How To Find Cheap Cruises

Celebrity cruise ship

cruise ship at night

Cheap Cruises Do Exist

Whatever people enjoy doing, most like to find the lowest possible price to do it.  After all, why spend more money than necessary if you can have the same thing for less?  This goes for cruises as much as anything else.  People prefer to pay the lowest price they can get for the cruise they want.

If you just want to take a cruise and aren’t particular about which ship, cruiseline, destination, or even time period you go, finding the cheapest price becomes a whole lot easier than if you want a specific type of room on a particular ship from a certain cruiseline going to a predetermined destination at a chosen time.  Even with all those specifics sometimes there’s a better deal out there if people take the time and trouble to look for it.

Westerdam inside cabin

Inside rooms can be quite nice

Choose Your Cabin Wisely

While most people would love to spend their cruise staying in a luxury suite, is it really worth paying more than double the price of an ordinary room to have one?  Suites do cost considerably more.  How much of the cruise do you intend to spend in your room?  If not much, the cheapest route usually comes in the form of an inside cabin.  Windows and balconies are nice for sure, but does not having one leave you more money to spend on other things like shore excursions or shopping?

Sometimes the cruise lines have limited-time promotions offering free upgrades.  Jump on those if you get the chance, but do investigate fully because to the cruise line an upgrade can mean the same cabin on a higher deck or closer to the center of the ship.  When free balcony upgrades are advertised it doesn’t normally mean you can have a balcony for the lowest inside cabin price, that upgrade would likely come from a much higher category, so do make sure of what you are getting for the price.  Odds are you will save from the cost of booking the balcony directly by using the upgrade offer.

Different Ways to Find Cheap Cruises

longer cruises for less money with repositioning cruises

Carnival Breeze on repositioning cruise – Barcelona to Miami

Repositioning Cruises

Sometimes cruise ships sail in one area for the summer, and go to a different place through the winter months.  Others may go somewhere for remodeling, then return to their usual port.  Or perhaps a new ship launched somewhere far from its scheduled sailings.  All of those ships have one thing in common – they need to get from point A to point B.

They could just sail an empty ship where they need to go, but that would cost the cruiseline a lot of money.  If they fill the rooms while the ship gets where it needs to go they have someone to provide work (and tips) for the crew as well as money to the cruiseline itself.  Longer cruises are often available for less money than shorter round trip cruises.

Many ships move from Alaska to Florida in the fall and vice versa in the spring, so that’s an excellent place to look for repositioning cruises through the Panama Canal.  Repositioning cruises with Transatlantic itineraries can be found fairly often, and even transpacific if you search hard enough.  Some people will combine a round trip airline ticket with repositioning cruises going each way and take one in the fall and the other in the spring to save money on their airfare over buying one way tickets.

cruise lines offer past guests specials not available to the general public

Holland America Westerdam in Sitka

Cruise Line Loyalty Programs

Once a person sails with a particular cruiseline, that company would love for them to come back and sail with them again and again.  Most major cruiselines have loyalty programs giving benefits to previous passengers to encourage their passengers to continue sailing with them.  Some will also send discount offers to past guests that are not available to the general public.  On some cruiselines you can get a discount on your next cruise if you book while onboard.

Cruise Line Personal Cruise Consultants

Some cruise lines have personal cruise consultants available to help passengers or potential passengers booking with their cruise line.  They can help to find the best deals within the cruise line they work for.  We met a great one on Norwegian who can help anyone interested in booking there.

cruise ships at anchor

cruise ships anchored near Grand Cayman

Cruise Line Specials

Shop the internet carefully.  The cruise lines all have websites, and sometimes they offer special deals.  There’s often discounts for booking early, and if a ship hasn’t filled enough they may offer last minute discounts to try and fill it up too.  Cruise lines also sometimes have sales that offer package deals on cruises booked within a particular time frame where you could get things like onboard credit, free drinks, or other perks.  If you don’t find anything one day, look again another time because specials come and go.  Booking through the cruiseline also means you can go to them directly with any problems or questions about your booking rather than dealing with an outside agent.

online websites offer bargain cruises

Norwegian Pearl at Grand Cayman

Discount Travel Websites

A number of websites offer discount travel, or specifically discount cruises.  These sites have a limited number of rooms to fill on specific cruises at bargain prices.  Google something like “cheap cruises” and you’ll find quite an assortment of sites to comparison shop looking for the best deal.  Check out the price booking directly through the cruiseline as well because they sometimes offer things like bonus money for your onboard account when booking directly through them.  Some of the standard discount travel sites offering cruise specials include Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline.  Cruise ship specific sites like cruiseabout, The Cruise Web, and Cruises Only offer discount cruises among their cruise selections.  Some of the other online options are as follows:

1.  Vacations To Go Must sign up, but worth it, as they send out some amazing deals via e-mail.  They offer the best way to do custom searches and show the best price and percentage off published “rack” rate.

2. Great site for some amazing, super cheap deals.  They have direct bookings as well as cruise auctions.  We have won two cruises in the auctions on this site, both of which cost far less than published rates and rates found on any other site. But not all deals are super deals, so only bid on what you think is a great deal.

3.  lastminutecruises This site truly offers last minute cruise deals. Cruisers here must be able to buy their cruise and travel on short notice.

4.  Cruise Critic offers some great deals on cruises and more advice than you could ever use in a lifetime of cruising.

5.   Decent site to shop for discounted cruises. Like many of the sites on the web, this site can be used to compare prices to which ever discount site you like best.

Travel Agents

Travel agents and online cruise consultants may have deals to offer that aren’t publicized elsewhere so it never hurts to check them out in the quest for the best possible price.

Online Auctions

Often cruises pop up on online auction sites, sometimes with starting bids as low as $1.  Odds of actually getting the cruise for $1 are practically non-existent, but bids lower than the going price often win the cruise.  Check how many rooms the site has to offer at that price as you may not need to outbid the previous highest bidder to win, but merely to match their offer.  As mentioned above, we have booked through  You can also find cruise auctions on ebay or google cruise auctions for other sites.  Bid wisely because while some cruises available at auctions are great deals, others are not.  It’s best to check the going rate for any particular cruise on the cruiseline’s own website before putting in a bid at an online auction.

there's lots of cheap Caribbean cruises available

cruise ships in Saint Thomas

Other Money Saving Tricks

Some bookings have the option of choosing a category guarantee instead of a specific room.  In addition to saving money, this also offers the likelihood of an upgrade at no additional cost.  There’s really no risk since the worst possible outcome is the chosen category, and the best of course a really good upgrade.  The probability lies in falling somewhere in between.

Buying cruise line stock can come with perks for stockholders who own enough shares.  Stock in a parent company owning more than one cruise line may come with benefits on all of them.

People who travel a lot may find membership in a travel club as a good way to save money not just on cruises, but on other travel as well.

cruise ship at the dock

cruise ship in Antigua

Most ports have plenty to do if you just get off the boat and see what’s there.  Venturing out on your own saves money over booking cruise ship shore excursions.  Many popular destinations have people holding signs offering cheap tours of all sorts.

In some places you can even pre-book excursions on your own.  It helps to google the visitor’s bureau or other online travel information sites about a place before you go so you have some idea of what to do if you aren’t booking an excursion.  We normally do cruise ship excursions at some ports and venture out on our own at others on any given cruise.  If there’s something you absolutely want to do at a particular port, book the excursion to make sure you get to do it.  If not, there’s usually something less costly to do.

 Hidden Costs

To get your vacation for the absolute lowest total cost, do all the homework before booking.  If one price includes tips and port taxes and another does not, find out how much they are because the seemingly higher price could actually be the best deal.  If a flight to the port comes into the picture, check the airline prices as well.  Sometimes you can get a cruise and flight package – make sure that comes cheaper then booking them separately on your own before signing up.  If a very cheap cruise comes at a time when airline tickets cost more then you may save overall with a bit higher priced cruise at a time when airfare costs less.

To save the most always look at the total vacation package including which ports cost less to fly to, and how much hotels at a given area run if you need to stay a night before or after the cruise.  Hotel costs can also be deceptive – does that slightly higher priced hotel provide free transportation to the port while you would have to hire a taxi to get there from a less expensive one?  Sometimes the ships have a shuttle – does that cost more or less than a taxi?  Consider everything to get your absolute lowest price.  If there’s money left over in the cruise budget after all the savings it might provide the opportunity to do that once-in-a-lifetime previously unaffordable shore excursion!

Trip Insurance

Buying insurance in case you need to cancel your vacation is always an option.  If you or one of your cruising party has health issues, or you have the sort of job where things come up and you sometimes need to cancel plans at the last minute it’s a good idea to buy the insurance so you can get your money back if you can’t take the trip.  Some trip insurances will also help with things like medical costs while abroad.

If the odds of needing to cancel your vacation are slim you can save money by not buying the trip insurance, but if unforseen circumstances arise and you can’t go you probably will not get your money back regardless of which cruiseline you booked with or what company you booked the trip through.  If you’ve never cancelled a vacation and go on quite a few then over time it would actually cost less to lose the money paid for one trip than to buy the trip insurance on them all.

About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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14 Responses to How To Find Cheap Cruises

  1. This blog post can save you lots of money on your next cruise.

  2. Lorraine Marie Reguly says:

    Holy smokes – what a great post. A bit long, but so informative. I like how you have addressed the issue of money here; not everyone has extra money to spend living it up LOL on the high seas and so being thrifty is a must. Thanks, Lois. 😀

  3. Great post, I do like getting things cheaply.

    BUT, don’t discount the whole travel insurance thing. Travel insurance is pretty much a must have, over here at least. Say you get food poisoning the day you are supposed to go on your cruise, and you can’t even leave your bathroom, let alone board a ship. Travel insurance will cover such things. And other things like if you have a terrible accident in a country with sub par hospitals, travel insurance usually covers repatriation. And lost luggage, car rental excess, all sorts of things that you don’t really think about. I would highly suggest getting it, especially if you are traveling from a different country into the U.S. Medical fees are astronomical over there if something happens!

    • Yes, the travel insurance thing is a good investment if you need it, and many people whine about not getting a refund for their cruise if something happened and they didn’t buy it. I know you have both bought it and used it and been glad to have it. I’ve never bought it or needed it though. People have to decide for themselves if they think it is necessary for them. People who opt not to buy it have only themselves to blame if they don’t get a refund when something happens, but of course they always blame the cruiseline. The cruiselines facebook fan pages all get complaints of that nature (and not much sympathy from other people who mostly say they should have bought the insurance.)

  4. Good information to have for future reference

  5. Chris Beath says:

    I bought trip insurance on a flight once because I didn’t know if I would be back from work in time and when I called to use it they said it didn’t cover not being able to make it unless you were sick or injured, being offshore didn’t count. I never bought the insurance again.

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