Many cruise lines offer their best rates when itineraries go on sale for the first time, and then increase rates as ships run out. Cruise prices are not cheaper when the departure date approaches in all cases. Cruise prices are usually the cheapest farthest from the departure date when it was first launched or between 60 and 90 days before the cruise ship departs. Some cruise ship prices will drop at the last minute, but this doesn't always happen.
In practical terms, last-minute cruises are few and far between. Wave season may be a popular time to find cruise deals, but not all companies publish their best deals and promotions during that period. Sales (or lack of sales) are often based on what is being sold and what is not. If a cruise ship fills up quickly, the company has no reason to launch a sale to attract customers.
But if a cruise ship's departure date approaches quickly and the ship is only partially booked, prices will drop and free add-ons will increase, making some customers satisfied. If you decide to go on a cruise ship right now, keep in mind that you'll need to be flexible and that your experience may not be like your last pre-pandemic cruise. My last two cruises (and the next one) were booked with Cruise Nation, they have a LOT of last-minute offers and are one of my favorite travel agents in the UK. Booking a cruise like this is especially good if you don't have an established itinerary and cruise line in mind.
I've done a lot of research on the best time to book cruises and, during the post, I share what I've learned during my cruise booking experience. While the tips above are useful in normal times or when booking a cruise well in advance, there are several factors to consider before booking a cruise right now. To book a cheap cruise, you'll want to consider booking a cruise when others aren't booking cruises. Planning a vacation during the pandemic can be complicated, and booking a cruise comes with a number of additional considerations and complications.
But why not have both? Saving money on that Caribbean cruise (or any other cruise) is easier than you think. You just need to know how the industry works, including the best time to book a cruise, when you can get an upgrade and how to get the navigation you want without breaking the bank. On the other hand, last-minute cruises are a good way to complement your vacation plans, rather than a main strategy. Most cruise agency websites will have a “last minute deals” page where you can find cheap cruise deals.
Most of the time, trips sell out in the weeks and months before the start of the cruise, leaving little or no opportunity to book a cruise closer to the departure date. Since last-minute cruise prices are so rare, I don't recommend them as a way to plan your family vacation. If you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience or are concerned about value for money, you might want to wait because cruise lines offer modified experiences with health measures for the safety of guests and crew. Cruise lines generally request full passenger details at least 72 hours before the cruise, so they may not be willing to sell cabins after this time.
Different cruise destinations will have different “peak” times and in some cruise regions it will be more difficult to find a bargain than in others.