There are many advantages to booking your cruise at the last minute. The most obvious reason is to take advantage of the huge cost savings that are available. You can often get a cabin for up to 75% less than the standard rate. Not only do you get discounts on the first guest, but you can also get up to 50% off for the second guest in a cabin. And, if you’re willing to have a third or fourth guest, the cabin discounts are even greater.
You will save even more money if your last-minute booking is on a cruise sailing in what is called the “shoulder season,” a time just before or after the peak seasons. Another discount cruise is the repositioning cruise. This is a cruise which sails along the coast or across the ocean. The cruise line moves the ship from one part of the world to another in order to prepare for the peak vacation period from a specific port. These cruises are offered at great rates but are often not even published.
So where do you find these hot deals on last minute cruises? You would probably not be surprised that your search should begin online. Below are some of the sites you should consider as you begin your search.
You may want to start your search on specific cruise line websites. All the cruise lines have sites, but they don’t just list last minute deals. As a matter of fact, these sites list all available products and often “hide” those cruises with departure dates less than a few months away. The reason for this is that they may need to drastically reduce prices on unsold cabins within 90 days of the sail date. However, they don’t want these new prices published so that they don’t offend those who booked early.
The best way to find these bargains is to search these sites using departure dates only or to speak to one of their representatives on the phone. You can then ask specifically for available cabins on any cruises sailing within a two or three-month period. An advantage to using the cruise line site is that they not only offer discount cabins but they offer bundled deals. You can get a combo package including the cruise, airfare, and even an excursion package to entice you to reserve an unsold cabin. Many lines now offer free drink packages, prepaid gratuities, and free wi-fi to entice you to reserve a last-minute cruise.
Whether you search the site on your own or speak with one of the professional vacation planners, you’re guaranteed a great deal.
There are sites that have specific sections for cheap cruises. The most highly reviewed of these sites are cruisedeals.com, cruisedirect.com, vacationstogo.com and cheapcruises.com. The cheap cruise deals are easier to find on these sites as they often have targeted ads right on the home page.
These sites are very competitive and the prices of the cabins they offer may vary by $50 to $100 per person. For this reason, you should search more than one to find the best deal. Like the cruise line websites, these sites may also offer various cruise packages. They are usually not as generous as those offered by the lines themselves, but if you search carefully, you should be able to design a combination of products that is perfect for you.
An advantage to these sites is that you can search products from all lines in one place and they also have phone representatives available to help you if you need them.
You are probably familiar with these sites. Their numbers continue to grow but they include sites such as Priceline.com, Expedia.com, and Travelocity.com. They feature great last-minute deals but they don’t focus on cruises only, so you’ll need to search the specific area of the site to find what you need. Again, the easiest way to find the best last minute deals is to search cruises by departure date.
You may be able to find the best prices here because these sites work directly with the cruise lines to sell specific products. This makes them very competitive, but they can save you time by allowing you to quickly compare the prices of different cruise lines.
Wholesale Club Store Sites
There are a number of stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesale Club that offer travel planning services to their members. They have websites that are organized by products and services and you need to begin your search by choosing travel services. While anyone can find information, only club members can take advantage of discounts and special deals.
Using these sites to find last-minute cruise deals is a little more difficult because they don’t list their deals in any particular order. However, they do have experts available who will discuss your needs and try to find you the best available deal.
Also, if you use the Club’s credit card to pay for your trip, you get extra rewards like cash back, award points, or additional vacation discounts. If you are a member of one of these clubs, you should sign up for their email promotions so that you don’t miss any special deals.
Hiring a travel agent is an age-old method for planning vacations. A recent development is that the higher volume agencies have become the preferred sellers of the most discounted, last minute cruise deals. They have a trusted, long-term relationship with the largest cruise lines and so they receive the most special deals from them.
You have easy access to travel agents, either by contacting them online, by phone, or in person. And, if you sign up with a few higher volume agencies, you can receive their emails and special communications notifying you of all their deals.
Remember that the closer you get to the departure date, the larger the discount you could receive. Also, in a healthy economy, there are fewer last minute deals, but they do exist.
Now you have the information you need to find the last-minute cruise deal most suited to you. Regardless of how you learn about, and book your next dream cruise, there are tremendous savings available for you if you are able to be flexible and willing to make a few sacrifices. You may not be able to choose your exact cabin, and your departure ports and itineraries may be limited. However, if your schedule can be easily manipulated and you can be ready to go without much notice, you can have a great experience for a price that will make you smile.