Great Time to Buy? Some Cruise Prices Drop by 25% (or More) as Sailings Return

If you’ve been on the fence about buying a cruise, now may be the best time ever. As the industry continues to make its comeback, Cruzely’s price checks show many fares on upcoming cruises are sharply lower than they were just months ago. In some cases the discounts are 25% or more versus prices in the spring.

Bow of a cruise ship sailing
Looking for a cruise deal? Prices through the end of the year are seeing substantial discounts.

In other words, while worries about the Delta variant continue both on land and at sea, the lower fares offer plenty of opportunity for passengers to sail at a discounted price, even after the latest wave of cases has hopefully subsided.

And if you already have a cruise booked and the price is lower? You could still gain with the possibility of getting the savings applied toward your trip.

Cruise Prices Sharply Lower Through 2021 Than Just Months Ago

When Celebrity Edge sailed from Fort Lauderdale in late June, it marked a historic milestone for cruising. Since pausing in March 2020, this cruise was the first to sail again from the United States with paying passengers.

Ironically, it also marked the lowest point in virus cases since the pandemic began. Around that time, the United States saw roughly 13,000 cases per day. Optimism was high that we were on the tail-end of the crisis and on the road back to normal.

Of course, since then the United States has seen the rise of Delta variant cases. From a low of about 13,000 cases in late June, that figure has peaked at more than 165,000 daily cases in early September.

And even though cruise ships continue to return to service, pricing evidence points to lines having trouble convincing passengers to sail.

Back in April 2021 — a time when cases had already fallen sharply from a January peak and vaccines were rolling out across the country — we took the time to take note of the headline cruise prices for many Carnival and Royal Caribbean trips.

In total, we priced more than 3,500 departures in the United States across the two lines, stretching all the way into April 2023.

Now, due to continued schedule changes as cruises return, some of the trips we priced in April are no longer available. Still, looking at the current prices of those cruises that remain as planned, many are sharply lower through the rest of 2021. Below we have a sample of trips we tracked and their prices compared between April/May 2021 and now.

Note: Prices are per person, based on the lowest-cost cabin available for that cruise, according to the cruise line website. Original prices were collected between April 12 and May 1, 2021. Keep in mind current prices can change.

As you can see from this list of example cruises, the savings versus just a few months ago is significant. The average price drop is 31% among the selected cruises on our list. 

With these price cuts, it seems clear that the impact of COVID continues to affect demand for cruises. Between the new protocols and the high number of cases on land, it's not surprising that some people are hesitant to sail.

But if you are comfortable cruising right now, that means you can save a bundle.

Savings Extend into Summer 2022... But Not As Much

Can't sail by the end of the year? Or maybe you want to wait a bit longer in the hopes that the number of cases on land falls and the protocols on the cruise ship potentially ease?

In that case, our price checks show there are still savings on booking now for 2022 cruises, but the savings aren't near as sharp as if you sail sooner.

For instance, while the savings through the end of 2021 are regularly in the 20-40% range, selected cruises for next summer -- the most expensive time to sail -- show more modest discounts. Some cruises have actually increased in price since we checked back in the spring:

So yes, you can save money versus buying several months ago, with the hope that the health situation looks much brighter by the time your cruise departs. Even so, at this point there aren't many large discounts like what we're finding through the end of 2021.

What if You've Already Booked and the Price Has Dropped?

View of the cruise ship from Thrill Waterpark

Lower cruise prices are great if you haven't booked already, but what if you've booked a cruise and the price has since dropped?

It can be distressing to see a cruise you paid full price for just a few months ago now selling for a heavy discount. The good news is that you still have options. The best thing to do is simply find the price of your trip now and then call the cruise line with this information.

It's no guarantee, but cruise lines can often work with you if the price drops, providing the difference as a refund or onboard credit. So a few minutes on the phone can save you a considerable chunk of money.

What's more, Royal Caribbean (along with some other lines) offers liberal cancellation policies right now, allowing you to cancel for any reason within 48 hours of sailing. That means you could potentially cancel and rebook at the lower price.

Opinion: Future Prices Will Depend Heavily on the Virus Outlook

We've seen that prices through 2021 have dropped sharply while 2022 prices have dropped some. Is there a potential for cheaper prices in the future?

At this point it seems clear that the pricing is somewhat tied to the outlook for COVID. At a time when cases were dropping and the promise of vaccines looked to put the virus behind us, cruise prices for 2021 were considerably higher than they are today. 

With the Delta wave sweeping through the nation, prices are down some for farther out dates, but still looking solid. If the health crisis eases and we are able to get back to some sort of normal, then we can foresee higher demand for cruises, leading to more stable prices.

However, should the pandemic stick around or another variant creates another wave, don't be surprised if those 2022 prices start to come down as well in the months ahead.

No matter what happens with prices, one thing is sure. If you have the ability to take a cruise in the next few months, then you can find some amazing deals.

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