Whether you just decided to take a spur-of-the-moment cruise, or whether you just procrastinated a bit too long before buying tickets, you can still find some deals on cruises at the last minute. Unlike in old movies, you can't just run up to the dock with your luggage when the ship is about to depart and ask if you can board, but there are a few ways you can still manage to get a spot — sometimes even a really great one. Here are some tips on how to book a last-minute cruise so you can put off changing your procrastinating ways a bit longer.
Don't Wait Until the Literal Last Minute
I know that's not what you want to hear. But the thing is, when it comes to booking cruises (and other trips), "last minute" doesn't mean days before departure, it means anywhere from a few days to three months before the ship leaves. The best time to book a cruise is between two and three months before departure. This is the time when most people who are coming aboard have already bought their tickets, and the cruise companies are able to see how many extra places they have to fill. You can find some great deals with companies who are looking to fill some empty cabins, so it may be in your best interest not to wait until the very last minute to book your last-minute cruise!
Sign Up for Email Lists
If you know you are going to be planning last-minute cruise, sign up to get email alerts when your chosen cruise line posts new deals. This is great for the procrastinators who wait until the last minute because they are busy (or lazy), because you don't have to actively do anything, you just wait for the deals to come to you. You can also check the cruise companies' websites often. Royal Caribbean, for instance, has an entire page devoted to posting last-minute cruise deals. While some companies no longer offer last-minute savings on ticket prices, you may be able to find some that offer other perks.
Keep Your Expectations in Check
It may not be your fault that you have to book a cruise at the last minute, but you can't expect to make a great last-minute booking during the best time of the year. Christmas, New Year's and spring break are the biggest times of the year for cruises, so you most likely won't be able to book a last-minute ride on any of those ships. But, if you are looking for a cruise in the shoulder seasons, such as hurricane season in the Caribbean (September-November), the first weeks of December, the last weeks of January or during the middle of summer, you may just be in luck. If you really have your heart set on a summer or spring break cruise, though, feel free to still check anyway — it's possible that there will be a cancellation and a subsequent last-minute booking miracle for you.
Consider Booking Repositioning Cruises
Repositioning cruises are cruises that do not follow their normal route. They take a different path to get to where they're going, sometimes even crossing the ocean. While most pleasure cruises usually last five days to a week, repositioning cruises can last two weeks or more, and include a lot of stops at seemingly random ports along the way. This is great for people with a sense of wanderlust who want to see the world almost all at once, but it may be a bit too much sailing for others. Also, it is important to check where the cruise ends before you book a last-minute ticket on a repositioning cruise — many times they end at a place far from where they started, so you may have to book some expensive airfare to get back home.
The most important rule in booking last minute cruises is to be flexible. If you are shopping for tickets at the last minute, you can't expect to get the fanciest cabin, and you can't expect to get it at the best price. You must be willing to make some compromises. It is best to view it like an adventure - you may have to miss out on some spa treatments or pack some extra seasickness medication (depending on your room placement), but you will still be on the high sea, living the dream. Your cabin location won't matter when you get off the ship to explore exotic lands anyway, so why not go ahead and just take what is left and make the most of it?
About the writer: Jessica A. Scott has been a novelist and freelance writer for over 10 years. She loves travel and divides her time between her original hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and her adopted hometown of Saronno, Italy.