Answered: What’s the Cheapest Time to Take a Cruise?

One of the biggest draws in cruising is that it can be an affordable vacation. Sail the right time of year and some itineraries can be had for as little as a couple of hundred dollars.

Carnival Sunshine and Liberty in port
Cruise fares — even for the same itinerary — change throughout the entire year. That’s why we’ve analyzed prices to determine the cheapest time to sail.

In return, you get your room, meals, entertainment, and the opportunity to sail to exotic foreign ports. The same vacation with each piece paid for individually would be considerably higher.

That said, there is little argument that the price of cruising has risen sharply since trips returned and, at least for now, the era of ultra-cheap cruises is in the past.

If you’re wanting to save money, however, there are definite times of year where it is much cheaper to sail than others. We analyzed cruise prices to show you the least expensive time of year to head to sea.

The Rule of Thumb on Cruise Prices (When You’ll Pay Less)

There are cruises all over the planet from the far reaches of Asia to Antarctica. Without a doubt, the most popular place to sail, however, is the Caribbean. So while each part of the world may have variances in the cheapest time to sail there, we’re going to focus on trips to Mexico, The Bahamas, and the Caribbean from North America.

Not only do literally dozens of ships sail to this part of the world across every cruise line imaginable, but cruises also go year-round. With an unlimited sailing season, there are natural variances in the prices due to demand.

As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to the Caribbean the prices are highest when school is out and lower when school is back in session.

This makes sense. Families are a major component of cruise demand. When kids are out of school, it means that more people are able to sail. It also coincides with the traditional summer travel season. As a result, prices are pushed higher. When kids head back to class, that demand from family cruisers is lessened, meaning lines often lower prices.

So when is the actual cheapest time to cruise? 

We Studied 16 Months of Sailings to Track The Cheapest Time to Cruise

The issue with determining the least expensive time to sail is that many ships sail different routes through the year. A ship might sail from one port for a few months with several different itineraries and cruise lengths, before moving on. Departure ports, routes, and trip length all impact prices, making it hard to judge one cruise against another.

However, we were able to find a cruise that would answer the question. Carnival Cruise Line offers a three-day sailing regularly throughout the year from Miami. This trip aboard Carnival Conquest is as simple as it gets. It sails from Miami to Nassau and back, week after week.

Because the itinerary is offered with no changes for more than a year in advance, it makes a perfect candidate to study as we have regular pricing throughout the year to compare.

That’s exactly what we did, taking each cruise and the headline price per person for the lowest-cost interior cabin.

Now, what’s important to us isn’t the actual cost of the trip, only the cost in relation to other dates. With this cruise sailing regularly throughout the year, we are able to see exactly when it is least expensive and more expensive.

Take a look:

Cruise prices by week of the year
Prices taken per person for an interior cabin on a 3-day Carnival cruise aboard Carnival Conquest show the seasonality of cruise fares… and the least expensive time to sail.

Fares Vary Widely, But You Can Save in Fall/Winter

As you can see, the cost of this specific cruise varies widely from a high of roughly $450 per person to a low near $200 per person. And because it’s the same cruise week after week, the only difference is when the trip sails.

It should jump out that the most expensive time to cruise is in the summer. Months like June and July see consistently high prices. That’s followed by times like Spring Break and the Christmas holidays.

Again, these are all times when school is out and more people are able to sail.

This chart also answers the least expensive time to cruise. Here, you can see that the fall and winter months see the best rates. Specifically September through early December have low fares. January and February also see low rates too as many people wrap up the winter break and return to school and work.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can find low rates other times of the year. In particular, we often see low rates in April and May that aren’t shown here.

The bottom line is that if you want to sail to the Caribbean for less, look in the fall and winter months, outside of Christmas and New Years. There may be other times that you can find a deal, but this is generally when you see the lowest fares.

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