Ahoy there! Do you fancy five-star service at a three-star price? If you do, you’ve come to the right place. It’s time to push the boat out. You deserve that break but there’s no point in paying more for it than you need to. Here’s how to save on last minute cruises by keeping just one or two tricks up your sleeve.
Flexibility Is the Key for Last Minute Cruises
If you don’t need to book in advance and if you’re flexible about where you’re cruise might take you, then you’re halfway there. The nearer you get to the departure date, the more likely you’ll be able to pick up a real bargain.
It’s not good business for cruise ships to depart with empty cabins. That means any cabins that are unsold at the last minute are more likely to be sold off at a cheaper price.
This does mean that you may not get exactly the type of cabin you’d prefer. The payback though is, of course, a lower price.
Price Difference Policies
Keep an eye on pricing between the time you book and the time you travel. If the price continues to drop, you may be able to renegotiate with the operator and secure the price difference as an onboard credit.
Some cruise operators will have their own lowest price guarantee policies. It can also make sense to choose a time when the kids are at school. If you can avoid times when half the world seems to be traveling then so much the better.
Where to Search for the Cheapest Deals
It’s always worth trying to book through a travel agent. They’ll have developed good connections with cruise companies. They may well have negotiated great rates and last minute deals.
Some of the bigger travel agencies will block off hundreds of cabins the moment a cruise is announced. That could be anything up to about a year and a half before the date of travel.
Any cabins that they fail to sell are returned to the operator, usually around two months before the cruise is due to begin. Watch for cancellation penalties as these are likely to be more severe the closer you get to the departure date.
Price Comparison Websites
Agents do the work for you by trying to find low prices and can act for you if something should go wrong. If you prefer to ‘go it alone’ then there are alternatives.
There are plenty of price comparison websites that will scour the internet for you to find the cheapest deals.
Some even have weekly newsletters that are worth subscribing to with the best prices. Even if you’re not planning to travel straightaway, these will give you an idea of the sort of price you may be paying when you’re ready to go.
If you’re traveling alone, then a last minute cruise could be the perfect opportunity. Operators do sometimes waive single supplements as an incentive to fill up any unused cabins.
Consider a Repositioning Cruise
The logistics involved in organizing cruises are complex for operators. They may need to move a ship from one port to another at the end of one cruise and the beginning of the next.
Some operators will sell off these journeys as cruises in themselves, often at reduced prices. Wait till the last minute and you’re likely to save even more.
Save Through Loyalty Programs
Just like airlines, cruise operators want to give benefits to loyal customers. They may also prefer to offer them the best deals, particularly at the last minute. There’s nothing to be lost in joining loyalty programs.
Even if you don’t bag a huge discount at the last minute, you may still benefit from onboard perks. These could include cocktails, complimentary dinners or free access to the ship’s spa facilities.
All these can greatly offset the initial outlay you’re paying for the cruise. Stay in touch with the operator through their loyalty program. That way you’ll be amongst the first to find out about any last minute cruise deals on offer.
Many operators make a lot of their profit from the products they can sell you on board. These can range from drinks to food and activities. It’s always worth looking into what’s on offer, particularly at the last minute.
To fill the remaining cabins, operators may not substantially reduce the cost of the cabin. They may though offer you onboard extras to tempt you to book. These range from free Wi-Fi to onboard credits to use at the bar or for shore excursions.
The fare is clearly important but so is understanding what you are actually getting for that fare.
Always Try to Travel Offseason
If you have the flexibility to be able to travel offseason then you’re always more likely to pay less. That means even more reductions off a last minute cruise to give you a rock bottom price.
It’s unlikely, for example, that you’ll secure a great rate for a Caribbean cruise in the middle of June. Demand is going to be high at that point with plenty of people able to travel. Wait till September and you’re in with a better chance to save.
Another great time to bag a bargain is in the first few days after New Year’s Day. If you can tie this in with a flight in between Christmas and December 31st then you’re likely to get a great airfare too.
Other good times for last minute bargains are just before Memorial Day in May, the period leading up to Thanksgiving and the middle of December.
Pack Your Suitcase for the Trip of a Lifetime
If you can afford to be patient then last minute cruises are a favorite way to get top class service at basic prices. If you can be flexible about when you travel and don’t have your heart set on one particular type of cabin, then even better.
Find out more tips here about how to stretch your cruise budget.