Rule #: Do Be Flexible With Your Days To Cruise The Cheapest
As you can see in the chart below, the fares for the same cruise can vary dramatically, depending on when you sail.
Holidays like Christmas and New Years fetch the highest prices by far. These rates can often be double what you would pay in the lower season.
The highest rates found around the holidays are closely followed by peak summer rates when families with kids like to cruise.
The best times with the lowest rates? The fall months when people are back at school and work are less popular for cruising, meaning that rates hit their lowest. You can also find low rates in the time between New Years and Spring Break.
Make Sure You Claim Money Back On Your Cruise
Many cruise lines offer the ability to get a refund if the cruise line subsequently reduces its prices on your cruise. Youll need to read the fine print when booking but look for price guarantee promises that refund the difference in the price you paid and any lower price that is later offered. Youll need to put in a call to the cruise line or cruise agent to claim money back, though some lines will refund any price differences automatically. Keep an eye out for price reductions on any cruise youve booked and make sure you claim.
Interested in a European river cruise? Read our guide to river cruises Europe to discover luxury and cheap river cruises in Europe with itineraries to help you choose the best river cruise for you.
How To Book And Prepare For Last Minute Cruises
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 youre there, you can immediately process online check-in for your cruise, saving you time later.
But if youre new to cruising or not comfortable booking online, you can almost always call the cruise line or travel agency to book over the phone. Youll want to act quickly, though the best deals dont last long.
Once your cruise is booked, youll want to start preparing for your vacation since you dont have much time to get ready. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Buy Travel Insurance
Even though you booked last minute, its still a good idea to consider purchasing travel insurance.
A good travel insurance policy can cover you. And illness, injury, or lost luggage can strike on any cruise, so protect yourself against these types of unexpected expenses.
Check Your Proof of Citizenship
Even before trying to book a last-minute cruise, its important to make sure your proof of citizenship is ready. While its 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?
If you need to apply for a passport, or your existing passport expires in less than 6 months, youll need to expedite your application or renewal.
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Tweet Your Way To Savings
Tech-savvy shoppers can try Twitter for last-minute cruise bargains. Just about every agent and agency — including Cruisedeals.com , Cruise.com and Best Travel Deals — is tweeting its best cruise deals. Take it a step further by customizing a list of deal tweeters using Twitter’s list function, in essence creating your own deals aggregator.
Easy Way To Save On Your Disney Cruise
In our opinion, you should always book a Disney cruise using a travel agent. The benefits are just too great, both in convenience and price. First off, the best travel agents give you onboard credit, which is effectively FREE money, since the cruise fare isnt any higher than if you booked through Disney. Furthermore, Disney Cruise Line has lots of confusing options involving tradeoffs that arent always clear. Using an experienced travel agent is like getting a FREE expert who knows everything about the Disney Cruise Line and is happy to walk you through the process and offer advice.
The travel agency we personally recommend here on MouseSavers.com,Small World Vacations, has some of the most experienced agents in the industry. The agents who handle cruise bookings for Small World have been on multiple Disney cruises, and know a truly astonishing amount about all four ships, the various Disney ports of call and all the common itineraries . Many of them are Platinum members of Disneys Castaway Club, meaning that they have personally been on 10 or more Disney cruises! They each have a direct phone number and email address they give out to their clients, so you can mail them questions or requests any time.
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Rule #: Do Choose Your Room Location Carefully
While not every cruise line does it, many will charge you different amounts for the same class of room in different locations of the ship. For example, a room on a higher deck will cost more than one on a lower deck. Through years and years of bookings, the cruise lines know which rooms are most desirable and charge accordingly.
Most times the premium you pay for room location wont seem like a big deal. The cruise lines typically frame it by adding something like $3-5 per person, per day.
Lets do the math, however.
A room with two people being charged an extra $5 per person, per day would rack up $10 per day or $70 in room location charges over the course of a week-long cruise. That may not sound like much to some of you, but that comes about to about 6-8 drinks from the bar if you were to want to spend your money on alcohol instead.
The rule of thumb is that the higher up your room is on the ship, the more you will pay.
For the absolute best rate for your particular room class, let the cruise line place you automatically at their lowest rate.
Tips For Booking A Cheap Cruise
Most cruise lines and travel agents selling cruises rely on direct marketing to sell cabins. Cruise lines send an avalanche of cruise brochures, cruise mailings and incentives and the best way to get them is to sign up to email newsletters from cruise lines. A good idea is to get a free email address from or Microsoft specifically for email newsletters, then visit all the major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard and P& O and sign up for their promotional email newsletters.
Most cruise companies send emails with last-minute offers as they try to shift late cabins just before sailing or early booking offers. You can also sign up to specialist cruise email newsletters from a website such as cruisecritic.co.uk its Cruise Sails email newsletters include the latest deals and offers for last-minute cruising.
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Know When Cruises Are Cheapest
The same cruise same ship, same destinations can have very different prices at different times of year. In general, cruises tend to be cheapest in fall and late winter . At these times, more people are at work and kids are in school, and there are fewer holidays to take advantage of. Be aware of local and regional holidays, however, which can dramatically impact pricing.
A Caribbean cruise may be cheaper in fall when schools are in session and hurricanes can impact sailings, for example, but a New England and Canada cruise may be most expensive at the same time because fall foliage is peaking. Similarly, cruises in Asia are often more expensive in late January and early February during Chinese New Year when more people are on holiday.
Choose Your Ship Carefully
Newer, larger ships with fancier features robot bartenders, roller coasters, exclusive restaurants, floating breweries, skydiving simulators, go-karts, snow grottos, escape rooms, etc. often have higher fares because of the popularity of these new and exciting options.
Older or smaller ships with fewer features will typically have cheaper overall fares, but they still offer amazing service, stunning ports of call, and many tried-and-true onboard favorites. Check when ships were most recently renovated and browse through deck plans to see what different ships offer. Comparing ship options with overall prices can help you find the best deal with the features youre most excited about.
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Dont Drive Yourself Crazy Searching Sites
Heres a tip to save a lot of time for the vast majority of trips, the price you find on one website will be the same that you find anywhere else. There might be a few bucks difference occasionally, but its not like a cruise will be $500 on one site and $420 on another.
What does that mean for your search? It means you can usually search one site and be done. Something I like to do is use a third-party search site to get an idea of whats out there. Once I find a cruise I like and want to book, then I usually do so directly on that cruise line website.
What I never bother with is going to one site, then another, then another, and another to make sure I have the lowest price possible. Its simply a waste of time in most cases.
Rule #: Do Sail On Older Ships For Cheaper Deals
Its not written in stone, but you will usually pay much less to sail on an older ship compared to a newer one. Older ships are still kept up and comfy, but simply cant offer the space or amenities as the larger, newer ships.
Over the past decade ships have seemingly transformed from seagoing vessels to floating amusement parks. From huge waterslides to walking promenades, robot bars, ice rinks, and more, its hard to believe what they can put on a new ship these days.
If you dont need these sorts of things on your cruise, then look for an older ship to get a much cheaper cruise.
Its difficult to compare apples to apples as different ships sail to different ports at different times, but we found two similar cruises to compare.
The first was a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Royal Caribbeans Symphony of the Seas from Miami, departing April 2020. Symphony of the Seas is among the cruise lines newest ships, and its priced accordingly.
The cheapest price we found for an April sailing on this new ship was $997 per person.
Compare this rate with a 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard another Royal Caribbean ship Empress of the Seas. We found this cruise departing Miami during the same month . Despite being one night longer, the trip was priced at just $439 per person for an interior cabin.
In other words, sailing the older ship in this example costs less than half the new ship despite the cruise on the older ship being a day longer.
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Three Things To Remember When Booking A Cheap Cruise
1. Smaller is cheaper Smaller boats tend to be less expensive since they offer fewer amenities and attractions.
2. Cruise in the off season Traveling off season will get you markedly cheaper fares.
3. Take a repositioning cruise Repositioning cruises are when cruise lines move ships from one part of the world to the next in anticipation of the upcoming season. These cruises are a great way to cross an ocean or sail down a continents coast on the cheap and can be found on any cruise booking website.
What about your flight? Dont book your flight with the cruise book it separately. Check out this guide to finding a cheap flight to lower that cost.
Repositioning Cruises The Little
Cruise ships often need to be moved from one sea to another, such as from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. This may be for seasonal reasons or when a new itinerary for the cruise ship is about to start. These sailings are known as repositioning cruises and they offer a great opportunity for a cheap cruise.
Some repositioning cruises are a fraction of the cost of a regular cruise with savings often in excess of 50% off a normal cruising price.
There are downsides to repositioning cruises. Be prepared to spend a long time at sea , which also means fewer stops at ports and therefore fewer shore excursions. Activities are often pared back, and as its a one-way cruise it can be expensive to fly back from the destination port. However, if you book a repositioning cruise on a large, modern cruise ship, then there are usually plenty of facilities to immerse yourself in. If you can book a cheap flight back, then repositioning cruises offer the cheapest bargain cruises you can book.
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How To Book A Cheap Cruise
Booking a cheap cruise is actually quite easy and requires only one thing: flexibility. See, cruise pricing is similar to tour pricing. The closer you get to the departure date, the cheaper the cruise becomes.
Because cruise ships dont want to depart with half-empty boats, so they drop prices steadily until that boat is leaving port, since for them empty cabins mean less money.
Cruises make the majority of their money from what people purchase on board, so they want bodies on those ships.
You can also book early, but I find last-minute bookings to be the best. And since you are booking close to departure, you need to be flexible with where you are willing to go or OK with not booking the actual cruise even if you booked your flights.
Another tip comes Doug Parker of Cruise Radio, When the kids are in school, the rates are the best. This holds true in all travel but especially cruising, because it is such a family activity. Dont travel when everyone else is traveling! If you do that or travel during the shoulder season, you can find the best rates. Chris from Chris Cruises also reiterates my recommendation: Book far in advance or last minute for the best fares.
The Best Cheap Family Cruises
When youre cruising as a family, one of the most important things to pay attention to is the child prices.
Sometimes, kids cruise free and sometimes youll be charged the full adult fare for each child. Choosing a cruise where kids go free for a family of four will save you up to 50% on your total cruise price straight away.
Heres how much each cruise line charges for kids:
- Carnival Full adult price
- Celebrity Cruises Full adult price
- Costa Cruises Children under 18 pay only port fees and service fees
- Cunard Full adult price
- Disney Cruise Line Full adult price
- MSC Cruises Children under 18 cruise FREE when booking in the USA and from £119 when booking in the UK
- Norwegian Cruise Line Full adult price except when the Free At Sea promotion is on when kids cruise free
- P& O Cruises Full adult price in the school holidays and £99 per week in term-time
- Princess Cruises Full adult price
- Royal Caribbean Full adult price except when the Kids Sail Free promotion is on
Cruise prices for babies vary hugely, depending on the cruise line.
MSC Cruises and Cunard do not charge for children under two years of age. Costa Cruises, P& O Cruises and Disney Cruise Line charge a reduced fare for babies. Most other cruise lines charge the full adult price unless theres a special promotion on at the time of booking.
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Be Open To Any Cruise Line
There are people that simply fall in love with one cruise line or they simply refuse to sail on a certain line. That can hurt your chances of finding dirt-cheap cruises. When you want cheap, youve got to have all the options on the table.
Truth is, after having sailed lots of different lines, I can tell you that yes, there are definite differences between them all. But in most cases the experience is much more similar than it is different.
After all, if one cruise line was just flat out bad, they wouldnt be in business very long. Theres just too much competition.
On that note, I like to do my searching for cheap trips on aggregator sites. Places like Orbitz they search all the lines at once and then allow you to filter by price. That way its much easier to search across all lines for deals instead of going to a ton of different websites.
Planning Great Shore Excursions
The do-it-yourself approach requires extensive itinerary planning well in advance of your arrival in port. After all, you can’t shop for shore excursions until you familiarize yourself with the area’s most important sights and activities. Use TripAdvisor.com to survey the top attractions and tours. And don’t get caught up in good or bad reviews rather, look for patterns in the recommendations. If you’re bound for the Caribbean, pack the book Caribbean Ports of Call: A Guide for Today’s Cruise Passengers by Kay Showker. This guidebook breaks down each cruise line’s annual itineraries and describes the shore excursions available at each port. Lonely Planet’s guidebooks also offer good recommendations
To book online before you arrive, try ShoreTrips.com, a service that, similar to the cruise line, will make shore-side arrangements for you. Read the reviews on other trips booked through their site and fashion yours off of those. Viator.com guarantees the rates on their tours, plus they offer 24-hour, 7-days-a-week global support and free cancellations up to 24 hours before your excursion. But before you book through an online travel site, shop the cruise line rates, as well, to make sure you’re actually saving money.
Careful planning adds value to your cruise investment. And with a little forethought and effort, you’ll be exploring ports-of-call in the most efficient way available and by spending far less than your shipmates.
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