Follow the 60-day rule
Generally speaking, cruise lines raise their prices when demand increases, but as departure dates draw closer, those rates start to come down. That's because cruise lines would prefer to sail with a full ship than leave even a few cabins empty. "Families who sail with us usually need to plan ahead if they have kids, but as we get closer to our departure dates, we top some cruises off with special rates," says Jennifer Haile Tinn, senior manager of marketing strategy of Disney Cruise Line.
To find the best deals on last minute cruises, begin shopping around less than 60 days before departure. That is around the time when current passengers are allowed to cancel their plans without penalty, leaving cruise lines with a clearer picture of how much space is still available. On May 1, 2018, for example, Disney Cruise Line had about 39 available itineraries in June and July, starting at $4,085 for a family of four. Start here to find the best cruises for every type of traveler.
Look to the closest port
Lots of cruise lines offer last-minute deals to residents who live within driving distance of their ports. The reason? There's usually no airfare involved, which means it's easier to book at the last minute. By offering discounts to the drive market that surrounds them, cruise lines can lure in locals who are able to consider last-minute cruises—a win-win for everyone. However, last-minute discounts aren't limited to customers within driving distance from each port. Many cruise lines also offer military and other discounts to lure folks on upcoming sailings with open cabins. Most of these discounts can be found under the special offers section on each cruise line's website.
Sometimes great last minute cruises come with a few restrictions. Guarantee cabins are among the most common. All this means is that you can choose your stateroom category, but not the individual stateroom. The cruise line does that for you. "You may have an ocean view, for example, but you can't pick from which specific cabin," Tinn says. You may even have an obstructed view of the ocean, so it's important not to set your expectations too high if you're booking at the last minute. "Those fares give you a great discount but limit flexibility," adds Tinn. Find out the 13 secrets travel experts wish you knew about booking a cruise.
Consider an older ship
Courtesy Royal Caribbean international
Everybody wants to book the newest and shiniest ship in each fleet, but some of the best last minute cruises can be found on older ships. Most cruise lines are committed to keeping their entire fleet up to date, constantly upgrading them based on the trends and demands of their base customers. This creates a great opportunity for last-minute bookings as more travelers gravitate toward the newer ships. Royal Caribbean, for example, has invested $900 million to modernize ten of its ships over the next four years, beginning with sailings in summer 2018. The Royal Amplified program will add a slew of design upgrades as well as new attractions and experiences, including new water slides, re-imagined outdoor decks, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, and mystery games. If you like how that sounds, check out these cruises with crazy-cool amenities.
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Land of the Midnight Sun
courtesy viking cruises
Viking Cruise Lines is offering $500 airfare savings per person for its eight-day Amsterdam-to-Bergen cruise departing July 7, 2018. You'll cruise the North Sea from the Netherlands to Denmark before moving on to Norway. Viking's prices always include at least one shore excursion in every port, wine and beer at lunch and dinner, unlimited Wi-Fi, and unlimited use of the ship's thermal suite, which includes a sauna, thalassotherapy pool, and more.
Alaska by sea
Princess Cruises still has spots available on its June and July 2018 Inside Passage sailing to Alaska from either Seattle (seven days) or San Francisco (ten days). Itineraries from the cruise line's Seattle port include a visit to Glacier National Park, but all of their Alaska cruises promise plenty of glacier sightings. Don't miss these all-inclusive cruises for the best vacation ever.
courtesy disney cruise line
Those looking to explore the Caribbean can choose from eight summer 2018 itineraries aboard Disney Cruise Line's Fantasy that have yet to sell out. If you've got the time, a special 11-night cruise to six tropical destinations sets sail June 30, 2018, from Port Canaveral, Florida, with stops in Aruba, Barbados, Puerto Rico, and Disney's own Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. The itinerary is new for the cruise line, and at press time, staterooms across all categories were still available.
While all eyes are set this summer on Royal Caribbean's new Symphony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, two of its sister ships are debuting a slew of new attractions and experiences as part of its Royal Amplified program—and both have open slots this summer. The Mariner of the Seas has openings on its three- and four-night Bahamas cruises in June and July 2018. For those looking to cruise internationally, the Independence of the Seas has 14-day Mediterranean sailings available for the same dates. Read on for the 17 little travel hacks that will make your cruise easier.
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