.

Within 90 days of sailing

Gray Faust says the window for finding last-minute cruise deals is within 90 days of a sailing. "That three-month mark is when final deposits are due on a cruise, and historically the last point you could cancel your cruise without financial penalty," she says. "At that point, cruise lines try to fill those vacant cabins, usually in the form of slashed fares to entice people to book."

Levinstein agrees. "While the market has heated up, the closer-in the sailing the more likely you will find a bargain." He adds, "But as last-minute deals are based on how full a particular sailing on a particular ship might be at a given time, shopping around is often rewarded regardless of overall market conditions."

Fall or spring

You may find cheaper cruise fares if you're able to book a last-minute cruise departing in the spring or fall when most families with children in school can't travel. As such, cruise lines typically have more availability and lower pricing during these times.

Wave season

If you're willing to book a cruise during the promotional period known as "wave season" – which spans early January through the end of March – you may be able to find a last-minute cruise deal that fits your budget.

Hurricane season

Planning a last-minute cruise during hurricane season in the Caribbean and Mexico – from June 1 to Nov. 30 – is another option. These months coincide with the shoulder season in those regions, so it can be a great time to find cruise savings. If you do book a cruise during hurricane season, consider investing in a travel insurance policy that has trip interruption and trip cancellation benefits. You'll also want to make sure that all of your prepaid and nonrefundable expenses are covered in the policy.

Read: The Best Cruise Insurance Plans

Early December

Levinstein says the first two weeks of December are also a great time to take a cruise. Early December is typically when families are preparing for the holidays at home or getting ready to travel at the end of the month for Christmas and New Year's, so it's an ideal time to go on a cruise for less.

Book a last-minute cruise deal on GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

How to find last-minute cruise deals

A cruise ship sails into the sunset.

Cruise line sites

If you're internet-savvy and don't mind perusing the cruise lines' websites individually, check out their advertised discounted fares, included amenities and special bonus exclusive offers. These special fares often include free upgrades, airfare and credit for onboard spending. The types and level of perks may increase depending on the stateroom category.

For example, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a number of Free at Sea offers. These deals include unlimited open bar, shore excursion credits, dining at specialty restaurants, complimentary Wi-Fi and discounted rates for the second guest. Third and fourth guests staying in the same stateroom even get to sail for free with some deals.

In addition to the Free at Sea offers, Norwegian features CruiseFirst, a special bonus offer that essentially allows cruisers to earn free money. For example, if you purchase a $150 CruiseFirst certificate today for a six-day or longer voyage, it will double in value and you'll have $300 to spend on a cruise that you can take as early as 120 days from the purchase date. The certificates expire within three years.

If you're looking for reduced fares on a luxury cruise, it'll likely be more challenging to find a last-minute deal, with even lengthy – and expensive – world cruises selling out within hours. Levinstein explains this is because there's more demand than supply, when compared with the entry-level market.

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Cruise deal aggregator sites

If you prefer to use cruise deal aggregator sites, you can find last-minute cruises across the industry all in one place. Simply sort your findings by the month you'd like to travel, the length of your intended trip and where you wish to cruise. These are some of the best resources for finding cruise discounts:

  • Cruise Critic
  • Tripadvisor
  • Cruise Compete

"Some lines began steering away from last-minute fare drops a few years ago, so keep an eye out for value-add deals as well," Gray Faust says. "While you might not get a super cheap base fare, things like free gratuities, drink packages and/or shore excursions could actually save you even more than you'd save on a slashed price."

'Kids sail free' fares

Some cruise lines allow kids to sail free , greatly reducing the total price of and/or adding value to your cruise. MSC Cruises allows guests ages 17 and younger to cruise for free year-round when they're the third and fourth passengers in the same stateroom with their parents. If you're considering a family cruise, check out the other cruise lines that offer similar promotions where children sail free, including Holland America Line and Norwegian.

Book a family cruise on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Cruise line loyalty programs

Consider joining your preferred cruise line's loyalty and membership programs for free upgrades. These are some of the best options:

  • Carnival Cruise Line's VIFP Club:  This program features up to 40% discounts off fares, up to $50 in onboard credits, access to exclusive deals and other perks. Carnival VIFP members receive a loyalty number and can watch their points and rewards accrue online.
  • Viking Cruises ' Explorer Society:   Viking's program offers past cruisers travel credits to use on future voyages, as well as members-only cocktail parties on the ship. Members are also privy to new itineraries and limited-time offers.
  • Princess Cruises ' Captain's Circle:  Benefits with the Captain's Circle are based on the number of cruises you've taken. Some perks include early access to new itineraries, discounts for the onboard retail shops and excursions, complimentary minibar setups, priority disembarkation, access to the Platinum and Elite lounges, complimentary wine tasting events, and more.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line's Latitudes Rewards:  This tiered program allows cruisers to earn discounts on select Norwegian products and services, such as beverage packages and signature spa treatments. You also get priority check-in, an exclusive cocktail party while on board, laundry service and more.

Cruise deal aggregator loyalty programs

You can also find loyalty programs through sites such as Expedia. An Expedia Rewards membership is free and offers discounts on travel; depending on your level (Blue, Silver or Gold), there are additional perks and benefits. You also earn rewards points to use toward booking future trips.

"On the Expedia website and through nearly 300 Expedia Cruises retail locations across North America, Expedia offers Member Prices, saving travelers up to 10% on last-minute deals, along with exclusive promotions on a variety of cruises," a company spokesperson says. "Expedia also secures special rates in advance on the most popular itineraries and cruise lines through the Expedia Exclusive Staterooms program. Most of all, travelers can reach out to one of Expedia's Vacation Consultants who can help navigate the current environment, answer any questions and help find the best value on their ideal vacations."

Read:  The Best Travel Rewards Programs

Travel advisors

Enlisting the help of a knowledgeable travel advisor can make planning easier – and it's one of the best ways to find last-minute cruise deals. Advisors, especially those specializing in cruises, usually have unique access to perks and discounts for big savings with cruise lines that can further enhance the value of your vacation and/or lower the total price.

Lovell agrees with this tip. "Demand for cruising is very high. I would always recommend booking early and working with a travel advisor," he says. "While there are lots of new ships, they often fill up quickly since travelers are eager to try out the latest and greatest the cruise lines have to offer."

Some aggregator sites also have their own travel advisors to assist in your search. Head of Priceline Cruises Denise Bialek says, "We highly recommend calling one of our Priceline Cruise advisors, as they are the most knowledgeable about the best rate options, know how to combine promotions to get the best deal and will save you time navigating the plethora of cruise lines, cabin categories, pricing, port charges and more." She adds, "An advantage of booking with one of our Priceline Cruise advisors is access to all cruise line offers and loyalty perks, in addition to our many Priceline exclusive deals, all supported by 24/7 service."

Additionally, keep in mind that travel advisors have insight into additional restrictions and the condition of each cruise line.

All-inclusive cruises

Though it may seem counterintuitive, you may be able to score a better value by booking an all-inclusive (or mostly all-inclusive) voyage than a budget cruise with a cheaper base fare. While these options are primarily in the luxury cruise line category, some fares are especially attractive thanks to included airfare costs, transfers to the ship, meals at all dining venues, premium wines and spirits, Wi-Fi access, and more.

When you book one of these cruises, you'll know the total cost upfront, and there won't be any unwanted surprises when you close out your shipboard account at the end of the cruise. Some of the traditional extras on noninclusive cruise lines – like bottled water, snacks, specialty coffee, gratuities or even beach equipment rentals on the line's private island – can add up quickly, diminishing the impact of your original fare savings. These are some of the all-inclusive cruise options:

  • Viking Ocean Cruises:  On  Viking Ocean Cruises , travelers enjoy veranda staterooms; all meals (including alternative dining); beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; one complimentary excursion in every port; and more, all in the base fares.
  • Silversea Cruises:  Silversea Cruises  boasts door-to-door all-inclusive fares that encompass private transfers, gourmet meals, butler service, beverages and at least one complimentary excursion in every port.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises:  Regent Seven Seas Cruises  offers two-for-one all-inclusive fares that also feature business class airfare on international flights, free two- or three-night land programs, a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, free unlimited beverages and open bars, complimentary dining in specialty restaurants, unlimited Wi-Fi, shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, and more.

These lines also offer other discounts, and you may be able to combine them with exclusive offers that your travel advisor can access. Book an all-inclusive cruise on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Short cruises

Three- to five-night cruises generally equate to instant savings since they have lower fares than voyages lasting a week or longer. You may also be able to drive to the port, saving on airfare and other travel expenses. If you sail from ports in Florida or Texas, you can visit destinations in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico; ports of call may include stops at private, cruise line-owned islands like Royal Caribbean International's Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas.

If you're in the northeast U.S., you can book a short sailing to Bermuda  aboard a few different lines. Bermuda sailings with Carnival Cruises depart from New York City and Norfolk, Virginia, while Royal Caribbean sails to the nearby island from New York City and Baltimore .

From Los Angeles , embark on four-night Royal Caribbean cruises to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. With Celebrity Cruises , passengers can book six-night voyages that call on select California cities and Vancouver . The line also offers six-night, round-trip sailings from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Shorter itineraries are less expensive not only because of their length, but also because they typically don't use the cruise lines' newest, largest vessels. Still, some ships have been updated, including Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, which underwent a $116 million amplification in 2020. Its upcoming itineraries make short trips between Miami and the Bahamas.

Repositioning cruises

Repositioning cruises are another option for booking a great cruise deal. The price on these voyages is less expensive since most of the days are spent at sea as the ships move from one region of the world to another. The itineraries are longer, so you'll need to have a flexible schedule for extended travel.

One of the pros of booking these cruises is that you'll get to see incredible destinations like Hawaii, Australia, Fiji, Portugal, Spain and Italy – with considerable savings. If you enjoy spending time on board the ship and don't need a port of call to explore every day, then this may be a great cost-saving option to consider.

For example, Celebrity has a 16-night Mediterranean Passage Transatlantic sailing from Rome to Tampa, Florida , in November 2023. The sailing includes eight ports and nine sea days, with fares starting at $899 per person.

Want to plan a cruise? See the top cruises on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

Email alerts

Sign up for email alerts to receive updates on discounted pricing through the cruise line websites, travel aggregators or your travel advisor. That way, you'll be the first to know about limited-time offers, last-minute deals or value-adds that may make the price just right.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed to destinations around the globe on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts and traditional masted sailing ships. Most recently, she traveled on a small expedition vessel in Antarctica and crossed the notorious Drake Passage twice. She covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You may also be interested in:

  • The Best Cruise Lines for the Money
  • Cruise Packing List: Essentials to Bring
  • How Much Does a Cruise Cost?
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How to Get Last Minute Cruise Deals

Last updated: May 10th, 2021

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  • Find a Cruise

Are you dreaming of a vacation and wondering how to get last-minute cruise deals? Like all travel deals, there are several tricks of the trade to help you score the best possible price on an upcoming cruise.

Hunting for cruise deals when you want to sail with little advanced planning requires a bit more knowledge and strategy than searching for a discounted plane ticket or hotel room.

Here are a few tips on how to find the best last-minute cruise deals for your upcoming vacation.

1: Timing is everything

With flights and hotels, you can wait until the very last minute, even 24 hours before, to book a reservation or ticket. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply when looking for a last-minute cruise deal. For starters, cruise lines need to give their guest roster to the coast guard before a ship’s departure date. More importantly, cruise prices don’t tend to fall dramatically right before a ship’s sailing.

Read: What Is Wave Season?

Friends hanging out on a cruise

The best time to look for a last-minute cruise deal is around two to three months before a ship is set to depart. Celebrity Cruises’s cancellation policy allows guests to cancel their trip without penalties from 75 – 90 days before traveling. Therefore, if a number of travelers go ahead and cancel their trip, we will want to fill up those newly opened staterooms quickly and sometimes offer a reduced fare in order to fully book a particular sailing.

2: Don’t limit yourself to specific sail dates

Couple looking at Miami skyline

Miami, Florida

If you are set on finding a last-minute cruise deal for an upcoming vacation, one of the most important things to remember is to be flexible. If you are looking to travel to one destination during a limited timeframe, your chances of getting a stellar deal become much more limited.

If you remain open to multiple destinations and have flexible travel dates (try to keep at least a two- to three-month window open), then you’re much more likely to find better cruise ship deals .

3: Be flexible with stateroom options

Inside Stateroom on Celebrity Edge

Inside Stateroom

In addition to being flexible about sail dates, keep an open mind regarding the kind of staterooms and destinations you’ll find when booking a cruise at the last minute.

Certain itineraries have coveted staterooms that sell out months in advance. For example, veranda staterooms on Alaska cruises sell out quickly since everyone wants to see wildlife and glaciers from the comfort of their room during their trip.

If you’re more concerned about how to find last-minute cruise deals than having a particular stateroom, then a discounted cruise deal is a good fit for you.

4: Consider less frequented itineraries

Beach with small boats in Buzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Buzios in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you’re looking to find a good cruise deal, try exploring some less-visited itineraries instead, which will increase your odds of finding a discounted cruise rate.

5: Consider airfare costs

Woman checking airport schedule on screen

If you’re thinking of how to get last-minute cruise deals in order to save money, it’s important to take into account the cost of airfare, too. Even if you find a great deal on a last-minute cruise, the price of a ticket to get to your embarkation city might not be as much of a steal.

Search for last-minute cruise specials while simultaneously checking flight prices to your embarkation point with our Flights by Celebrity tool in order to make sure you’re getting a deal and not spending more overall on your trip.

6: Search for cruises close to home

You can also skip the hassle of booking a plane ticket entirely by searching for cruises with embarkation ports within driving distance of your home. This way, if you do find a great last-minute deal on a cruise, you can simply pack your bags and jump in your car instead of having to worry about finding a low-priced plane ticket to the departure port.

Skyline of Seattle, Washington including Space Needle

Seattle, Washington

For U.S. residents in the Pacific Northwest, look for a round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle , Washington. If you live in L.A. or San Diego, you can book a Pacific Coastal cruise or a Panama Canal cruise without worrying about airfare to the port.

Read: Panama Canal Cruises From San Diego

East Coast residents can find Caribbean cruises leaving from Cape Liberty, New Jersey in the north or last-minute cruises from Florida departing from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa in the south.

7: Cruise during shoulder season

Cruises departing during prime travel times, such as Christmas, spring break, or the middle of summer, have a good chance of selling out long before you even start searching for last-minute cruise deals. Instead, look for cruises that sail during shoulder seasons (the time period just before or after peak travel seasons) when you’re more likely to find a steal.

For example, if you want to get a good Mediterranean cruise deal , look for dates during mid-September or early October when schools are in full swing and most families with kids are back at home.

Those searching for a cruise around Australia and New Zealand should try and book a last-minute cruise from Sydney during the cooler months of October or April.

Australia skyline including Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House

Sydney, Australia

If you want to try finding a deal at the last minute on a Caribbean cruise , searching for dates during hurricane season (June to October) is your best bet.

Read: Cruising During Hurricane Season

In general, it’s wise to search for dates on all cruises a few weeks before the holiday break (December 1st to 15th) or the weeks immediately following (January 6th and on), when fewer people are looking to sail.

Read: Best Places to Cruise in January

8: Add up additional fees

Woman standing with traditional Greek architecture view

Santorini, Greece

Before you book a last-minute deal, make sure you consider all of the other fees that come with it, like international taxes, port fares, and service fees.

9: Consider repositioning cruises

View of colorful Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

A repositioning cruise is when a ship relocates to a different region after a cruise season ends. For example, a ship sailing in Europe might cruise to the Caribbean once the Mediterranean cruise season is over. Since repositioning cruises involve sailing across an ocean on a long journey, these cruises are often available at a discounted price.

While repositioning cruises often come at a wonderful price, there are some things to keep in mind. These cruises are much lengthier than regular cruises and usually last a minimum of two weeks, so you have to have the time to sail before booking.

Read: What Is a Repositioning Cruise?

Also, since these ships depart from one port and end in another, you’ll need to buy one-way airfare to your departure port and from your final port home.

How to book your last-minute cruise deal

Now that you know how to find last-minute cruise deals, it’s time to book your vacation. Browse our itineraries and start planning your next trip. It’s easy to filter by date, length of cruise, and embarkation port, so that finding that last-minute cruise deal will be as easy as possible.

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How to Book a Last-Minute Cruise

Whether you’re looking for a good deal or hoping for a quick getaway, here are the best ways to secure a cruise at the 11th hour..

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Huge white cruise ship viewed from the water

Mega-ships such as those in the Royal Caribbean fleet are the most likely to have last-minute inventory available.

Photo by amophoto_au/Shutterstock

Booking a cruise at the last minute isn’t as easy as it used to be. Would-be cruisers have been locking in their trips earlier than ever, thanks to early-booking promotions, leaving fewer cabins available on short notice.

At the same time, many cruise lines have moved away from the practice of offering deep discounts to fill empty cabins in the final weeks before sailing. Instead, they often try to maintain their prices at a base level even if it means some cabins go unsold.

The result is that last-minute bookers are having a harder time finding the type of cabins they want on ships and the itineraries they want at a good price.

Still, all is not lost for those hoping to hit the high seas on short notice. Whether you’ve procrastinated in making your cruise plans or just love to travel on a whim, here are some of the best ways to find and book a last-minute cruise.

Look at shorter, closer-to-home voyages

While cruise cabins have always booked up further in advance than hotel rooms and airline seats, the cruise “booking window” (the average number of days between the time a customer books and a ship sails) has widened considerably in recent years to well over six months at many lines. That means a large percentage of cabins on any given sailing is already booked up even three or four months out.

That said, the booking window varies widely by itinerary. Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners , one of the nation’s largest travel agency networks, says the booking window is now a full year out for long itineraries in faraway places such as Asia. But it’s three to six months for shorter, closer-to-home voyages. The latter category of cruises is where you’ll have the most luck finding last-minute cabin availability and deals.

Consider large-ship cruises in the Caribbean

Fee says most last-minute sales happen on the larger ships leaving from U.S. home ports on Caribbean cruises , where there is a huge amount of capacity. We’re talking sailings on the giant vessels of Royal Caribbean , Norwegian Cruise Line , and other similar lines. It’ll be tougher to find a last-minute spot (let alone a deal) on one of the smaller luxury ships operated by the likes of Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Crystal Cruises , which book up far in advance.

Start looking for deals three months before sailing

A good time to start looking for last-minute deals is about 90 days before a sailing. This is the “final payment” deadline for many cruises—the point where customers who have put down deposits on trips must send in the full amount due or cancel. After the deadline, cruise lines have a much better idea of how many cabins they have left to sell, and they adjust pricing accordingly. If a ship is heavily booked after final payment, fares for the remaining cabins will remain high or go higher. If there are an unexpectedly large number of cabins left to sell, pricing could come down.

The final payment deadline varies by line and itinerary. At Royal Caribbean, it’s 75 days for shorter voyages. Regent Seven Seas cuts things off as far out as 150 days on some trips.

Cruise ship in Alaska with snowy mountain range in background

Try for a last-minute booking on an early May or late September Alaska cruise.

Photo by Manamana/Shutterstock

Look for cruises during the low season

You’re more likely to find last-minute space on ships at reasonable or even rock-bottom prices during the slow seasons for travel in various destinations. In the Caribbean, that means the fall, when kids are back at school and hurricane-season worries are keeping some travelers away. In Alaska , where the cruise season only lasts a few months between May and September, the first few weeks and last few weeks of that period are good hunting grounds for a last-minute deal.

Consider a repositioning cruise

Cruise lines sometimes need to move ships long distances between major markets, resulting in what’s called a “repositioning cruise”. Repositioning cruises have odd itineraries that often are tough to sell and thus available at the last minute. Many lines move vessels from the Caribbean to Europe in the spring, for instance, and then back to the Caribbean in the fall, resulting in long, one-off sailings with lots of sea days that only appeal to a small subset of cruisers. Repositioning sailings between Europe and Asia in spring and fall are another good place to look for last-minute deals.

Some cruise-focused websites such as VacationsToGo.Com offer tabs listing last-minute repositioning cruises that you can sort by date and price.

Be flexible with your line, ship, and destination

If a cruise line is doing its revenue management right, there always will be at least a few cabins available on any given voyage as the sailing date approaches. It might not be the type of cabin that you want (a coveted midship balcony, for instance) or at the price you were hoping to pay. But if you don’t care about the cabin type or—better yet—even the specific sailing, ship, line, or destination, you’ll have a lot easier time finding a last-minute deal.

Cruise Planners’ Fee says premium cabins such as suites, connecting cabins (popular with families), and cabins that have a third or fourth berth often are the first to sell out for any given voyage. But you never know what will be available when it comes to the last few weeks before a sailing.

Work with a travel agent

The pricing you find online for last-minute cruises often is the same from site to site, whether you’re shopping directly with a cruise line or at an online travel agency. But you sometimes can get a better deal if you pick up the phone to call a travel agent directly. Big cruise-selling travel agent networks such as Cruise Planners and Avoya Travel often have access to lower “group rate” pricing or added-value perks such as free drinks packages that cruise lines won’t let travel agents advertise online.

Avoya cofounder Brad Anderson says the price that the 1,500 agents affiliated with his company can give you over the phone for a last-minute cruise might be radically different than what you see on the company’s website. While it varies by line, you’ll almost always get a better price by calling, he says.

Small white cruise ship sailing past Manhattan skyline

Consider a cruise that departs from a nearby port to avoid paying for a costly flight to get there.

Photo by Donald R. Swartz/Shutterstock

Look for sailings you can reach without paying for expensive airfare

The biggest challenge to booking a last-minute cruise sometimes isn’t finding the right ship at the right price. It’s finding flights to get to that ship at the right price. This is particularly true if you’re shopping for a last-minute cruise that is far from where you live. The solution? Look at sailings in ports that you can reach by car or via an air route that is short and inexpensive.

For vacationers on the East Coast, that might mean sailings out of New York City or Boston. For a West Coaster, it could mean a sailing from Los Angeles or San Diego.

Watch the news

Almost every year there are one-off events—a terrorist attack in a European city, a major hurricane in the Caribbean—that cause cruise bookings in a specific area to freeze up. Some events cause waves of cancellations. When this happens, cruise lines often will roll out last-minute deals to get people booking again. In the wake of the ban on Cuba cruise calls in 2019 , for instance, cruise lines were forced to drop the island from itineraries on short notice, setting off a flurry of cancellations for trips that included at least one Cuba call. To get people back onboard the affected ships, which were sailing altered routes, the cruise lines offered particularly good deals.

This article originally appeared online in 2019; it was most recently updated on August 9, 2023, to include current information.

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Last-Minute Cruises: 7 Biggest Myths About Booking a Cruise at the 11th Hour

J. Souza

Are last-minute cruises a dream come true for cruisers looking for a vacation on the cheap?  As long as you can travel at a moment’s notice can you really jump on a cruise ship with a last-minute booking?

Norwegian Cruise ship in port in Nassau, Bahamas

We will tackle some of the biggest myths about last-minute cruises in this article and answer some of the most common questions regarding short term cruise travel plans.

We all love a great deal.  And a great deal on a cruise is hard to resist.  And while you CAN get a great deal at the last minute, the truth of the matter is you’re often better off booking well in advance of your cruise sail date.

But if you truly want a last-minute deal on a cruise you will want to at least make sure you’re aware of some of these commonly believed myths.

How do last minute cruises become available?

Cruise ships need to sail at 100% capacity.  If a cruise date is nearing and not every cabin has been booked, a cruise line may cut prices to attract passengers to the sailing.

Even though the prices are lowered cruise lines make more money from onboard spending.  We have actually heard from a cruise line CEO that spending per passenger goes up when a ship is fuller.  So more people equals more revenue for the cruise line.

Onboard spending includes everything from excursions to beverage purchases and spending in the casino.  This is a big revenue driver and helps make up for the lower cruise fares offered at the last minute.

7 Biggest Last-Minute Cruise Myths

Myth #1: you can book a cruise the day it sails.

Sky Princess cruise ship in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

There was a time when you could show up at a cruise port, suitcase in hand, on the day of embarkation and book your cruise.  Those days have long passed.

While the DHS requires a final passenger list at least an hour before the cruise ship leaves port, cruise lines have to submit a passenger manifest to homeland security 3 days before the cruise.

There is much debate on how this regulation affects cruise lines and if they actually can sell a ticket within this 3-day window.    But in most cases you won’t be able to book a last-minute deal if it’s within 2 or 3 days of the embarkation date.  There have been some cases in which cruisers were able to book very close to the sail date, but as a general rule you will want to go outside that 2 or 3 day window.

When we talk about last-minute cruises in this article we are talking about booking a cruise that sails anywhere from a week to a couple months from the book date.

In the following point we will examine if last-second travel will provide a better deal or not.

Myth #2: Last-Minute Cruises Are Always Cheaper

If you think you will get the best deal possible by waiting until the last second to book, you could be mistaken.

Sure, there are many times a last-minute cruise deal offers the cheapest price, but this isn’t always the case.

Cruise lines do not want to condition cruisers to book last-minute and get rewarded by waiting as long as possible.  This would make it almost impossible to make sure ships are sailing at maximum capacity and provide consistency in bookings.

While you can sometimes find a great deal on a cruise that leaves in a week or two, more often than not a cruise will have two periods of time in which the lowest prices can be found.

First, you will find that as soon as a cruise line opens booking for a cruise some of the best prices will be made available.   Cruise lines want to sell as many cabins as possible right off the bat.

The second time bookings may see a convenient drop in price is when final payments are due, anywhere from 60 – 90 days before a sailing.  If a significant number of deposit payers decide to get their money back and not take the cruise you may see a nice last-minute deal pop up.

Related: What are the cheapest weeks of the year to book a cruise?

Myth #3: Cruise Ships Always Have Empty Cabins for Last-Minute Deals

Norwegian cruise ship showing balcony cabins and passengers

One of the risks you take in trying to book a last-minute cruise is finding all the cabins are booked.  This is especially true if trying to nab a last-minute deal in the busy summer months or to more popular destinations.

Remember, cruise ships sail at maximum capacity.  In fact, they often sail at 105% to 115% capacity.  How is this possible?  100% capacity is based on two passengers per cabin.  But some cabins will have three or four passengers which allows for this percentage to go above 100%.

Related: Worst cabins on a cruise ship

Myth #4:  If You Wait Long Enough You’ll Find a Great Deal

Based on the last point, you might wait too long and find that a cruise ship is completely full.   You might also find that prices on a cruise have gone up.

The cheapest cabins on a cruise are often sold out well before a sailing.  Savvy cruisers who cruise often will want to get the best rate on a low-cost cabin.   As a cruise date gets closer it is actually less likely for the price to drop significantly outside of the “final payment date price drop” I mentioned earlier.

Repositioning cruises can be an exception to the rule.  These are one-way cruises that allow cruise lines to move cruise ships to new regions for the season.  Because of the more obscure itineraries and routes there is not as much demand for these sailings and you will often see last-minute price drops.

But again, if you wait too long the price may go in the opposite direction you were hoping for.

Myth #5:  You can still get the cabin category and ship you want

This goes along with myth #3 as well.  Even if a cruise ship has cabins available for booking two weeks before the cruise date, the cabin you want may not be available.

In fact, if you wait too long you may find slim pickings for the cabins that are still available for booking.  So, if you are set on booking a last-minute cruise just be ready to accept whatever cabin is still empty.

For this reason, you may also find higher prices on last minute cruises since the cheapest cabins sell out fastest.  You may get a decent deal on an aft balcony cabin but still pay more than you had planned.

You see, booking a cruise at the eleventh hour means you should not be too picky about the cruise ship, itinerary, or cabin itself.

Newer and more popular cruise ships are less likely to see any cabins available the last couple weeks before the ship sails.  So be ready to find more older ships and off-season itineraries for those great deals on last-minute sailings.

can you book cruise last minute

Myth #6: You can always just cancel and get your money back

Unlike booking in advance where you can simply put down a deposit, going last-minute means you’ll have to make the full payment right then and there. No holding back!

Here’s the deal: Once you hit that “buy” button, your cruise is locked in. But here’s the catch. If you change your mind and decide to cancel, don’t expect a generous refund. In fact, you’ll only get a fraction of what you paid, and if you bail on the cruise less than 30 days before it sets sail, sorry, but there won’t be any money coming back to you.

So, if you’re up for some spontaneous adventure and can commit to the plan, last-minute cruises can be exciting. Just keep in mind the nonrefundable nature and cancellation policy before you take the plunge!

Related: Cruise travel insurance: why you really do need it

Myth #7: Last-minute cruises are only for the budget-conscious

Deal seekers aren’t the only ones who like to search for last-minute cruises.  For those with all their documents at the ready and who love to be spontaneous it’s a great way to live with a little impulse.

There are a few websites I will mention later that help in finding these last-minute deals, and I know some who check them regularly on the off chance that a favorite destination pops up.  This is for those who keep an extra suitcase always packed and ready for travel and whose schedules are flexible enough to take to the seas whenever the mood strikes.

While I like booking a cruise at least a year out in advance, I’ve taken my fair share of cruises that I had booked just a couple weeks before the sailing.  Even if I don’t get a rock-bottom deal, sometimes you just need a quick getaway.

What are the risks of booking a last-minute cruise?

When you book a last-minute cruise your fare may be nonrefundable.  This is especially true if you are taking advantage of the “final payment price drop” and it’s within 30 days of the cruise.  Since the window for final payment has passed you not only have to pay 100% of the cruise fare, but you are not able to get a refund if you decide to cancel the cruise.

If you do plan on booking one of these late-stage cruises make sure you at least have some cruise travel insurance ready to go.  It won’t necessarily get you a refund if you cancel for any reason (unless that’s in your contract) but it helps prepare for the unforeseen in these last-minute situations.

Limited availability of excursions and reservations

Another risk of booking late is that some of the more popular excursions that the cruise line offers may be sold out.  Additionally, some of the specialty restaurants that are in high demand will have their time slots filled up.  Pretty much anything that can be reserved in advance of the cruise will see a higher probability of you not being able to enjoy it.  This isn’t a big deal to some, but I thought it should be mentioned.

Symphony of the seas things to do

Should I book a last-minute cruise if I have to fly?

This is one of the biggest factors to consider when looking at last second cruises.  While you might be able to score a great deal on a cruise vacation, getting last minute flights can be another story.  The extra cost of the flight to the cruise port could easily negate any savings from your cruise deal.

However, if you’re able to drive to the cruise port you can remove this variable and just focus on the cruise savings you want to enjoy.

Where can you find last-minute cruises?

Many cruise lines have a page on their websites dedicated to last-minute cruise deals.   We listed below some links to cruise lines that offer such deals.

  • Royal Caribbean last minute cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line last minute cruise deals
  • Carnival Cruise Line’s Pack and Go Sale
  • Princess Cruises Drop & Go cruise deals
  • Celebrity Cruises last minute cruise deals

Other websites to easily find last minute cruises

  •   Cruisewatch is probably my favorite go-to source for last-minute cruises.  I love the interface, tracking, and easy filtering.  You can also use Cruisewatch for price drops and you can pick a particular cruise to track pricing if you’d like.  One of my favorite features is to sort by price per night. The site also shows the likelihood of a price going up or down in the near future.
  • iCruise makes filtering by price, ship, or cruise line very simple.  They also have a last-minute cruise deal page that is sorted by various cruise ports.  Many of these cruises will depart between 1 and 3 weeks but sometimes you will find shorter dated cruises there as well. I like that they sort by cruise port because if it’s truly a last-minute thing you will want to drive to the port, as I mentioned before.  So just search under the cruise port closest to you and look for those daily deals.
  • Cruiseline has a dedicated last-minute cruise page as well on their website.  You can then filter by low to high, cruise length, or even price per night.  You can get free price alerts if you find a sailing you’re interested in, making this a great tool to have.
  • Vacations to Go has a dedicated page for last-minute cruise travel but does require sing-up for you can use their 90-day ticker that tracks some of the best deals on upcoming cruises.  Some of the listings on their deal page will only last for a few hours to a few days.

Be sure to check out our Cruise Price Drops page as well for the latest deals.

Final Thoughts

A last-minute cruise might not be exactly what you were expecting.  It might seem like a good deal, but make sure you factor in the other costs that could be higher when traveling with no time to spare.

If you’re not picky about the ship, cabin and itinerary, or you’re even willing to book a multi-leg flight to sail last-second, go for it!

Learn the cruise secrets most people don't know and cruise like a boss. Check out Intelligent Cruiser here for a better cruise vacation. (Sponsored)

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The Truth Behind Last Minute Cruise Deals

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Orlando Martinez

  • October 5, 2020

Finding last-minute cruise deals can be a great way to save money. But it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting — and what you’re not — for that bargain-basement price.

Truth About Last Minute Cruise Deals

Carnival Sunrise embarkation

When booking a cruise, the conventional wisdom is that you will get the best price by booking as far out as possible. But talk to enough cruisers, and you’ll hear lots of talk about the last-minute cruise they booked.

Cruise lines want to sail with as many cabins as booked as possible.

Sometimes, to do that, they’ll offer a great price to those with flexible schedules who can make their vacation plans a month or less in advance.

Even though it often happens in movies and on television shows, know that you won’t be able to waltz into the terminal a few hours before sailing and jumping on board.

norwegian getaway embarkation manhattan

That may have been the case years ago, but thanks to changes in security procedures, those days are long gone. So when we talk about jumping on a last-minute deal, we’re talking anywhere from after the final payment date has passed to around a week before the ship is set to sail.

Before you get to the last-minute cruise deals and how to score them, we must know some things.

Timing is Everything

The first price drop occurs right after a sailing’s final payment due date.

Cruise ship deck with passengers enjoying a pool, surrounded by colorful flags and deck chairs, with water slides visible in the background.

Because that’s when people commit or face losing a chunk of the money they’ve paid. This gives cruise lines a better idea of how many people are committed to sailing.

Then fast forward to 30 days before sailing. If a lot of inventory is still left, you’ll likely see some good deals crop up.

For example, Carnival Cruise Line will offer a “Pack and Go” promotion, and Norwegian Cruise Line has a similar “Sail Away” rate for last-minute departures.

The fuller the ship, the easier it is for the cruise line to lower the price. They start making profits at about 30-50 percent full. So even though they may not be getting full fare from someone booking at the last minute, they are getting pure profit.

Cruise Pricing is very Fluid

Sun Princess in port

Do you know when you’re pricing an airline ticket and then going back later, and the price has increased? That’s because seats at that price have been sold. Fewer seats have been available since you last looked so the airline can charge more.

The same holds with the cruise lines. The inventory management system is controlled by algorithms that jack the price up when a certain number of cabins are sold.

It all boils down to that economics lesson we learned in junior high: supply and demand.

How To Find Last-Minute Cruise Deals

royal caribbean allure of the seas galveston texas terminal

There are several ways to get last-minute cruise deals, and we recommend you employ as many of these as possible for the best chance of finding what you’re looking for.

Sign Up for Emails

Every online travel agent and cruise line wants you to sign up for their email blasts because that allows them to target their advertising to you. So yes, you’re going to get a whole lot of emails. But you’re also going to get info that will prove useful.

Larger online travel agencies sometimes get exclusive last-minute deals you won’t find anywhere else.

beach club at bimini virgin voyages

When you see an email with subject lines like “Pack and Go!” or “Last Chance Savings,” open it immediately and book quickly if you are interested in that offer. The best deals don’t stay around for long.

Want a way to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of communications you receive? Create an Email account that you only use for travel-related purposes.

That way, during the parts of the year you’re not sailing, the offers will continue to come in, but they won’t cause you to miss other emails that could get lost in the shuffle.

Leverage your Cruise Line Loyalty

nassau cruise port bahamas

If you’ve sailed on a particular cruise line multiple times, be sure your most recent information, including your current email address and travel preferences, is on file.

READ: Best Cruise Line Loyalty Programs

Also, make sure you’re subscribed to receive special offers. Cruise lines often target last-minute deals to their most loyal customers, especially if you live within driving distance of a port.

By sending these offers directly to repeat passengers, they can reduce their marketing expenses and reward frequent sailors with a good deal.

Play the Slots

A casino with a poker table and chairs, offering a free cruise.

If you’re a slot machine player when you cruise, you may qualify for special rates — or even free cruises — based on your casino play. Sometimes, these offers will come well before the cruise, but the best deals usually pop up at the last minute.

Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line’s casino clubs tend to be the most aggressive with these offers.

How good are the cruise deals? Does $25 for a 3-night Carnival sailing tempt you? Or how about $49 for a 7-night cruise? Those rates are not per night — they’re for the entire cruise.

Carnival Venezia's casino

You’ll still need to pay port charges and taxes, but that’s a huge savings and a great way to recoup some of your casino losses.

READ: 7 Ways Cruise Ship Casinos Could Change

To get deals like this, opt-in for Casino Promotion emails from your favorite cruise line’s players club. If you haven’t gotten an email but have your eye on a particular sailing — especially if it’s at the last minute — call the players’ club and see what you qualify for.

Use a Travel Agent

beach club bimini bahamas

Cruise-specializing travel agents regularly receive notifications of last-minute deals from various lines, though they don’t always email these offers to their entire customer list.

But if you work with a particular agent and let them know you’re looking for last-minute deals or a special offer on a specific cruise, they’ll often reach out and let you know when something matches your interests. This is one of the many benefits of using a travel agent.

Set Cruise Line Price Drop Alerts

If you’ve got your eye on a particular cruise or time frame when you want to get away, sign up for cruise price alerts from sites like Cruiseline.com .

These free services will email an alert when the price of a particular sailing drops, which can be helpful to spot deals; you can even use these alerts to snag a deal well before the last minute.

How To Book and Prepare for Last-Minute Cruises

Aerial view of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline at sunset, featuring colorful clouds and the New Virgin Ship, Brilliant Lady, reflecting on the water.

Since these deals tend to be for shorter sailings, like last-minute weekend cruises, you might feel comfortable booking online via the cruise line or travel agency website. While you’re there, you can immediately process online check-in for your cruise, saving you time later.

But if you’re new to cruising or not comfortable booking online, you can almost always book over the phone with the cruise line or travel agency. You’ll want to act quickly, though…, as the best deals don’t last long.

Once your cruise is booked, you’ll want to start preparing for your vacation since you don’t have much time to prepare. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Buy Travel Insurance

airplane plane

Even though you booked at the last minute, purchasing travel insurance is still a good idea.

Booking close to the sail date immediately subjects you to penalties if you need to cancel your cruise due to illness or another emergency.

A good travel insurance policy can cover you. Illness, injury, or lost luggage can strike on any cruise, so protect yourself against these unexpected expenses.

Check Your Proof of Citizenship

Before booking a last-minute cruise, ensuring your proof of citizenship is ready is important. While it’s always best to cruise with a passport, a certified copy of your birth certificate and a valid government-issued ID are acceptable for most cruises from the US for US citizens.

READ MORE: Do I Need A Passport To Cruise?  

A passport on a desk

However, if you’ve got an amazing deal on a transatlantic cruise or another one-way sailing, you will need a passport. It should be valid for at least six months after the end of your cruise.

If you need to apply for a passport, or your existing passport expires in less than six months, you’ll need to expedite your application or renewal.

This can be pricey, especially if you need to utilize a courier service, so keep these costs in mind, as that cheap last-minute deal could cost a lot more than you expected.

How Much Can You Save on Last Minute Cruises?

Stunning view of Perfect Day at CocoCay

It’s not uncommon to see deals for a last-minute three-day cruise for as low as $25 or $30 per night per person.

Last year, we even saw a 4-night cruise on Norwegian Sky go for $89 per person — $22.25 per night. You’d pay more than that for a meal in a nice restaurant, but your cruise fare includes 3+ daily meals, accommodations, entertainment, and transportation. That’s an amazing value that only a cruise can provide.

Why These Deals Aren’t For Everyone

Sun Princess exterior

We’ve all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” And that’s true in the case of last-minute cruise deals, too. You need to know a few things, including a couple that might make you say, “Yeah, that’s not for me.”

It’s important to know that the staterooms available at these low prices are often (we might even go so far as to say usually) called “guarantee” cabins.

For example, if you book a “guarantee ocean view,” you definitely will receive an ocean view stateroom, but you’ll have no say over which one or where it is located. That means you could wind up with an obstructed view or beneath a bowling alley.

The same goes for “guarantee balcony” staterooms. You will 100 percent receive a balcony cabin, but it might be one with a smaller balcony or an obstructed view.

Mardi Gras Carnival aft facing excel balcony suite

It could also be located in a relatively undesirable location. So you have to balance the possibility of a less-desirable stateroom against the low price.

These last-minute deals usually don’t include perks that you might otherwise receive.

For example, Norwegian Cruise Line is well known for its popular Free At Sea program, which offers various perks based on the level of stateroom you book.

RELATED: The Pros and Cons of Booking a Guarantee Stateroom

However, if the last-minute cruise you book is in a “guarantee” stateroom — whether it’s an inside, oceanview, balcony, or even suite — you’re unlikely to get any of the associated perks.

Last-minute cruise deals are a fantastic way to save money, as long as your schedule permits flexibility and you accept some of the caveats we’ve discussed above.

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How to Score Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

Cruise Admin is a team of experienced writers passionate about cruising. They provide comprehensive and honest information to fellow cruise enthusiasts, sharing insider tips and practical advice to help readers plan and enjoy their cruise vacations to the fullest. When not writing, the Cruise Admin team loves exploring new destinations and seeking out unique cultural experiences.

How to Score Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to score last-minute deals on top cruise lines! If you’re a traveler who loves the excitement and spontaneity of booking a trip at the last minute, then this article is for you. We’ll take you through everything you need to know about last-minute cruise deals, including how to find them, tips for booking them, and how to make the most of your vacation. By the end of this article, you’ll be a pro at snagging the best deals and enjoying an unforgettable cruise experience . So, let’s set sail and dive into the world of last-minute cruise deals!

Understanding Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

If you’re not familiar with last-minute cruise deals, let us explain. These are special offers and discounts that are available when booking a cruise close to the departure date. While some may view this as a risky move, it can actually be a great way to save money and score a top-notch cruise experience. Here’s why:

What are Last-Minute Deals?

Last-minute deals are offers and discounts that are available when booking a cruise close to the departure date. These deals can include discounted fares, free upgrades, onboard credits, and more. They are typically available within a few weeks or days before the cruise departs.

Why are Last-Minute Deals Available?

Cruise lines often have unsold cabins as the departure date approaches, and they would rather fill them at a discounted rate rather than have them go empty. This is where last-minute deals come in. By offering discounts and promotions, cruise lines can attract more passengers and fill up their ships.

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Benefits of Booking Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

There are several benefits to booking last-minute deals on top cruise lines . Firstly, you can save a significant amount of money compared to booking in advance. You also have the opportunity to snag a higher category cabin for a lower price or receive free onboard credits. And lastly, you get the thrill of spontaneity and a sense of adventure by booking a trip at the last minute.

How to Find Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

Now that you understand the benefits of last-minute deals, let’s dive into how you can find them.

Utilizing Discounted Cruise Lines

Some cruise lines specialize in offering discounted fares and last-minute deals. These lines may not have the same luxurious amenities as top cruise lines, but they offer great value for money. Keep an eye out for these lines when searching for last-minute deals.

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Taking Advantage of Flash Sales

Cruise lines often have flash sales, where they offer limited time discounts on specific sailings. These sales can be found on the cruise line’s website or through travel agents. Keep an eye out for these sales and be ready to book quickly, as they can sell out fast.

Scouring for Last-Minute Cruise Packages

Another way to find last-minute deals is to search for cruise packages that include airfare and hotel stays. These packages can often be found at a discounted price, making your overall vacation more affordable.

Tips for Booking Last-Minute Deals on Top Cruise Lines

Now that you know how to find last-minute deals, here are some tips to keep in mind when booking them:

Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations

Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations can greatly increase your chances of finding a good deal. Consider traveling during the off-peak season or to a less popular destination to save even more.

Consider Off-Peak Seasons

As mentioned, booking during the off-peak season can save you money on your last-minute cruise. These seasons vary depending on the destination, so do some research beforehand to find the best time to travel.

Book Directly with the Cruise Line

While travel agencies can be helpful in finding deals, booking directly with the cruise line can often get you the best rates and promotions.

Sign Up for Email Notifications

Many cruise lines offer email notifications for promotions and deals. Sign up for these notifications to stay in the loop and be the first to know about any last-minute deals.

Be Open to Different Cabin Choices

To save even more on your last-minute cruise, be open to different cabin choices. You may find a great deal on an inside cabin or a balcony cabin instead of your usual choice.

Research the Cruise Ship Itineraries

Before booking a last-minute cruise, research the ship’s itinerary to ensure it aligns with your travel preferences. Some ships may have longer or more stops than others, so choose one that fits your travel style.

Understand the Inclusions and Exclusions of the Deal

Make sure you understand what is included and excluded in your last-minute deal before booking. This can help you budget for any additional expenses and avoid any surprises.

Making the Most of Your Last-Minute Cruise Vacation

Now that you’ve booked your last-minute cruise, it’s time to make the most of your vacation. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Planning Shore Excursions

Research and plan your shore excursions before your trip to make the most of your time in port. Some cruise lines offer discounted rates for pre-booking, so take advantage of these deals.

Taking Advantage of Onboard Activities

Cruise ships offer a variety of onboard activities and entertainment, so take advantage of them. From shows to fitness classes to cooking demonstrations, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Trying Out Different Dining Options

Cruise ships offer a variety of dining options, from casual buffets to fine dining restaurants. Take the opportunity to try out different options and experience new flavors.

Enjoying the Entertainment on Board

Cruise ships often have live music, comedians, and other forms of entertainment. Take some time to enjoy these shows and performances during your trip.

Shopping for Souvenirs

Don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs from your trip! Many cruise ships have onboard shops where you can find unique items to remember your vacation.

Exploring Ports and Destinations

Last but not least, make sure to explore the ports and destinations you’ll be visiting. Take a stroll around the city, try local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the culture.

Booking a last-minute cruise can be an exciting and budget-friendly way to travel. By understanding how to find these deals, booking them with tips in mind, and making the most of your vacation, you can have an unforgettable cruise experience without breaking the bank. We hope this comprehensive guide has helped you understand how to score last-minute deals on top cruise lines. Bon voyage!

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When is the best time to book a cruise?

Erica Silverstein

The best time to book a cruise is when you've done your planning, picked a ship and found a cruise fare that fits your budget and offers good value. But that doesn't stop vacationers from wondering if they'd find a cheaper price if they wait to book tomorrow, next week or next month.

I'd love to give you a magic date to circle in red on your calendar, so you'd know for sure that was the best time to book a cruise. The truth is there's no one best day, but knowing a few things about how cruise lines price cabins and when they tend to run promotions will help you identify high-value deals. When you see one, you'll know it's as good a time as any to book your next cruise vacation.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

What is the best day to book a cruise?

Everyone wants to know the cheapest day to book travel — as if fares drop like clockwork on Wednesday morning and rise with the sun on Thursday. It doesn't work that way.

It used to be that lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line would offer midweek sales on select cruises every Tuesday or Wednesday. These lines still offer the occasional flash sale, but they don't always fall on the same day of the week.

Within a given cruise sale's promotional period, I've seen cabin prices fluctuate daily and I've seen them stay the same for a week. It all depends on how many cabins a cruise line has allocated for a specific fare class and whether those rooms happen to sell out or not.

I could tell you that it's cheaper to book a cruise at the beginning of a sale because availability is greatest. However, if the line sees a certain cabin category on a specific ship failing to sell as expected, it could drop rates halfway into the sale period.

The exception is world cruises (and other highly anticipated and publicized short-season sailings, like Great Lakes cruises ). World cruises have sold out within hours, even with price tags of $150,000 per couple.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

What is the best month to book a cruise?

If there's no best day to book a cruise for the best deal, you might think there's a best month. While you can find cheap cruises any month you look, I can give you some pointers about which months are most likely to feature cruise sales with value-added promotions.

The best months to book a cruise are January through March, when nearly every cruise line launches some kind of "wave season" promotion , and November through December, when Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales often start well before Thanksgiving and end days or weeks after. You might find a cheap cruise deal or a fare packed with extras (like complimentary beverage packages, free kids fares or reduced deposits).

Are you guaranteed to find the cheapest, most freebie-laden pricing during these months? Of course not! Cruise lines sometimes inflate prices before a sale, so deals for 30% or 50% off may not be as good as you think. Or, the cruise line may offer its best fares in a one-off sale at another time of year.

Whether the winter months are the best time to book a cruise depends on which itinerary you're hoping to book and how popular that sailing is that year. In a year when Alaska cruises are popular, the wave season promotions in January and February might not be especially good because the lines don't need to discount to fill cabins. But if Alaska cruise bookings are soft, the wave season specials could be the best of the year as cruise lines pull out all the tricks to fill ships.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

What is the best time of year to book a cruise?

I could say that winter is the best time of year to book a cruise because that would cover the late-fall Thanksgiving week sales and wave season promotions. I can guarantee that your cruise line will offer some promotions during the winter, but that doesn't mean it's the best time to book.

If you want to book a solo or family cabin on a Mediterranean cruise in July, you likely want to book much earlier than January for the most availability and the best prices. As I said earlier, great sales and deals can pop up year-round, including on other holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

can you book cruise last minute

How far in advance should I book a cruise?

All this talk of the best time to book a cruise raises the question of how far in advance you should book. The key to the answer is recognizing that cruise lines adjust pricing as cabins sell out (or fail to do so) on any given ship and itinerary.

Cruise lines want you to book as early as possible. Not only do they get cash in hand sooner, in the form of your deposit, but they can rest easy when a ship sells out early, knowing they don't have to work to get people to come on board and spend more money.

Therefore, cruise lines often offer their best fares when bookings open to incentivize travelers to book early. Cruises open for bookings a year or more in advance. For example, as of March 2023, I can book a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line through spring or fall of 2025, depending on the ship.

Related: 15 ways that cruising newbies waste money on ships

Now, it might be the itinerary I'm looking at won't be popular, and the cruise line will lower the fare closer to sailing. Or, the itinerary will sell well, and prices will only go up from the original price. I can't know for sure, though I can guess that peak-season trips to popular destinations on a newer cruise ship are more likely to sell quickly. Christmas and New Year's cruises , top suites and limited specialty cabins (such as solo and family cabins ) also tend to sell out early.

If you ask me, the answer to "How far in advance should I book a cruise?" is as early as possible for the most popular cruises and cabin categories and at least nine months before most sailings.

Can I book a cruise at the last minute?

Yes, you can book a cruise at the last minute, but that doesn't mean you should.

In the cruise industry, a last-minute booking is considered any cruise purchased after final payment is due, generally 60 to 90 days before sailing. That means you have to pay the entire cruise fare at the time of booking rather than paying a deposit and the rest at a later date.

The final payment date is a day of reckoning for cruise salespeople. It's the last date that undecided travelers can cancel without penalty. Once final payment is due, the cruise line has a more accurate picture of who is likely to sail (since once you pay, you're likely to go, barring an emergency). At that point, the line can see if the ship is comfortably full (meaning it can hold prices steady or raise them because it's not worried about filling the ship) or is too empty (meaning it better run some promotions to get more folks in cabins).

If it's the latter, that's when you get last-minute deals on cruise ships with unsold cabins. However, even if that last-minute cruise is cheap, the 11th-hour airfare or pre-cruise hotel booking could eat into your savings.

For the real procrastinators out there, the absolute last day you can book a cruise before its departure has changed over the years. Currently, a cruise line could accept a booking mere hours before sailing, as long as boarding is still open and the ship's manifest (the list of passengers and crew members on board) has not been submitted to the authorities.

In actuality, most cruise lines will sell available cabins through the day before sailing, but limit or deny same-day bookings. Depending on the line, you may only be able to book cruises within a day or two of departure directly with the cruise line's reservations department.

Booking a cruise just days before sailing should only be attempted by travelers within an easy drive of the cruise port. You should also make sure that you have time to get any necessary documentation, as well as make related travel plans.

can you book cruise last minute

How do I know if I'm getting a good deal when I book?

Regardless of when you're booking a cruise, you'll want to know if the fare you're paying for your vacation at sea is a cheap deal, average or overpriced. Sadly, the best way to know that is to do your research.

Tracking prices allows you to watch the rise and fall of cruise fares over time, so when the fare drops, you'll recognize the price as a deal and be able to pounce on it. This strategy is best if you plan to book early and aren't as concerned about the ship selling out immediately.

Don't forget to watch for value-added promotions, as well. For example, Norwegian's Free at Sea promotion currently includes six booking perks (free beverage package, shore excursion credit, specialty dining, Wi-Fi, extra guests and buy-one-get-one-free airfare).

If that sounds like too much math homework, I recommend that you call a travel agent . A cruise-knowledgeable travel adviser can help you plan your trip and determine if the current pricing is good or if you should hold out for a deal.

Bottom line

I'll say it again: The best time to book a cruise is when you see a price and promotion that seems like a good value to you. If you feel like you're getting your money's worth on a cruise purchase, go ahead and book that dream vacation. There's no way to be absolutely sure you're buying when the cruise fare is the lowest possible price with the maximum number of fare inclusions.

Sometimes you may be forced to choose between the cheapest possible fare and one that offers a greater total value, given the included perks. Knowing when cruise lines will likely run promotions will help you strategize, but sales can pop up anytime — and not every promotion offers the cheapest fares.

Stop trying to game the system and focus instead on planning the perfect cruise vacation you and your loved ones will reminisce about long after you've forgotten how much you paid for the trip.

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Find perfect last minute cruises and cruise deals for your spontaneous getaway

It’s never too late to look for a cruise and enjoy a spontaneous time-out on the world's seas. There won't be anything next weekend and you have to relax from your everyday life? Who doesn't know this moment? As cruise experts, we have the perfect solution for you, your family, friends or partner. Book a last minute cruise trip that you will always remember and from which you can get back into the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day life completely refreshed. With our cruise search we show you the best last minute cruise deals leaving in the next 30 days. So you can easily find the perfect vacation for the best price without stress. From South America, to Australia or the Caribbean, even cruises leaving soon offer you a wide variety of ways to discover the world. And departing in less than a month, you can get often a great discount. Especially on Mediterranean cruises, you can find a real bargain booking a last minute cruise in low season. Our cruise finder makes it easier than ever for you to find the perfect vacation. Simply select the destination that suits your wishes, the departure port that is most practical for you, your favorite cruise line and the cruise length. We will show you your perfect last minute cruise.

Plan your last minute cruise vacation with the most popular cruise lines and exciting cruise destinations

When you are looking for your perfect last minute cruise vacation, you have to keep some aspects in mind, so that your cruise search will be easy and successful. Unfortunately you have to say goodbye to the idea of getting a super last minute offer, because cruise lines close their passenger lists 24 to 48 hours before departure. Therefore, you need to plan your cruise a little bit more ahead. But don't worry. You can still experience the impulsive feeling as even the best cruise lines sometimes have space available that they provide to spontaneous travellers. Therefore, you can enjoy all the luxury, service and onboard offers with a last minute cruise like on any other long planned cruise. Savour for example the beautiful beaches and the nature with a Caribbean cruise from Princess cruises or Royal Caribbean. Sail to the Bahamas with the Norwegian cruise line or get to know Hawaii with a Holland America cruise. The most popular mainstream cruise lines such as Carnival cruise line or Royal Caribbean offer lots to little onboard spending, so that you can fully enjoy your journey. When you are looking for a luxury last minute experience, there are also cruises from premium cruise lines such as Windstar cruises, Cunard or Azamara Club cruises. From a 3-day-cruise to a cruise length of 21 days, with a last minute getaway you can sail away whenever you want and for as long as you want. Whether you want to snorkel in turquoise water, explore history with a European cruise or let yourself be enchanted by the nature and wildlife in Alaska. With the diverse onboard offers of the best cruise ships, no wish is left unfulfilled. Whether you prefer relaxation in the spa, excitement on shows, doing sports or numerous dining options. The shore excursions of the cruise lines will make your cruise even more unique and memorable. Sounds far-fetched to you right now? With cruises leaving soon in our cruise search it is right in front of you just a few clicks away.

Get your cheap last minute cruise trip and save money with excellent deals

When you have decided and booked your perfect cruise, you will not only enjoy anticipation, but also celebrate that you have saved money. With our cruise search we show you the best last minute cruise deals and reduced rates. Of course, the price of your cruise varies based on your chosen destination, the cruise line and the cruise length, but we help you find cheap last minute cruises that will be worth it in any case. Creating an account on cruisewatch, you will get the best offers and cruise price drops directly to your email address without missing any bargain ever again. Information about the cruise ship, the departure dates, the itinerary and the price details such as taxes and fees, we leave nothing to chance. So, check your calendar, go through our last minute cruise deals and get ready for your spontaneous vacation. But also if you'd rather plan in advance, you can get the best cruise deals with our price alert which is informing you about price drops and excellent deals for your desires and allow you instant savings.

can you book cruise last minute

This TikToker's Sneaky Hack Is The Best Way To Book Unbelievably Cheap Cruises

I f you're longing to cruise around private islands in the Caribbean or admire medieval castles while sailing up the Rhine, you have probably been keeping an eye out for the best deals. As fun as the idea of a cruise is, the idea of paying full price for it can be overwhelming. That's probably why a Tiktok video from user @casper.capital promising a secret way to get the best discounts has gotten so much attention. While it's not really a secret, it is a fantastic strategy for getting a cruise at a major discount: Wait until the last minute to book.

The TikToker suggests searching for cruises that sail within 90 days, which is great advice because that's when passengers are required to make their payments. At this point if there are any cabins still available, whether it's because of cancellations or because they were never booked, cruise lines will start offering them at cheaper prices.

Read more: Unsettling Reasons You May Want To Avoid Taking A Cruise

How To Find Last-Minute Cruises

In the popular TikTok video, Casper Capital suggests searching for your last minute cruise through the 90 day ticker at Vacations to Go , where you'll be able to see all the offers cruise lines are making on cruises leaving in the next month or so. There, you can find cruises from major cruise lines valued at more than $25K selling for around $4K. In some cases, the offers save you more than 80% of the original sticker price. As these deals sell out, the ticker updates.

Vacations to Go is not the only spot you can go look for these discounts, though. There are other aggregator sites like Cruise Critic and Go to Sea, and more general travel booking sites like Expedia and Priceline that also have these deals. If you have a preferred cruise line that you'd like to sail with, their official website will list last minute cruises, too.

Are The Cruise Deals Really Worth It?

There's no denying it: You can get a serious discount on your cruise if you book at the last minute. However, since your choices will be limited to whatever didn't sell out before 90 days, you won't have as many options in terms of destination, length of the voyage, cabin, or what port it leaves from. That means that you may end up having to book expensive last-minute flights to get to the departure point. Extras like drink packages, which might not be worth it anyway , depending on your drinking habits, can also come at a premium if you're booking at the last minute. If you're hoping to book a room with a nice view or choose the best cabin to avoid getting seasick , you might find your preferred rooms are already taken by the time you get to buy.

If the idea of spontaneously heading out to a destination you picked within 90 days sounds stressful to you, you might want to consider booking a cruise over a year in advance . If you can handle the wait, cruise lines may also reward you with good deals for booking way ahead of time. However, if you're just excited to take a cruise anywhere in the world and have a flexible enough schedule to be able to head out at any time, booking a last-minute cruise is the perfect way to get a stellar deal on a fantastic getaway.

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Read the original article on Islands .

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  • Norwegian Cruise Line

How “last minute” can you book a cruise?

By McFins , June 16 in Norwegian Cruise Line

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schmoopie17

schmoopie17

Waiting until the last minute will not get you a very good choice of cabin. Most likely a guarantee, on which case you have no choice. 

We're looking at early 2026 cruises (not on NCL) and already the majority of them have very slim pickings left...and it's still 18 months out.

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The Traveling Man

The Traveling Man

6 minutes ago, schmoopie17 said: Waiting until the last minute will not get you a very good choice of cabin. Most likely a guarantee, on which case you have no choice.    We're looking at early 2026 cruises (not on NCL) and already the majority of them have very slim pickings left...and it's still 18 months out.

NCL, like many other cruise lines, recently has been sailing most itineraries at capacity or very near it.  Many of these cruise start filling up well in advance, such as the ones you mentioned.  Just after the return to sailing in 2021, though, the ships were much less full and bargain shopping frequently paid off.  Occasionally, though, you may still encounter a cruise which, for some reason, just doesn't attract as many early bookings as typical.  There are still last-minute bargains to be had, they're just fewer and further between.

Capitan Obvious

Capitan Obvious

It is very surprising to see this topic on Cruise Critic. One thing you can easily learn about folks here is that no one wants to be "last".  😉

Distinctive-Destinations

Distinctive-Destinations

47 minutes ago, schmoopie17 said: Waiting until the last minute will not get you a very good choice of cabin. Most likely a guarantee, on which case you have no choice.    We're looking at early 2026 cruises (not on NCL) and already the majority of them have very slim pickings left...and it's still 18 months out.

I don’t understand this post either.

If I book a cabin the day before, and there are ten cabins left, why could I not pick one of the ten?

Thanks

5 minutes ago, Distinctive-Destinations said: I don’t understand this post either.   If I book a cabin the day before, and there are ten cabins left, why could I not pick one of the ten?

You're assuming there are ten (or any) left. If not, you're most likely getting a guarantee.

My point was availability is already scarce 18 months out. If you want to play cabin roulette and hope there's a cabin that will be available (and suitable) at the last minute...good luck.  Go for it...

Just now, schmoopie17 said: You're assuming there are ten (or any) left. If not, you're most likely getting a guarantee.   My point was availability is already scarce 18 months out. If you want to play cabin roulette and hope there's a cabin that will be available (and suitable) at the last minute...good luck.

Your point here isn’t relevant to the question. I (and seemingly you also) book well in advance, but that isn’t the topic.

Why would it be only a guaranteed cabin if booking the day before? You’ve lost me on that.

Like

4 minutes ago, Distinctive-Destinations said:   If I book a cabin the day before, and there are ten cabins left, why could I not pick one of the ten?

I have booked a few last minute (although not quite THAT last minute) cruises with very few rooms left where it has not been possible to choose room. They have been guarantees, and room has been assigned later. Sometimes a couple of days later, sometimes later than that. Anyway, it has not been possible to choose. Not for me, not for my PCC. 

2 minutes ago, Asawi said: I have booked a few last minute (although not quite THAT last minute) cruises with very few rooms left where it has not been possible to choose room. They have been guarantees, and room has been assigned later. Sometimes a couple of days later, sometimes later than that. Anyway, it has not been possible to choose. Not for me, not for my PCC.   

Okay thanks, that seems like an actual reasonable answer. 

10,000+ Club

RocketMan275

27 minutes ago, Distinctive-Destinations said: I don’t understand this post either.   If I book a cabin the day before, and there are ten cabins left, why could I not pick one of the ten?

Even if you could have your choice among the ten there is no assurance that any of those ten are good choices.

Then there is this, the cruise line may not wish to disclose which cabins are still available. 

24 minutes ago, RocketMan275 said: Even if you could have your choice among the ten there is no assurance that any of those ten are good choices. Then there is this, the cruise line may not wish to disclose which cabins are still available. 

The quality of the room is irrelevant to the question.

9 minutes ago, Distinctive-Destinations said: The quality of the room is irrelevant to the question.

Of course it's relevant.  If none of the available cabins are suitable, that is the same as having no cabins available.

Laszlo

My wife and I met a couple on the Escape in 2018 who were from NYC. They lived a half dozen blocks away from the cruise terminal. They saw cabins were available the night before our cruise, packed their bags and arrived at the terminal at 9am and got a balcony cabin. They would do this a few times a years. I didn't realize you could buy a cabin at the pier, maybe they were just yanking my chain

njhorseman

9 hours ago, chengkp75 said: Security clearance from whom?  The government, CBP, does not see the passenger manifest until 60 minutes prior to sailing, so they have no idea who has booked, or when.  Some cruise lines do run bookings through a sex offender database, but that is not mandatory, and I don't believe there is any "timeline" for doing this.

I'm not sure if this is still the case, and I have no intention of digging trough the Federal Register in an attempt to find if and when the regulation changed, but IIRC at one time there was a regulation requiring cruise lines to submit a preliminary passenger manifest to DHS three days prior to the ship's scheduled departure. However, that was just a preliminary manifest, and as you state the final manifest does not have to be in DHS's hands until 60 minutes prior to sailing. As a result someone could book a cabin up to a couple of hours prior to sailing if the cruise line's internal procedures permit it.

ColeThornton

ColeThornton

17 minutes ago, Laszlo said: I didn't realize you could buy a cabin at the pier, maybe they were just yanking my chain

You can't purchase a cruise at the pier during boarding.

31 minutes ago, Laszlo said: I didn't realize you could buy a cabin at the pier, maybe they were just yanking my chain
12 minutes ago, ColeThornton said:     You can't purchase a cruise at the pier during boarding.

Years ago you could and it was not uncommon to do so particularly in Florida ports where there are a lot of retirees with no particular time commitments who live within a short drive of the various ports. 

I know that NCL used to allow you to call the morning of a cruise to see if there was any availability and if there was you could book on the phone. I don't personally know about being able to just arrive at the pier in NY, but since it definitely was allowed in Florida ports by at least some cruise lines, it's certainly possible that it could also be done in NY.

The COVID pandemic cruise shutdown brought down the final curtain on that practice...if it even survived that long, and I don't think it did.

45 minutes ago, RocketMan275 said: Of course it's relevant.  If none of the available cabins are suitable, that is the same as having no cabins available.

The original poster asked how late you could book a cruise, not how late you could book a cruise AND get a suite (or balcony, etc).

I’d think it would be self-explanatory that anyone booking a cruise last minute can only book what is still available.

16 minutes ago, Distinctive-Destinations said: The original poster asked how late you could book a cruise, not how late you could book a cruise AND get a suite (or balcony, etc).   I’d think it would be self-explanatory that anyone booking a cruise last minute can only book what is still available.

And, if nothing suitable is available, then it's too late to book a cruise.

For example, if only solos are available, a couple is out of luck.

Travelling2Some

2 hours ago, Asawi said: I have booked a few last minute (although not quite THAT last minute) cruises with very few rooms left where it has not been possible to choose room. They have been guarantees, and room has been assigned later. Sometimes a couple of days later, sometimes later than that. Anyway, it has not been possible to choose. Not for me, not for my PCC.   

We have encountered this situation too.  Twice when we asked about booking last minute we were told we would have to accept a guarantee.  That is always a deal breaker for us.  PCC called back the next day and said we could choose but we would have to pay quite a bit more for the same category just to be allowed to pick from the available cabins.  The idea of paying more for the same cruise just rubbed me the wrong way so we declined.  I don't know if this is a consistent policy with NCL but we are not brand loyal and there are "plenty of ships in the sea".

Candy Apple 12

Here’s an example I just pulled up for a cruise embarking from Italy tomorrow. It’s just after 11 PM in Italy right now.   

IMG_1891.png

2 hours ago, Distinctive-Destinations said:   I’d think it would be self-explanatory that anyone booking a cruise last minute can only book what is still available.

Exactly...and if no cabins are available for choosing they may assign you a GUARANTEED cabin. Which was my point from a hundred posts earlier. 

It's not rocket science...or even cruise ship science. Although @RocketMan275  might disagree  😁

Ellis1138

Just adding to this as if the question was " How “last minute” can you book a cruise?"

I have to book at least 3 days before the sailing, otherwise the NCL Access Desk can't get my accomodations ready.

IrieBajan54

The latest I have booked was on a Saturday for embarkation the following Tuesday on the Gem out of New York City about a year or two before Covid-19.

I'm Latitudes Diamond and the majority of my bookings have been after final payment and I would say 98% have been guarantees. I've had no issues with staterooms assigned to me.

17 hours ago, chengkp75 said: Security clearance from whom?  The government, CBP, does not see the passenger manifest until 60 minutes prior to sailing, so they have no idea who has booked, or when.  Some cruise lines do run bookings through a sex offender database, but that is not mandatory, and I don't believe there is any "timeline" for doing this.

A TX cruise travel agent told me a felon in the US can book a cruise, but the cruise line will likely call about a week before sail date to say that the felon will be denied boarding.

On 6/16/2024 at 5:51 PM, DorothyB said: I'm close to the port and if I could get a good deal . . . 

You might have fun browsing around on Cruiseplum.

3 minutes ago, Etta1213 said: You might have fun browsing around on Cruiseplum.

I am very NCL specific at this point - I like the "casual" and now am up to platinum so some perks there.  I'm in Houston and no NCL cruises leaving Galveston until October.

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can you book cruise last minute

2024 travel tips: Cruises from Florida for spring, summer already selling out. What we know

Cruising is back − and in a big way. So say industry reports from Reuters , Cruise Industry News and Auto club group AAA.

After three years of bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels of sales, cruise companies are gearing up for what is expected to be a record-breaking year.

Last year, the demand for new cruise experiences was met with a horde of themed cruises: The Margaritaville cruise , a Taylor Swift cruise scheduled to set sail in October 2024 , a global 9-month-long cruise and even a Hallmark Christmas cruise scheduled for later this year all hit the market.

According to a recent press release from AAA, cruise lines finally reached pre-pandemic levels of sales in 2023 and are already selling out of suites and cabins with balconies for popular spring and summer cruises in 2024.

Here’s when AAA says the best time to book a cruise is, what kinds of cruises are predicted to be most popular in 2024 and a quick roundup of some popular cruises leaving from Florida ports.

What is the cheapest month to book a cruise?

“Travel demand is off to a strong start, which means availability will continue to shrink in the next couple of months,” Debbie Haas, AAA vice president of travel, said in the press release. “So, if you want a specific itinerary, ship, or cabin type, act fast or you’ll have to start planning for next year instead.”

According to AAA’s press release, the first three months of the year are the best to book a cruise. January through March is called “wave season” among travel agents, since this is when many book their spring and summer vacations.

From now through March, cruise lines offer many discounts that can vary from 30% to 60% discounted prices, cabin upgrades, buy-one-get-one deals, on-board credits, pre-paid tipping and drink packages.

Travel advisories for the Caribbean 10 Florida islands could be alternative

What cruise is the most popular?

AAA’s 2024 trend report shows a spike in interest for Caribbean, Alaskan, European and weekend cruises.

When is the best time to cruise?

Here are AAA’s trend forecasts for the best times to cruise in 2024, according to the kind of cruise you choose:

  • The Caribbean is popular year-round, but spring and summer are the most popular sailing times. 
  • Alaska cruise season runs from May to September. Because this is an abbreviated period, there’s more competition for availability.  
  • Weekend cruises have gained popularity in recent years. Weekend warriors have realized the value an all-inclusive cruise compared to a weekend getaway in a big city resort. Cruise lines have recognized this growing trend and are making weekend cruises more of a priority in 2024, by mobilizing some of their newest ships to accessible ports for weekend excursions. 
  • European river cruising is now operational year-round. Because European travel is most popular during the summer, travelers can avoid the crowds and find lower priced cruises and airfares in the early and later parts of the year.

Can I take a cruise from Florida to Alaska?

Most Alaskan cruises depart from Seattle, Washington, but you can cruise to Alaska from Florida! Although you technically can cruise to Alaska from Florida, it takes around 14 days, has to be booked far in advance and can get really pricey.

Cruising to the Caribbean is a much shorter and easier voyage from Florida. Four-night cruises to Haiti and Mexico start at around $215 to $250 per person on Expedia as of February 13, 2024. There are currently travel advisories for Caribbean islands like the Bahamas and Jamaica , so make sure to be aware of that when booking a Caribbean cruise.

As far as weekend cruises go, there are plenty leaving from Florida ports in 2024. There are more options if you decide to make it a long weekend, with cruise lines like Margaritaville offering a variety of three and four-night cruises throughout the year.

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  24. How "last minute" can you book a cruise?

    On 6/17/2024 at 11:59 AM, Distinctive-Destinations said: The original poster asked how late you could book a cruise, not how late you could book a cruise AND get a suite (or balcony, etc). I'd think it would be self-explanatory that anyone booking a cruise last minute can only book what is still available. Expand.

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