Cruise NewsCruise Line Says Goodbye to Last Minute Cruise Deals

Cruise Line Says Goodbye to Last Minute Cruise Deals

One of the perks enjoyed by cruisers who have flexible schedules are the last minute discounts offered by cruise lines.  However, according to a report by Business Week, one cruise line is making an attempt to no longer offer these discounts to help improve customer satisfaction.

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During the recent earnings call, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain said that many cruisers who book early are discontent with the last minute discounting.  The fares offered a week or less before sailing can often be found at a discount of 50-75% less than those who booked the same cruise 10-12 months earlier. Cruise lines offer these steep discounts so that every cruise ship sails as close to capacity as possible.

Royal Caribbean has set in place a “more consistent approach on pricing” with the help of moving ships away from the popular cruise destinations of the Caribbean.  By lowering capacity to the Caribbean, the cruise line is betting that fewer berths available will result in fewer empty cabins on embarkation days.

Richard Fain said that even if ships sail below capacity, it would improve the satisfaction level of guests and “strengthen the perception” of the Royal Caribbean brand.  It is no secret that sailing on a cruise that is less than capacity is more enjoyable due to shorter lines around the ship and an increased crew to passenger ratio.

During the past decade, cruise lines have built an abundance of new cruise ships that are double or triple in size compared to ships built before 2000.  The growth of the cruise industry has not kept up with the added berths from the new cruise ships.

This has led to steep last minute discounts as cruise lines scramble to fill all of the empty cruise berths.

No other cruise lines have publicly stated that they plan on following this business model by Royal Caribbean.  Carnival, the largest cruise line in the world, has said in the past that they plan on moving some ships away from the Caribbean in an effort to lower capacity to the region.

Time will tell on whether last minute cruise deals will stay, or go away for good. Considering that Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC all have multiple orders for 4,000+ passenger ships in the next 5 years, they are unlikely to go away completely.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise NewsCruise Line Says Goodbye to Last Minute Cruise Deals


  1. No one is on a fixed income. SS is adjusted for inflation every year.If you want a cheap room, book an inside cabin especially one near the engine. If you want even cheaper, rent a row boat and eat at McDonalds.

    As for booking direct, that is a huge mistake. The operator works for the cruise line, a travel agent works for you. The agent can deliver a better price and true guidance. You never get the same person when you call the cruise line. A good travel agent gets to know you and looks for deals for you. However, if you want to book directly wioth the cruise line, then do it. It is your lost. Why would you think the cruise line person is going to look out for you?

  2. I plan on booking another cruise with Carnival around Feb 2015. I always get the last minute deals via email. I was thinking about going that route since it’s up to 75% off, but after reading some of these comments I think i’m not going to do that because I do want a nice room in a great area. My previous cruise was on Carnival Ecstasy and was on the Main deck and loved it.

  3. It’s alwaysbetter to book directly through a cruise line.

    Most travel agents just offer things that some cruise lines don’t even have….
    The #1 irritation of both the guests and staff on a cruise ship is incompetent travel agents who promise them all kinds of nonsense without having a clue what they’re selling and what the company offers.

    Always book directly with the company, you’ll get the best prices, and most of all: You know that you definately are going to get what you want. as you cut out the “middle man” who just tries to make a buck by selling things that aren’t theirs in the first place.

    Also cruise lines get so many complaints of people that booked an excursion through their travel agent, and got a low quality, low service tour instead of getting what they paid for.

    Best way to cruise is to pick one cruise line, get a membership and book onboard the ships for the next cruises.

    • You can do EVERYTHING you said and STILL work with a local agent for local support. RCCL actually encourages it as one of the better options. Find a good cruise line + a professional agent = SUPERIOR VACATION PROTECTION. Think of a travel professional as insurance. You hope you never really need it but you’re glad it’s there…and in this case it’s FREE!

    • Cruiser – You couldn’t be more incorrect. Just like any profession there are good travel agent and not so good. But even a marginal travel agent will produce a better overall result than going with the cruise line directly if value, choice, and service are your objectives. If you understood the cruise line’s reservation system and the entire process you would understand why. When you make your reservation directly with the cruise line you may be speaking with a person answering calls in Utah who has never been on a cruise and who has no familiarity with the ship and itineraries other than what they read in the “play book.” And, they definitely won’t know about or advise you on specials or deals on other cruise lines. The overwhelming majority of cruise business is booked by travel agents. Consequently, cruise line contracts with agencies prohibit the cruise line from offering any pricing lower than the travel agency has access to. However, travel agencies frequently can offer lower prices or amenities not offered by the cruise line as a result of group space blocked by the agency. But even at the same price you still get superior service and someone to go to bat for you in the event of a problem (and many more benefits too numerous for this post). And when was the last time you had a cruise line call you and let you know its current sale could lower your price? You have no idea what you are missing out on by not using a good travel agent.

    • You are absolutely right. Potential clients can always ask the travel professional, “How many cruises have you been on?” ” Have you sailed on this cruise line before” “What are your certifications?” ” How long have you been in business.?” “Do you have any references?”
      Travel professionals, want you to be happy. They don’t just want your business for this trip, they want your business forever. They want your referrals. They will do the very best for you. 80% of all cruises are booked with a travel agent. It is a good deal for the cruise lines. we pay for our own education. We pay for our own trips. They pay us a commission which is built into the price whether you buy from the cruise line or on line. I always re fare my clients when the price goes down. It cuts my commission but it makes for a very happy client. My thought is, “Why trust your vacation to an order take,r when you can have the services of a knowledgeable, experienced travel professional working for you at no additional cost? And a comment for those on a fixed income that NEED an accessible cabin. We MUST book a year in advance to get one of the limited accessible cabins. We can take no complimentary upgrades because the systems are not set up to transfer ONLY to an accessible cabin. Our choices are very limited I work with a lot of disabled clients. No one asks for MS, MD, ALS, CO, Parkinson’s, a spinal cord injury, a stroke, a car accident, a swimming accident, birth defects etc. or any of the other diseases that interfere with a “normal” life. Please don’t assume, that those on a fixed income don’t fall into one of these categories. No one asks to be disabled. It is the hand that was dealt and most are doing the best they can and want the same things out of life that you want.

  4. Book thru your local travel agent 1) Prices are the same or better 2)Taxes then come back to your area which helps the local economy 3)You will someone who will stand by and help you if there is a problem.

  5. Well I don’t know when this is going into effect, but on the last minute site I use, there are heavy discounts on RCCL including the Allure and Oasis.

  6. Alyson, I own a travel agency and you are incorrect about getting a better deal by booking direct. In fact, many cruise lines will actually encourage travelers to book through an agency for extra deals that the cruise line doesn’t have, such as discounted fares and onboard credit or pre-paid gratuities. The cruise line never has any bonuses or discounts that I can’t offer since I am working live in their system but I very often have deals that they don’t have booking direct. Also, I can book shore excursions away from the cruise line that are better and cheaper, and I can assist with flights, hotel and all of the other extras you won’t get from the cruise line. All at no fee to you! Why book direct?

  7. We would love to avail of last minute bargains but as we live in the UK it doesn’t work for us as the last minute air travel then becomes too expensive or even unavailable! It is really only Royal Caribbean’s US customers who reap the benefits of the huge last minute discounts so it won’t make much difference to us. It would be good to see special offers for ALL customers not just the US based ones. How about discounted flights, drinks packages, internet packages etc.


  9. I always have to plan ahead to get the my time off from work approved and working around school schedules is not easy either so I never really get the great deals anyways. I grab a good deal whenever I can. Wish I could just pack and go but we always cruise as a family with 2 or more cabins…Love RCCL but I do cruise other lines also…14 cruises so far and another on Dec 14 on the Freedom of the Seas. The low prices always show up after my final payment…never booked on the last minute deals..

    • Bibi: I do understand!! We (me and my sister’s family) always have to plan our cruises around my 16 year old niece’s school schedule. It was not easy!! So I told my sister to just wait and see about booking last minute. We booked our cruise 2 weeks ago and got a great deal on a Thanksgiving day cruise. My niece is out for the whole week of Thanksgiving. I have no idea whether my cabin is any good or not. But according to my Carnival Rep; I can’t complain because we got such a good price and most people because this is a holiday cruise; paid double than what we paid!!

  10. We always book early & this last February booked our November transatlantic with RCCL with A Free drinks package…. Hmmmmm after the offer ended the prices went down & down to where we could have easily booked a desired stateroom & still gotten the drinks package & it would have been the same price or a little lower…kind of urns you when it’s supposed to be such a good deal. Especially when you are a devoted fan of RCCL as we are

    • You’ll feel differently when it’s your turn to live on a fixed income. I bet you’ll take the discounts offered at many establishments when your time comes.

    • Jennifer, I believe that this is the real reason Royal Caribbean is doing this. Every time they lower the price they get many of the previously book passengers calling to get the lower price. They have painted themselves into a corner and now the only way out is to reduce capacity and keep the price high.

  11. We always wait for the best price, which isn’t necessarily at the last minute, it fluctuates with demand, so looks like we won’t be going with RC any time soon. No problem, Norwegian are “our” cruise line. And no, it’s not left over trash, no idea where Tom gets that idea from. Watch and wait is the smart way to cruise, and book direct, not through an agent.

    • Why would you not book through a travel agent? The prices quoted through a cruise line like NCL is the same as what you would get through a travel agent. In fact sometimes you can get better rates by using a travel agent because we buy blocks of space at a discount that we need to move.

    • Connie is right. I can price match anything you find out there. I can be the one to spend hours searching for the best deals. And I can find the shared groups and blocked out space that has amenities like Onboard Credits – in ADDITION to the matched price!! P.S. I can do all-inclusives, too! 😉

  12. I plan ahead for every cruise. I choose my cabin location and deck And pay the bill. Last minute deals are usually left over trash they never sell at full price anyway. Yeah, it does cost more but if I’m not going to get what want I’ll stay back until I do get what I want. Is it worth staring at lifeboat for seven days just because you got it 33 per cent cheaper?

  13. I believe it when I see it. All they will do is proving less ships for an area. Just like the airlines. At the end, the competition will drive down the prices again…

  14. My wife and I, we’re on a fixed income due to our disabilities. We can`tafford to grab tickets whenever we would like too. We paid the full price for our old room 8253 because that was the only way we could have that stateroom. The last minute deals were made for people like us who is living on a fixed income. We wish that we could go on RCCL every year. Please RCCL give consideratio to us that is retired and able to continue sailing with such a great cruise line, even on our type of budget. RCCL you ROCK.

    • Those of us that work for a living would love to be on a fixed income and every time I hear the term I want to heave. Stop the bull. Smoke a few less Camels.

    • rastus, you should be ashamed of yourself. You know absolutely nothing about these people yet you assume they are lazy, cigarette smoking, beer drinking moochers. How can you be so sure they are not proud disabled veterans that are unable to work? Is it that you hate retired people? Retired seniors have worked hard all their lives and deserve the little Social Security they get. It is not a handout, they earned every penny and one day you may be in that situation. I only hope that some idiot does not tell you to stop the bull and smoke a few less Camels.

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