4 Steps to Saving Hundreds on Your Next Cruise

Just a few years ago, taking a cruise was an affordable extravagance. Cruise lines took a hit, suffering from the unstable economy, skyrocketing fuel prices, and a few cruise mishaps. This made travelers’ interest drop, and as a result, the price of cruises fell dramatically, decreasing as cruise ships grew desperate to encourage customers to book.

Fast-forward to today – it seems like cruise ships are once again filling up. But taking a cruise isn’t as costly as many people believe. The deep discounts of just a few years ago are still available, and possibly even better than before.

With the right knowledge and a little research, you can still find certain cruises for a steal. You simply need to know where and when to look.

Cruise Lines Can’t Sell Staterooms

In 2017, 25.8 million passengers were projected to sail (according to the Cruise Lines International Association), causing cruise lines to invest over $6.8 billion in new vessels this year alone. With this influx of new ships, booking agents are tasked with filling up cabins faster than ever before.

And this doesn’t always happen. The last thing cruise lines want is too many empty cruise ship cabins on any given sailing. Empty cabins means less money spent on board. With a goal of approximately 107% occupancy for every cruise sailing (which means higher occupancy, or 2 people for every 1 cabin available), cruise lines are banking on certain profit once the ship sets sail.

When staterooms go unsold, cruise lines are forced to sell them at a high discount, making all-inclusive cruises a financially feasible options for just about anyone. Cruise companies become increasingly more willing to offer discounts to ensure passengers are onboard.

A cruise line would rather offer you a discount of as much as 50% off the price of a stateroom than leave port with unbooked rooms.

So, When Do These Deals Happen?

With cruise lines feeling extra pressure to fill as many cabins as they possibly can before the ship sets sail, the discounts mount. As the departure date inches closer, the deals become more and more enticing.

Days before a ship is set to leave, Cruise Critic reports that you could score savings of as much as 80% off the cost of the entire cruise. They might even offer attractive incentives like drink packages and discounted on-ship services.

Plus, consider this: if cruise lines don’t fill all of the available rooms, they lose a lot more than just 50% of the cost. Because unlike hotels, cruise ships can’t rely on last-minute walk-in customers. Once the ship sets sail, those empty rooms remain empty for the duration of the trip.

The key to snagging a deeply discounted cruise deal is waiting until the last minute. If you’re flexible with your vacation dates, you can score the biggest deals available. Wait until the very last weeks before a cruise departs. One to two weeks out is the prime time to look for these incredible deals.

From a revenue standpoint, it’s worth pricing unfilled rooms at a huge discount, instead of letting them sit empty. Money-savvy shoppers take advantage of these incredibly low rates on a regular basis–now you can too!

How To Find These Incredible Discounts

One of the most infuriating things to discover on a cruise? Finding out the passengers in the cabin next to you paid hundreds less for the exact same getaway. But, whether you are aware or not, it happens all the time. Only smart, savvy cruise vacationers know how to find the biggest savings.

Of course, most cruise lines don’t want you to know about their deepest discounts. You can’t go on just onto their website and expect to get the best rates up front. You’ll have to find the right sites–the ones that partner with cruise lines just to fill the cruise ship.

These low prices and discounts of up to half off on cruises don’t appear on third-party booking sites. Often, they don’t even appear on the cruise lines’ websites.

You’ll need to go straight to the source.

1. First step: scour the internet. Up until 72 hours before a cruise sets sail, you will be able to book online and also see how many rooms are still available. Do mock bookings to see what your chances are of finding a deal. If a cruise ship only has 10 empty rooms, you likely won’t find the lowest prices there.

2. Next, tap into travel agents. Some agents have the ability to hold a certain amount of cabins on a cruise ship.  If some of their customers cancel or do not put down their deposit, these cabins will become available to everyone else.  Cabins may also appear around the date of final payment due to some canceling their cruise.

3. Join email lists. There are email lists out there that share flash deals for cruise lines. These could be an easy foot in the door for you and could surprise you with a last-minute, unexpected trip.

4. Look at high-end cruises. It may sound counterintuitive, but luxury lines frequently drop prices to compete with competitors. Some lines even eliminate the costs of alcohol and other amenities to appeal to more consumers.

Additionally, scheduling your vacation in the off-season can save you tons, even on all-inclusive cruises. The typical off-season is between late fall and early spring, regardless of destination. So, how about taking that Caribbean vacation while your neighbors are home shoveling snow rather than in the height of summer? Just know that not all cruises will have empty cabins and not all cruise lines have the ability to drop prices drastically.

But, with a little patience and spontaneous nature, you could swipe a deal too good to be true.

Now that’s something we can get on board with.

Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.

Featured Tip

Don’t let your vacation days go to waste – make sure you travel! Only 23% of full-time employees use all of their days off each year, Forbes reports.