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Demand for Royal Caribbean cruises is so hot, there's less cabins to book than ever before

01 Feb 2024
Elizabeth Wright

Having trouble finding your desired cabin on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship? You are not alone. The demand for cruises is stronger than ever, which means that cabins are filling up in advance. 


The five highest booking weeks in the company's history were in between the third quarter earnings call and the fourth quarter call in February 2024. 

"As a result, while our capacity is up 8.5% year over year, we have less inventory available to book in 2024 than we did a year ago for 2023 and half as many staterooms left in [the first quarter]," said Jason Liberty, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group during an earnings call on February 1.

Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises. Between the two, four new ships will have launched by the time August rolls around, including Celebrity Ascent which set sail in late 2023. 


Celebrity Ascent, Icon of the Seas, Utopia of the Seas, and Silver Ray will be able to accommodate over 18,000 passengers with every berth filled. 

"Bookings have consistently outpaced last year across all key products at much higher rates," said Liberty.  

Read more: Royal Caribbean talks record demand, Red Sea attacks, competing with land vacations, & more

Record-breaking wave season

Within the cruise industry, "wave season," which is often January through March, is when cruise lines tend to run their biggest sales and promotions of the year. 

According to Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group has had a record-breaking wave season, meaning that both rates and volume are booking significantly ahead of time compared to 2023.

Caribbean sailings, in particular, are booked further in advance. "The Caribbean represents just over 55% of our deployment this year, following a 13% increase in capacity year over year," said Naftali Holtz, Chief Financial Officer at Royal Caribbean Group. 

Royal Caribbean

The growth is a result of Icon and Utopia of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises' increased summer deployment to the Caribbean, and the expansion of Perfect Day at CocoCay

The increase in demand is being seen throughout the cruise industry


Similar comments were made by John Weinstein, Carnival Corporation's President and CEO in September 2023 during a conference call. 

He claimed that Carnival Corporation was ahead by about ten percentage points compared to 2019 and that they, too, had less cabin inventory despite a 5% increase in capacity due to new ships entering service. 

Moreover, Holland America Line, a brand under Carnival Corporation, recently reported that their one-day booking record was broken on January 16. In a single 24-hour period, they received more new bookings than any day in the past 150 years of operation. 

Read more: 7 things I liked better about Royal Caribbean cruises than Carnival

Royal Caribbean has opened bookings for Caribbean sailings through April 2026

Sign of Royal Caribbean

It's not uncommon for cruise lines to release new itineraries years in advance. 

However, with the recent price inflations seen on new ships like Icon and Utopia, the opening of these cruises gives more choice and flexibility, especially when it comes to the cost. 

A cruise onboard Icon of the Seas in April 2026 starts at $1,823 per person, whereas a sailing in April 2024 begins at $3,089 per person. 


Even with the high prices during Icon's inaugural season, cabins are still selling out months in advance. According to Royal's website, interior cabins on the April 13th sailing are already sold out. Similarly, there are only balconies and cabins within the Royal Suite Class available on the April 20th cruise out of Miami. 

Earlier this year, we asked our readers how far in advance they book their cruises. At the time, the majority said somewhere between 6-12 months in advance. 

Looking into the future, it would not be surprising to see a shift in answers, especially if cruisers have a specific cabin category in mind and/or want to secure a lower price. 

Renewed importance of booking early

Icon of the Seas in CocoCay

Today’s news reinforces the importance of booking a cruise early, rather than waiting. With the record demand Royal Caribbean Group is seeing, inventory will be lower than usual and that means fewer cabin choices, higher prices, and less last-minute deals. 

As an example, my fiancée and I recently booked a cruise onboard Icon for June 2025. At the time of booking, which was in mid-January, we were able to secure an interior cabin for $5,125.60, including gratuities. 

Now, Royal Caribbean's website is advertising the sailing starting at $5,821.72 before tips! Within just a few weeks, the price of a sailing over one year away increased by close to $1,000. 

Another benefit to booking early is that you can reprice your cruise up to final payment. 

Let's say that I notice that the cost of my Icon cruise decreases. Right now, I feel as though I booked at the perfect time, as the price increased significantly. If it happens to decrease I'll still feel like I booked at the right time because I can take advantage of the lower price!

While Icon of the Seas was built with families in mind and features more rooms for larger groups, older ships weren't built with the same mindset. Whether you're seeking a cabin for five or two adjoining rooms, you'll have to book early to guarantee that you get your desired selections. 


Booking early also helps ensure that you get your preferred dining time. On Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships, you can either select a flexible or set time, with the latter having early and late options

Families with younger children may prefer to eat earlier, whereas groups of friends might want a little more flexibility around their shore excursions and evening activities. As any given sailing fills up, so do dining preferences. 

On a more practical note, booking a cruise early gives you more time to save up, as you'll only have to place a deposit. Whether you want to splurge on a more expensive cabin or have to account for airfare, by thinking into the future, you won't have to worry about financing your trip at the last minute. 

Royal Caribbean

Last-minute cruises are often accompanied by higher flight prices, which usually negate any savings received by waiting to book. 

If you are on the hunt for the best cabin availability and lowest prices, you will want to book your cruise as far in advance as possible. 

While not impossible, the likelihood of you scoring a fantastic last-minute cruise isn't as strong as it was a few years ago. By waiting until the last minute, you aren't guaranteed anything, especially a spot onboard! 

Read more: Pros and Cons of booking a cruise early vs last-minute

Elizabeth graduated from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute with her M.A. in Journalism in May 2023. Growing up, she had the privilege of traveling frequently with her family and fell in love with cruising after sailing on the Oasis of the Seas her freshman year of high school. She wanted to pursue a career that highlighted her passion for travel and strengths as a writer. 

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