Once the ultimate statement of luxury, a cruise was the vacation choice of the celebrity and the glitterati. However, as air travel became more commonplace, and the middle-class emerged, cruises were able to be enjoyed by everyone. In fact, after the recession of 2008, it was even easier to find cheap cruises to exotic destinations.
Although the economy has rebounded, and cruise prices have risen again, it’s still possible to find discounts and affordable vacation deals — you just need to know where to look! If you love the idea of enjoying a luxury trip on the ocean, but want to save as much money as possible, here are some useful hints and tips to finding the perfect cruise deal!
According to the Florida-Carribean Cruise Association, the number of global ocean cruise passengers continues to rise. In 2018 alone, over 25 million people enjoyed a cruise, with cruise travelers from North America increasing by 9% alone — making cruise vacations more popular than ever with Americans. This resurgence in the cruise travel industry has encouraged travel companies to invest almost seven billion dollars in new ships this year alone. Of course, an increase in ships also increases the necessity to sell more vacations.
No cruise line wants to prepare their ship for a voyage, just to end up setting sail with multiple empty cabins, because, put simply, vacant cabins mean a loss in revenue. To achieve optimal profits, most cruise lines want to have at least 107% occupancy — this typically equates to two people per cabin.
Although empty cabins are a headache for the cruise lines, they can actually be an advantage for bargain hunting vacationers. Often unoccupied cabins on cruises can be snagged at a discount rate by savvy travelers — as long as you’re comfortable booking at the last minute. In fact, it’s not common to find discounted deals with up to 50% off — after all, an occupied cabin that’s discounted is preferential to an empty cabin.
The more last-minute cruise, the bigger the discounts typically are. This is especially true if you book your vacation days before the ship’s departure date. Additionally, some cruise lines also offer discount food and drink packages to complement your cabin deal. Offering reduced rates for last-minute customers makes sense for the cruise line because once the ship sets sail, they lose the opportunity to make a profit on any cabins that are left empty.
The ideal time to start looking for cruise deals is around two weeks before the ship is scheduled to leave port. If you want to snag the best deal possible, it’s important to be flexible and be able to book quickly.
Have you ever paid full price for something, and weeks later, a friend tells you they purchased the same thing in a sale? If you have, you’ll know how irritating it can be. This often happens on cruise ships, because cabins costs can vary greatly depending on several factors — including who you book your trip with, and when you book.
Naturally, most cruise lines don’t advertise when the best time to bag a discounted cabin is, so it’s up to you to do some research and find out yourself. Although this can take a little bit of work, you could save you hundreds of dollars.
Here are some useful tips to help you find a cheap cruise deal:
1. Search online - Did you know that it’s possible to find out how many empty cabins a cruise ship has up until 72 hours before it departs? If you’re interested in finding out how much a cabin is going to cost you, you can begin the booking process to find out the total. But remember — don’t book the trip until you’ve explored all of your options!
2. Consult a travel agent - Travel agents have the most up-to-date vacation information and can help you find the best cruise deal for you. They can also help you compare options to ensure you find a cruise that meets all of your needs.
3. Be Flexible - Being able to travel last-minute and also open to different locations can significantly improve your chances of getting a good cruise deal. Even luxury cruise lines lower their prices if their occupancy is low, so prepare to be pleasantly surprised when you started searching!
Like most things, the cruise industry has an off-season. This is the time of year when cabins are in less demand, and typically much cheaper. The off-season for the cruise industry usually begins as the weather starts to cool in late fall and lasts into early spring. This makes the holidays are the perfect time of year to enjoy a tropical cruise and get away from the cold weather!