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10 Tips for Cheap Last Minute Cruise Bookings

Are you looking for ways to save money on your next cruise? Why not book a last minute cruise? Last-minute cruises can be a budget-friendly option, especially if you’re retired or have a flexible schedule. By waiting until the cruise line needs to fill vacant cabins, you can often save more than 85% off full fares.

When Last Minute Cruise Deals are Offered

Last minute deals are usually offered 60 to 90 days prior to sailing. It’s usually after the date when final payment is due. 

Last-minute deals become available when a cruise line are trying to fill vacant cabins. Expect to save 30% to more than 85% off full fares.

Check out: 10 Food I’ll Never Eat at a Cruise Buffet

how to get great deals on last minute cruises

Be Prepared to Pay in Full

To book a last-minute deal, you’ll need to pay in full since it’s usually past the final payment deadline. That means when you book your cruise, you don’t just pay a deposit. Expect to pay in full. 

Check out: 11 Anti-Theft Cruise Tips that Every Cruiser Needs to Know

Last Minute Cruise Deals Cancellation policies

Keep in mind that booking a last-minute cruise deal is usually a nonrefundable fare. Once you make the purchase, you’re committed to the travel dates and itinerary. Be prepared to pay the full amount at the time of booking, rather than putting down a deposit as you would if booking further in advance. 

Check out: How Cruise Lines Trick You Into Spending More Money: 12 Sneaky Ways

Best Time to Book Last Minute Deals

While last-minute offers are available year-round, the best times to snag great deals are during the shoulder season. 

For Caribbean and Mexico cruises, the best time to find last-minute deals is when kids are back in school, usually from late September to early December (excluding holidays).

For Europe and Alaska cruises, you’ll have better luck finding last-minute deals in early spring or after the peak summer season. 

Check out: 8 Reasons Why Balcony Cabins are Worth It on Your Next Cruise

Last Minute Deals on Longer or Short Cruises

You’ll have better chances of finding last minute cruise deals on cruises that are either short or long cruises- cruises shorter than a week or long cruises that are longer than 10 days.

It doesn’t mean you can’t find last minute cruise deals on popular 7 days cruises. You’ll just have a better chance of finding last minute cruise deals to the Caribbean and Mediterranean that are more than 10 days. 

how to get great deals on last minute cruises

Check out: I’ve Been on over 25 Cruises, Here are 17 Things I’ll Never Do on a Cruise

Last Minute Cruise Deals on Repositioning Cruises

You can also find great last minute deals on repositioning cruises. Repositioning cruises is when the ship moves from one region to another. For example, a repositioning cruise is when you start in Florida and end up in Europe. They are usually transatlantic cruises with a lot of sea days. These cruises are typically longer and the sailing is during the shoulder season so they are not as popular, as a result will have last minute deals. 

Looking for last minute deals? I recommend searching for last minute cruise deals from Cruise Direct

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Last Minute Cruise Cabins

The one bad thing about booking last minute cruise deals is that you may not have your choice of the best cabins. You’ll likely need to choose from less desirable cabins or opt for a guaranteed cabin, where the cruise line chooses your accommodations.

You might end up with only an inside cabin since all balcony cabins are sold out (if it’s a cruise where everyone wants a balcony like Alaska cruise). You might end up with a noisy cabin, right underneath the buffet or near the theater! Popular cabins like family staterooms, suites, spa cabins and solo cabins could be sold out. Since you are booking last minute, expect to get the worst cabins on the cruise. As long as you’re flexible and are okay with it, then last minute cruises are a great option. 

Of course, there is always the best case scenario of you receiving a better cabin than you paid for, but that will most likely not happen. 

Check out: 9 Things I Wished I Knew When Planning a Large Family Cruise

You will Not Get Your First Choice shore excursions 

If you book last minute cruises, chances are high that you will not get to book popular shore excursions because they will have sold out. If your top choice shore excursion sold out, you should check with independent tour operators such as  Viator, to see if they offer similar shore excursions. 

You Can Book a Day or Two Before Sailing but Don’t

Depending on the cruise line, the last day to book last minute cruises is typically one to two days before the cruise embarkation day. Basically, you can’t book after the ship’s manifest has been submitted to authorities. 

I don’t suggest waiting until the very last moment to book your cruise. Waiting until the last minute can add stress and potentially result in not being able to book online or having to wait on hold for hours to speak to a reservations agent. If you are waiting to book until the very last moment, my suggestion is to book a cruise where the departure port is within driving distance from where you live. So you don’t have to fly.

The savings you get from last minute cruise fares could be a wash since you have to pay astronomical prices for the last minute airfare! 

Make Sure Your Passport is Ready Before You Book

If you are booking last minute cruises, make sure to check your passport expiration date first before booking your non-refundable last minute cruise. Many cruise lines will not let you travel if your passport is expired. They might deny booking if your passport is within 6 months of expiration. Make sure your passport is not expired or about to expire in 6 months. Renew it first before you book last minute cruises. 

Check out: 30 Unusual Things to Pack for a Cruise: Things You Didn’t Know You Need

Where to Find Last Minute cruise deals

There are three main places to find last-minute cruise deals. You can go to the individual cruise line’s websites and search for last minute cruise deals. Or if you work with a travel agent, you can ask your travel agent to be on the lookout for last minute cruise deals. Finally, you can also find last minute cruise offers all in one place from travel websites. I like to search for last minute cruise deals from Cruise Direct. 

Check out: When to Book a Cruise to Get the Best Deal

Check out: 15 Caribbean Cruise Mistakes to Avoid

Check out these cruise packing lists with free printables

Alaska cruise packing list

Caribbean cruise packing list

Mediterranean cruise packing list

Mexico cruise packing list

Bermuda Cruise Packing List

British Isle Cruise Packing List

25 Things People Forget to Pack on their Cruise

42 Banned Items you can’t take on a cruise

Check out: 16 Cruise Ship Embarkation Hack (How to Board the Ship Faster)

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