Prospective travelers can get last-minute deals on cruises by being flexible, checking deals often and considering hidden charges. Rather than set sail with empty cabins, cruise lines often slash ticket prices in the 90-day period before a voyage. Discounts are often available to vacationers who are willing to be flexible on departure dates and destinations, particularly by traveling at off-peak times.
Erica Silverstein of Cruise Critic advises travelers to begin looking for deals 60 to 90 days before the intended departure rather than booking early at full rates. Cruise lines directly offer deals through programs such as Royal Caribbean's Royal Deals email list. Matt Kepnes, author of "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day," recommends third party sites Cruise Sheet and Cruise Deals, and he also advises asking travel agents about deals that may not be publicized online.
Flexibility is key to getting a good deal, according to both Silverstein and Kepnes. For example, Caribbean cruises probably won't be discounted over Christmas, but operators slash prices during hurricane season. Repositioning cruises often offer low rates, since the carrier's primary goal is to move the ship to a new location rather than to make a profit on the voyage.
Finally, travelers should consider the true cost of a cruise rather than the sticker price. Silverstein notes the importance of factoring airfare into the price, while Kepnes recommends skipping expensive extras such as shore excursions and alcoholic beverages.