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Travelers want cruise deals — here's where to find them

22 Dec 2023
Matt Hochberg

Demand for cruises hasn't been this hot since 2019, and one side effect has been higher cruise fares.

Adventure of the Seas

This trend isn't slowing down in 2024, as Royal Caribbean Group told investors at their last earnings call demand for cruises has only gotten higher.

The company reported bookings for 2024 significantly and consistently outpacing 2019 levels. They're seeing ships getting booked up sooner and at higher prices, with their customers booking earlier.

That's great news if you're a shareholder, but for cruisers on a budget or deal seekers, it's tough to find a good deal.

Coco Beach Club aerial

"The demand for booking cruises is as strong as ever!, "Beci Mahnken, president and CEO of MEI-Travel, says. "As travel advisors, we're thrilled to see a steady and growing demand for cruise adventures."

The good news is there are still ways to get a cruise deal, but it will take more effort to uncover them.

Top picks for cruise deals

It's impossible to keep a running list of deals due to the fact prices can change by the minute, but if you're in the market for a deal, here's where I would look.

Woman on Alaska cruise


Book a cruise before June 10 or after August 15.

Tulum beach in Mexico


Look for the sailing immediately after the cruise that has New Years Eve/Day, with the exception of a short cruise over Martin Luther King Day.

A cruise between Labor Day and Halloween is another good idea. This is especially true if you're willing to wing it and wait for a last-minute deal.

ancient temple. Lindos. Rhodes


Try a cruise in September, October, or November for the lowest prices. If you can book a European cruise on a Vision Class ship after August, you'll almost certainly get a great price.

Another option for Europe is a repositioning cruise between the Caribbean and Europe. Royal Caribbean offers this twice a year in the spring and fall.

Repositioning cruises are cheap because they have few port days and lots of sea days, which makes them less appealing.

Enchantment and Brilliance of the Seas in Cozumel

Last minute deals

Booking a cruise with less than two months to go is not for everyone, but your best bet is to check Royal Caribbean's Going, Going, Gone sheet every week.

It's not available every week, but posted every Tuesday and if you act quickly, you might find a cheap cruise.

Offseason cruising


The best prices for a cruise are still during months when there's far less demand.

Cruises have peak and off-peak seasons, and the months of January, September, October, and early November are usually safe bets for a lower price.

These months all have one thing in common: school is back in session and the weather isn't as desirable.

Kids on an Alaska cruise

As a family cruise line, Royal Caribbean's trends tend to mirror that of the school calendar as families have a major impact on bookings.

In the Caribbean, hurricane season really kicks into effect by the end of August. It's also the peak of the wet season, and that means rain every day.

Read moreCruising in hurricane season: What you need to know

If you're taking an Alaska cruise, September and October are at the tail end of the cruise season.  Not only is it colder out, but it tends to be rainier as well.

Europe is quite similar, with the peak demand for the region in summer.  By the time August ends, demand starts to dip.

If you can book a cruise during these months, you might find a really lucrative deal, even at the last-minute.  As an example, one of our writers booked a 7-Night Mediterranean cruise, starting in Athens, Greece for just $1471 for a November Mediterranean cruise.

Choose an older ship

Mariner of the Seas sailing away

While new cruise ships like Icon of the Seas get all the attention, there's absolutely nothing wrong with an older cruise ship.

As ships age, their prices tend to drop. Think of it like the price for a used car as they get older.

You'll find an excellent value on Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class ships, which offer lots to do at a good value.

The Radiance Class and Vision Class ships are smaller, but often have the lowest prices you'll find. What the ships lack in features, they make up for in value.

Book early

Odyssey of the Seas in Curacao

If you can't make a fall cruise work, the best tried-and-true strategy is to book a cruise as early as you can.

Generally speaking, the earlier you book, the better the price will be. This is because Royal Caribbean will set the lowest price when a new sailing becomes available, and raise prices as cabins get sold.

Ideally, you can get the lowest price when a new sailing opens for sale.  This occurs twice per year: around November and December and then again in February through April.

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

The downside to this strategy is you need to make plans up to two years in advance, which is quite difficult for many people.

Not only will you get the lowest price, but you will be able to pick the perfect cabin that you want. Suites and other highly desirable cruise ship cabins sell out quickly.

Read moreThe rare cruise ship cabins that everyone wants to book immediately

Keep in mind that if you change your mind, there could be a penalty for cancelling or changing if you book a non-refundable cruise fare.  Royal Caribbean charges $100 per person for changes made with a NRD cabin, but that fee could be cheaper than the refundable cruise fare rate difference. Double check with your travel agent before booking to ensure you understand the deposit rules.

Book with a travel agent

Royal Caribbean ships docked with gangway

I can't count how many times I thought I found the lowest price for a cruise only to be surprised my travel agent had a better price because of an offer I was unaware of.

Travel agents are more than a glorified booking engine. They work on your behalf to make everything easier for you, including booking a cruise.

One way travel agents can save you more money is because they have access to group rates and consortia rates.  These are specially negotiated prices that aren't publicly advertised, but can booked by anyone that works with an agent.

Voyager of the Seas spacious ocean view

Travel agencies gobble up cabins and lock in the price. While cabins outside the group climb in price, the group rates remain locked and you could net a much lower price.

"It's heartening to witness so many people embracing the joy of exploring the world by sea, seeking those unforgettable experiences that only cruising can offer," says Mahnken.

I work with MEI Travel to book all of my cruises (disclosure, MEI Travel is a sponsor of this site), and quite often I'll either get a better price or maybe some extra onboard credit. I certainly never pay more than what I can find on the Royal Caribbean website.  Better yet, I get excellent service too.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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