As a recent series of articles about last-minute cruises shows, we are keen to explain all the details of this type of cruise vacation to our readers. We’ve explored who can take a last-minute cruise and who cannot take a last-minute cruise, and more generally we’ve written an introduction to last-minute cruises. These articles make it clear that while last-minute cruises are an excellent vacation option to consider if you want to keep costs down, there are a number of practical limitations that preclude some from taking them. But suppose you are one of the people who can seize these great deals. The question of course becomes: how do you actually go about booking a last-minute cruise?
Booking a last-minute cruise, like booking any other cruise, is a task made vastly easier by the internet. There are a number of websites that list last-minute cruises to different places that are offered by several cruise lines. We have warned that you have to be flexible with your vacation preferences (desired length of trip, destination, cruise line, etc.) if you want to take one, and this is true, but it’s important not to overstate the case: there are lots of options, but only if your departure and return dates aren’t too rigid. (There are often only one or two cruises that leave on any given day.) All this will be clear after just a few minutes searching websites for last-minute deals.
But what websites? First, there are entire websites dedicated exclusively to last-minute cruises, like the appropriately named LastMinuteCruises.com. This is as good a place to start as any when looking for a deal. The front page lists 20 or so cruises that are leaving in the next few weeks, so almost immediately you’ll get a sense of what is available. Some cruises are leaving in as little as three days. All of the prices are deeply discounted – some are well over 50 percent off – and they tend to be shorter cruises. The majority are under a week long, and many are merely cruises that are gone for a three-day weekend. (This actually makes last-minute cruising more feasible – it’s easier to get a couple of days off from work than two weeks, obviously.) All of this applies to the other websites that list last-minute cruises, such as the familiar cruise deal sites like Travelocity and CruiseDeals. When you are looking for a last-minute cruise, you should definitely consult several of these sites. It doesn’t take long, and you’ll make sure you are getting the best price.
Using these sites is certainly the quickest and probably easiest way to book a last-minute cruise. However, if you always work directly with only one cruise line, you could potentially find a last-minute deal this way. We have two cautionary notes about this approach, though. First, you are severely limiting your options if you only want to use one particular cruise line. Many of the major cruise lines will advertise at least some last-minute cruise deal, but if there is only one possibility, you obviously have virtually no control over your vacation. Second, there actually isn’t much of a reason to work directly with the cruise lines, as their last-minute deals are listed on the third-party sites anyway. In fact, if you search for “last minute cruises [some cruise line],” you’ll get lots of links to the cruise deal sites, and not many that actually connect you to the official website of the cruise line.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that you can always use a travel agent. One of their primary functions is to seek out good deals for vacations, so they should have a good handle on the last-minute cruise deals floating around. It’s pretty easy to find last-minute deals yourself, but if you work with someone who does a good job and you’re particularly busy, you might want to outsource your work to an agent.
There is nothing particularly challenging about booking a last-minute cruise. It’s a little different than booking a regular cruise – there are some specialized sites that you might not be familiar with, and you likely won’t be working directly with a cruise line – but overall the basics are the same. You search online, figure out some options, and then eventually pull the trigger when you find what you are looking for. Pretty simple.