If you love the wide open ocean, look no further than a cruise. There is something magical about cruising across the sea that has persisted ever since humans took to water. There is a sense of romance and wonder in journeying in such vessels—the success of the movie Titanic can attest to that. But in the past few decades, we have taken sailing to a whole different level: these ships are now veritable traveling cities built for the sole purpose of rest and relaxation, filled with like-minded travelers. Looking for entertainment? Music venues, shows, casinos, and clubs are all there. Hungry? These ships have buffets, restaurants, and cafes. Looking for a more sophisticated night out? Put on your best suit or cocktail dress and treat yourself a romantic night in the classy venues on board. And if you’re a lone wanderer, quiet decks and nooks abound so you can read and languish in the sun.
Of course, we know that you’re looking for a maximum of fun and relaxation for a minimum of price. You want to treat yourself, not go bankrupt. Have no fear: We have written this guide so that you can have the knowledge to find the best cruise deals and enjoy your vacation in peace, so your hard-earned money will not go to waste.
Table of Contents
- What Does Last Minute Really Mean?
- Step 1: Plan for Your Journey
- Step 2: Find the Best Cruise Available
- Step 3: Prepare for Adventure!
What Does Last Minute Really Mean?
The times of waiting at a port with your bags and negotiating your way on an ocean adventure are slowly coming to an end. Laws now require ships to submit their passenger manifests a day or two before they cast off. Nowadays, last minute cruising refers to journeying anywhere between 3 days to 3 months after booking the trip.
Most importantly, where are the biggest deals? If you are planning on relaxing within the next three months, know that the best times to book are going to be for trips that depart 60-90 days from when you book. These are the last days when passengers can cancel their trips without any penalty. And as the supply rises, the prices drop. If you have some leeway in your schedule, these are some of the easiest deals you can find.
But if you’re planning on booking a trip a week or two from now, do not panic. There are ways to save as much money on this shorter time scale. With the knowledge we will arm you with below and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, you’ll be sure to form your perfect escape plan.
Step 1: Plan for Your Journey
This is the fun part: planning your journey. Now’s the time to daydream about your perfect cruise. Who will you bring? What will you wear? Where will you go? Refer to this quick list for the practical planning you should do before booking your dream vacation. Not only will it be great for your imagination, considering these topics will make your search much easier.
Your budget is probably both the simplest and most important part of your planning. But because it’s so simple—it’s a number, after all—we will keep it to two things. First, give your budget some room outside the cost of the cruise itself. You never know when you’ll want to buy a souvenir to cement a memory or take someone to a premium venue. Second, once you set your budget, stick to it. You might be tempted to buy that one final thing outside your budget, but in the end it’s just a painted coconut. Just let it go.
Remember to Be Flexible!
Because we’re looking for deals, it’s important to remain flexible in as many parts of the planning process as you can. If you absolutely need or can’t handle a certain accommodation or feature, by all means take that into account! But remember that you’re planning a vacation, not a business itinerary.
Length: Do You Prefer Short Cruises or a Long
How much time do you want to spend on the water? You might feel drawn to a short cruise from Brisbane lasting a little over a weekend. You might have been dreaming about a month-long excursion from Sydney to the whole of the South Pacific, including a week in Hawaii. Since this is such a large variable, it might freeze you in a fog of indecision. So be flexible: if you are looking for a trip of about a week, call it 7 to 11 days or 9 days plus or minus 2.
Determine Your Port of Call
Where will your port of call be? Brisbane and Sydney are some of the most active cruise ports in Australia, but Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne are all great ports of call to start your luxury cruise. Be mindful of how close the departure point is to your home. If your budget is especially tight or if you want to indulge yourself on a particularly luxurious cabin, driving to your port is a great option. Not only is it another potential adventure, but you can easily find cheap hotel and parking packages when you are booking your ship.
Figure Out Your Destination
Some people are in it for the destination, may it be the South Pacific or Hawaii. Others couldn’t care less about where the ship goes, as long as it’s moving! If you’re in it for the locations, by all means plan for it. But if you’re in it for the cruise itself, take note that being location-blind means a cheaper trip.
Step 2: Find the Best Cruise Available
Now it’s time for the most important part: choosing the ship you will journey on. This might seem like a daunting feat and conjure up images of hours and hours of slogging through numbers and variables. There are three main ways you can go about doing this:
- Search on the Internet
- Join an Online Community
- Book With a Travel Agent
Take note: Use all three methods. Cast a wide net! If you want to book the best trip possible in the least amount of time, using all of these resources will
The Best Cruise Finders: Find the Deals Yourself
Did you plan for your journey? If you did, forget about spending your entire afternoon sweating over the numbers. You know where you want to leave, how flexible your schedule is, and what kind of cruise you want to go on. So relax, grab a drink, and get ready for some leisurely browsing.
The internet is a great resource and there are too many great search engine sites to single out that help you look for cheap cruises. Cruise 1st and Cruise Critic are among the best if you are looking for some of the best cruise finders. The important thing to do is to stay true to your plan. It’s too easy to fall into the indecision trap when slogging through the numbers, accommodations, specifications, features, etc. So stick to the important things. As you search, you’ll find that there are certain key words that designate what you are looking for. In these instances, your browser’s search function will be your best friend. Above all, remember that this is a journey, not a multiple choice exam.
A final thing to remember if you choose to search for cruises yourself: read the fine print. There may be hidden fees or restrictions. In these instances too, your browser search function will be your best friend.
Cruise Forums: Join a Community
If you didn’t know already, cruising is a very popular hobby. These cruise enthusiasts make it a goal to go on as many cruises as they possibly can before they can cruise no more. And these “professional cruise-goers” have communities. This makes them a tremendous resource for you, a potential inductee into the friendly and knowledgeable group. Because of their passion, the true enthusiasts know all of the ins and outs of the industry. Fortunately, many of the members join these communities just to help others get the same amount of enjoyment as they do. So take advantage of this free resource these friendly internet neighbors have provided you!
In sheer size, member activeness, and anything in between, Cruise Critic’s forum wins the prize for best cruise community. The site has over a million members and many of them are happy to answer any of your questions or help you book your ideal trip. Cruise Mates and Cruisers Forum are smaller, but might be worth a look if you want to be thorough.
Find a Travel Agent: Connect With a Professional
In the internet age, it’s quite tempting to roll up your sleeves and do all the searching yourself. You know your own budget, you know your port of call, you know exactly what kind of ship you want to take. It makes sense to think that you would know what deals are best for you. But travel agents are professionals. And they are on your side. Since they want you to book through them, they will do their best to find a booking that will fit as many of your conditions as possible. And for your sanity’s sake, they know all of the fine print and will tell you about any additional fees. So it’s a very good idea to contact your friendly neighborhood travel agent and ask them to keep their ears to the ground.
Step 3: Prepare for Adventure!
At this point, you’ve booked your trip. Congratulations! There’s much to do before your ship departs. Tell your friends and family, call your employer, pack your bags, secure your money, fill up your car, and get cruising!