Late deals on cruises start appearing up to 3 months before the departure and the number of offers increases 1 month prior and even more about 2 weeks before the departure.
Interestingly, with cruises you can book up to 90 days before and that's still considered "last minute booking", unlike with flights or hotels, which allow such discounts weeks and days before in general.
For such cruise bargains, you'll have to be prepared to jump short notice and set off for the cruise that will most probably be a surprise trip to an unexpected destination, on a lesser-known route.
Usually one cannot plan ahead in time for these "surprise cruise trips". But surprises can be exciting!
Cruises are among the most massively discounted travel services. Because they are highly seasonal, people tend to take cruises especially during the summer, the second half of spring and first 1-2 months of autumn. While it's still warm...
Prices on cruises will drop from day to day, as the departure date gets closer. You might even see last minute deals launched one after another. One deal might appear after another and, the later placed, the less expensive the cruise tickets will be.
Where to Search
You must know exactly where to start the search. Then, you must know that you have to grab the best deal as soon as possible, especially if you're in the last month prior to the cruise trip. These offers are few, you mustn't forget!
Here's where to hunt:
They will get rid of the cruise packages fast when they fear the risk of "no sale". They will massively discount them to minimize potential losses. Travel agencies have to be on top of your list when searching.
These companies buy the right to re-sell the tickets, that's why they have lots of them and often their prices are lower than those of the cruise ship companies themselves!
The cruise ship companies also sell their own tickets. Although, it is possible that the same ticket is out on sale at agents and the cruise ship-operating company as well.
When to Search
The timing also influences the outcome. Search when you should and you will spend less.
60-90 Days Before Departure
The first deals appear so early, because this is the time limit until which most travelers can still cancel their advance-booked cruise trip without any penalty. So, there's always a number of people who give up and get refunded. Those who want to give up usually proceed until the 60-90 day deadline before the ship sails. This way a number of "open places" are left, which are being marketed under "late deals"-labeled sections of websites.
Basically, the more cabins are unsold, the bigger the discounts will be. The lower the demand, the lower the prices will be.
Don't Make Last Minute Cruise Bargain Illusions
Don't expect massive price cuts during the peak of travel seasons. Official school and university holidays, June through August, Easter, Christmas and New Year represent the most intensively-travelled periods.
Search outside of these periods. During these periods you will find the highest tariffs, the least available cabins
Or, perhaps a smarter idea is to scan the offers referring to dates towards the end and after these mentioned intervals.
Search for Repositioning Cruises
Cruise lines usually operate within a selected geographical area. We explain this below through some examples...
Cruises in the Caribbean between Venezuela and Florida are operated repeatedly during a certain period, then suddenly, the cruise ship changes its itinerary. From then on, trips between the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores and then back to Florida will be operated.
The "switch" from one region to another implicates the moving of the ship
Ships operated around Europe generally change their operating zone to warmer seas during the winter. From the European Atlantic and the Mediterranean (which both get stormier with strong cold winds, even with snowstorms), ships are moved to the warmer and calmer Canary Islands and the Caribbean area.
This "move" or "switch of operating zones" is for which the sell the "repositioning cruises".
When the companies move their ships, the passengers get the rare chance to travel on a totally new route.
Repositioning cruises tend to cost less, of course, at last minute especially.
On them you'll get to see a more unusual landscape, generally these trips last longer with few or no stop-overs at all. More sea or ocean to admire, more time on board enjoying entertainment and restaurants.
Most people don't know about this cruise category, therefore the lower prices.
Read the Fine Prints Carefully
Late booking might mean poor facilities, a smaller number of services. For instance, the package might not include trips to and from the ship embarking/debarking spots, there might be no meal tickets included, the cabin might be for single occupancy, not double etc.
Be aware of possible hidden fees, taxes, such as port charges, government taxes, transaction fees.
It's common with last minute cruise deals that the selling companies will try getting rid of their worst cruise cabins. Some buyers are given claustrophobic interior cabins with no windows and poor air conditioning!
There are few single cabins as well, you must check before paying, analyze in details what cabin you are actually purchasing!
Risks, Potential Problems
When booking late, get prepared for poor travel services, unless otherwise specified directly when booking.
Normally, the biggest and best cabins with balconies and large windows are sold-out well in advance. Few or none of them will remain available for late booking.
Some agents might advertise "last minute cruises", but they actually sell "normal rate" services at full price. This is a "nasty trick" practiced ever increasingly by unethical companies and travel sites.
Always research and compare prices and services included in order to know exactly what you're buying, don't buy "baloney" deals!
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