Unless you are booking a last-minute trip, most cruise lines do not require you to pay for your entire cruise at the time you make a reservation. You need to make a deposit to lock in the price and your cabin selection, but you'll be able to pay off the balance within a few months of your sailing date. Cruise lines have different policies so ask for specific due dates when you book.
Making a Cruise Deposit
A cruise line may hold your reservation for a period of time before requiring a deposit. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines provides a courtesy hold for 24 hours before a deposit is required, and Holland America doesn't require a deposit until one to five days after you reserve. The amount of your cruise deposit depends on the number of people you are traveling with and the total cost of the cruise you've chosen. It can range from $50 to 50 percent or more of the cruise price.
Methods of Payment
When you make your deposit and subsequent payment installments, it's easiest to pay by credit or debit card. Deposits usually are paid via credit card when you're booking directly with the cruise company online or over the phone. Holland America also permits wire transfers, and if you're working with a travel agent who specializes in cruises, your payment options might include cash or check.
Making Regular Payments
After your deposit is paid, the number and amount of installments depends on your cruise line. Some companies, such as Carnival, expect you to make payments online through the account you set up when you booked the cruise. The amount of each payment varies in accordance with the total amount of the cruise. You may ask your cruise line to set up direct payment, where it takes an authorized amount directly from your bank account or credit card at regular intervals. When you book your cruise with a travel agent, your agent will provide you with a payment schedule.
Making a Final Cruise Payment
Norwegian and Royal Caribbean require the final payment between 60 and 75 days before the sailing date. For holiday cruises at Christmas and New Year's, you need to pay in full 90 days before the sailing date. Contact the cruise line or your travel agent to make your final payment before the deadline arrives. Travel documents and complete itineraries often only are available after the final payment is received.