It wasn’t that long ago when you could show up at the dock with your passport in hand and go on a sailing. These days, post- 9/11, and with increased homeland security, it’s nearly impossible. Even industry people who want to go on a ship for the day need to submit their paperwork at least 48-hours in advance.
With that said, the cruise lines have to fill the ships to make money which means there are always last minute cruise deals out there. It’s a matter of knowing where to look.
Here are five ways to look for last minute cruise deals:
1. Use a travel agent. We can’t stress this enough. Not only are travel agents looking out for your best interest, they also can tell you in a matter of minutes what sailing is good for you. It wouldn’t be honest to say that travel agencies can always get the best deals but they do have access to pricing and provide personalized service that could save your butt if you’re in a bind.
2. Book during off-season. A good rule of thumb is if the kids are in school, the prices drop significantly. If you are looking at sailing in Florida in September, there are four-night sailings for as little as $89. To find last minute rates during summer, spring or winter breaks are rare.
3. Repositioning cruises. If you want to break away from it all and aren’t worried about hitting a lot of ports of call, consider a repositioning cruise. Repositioning sailings are basically just ferrying the ship from one port to another, like Alaska to Florida or Europe to Florida. There isn’t a lot of port calls but the prices are attractive and depending on the route you get to see some cool sites, like the Panama Canal. As an example, recently sailed a 16-night transatlantic cruise on Carnival Sunshine for $399 (before taxes).
4. Sign-up for deal alerts. Typically when a cruise ship doesn’t fill up they will send an email showing some really low prices. Since that email is typically going out to a database of millions, you have to act fast to grab a cabin at an attractive rate. I have created “junk” email account to avoid getting bombarded with a million deals a day.
5. Cut out the airfare. Consider driving to the closest embarkation port. While this isn’t always the easiest to do, it will cut out hundreds of dollars in airfare. You don’t always have to park at the pier either, there are many off-site parking lots and park-and-cruise hotel packages at every port.
Those are just a few ways to get a last minute cruise deals. If you have other tips on getting a last minute cruise we’d love to hear.
If you’re going to book a cruise in late August or September (hurricane season) you may want to consider travel insurance. The cruise ship will typically sail during hurricanes but the embarkation port may differ, also airline weather delays are possible getting to your port.
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