5 Things You Need to Know About Getting a Bargain on Your Next Cruise

bargain tips cheap cruise ship
Skipping airfare by sailing out of a nearby port will save you hundreds on airfare. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Booking a cruise is complicated — prices change based on cabin availability, and determining whether you’re getting the best deal is tough. Here, our best advice for booking the ship you want at the best price possible:

1. Know this: Most cruises sail full.

empty cruise ship cabins

Nothing hurts a cruise line more than empty cabins. - Photo by Canadastock

Since cruise lines make their money as much on the extras — drinks, shore excursions, the casino — as they do on the fares, the lines make a serious effort to fill up every cabin on every cruise. That means if you can be flexible on dates, ships, and itineraries, you can probably get a good deal close to the time of sailing.

Tip: Although last-minute deals have become slightly more sparse since cruise lines declared that they will no longer be offering last-minute discounts (in order to encourage earlier bookings), we still see great last-minute deals all the time on our cruise deals page.


2. You’ll get the best deals on older ships.

carnival freedom cruise bargain cheap

The best deals can be found older ships like Carnival Freedom. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

Because new ships have an easy audience of people who’ve been waiting for the launch and cruise line fans who always want to try the hottest new thing, the older ships are more likely to have deep discounts. Just don’t expect the latest amenities, like water slides, ropes courses, and recently launched specialty restaurants.


Caribbean deals from $


3. Look for value weeks.

new years cruise bargain cheap

New Year's sailings are fun but expensive. Target the following week instead. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

The weeks after three major national, nonreligious holidays tend to be the quietest of the year on cruise ships: New Year’s, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Best of all, if you hosted friends and family — and stayed in town, without taking vacation time — you may need a holiday to recuperate, and be able to get off work for a week without a problem.


4. It’s the airfare that will cost you.

norwegian sky miami cheap cruises

Living near a port like Miami (above), New York, Seattle or Galveston will save you tons on airfare. - Photo by Norwegian

If you track last-minute deals, you’ll find that if you discover one, typically it’s the airfare that you’ll need to pay a premium for if you book at the eleventh hour. As a result, the best value you’ll get on your overall cruise vacation is on a ship within driving distance. Fortunately, many mass-market lines have taken to porting ships in a variety of U.S. home ports — from Boston to New York, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Galveston, and Seattle — so, depending on the time of year, you’ll find options that aren’t just in Florida and California.


5. Consider an early booking deal with a price back guarantee.

carnival cheap bargain cruise

Carnival is one of the best options for affordable cruises. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

If you do book early, look for programs that allow you to get a refund if the price drops closer to the sailing. Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, offers an Early Saver program, and it’s not the only line to do so: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean also offer a Best Price Guarantee.


Tip: Even if your cruise line doesn't have a guarantee, you can still save some money by using our price alert feature to track the price of your cruise after you've booked. Go to any cruise page and click "Get Price Alert" to start receiving alerts by email whenever the price goes up or down. If the price drops, follow these steps to claim your refund.



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