When it comes to cruising, last-minute travel doesn't always mean buying a ticket in the days immediately before the ship sails, since itineraries can sell out months in advance. Instead, deals often pop up a few months before the departure date when other cruisers cancel on the last day reservations can be refunded. In other cases, the cruise line may cut the rate for less-popular cruises a few weeks before sail date if rooms are unsold. In order to get the cheapest last-minute deal, you must be flexible on your accommodations and be willing to travel in months other than those in the summer.
The cruise routes considered most popular, or most booked, are the least likely to have last-minute deals because staterooms sell out well before sail day. If you want to get the cheapest deal on a cruise, look for itineraries that don't tend to book up months before. Call the cruise lines, browse online cruise forums, and ask friends who have traveled by cruise to determine which itineraries don't tend to be as full. Focus on less-popular cruise routes to get the cheapest fare.
Cruising is more than just a mode of travel for some folks -- it's a culture. As a result, many online forums exists where veteran cruisers offer seasoned advice to new cruisers. Take advantage of these forums by asking which itineraries out of your port of choice are the least popular, and if anyone has gotten a spectacularly cheap deal. While forum users can't speak for the cruise line, they may offer a wealth of knowledge based on years of shopping around for cheap trips.
Cruise Line Communications
If you have previously traveled on a particular cruise line, opt in for its past-guest communications. The cruise line will email you last-minute deals when it has a particular itinerary offering slashed prices out of your port of choice. Even if you haven't cruised before, check out any newsletters or deal notification programs. This way, the cruise lines automatically alert you, and you won't have to scour quite so hard for the cheapest deal.
Be flexible when it comes to cabin class. You are unlikely to get the cheapest deal if you are dead set on traveling first class. If you're willing to stay in a stateroom on a lower deck, you often can get a much better deal on your fare.
Look for the cheapest fares in off-peak times, like right before the December holidays, and during the months of January and February. You also will find cheaper fares during hurricane season for trips to the Caribbean and other hurricane-prone destinations.