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7 Smart Tips to Compare Cheap Vacation Cruises

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Feeling a new culture, visiting fascinating ports, and interacting with locals are just a few of the reasons for cruising thousands of travelers every year and to compare vacation cruises. But these travelers also look for casinos, nightclubs, and pools aboard the ship to compare vacation cruises.

With dozens of companies offering cruises, finding the best ship for you can involve some comparison shopping. How to Discover the secrets to finding the best cruise deals? Uncover the hidden strategies for uncovering unbeatable cruise bargains with these expert insights from the tips below:

How to find the best cruise deals

1. Get ahead of the game by securing your booking early

Bid farewell to last-minute cruise discounts. To capture an irresistible deal, make your reservation well in advance and take advantage of early-bird fares unveiled 12 to 18 months before departure. This proactive approach grants you access to exceptional prices, an array of cabin options, and the freedom to choose departure dates and flights that align with your preferences.

But that’s not all—prepare to be pampered with delightful perks such as complimentary all-inclusive drinks packages, valet parking, and generous onboard credit. For instance, we recently unearthed savings of up to £700 on Celebrity’s captivating nine-night Adriatic Discoveries cruise when securing our booking within the first week of its release, accompanied by a treasure trove of valuable add-ons.

2. Harness the specialized skills of travel agents

Unveiling a world of possibilities, travel agents with expertise in cruises often possess the key to unlocking exclusive discounts and deals that may elude direct bookings with cruise lines. By capitalizing on their ability to bulk-purchase cabins at discounted rates, these agents can pass on remarkable savings to their customers.

As a shining example, we uncovered an interior room on Celebrity’s enchanting Norwegian Fjords cruise priced at a mere £774pp on, effectively saving a harmonious couple £90 when compared to the direct rate of £819pp. Remember, don’t limit yourself to a single agent—exploration and negotiation can lead to even greater rewards.

By presenting evidence of a more economical rate offered by Virgin Holidays Cruise for a balcony room on P&O’s Western Med cruise, we successfully negotiated a reduction from £1,219pp to £1,203pp with Moreover, travel agents may enhance the deal with alluring extras such as onboard credit or prepaid gratuities, enhancing your cruise experience.

3. Deliberate overbooking your own flights

While cruise deals that include flights provide peace of mind and convenience, venturing down the path of arranging your own flights can often yield significant savings. Cruise lines may possess advantageous rates due to bulk bookings, but it’s always worthwhile to compare prices. In a remarkable case, we unearthed colossal savings of £787 per person on P&O’s captivating Sydney to Hong Kong cruise by meticulously coordinating our flights with Etihad, ensuring an arrival time on par with the BA/Etihad combination proposed by P&O.

However, it’s crucial to remain cognizant of your consumer rights when opting for independent flight arrangements, as you may forfeit the ability to obtain a refund for the cruise in the event of flight delays or cancellations (unless protected by insurance). If you choose to embark on the cruise independently, any expenses incurred will be your own responsibility.

4. Savor substantial savings on onboard libations

Indulging in onboard beverages can take a significant toll on your wallet, especially when sailing with prominent US-based cruise lines. For example, a single glass of wine on a Royal Caribbean ship demands a starting price of £7.90, with an additional 18% service charge. While the prospect of bringing your own drinks on board is often forbidden (with the exception of P&O, Disney, and Royal Caribbean, albeit within specified limitations), you can explore the realm of all-inclusive drinks packages to potentially mitigate costs based on your imbibing preferences.

Discover a treasure trove of additional tips on how to economize on drinks packages and identify the cruise lines with the most substantial price tags in our comprehensive guide.

5. Maximize your savings on shore excursions

Most cruise lines entice travelers with shore excursions priced at exorbitant rates, but venturing beyond these offerings can unlock considerable savings. By independently exploring alternatives or partnering with reputable third-party providers, you can often secure comparable experiences at a fraction of the cost. For instance, our investigation into Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise revealed strikingly similar options available at half the price through the esteemed

NCL’s walking tour of Pisa and Florence commands a lofty £204pp, while presents an enticing alternative priced at a mere £78pp. Embarking on third-party excursions for each of the six ports featured on this cruise could potentially amass extraordinary savings of £534 per couple. To unearth alternative options, peruse passenger reviews on the esteemed Renowned companies like guarantee punctual returns to the ship and devise contingency plans to ensure smooth transitions between ports of call in the face of unforeseen delays.

Tips to Smartly Compare Cheap Vacation Cruises

1. Determine the total cost

Determine the total cost of the cruise, including transportation to your destination and port, and compare vacation cruises.

Cruise lines do not include ship and travel expenses as they expect you to deduct these expenses.

The exception is a cruise package, which includes an airplane in the ship’s departure city.

2. Look at day trips

Look at day trips, also known as shore excursions. Traveling onshore involves getting off the ship and spending hours or whole days in some cities to compare vacation cruises.

Ships are often planned for specific tasks such as scuba diving or snorkeling, but you can see for yourself.

3. Ask about any additional fees

Ask about any additional fees for activities on the board. Bingo, water slides, casinos, and nightclubs are often charged individually.

Ask what activities include your travel expenses and which ones cost extra.

4. Read passenger reviews

Read cruise ship passenger reviews on websites such as cruise reviewers and cruise reviews.

Websites allow customers to post reviews and read what others have said about their experience.

Hotwire Cruise Search lets you compare multiple cruises side by side to compare vacation cruises.

5. Review the offered benefits

Review the benefits offered by each cruise ship line and find the ones that appeal to you. Swimming pools are fairly standard but not much else.

The Kids’ Club can appeal to parents of young children while traveling with teens they want a game room or a teen nightclub is an opportunity to enjoy a variety of restaurants at no extra cost, something that some travelers also like.

6. Choose meticulously

Choose a cruise based on your lifestyle. Kids cruises work for families, but these cruisers are the only holiday cruise customers can choose for a single cruise. Cruises are also available for seniors and couples.

7. Rank the ships

Rank the ships according to their size and number of passengers, if that matters to you. Some ships hold hundreds of passengers, while some hold thousands that you can compare vacation cruises very easily.

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Cracking the Code on Last-Minute Cruise Deals: What You Need to Know

Embarking on a spontaneous cruise adventure and saving a significant amount of money sounds enticing, but it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of these last-minute deals before diving in headfirst.

Gone are the days when you could simply stroll up to a cruise terminal and secure a passage. However, rest assured that opportunities still exist to find incredible last-minute deals and make substantial savings on your dream cruise vacation.

While conventional wisdom dictates that booking a cruise well in advance guarantees the best price, seasoned cruisers know the allure of the last-minute booking. Cruise lines strive to fill as many cabins as possible, and to achieve this goal, they occasionally present irresistible offers to individuals with flexible schedules who can make spontaneous vacation plans a month or less before departure.

Nevertheless, it’s important to dispel any notions stemming from movies or television shows that suggest you can walk into a terminal hours before sailing and effortlessly board a ship. Those bygone days have vanished due to enhanced security measures. When we discuss last-minute deals, we refer to booking anywhere from the moment the final payment date has elapsed to approximately one week before the ship sets sail.

Before we delve into the intricacies of snagging last-minute cruise deals and the strategies to secure them, let’s shed light on a couple of crucial points.

Timing is Paramount

The first significant price drop often occurs immediately after a sailing’s “final payment” due date. Why does this happen? It’s because individuals must either commit to the cruise or risk forfeiting a considerable portion of their paid funds. This prompts cruise lines to gauge the number of committed passengers accurately.

Fast forward to 30 days before departure, and if a significant amount of inventory remains unclaimed, you’ll likely witness a surge in enticing deals. For instance, Carnival Cruise Line introduces the “Pack and Go” promotion, while Norwegian Cruise Line offers a similar “Sail Away” rate for last-minute departures.

As the ship’s occupancy increases, the cruise line gains flexibility in lowering prices. Profits typically commence once the ship reaches 30-50 percent occupancy. Hence, although last-minute bookings may not yield full fare, they generate substantial profit for the cruise line.

Dynamic Cruise Pricing

Have you ever experienced the frustration of checking airline ticket prices only to witness an increase when you revisit the site later? This phenomenon occurs when seats at a specific price point have been sold, resulting in a decrease in availability and an accompanying price hike.

The same dynamic applies to the cruise industry. Algorithms control the inventory management system, adjusting prices as cabins are sold. It all boils down to the fundamental economics lesson learned in junior high: supply and demand.

Understanding these crucial elements empowers you to navigate the realm of last-minute cruise deals and embark on an unforgettable voyage while enjoying remarkable savings.

How To Find Last-Minute Cruise Deals

Discovering those elusive last-minute cruise deals requires a multi-pronged approach. To maximize your chances of finding the perfect offer, we recommend utilizing a combination of strategies outlined below.

Harness the Power of Email

Signing up for email updates from online travel agents and cruise lines is a savvy move that grants you access to targeted advertising and exclusive last-minute deals. Brace yourself for a flood of emails, but rest assured that amidst the deluge, you’ll uncover valuable information.

Keep an eye out for subject lines such as “Pack and Go!” or “Last Chance Savings” and open these emails promptly. If an offer catches your interest, act swiftly to secure it, as the best deals have a limited lifespan.

To prevent overwhelm, consider creating a dedicated email account solely for travel-related purposes. By doing so, you can ensure that offers continue to flow in during the non-sailing periods without burying essential emails.

Leverage Cruise Line Loyalty

If you’ve sailed with a particular cruise line multiple times, ensure that your latest contact information, including your email address and travel preferences, is up to date. Additionally, subscribe to receive special offers as cruise lines often target last-minute deals to their most loyal customers, especially those residing near ports.

By directly sending exclusive offers to repeat passengers, cruise lines can reduce marketing expenses while rewarding frequent sailors with attractive deals.

Try Your Luck at the Casino

If you enjoy gambling during your cruise, you may qualify for special rates or even free cruises based on your casino play. Although some offers may be available well in advance, the most enticing deals tend to emerge at the last minute.

Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line’s casino players’ clubs are particularly proactive in extending these types of offers. Picture yourself embarking on a 3-night Carnival sailing for just $25 or a 7-night cruise for $49—the rates encompass the entire voyage, not per night.

To access these exceptional deals, opt-in for Casino Promotion emails from your preferred cruise line’s players club. If you haven’t received an email but have your eye on a specific sailing, especially one that’s last minute, reach out to the players club to inquire about any qualifying offers.

Consult a Travel Agent

Travel agents specializing in cruises regularly receive notifications about last-minute deals from various cruise lines. Although they may not always email these offers to their entire customer list, they often proactively reach out to clients seeking last-minute deals or specific cruise offers that align with their preferences. This personalized service is just one of the many advantages of working with a travel agent.

Set Price Drop Alerts

If you have a particular cruise or timeframe in mind for your getaway, sign up for price alerts on websites like or through the Ship Mate app. These free services will send you email notifications when the price of specific sailing drops, enabling you to spot enticing deals. You can even use these alerts to snag a deal well before the last minute.

Booking and Preparing for Last-Minute Cruises

As last-minute deals often involve shorter sailings, such as weekend cruises, you may feel comfortable booking online via the cruise line or travel agency website. While you’re at it, take advantage of the opportunity to complete the online check-in process, saving you valuable time later.

If you’re new to cruising or prefer not to book online, rest assured that you can almost always make a reservation over the phone by calling the cruise line or travel agency. Act promptly, as the best deals have a limited lifespan.

Once your cruise is booked, it’s time to prepare for your vacation since time is of the essence. Consider the following points:

Secure Travel Insurance

Even if you booked at the last minute, it’s prudent to consider purchasing travel insurance. Booking close to the sail date subjects you to penalties if you need to cancel due to illness or an emergency. A comprehensive travel insurance policy can provide coverage and protect against unexpected expenses related to illness, injury, or lost luggage.

Check Proof of Citizenship

Before attempting to book a last-minute cruise, ensure that your proof of citizenship is in order. While cruising with a passport is always ideal, most cruises departing from the US for US citizens accept a certified copy of your birth certificate and a valid government-issued ID.

However, if you’ve secured an amazing deal on a transatlantic cruise or another one-way sailing, a passport is mandatory. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months after the end of your cruise.

If you need to apply for a passport or your existing passport expires in less than six months, expedite your application or renewal. Keep in mind that expedited services, including courier fees, can be costly. Therefore, factor in these expenses as you assess the true cost of that enticing last-minute deal.

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7 Smart Tips to Compare Cheap Vacation Cruises

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