Are cruises going to be cheaper in the coming months? Some early signs say it could be the case.
While the world continues to grapple with a global health emergency, the cruise lines have voluntarily suspended sailing from the United States. Some lines have also cancelled global sailings.
What we don’t know is when cruises will get back to sailing. The industry announced an initial 30-day suspension (with most lines planning to return in mid-April) but the pause could go on for longer.
For example, Canada has announced a ban on cruise ships until at least July 1, which effectively means Alaskan cruises are out of commission until then. Foreign-flagged cruise ships departing the United States must make a call on a foreign port before they return to the U.S. Without the ability to stop in Canada, it’s not clear how Alaskan cruises from Seattle can continue.
This is to speak nothing of potential longer-term actions that may be required if the health crisis continues.
Even so, for cruisers that are looking for deals, some data suggests this might be a good time to start your search.
Soft Demand = Lower Prices?
For years cruise ships have sailed full. In fact, many trips sail above capacity. Cruise lines have an average occupancy rate of 105-108% in normal times. That means there are two people in every cabin and some rooms have three or more people.
Those days may be over for the short term given everything that’s happened. Suspending sailing is a drastic move, but cruise lines largely had little choice.
For weeks stories about cruise ships dominated headlines. While official numbers aren’t in yet, there have been statements from cruise lines that business has been hurt significantly.
It’s likely that will be the case for months, even after cruises start back operating. While cruising is a relatively safe vacation, there is little arguing that having so many people in close proximity can help spread any sort of illness.
It’s safe to assume that demand will be soft with this pandemic still fresh in people’s minds.
The good news? It’s also a good bet that cruise lines will be on high alert for any illness, meaning enhanced screening and sanitation on the ship. If the crisis is under control worldwide, there may not be a more hygienic time to cruise.
Soft demand and looking to reignite the public’s love for cruising also means it is possible that we will see lower prices. When it comes to getting passengers on the ship, price is the simplest tool at the disposal of cruise lines.
There is already some evidence that cruise lines are cutting prices. Cruises could be cheaper in the coming months…
Examples of Lower Cruise Prices
In late February when this crisis started to unfold, we took note of several cruises from major cruise lines to get an idea of what prices were. This gives us a chance to compare prices well before cruises were suspended to the prices that are seen today.
What we’re finding is that our example cruises are typically much cheaper today than they were just a few weeks ago.
For Carnival, we checked the price of several cruises aboard the Carnival Horizon in 2020 from Miami. This was during the middle of the outbreak, but about two weeks before all cruises in the U.S. were suspended.
As you can see, prices started around $699 per person for these different cruises if you booked an interior room. From there, the prices rise up to $1,039 per person for a trip at the height of summer.
When we checked back on March 23, prices had already dropped sharply. In fact, most prices for interior cabins were down around $70 or more. We also found balcony cabins often selling for about $100 less per person.
In our late February search on Royal Caribbean, we looked at a sample 7-night cruise from Miami on its newest and largest ship, Symphony of the Seas. This Caribbean cruise had multiple dates that ranged from $549 to $1,168 per person for an interior cabin:
These prices have changed dramatically. One upcoming trip is actually slightly higher than it was at the end of February. But the fares for most are hundreds of dollars cheaper per person for an interior cabin.
The last of the “big three” seems to be doing the opposite of its rivals, at least when it comes to the sample cruise we found.
Back in February we looked at the pricing of a 7-day cruise from Miami aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. This cruise includes stops in Roatan, Belize, and Mexico. During the months of May and June, this trip sails regularly and you could book for as little as $496 per person for an interior cabin.
Surprisingly, fares for this specific cruise have soared. The cheapest price for the dates we checked is now $797 per person — an increase of $hundreds from its price weeks ago.
To be honest, it’s not clear if there is something unusual about this specific cruise or if there is another reason that the price has jumped so high when the industry has been hit so hard.
Other cruises around the same time — and even on the same ship — are significantly less. This includes a four-day trip for just $195 per person and five-day cruises for $396.
It is worth noting that on a recent earnings call, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio may have explained why the pricing is higher:
“We’re not going to allow what we believe is a temporary situation to derail us from our long-term proven go-to-market strategy of focusing on value to consumers over using low price as a lever to stimulate demand,” Del Rio said.
Bottom line: The signs point to cheaper cruises as it is likely demand will be lower across the board even lines get back to sailing. Two out of the three major cruise lines are already showing sharp price breaks compared to a few weeks ago.
Examples of Current Cruise Deals
With prices falling, what sort of deals are out there right now?
We looked at a number of trips from the major cruise lines to see where there are attractive prices. To focus on the cruises most likely impacted from a drop in demand, we looked only at trips in April and May.
Not only is this a typically lower-priced time of year, but it’s also just weeks after the planned return of cruises.
Note: Before you book any cruise, understand that there is a possibility that more sailings could be cancelled. At the time of this writing, the outbreak is still growing. If cancelled, you should get your money back in full, however, the specific policy will be left up to your cruise line.
4-Day Carnival Cruise From Long Beach
Carnival is scheduled to return to sailing on April 10. This cruise is set to depart on April 19. The four-day sailing leaves Long Beach to Catalina Island and Ensenada. It doesn’t go far, but it’s enough to get you away for a few days for a well-earned vacation.
If you sail on April 19, we found prices for interior cabins of just $104 per person. While this route is usually inexpensive, this is the cheapest rate we’ve personally ever seen for this itinerary.
Other trips around the same date have similar prices for sailing aboard both the Carnival Imagination and the Carnival Inspiration. These are two older ships, but they can still provide plenty of fun.
- Sail Date: April 19, 2020
- Price: $104 per person
- Ship: Carnival Imagination
7-Day Carnival Cruise From New Orleans
New Orleans is known for being a vacation spot, but it’s also a great port for cruising. Carnival currently has a great deal for those that want to sail from the city in April. Sailing on April 26, you can cruise for just $389 per person on a seven-day cruise. (One sailing on September 13 is only $319 per person)
The sailing on the Carnival Glory departs Louisiana with the first port of call in Roatan, Honduras. From there you’ll sail to Belize and then Cozumel before returning back home.
This price is for an interior cabin. If you want to have a balcony cabin, then you can still sail for $714 per person — about $100 per day before taxes and fees.
- Sail Date: April 26, 2020
- Price: $389
- Ship: Carnival Glory
3-Night Royal Caribbean Cruise From Miami
Before the virus outbreak, CocoCay was a must-see. The cruise line recently revamped the entire island with a renovation costing hundreds of millions. After cruises get back to sailing, a white-sand beach like what’s offered on CocoCay may be just the thing to help you get back to normal.
Royal Caribbean offers two sailings at just $198 per person in May that offer three-day trips from Miami to Nassau, and then a stop at CocoCay.
One thing to note is that Royal Caribbean has a “Cruise with Confidence” offer for all cruises through July 31, 2020. It gives you the ability to cancel up to 48 hours before you sail. That means you can book and if you are at all nervous about sailing, then you can cancel to get a future cruise credit.
- Sail Date: May 8, 2020
- Price: $198
- Ship: Navigator of the Seas
7-Night Royal Caribbean Cruise From Miami
Right after the scheduled return to sailing date for Royal Caribbean, this 7-night cruise departs Miami on April 12. It tours the eastern Caribbean, with stops in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and a stop at the cruise line’s private port in Labadee, Haiti.
Priced at just $399 per person, this is a low price for any weeklong cruise. What makes this an enticing deal is that it’s aboard Oasis of the Seas — one of the cruise line’s largest ships. Just for comparison, a week cruise aboard the ship in the middle of summer is currently priced as much as $938 per person for an interior cabin.
- Sail Date: April 12, 2020
- Price: $399
- Ship: Oasis of the Seas
4-Day Norwegian Cruise From Miami
The cruise from Norwegian highlighted earlier showed that the line had drastically raised prices on some trips. But that’s not the case for this cruise in early April.
Priced at just $219 per person for an interior cabin, you can sail on a four-day trip that includes stops in Key West, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, is especially attractive as it’s only for NCL passengers.
This cruise is on an older ship (Norwegian Sky) but it was refurbished just last year.
- Sail Date: April 20, 2020
- Price: $219
- Ship: Norwegian Sky