When it comes to cruises, there’s sometimes some sticker shock that comes with the trip. But aren’t cruises supposed to be cheap?
When you see the marketing from the cruise lines, you’d think so. Often prices as little as a couple of hundred dollars make it sound like you can sail from practically nothing.
The truth is that while cruising is extremely affordable for what you get, the headline prices you see can be a bit misleading.
Yes, you can sail for that low price, but it’s often just the start of what you’ll pay… and it may be available only one on specific cruise.
And while there are countless tips and advice for finding cheaper cruise deals or saving money on your trip, there is one factor above all else that will save you the most money.
For instance, we recently found a cruise where the price per person for an interior cabin dropped from a high of $648 to a low of just $286. That’s a savings of 56% off the price of the trip.
So how do you find these trips?
The Key to Paying the Lowest Cruise Fare
The one factor that plays the biggest role in what you’ll pay for a cruise is when you set sail.
Being flexible with your cruise dates can save you hundreds — and even thousands — on your next cruise.
Here’s an example. The cruise mentioned above is a three-night trip aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. It departs Miami and heads to Nassau and the cruise line’s island CocoCay.
Depart on December 27 and you’ll pay the highest fare we found — $648 per person. Other trips range from the high $300s to the $500s. But we found that a departure on January 31 — just a month after the most expensive trip — costs only $286:
In other words, two people could sail for less than the price of one fare a few weeks earlier!
What’s at Work With These Price Differences
So what’s behind such dramatic price differences? It comes down to when most people can set sail. In short you’ll find that when school is in session, prices are much higher for cruises.
This should make sense. During times like summer, Spring Break, and the Christmas holidays, families can set sail without kids missing school. That leads to stronger demand for cruises and therefore higher prices.
But take a time of year like late January (when kids have ended the holiday break) or April or October. During these times most families aren’t able to easily take a vacation without disrupting their schedules. That leads to lower demand and drastically lower prices.
It’s not just month to month that prices can change however, it can be week to week.
Take the Alaskan cruise aboard Norwegian Joy we recently found departing from Seattle. This trip sails a weekly trip from the city. Depart on August 10 and the headline price is $899 per person for an interior cabin.
Just two weeks later — near the end of the Alaskan cruise season — the exact same cruise is priced at $699 per person. A couple traveling together would save $400 right off the bat by simply waiting two weeks to take their trip:
How to Save Money If You Aren’t Flexible With Dates
Bottom line is that being flexible with when you cruise can save you a fortune. That said, not everyone has that ability. Maybe you are one of those families that can only sail in the summer.
If you’re still looking to get the cheapest fare, be sure to read our 10 Rules for Cruise Buying here. The best advice on finding a cheaper cruise without having a lot of wiggle room with dates is to:
- Sail an older ship: Older ships tend to be less expensive for passengers than newer ones.
2. Be flexible with the itinerary: Sometimes you’ll find that certain itineraries are cheaper than others. This may mean different ports or a shorter trip than you were expecting.
3. Book early: Cruise prices can change like airline prices (although not as drastic), if you book early enough, most times you can get a refund to the lower price should there be a price drop.
Want to see the cheapest trips around? Check out the cheapest cruises we found for 2020 here.