Cruise TipsTips to Booking a Cheap Pre-Cruise Hotel on Priceline

Tips to Booking a Cheap Pre-Cruise Hotel on Priceline

If you have read other articles on Cruise Fever, you have seen where we recommend that you fly into the port city the day before your cruise.  Why risk the change of missing your cruise because your flight was delayed due to weather or a mechanical problem with an aircraft (over 20% of all flights in 2014 were delayed for more than 15 minutes).

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How exactly can you get the best deal possible on a pre-cruise hotel on ?  I will show you exactly the steps to take and give you examples of hotels that I have won through the “name your own price” feature.  The best deal I ever received through Priceline is where I booked a $129 hotel (the price on their website) for $35 a night at the Sheraton Safari Hotel in Orlando.

RELATED: Best Hotels in Miami for Pre or Post Cruise

My last cruise I was taking the Norwegian Sky out of Miami for a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas.  I assumed that hotels in Miami would not be cheap and I wouldn’t of felt safe staying at the Miami Discount Motel.  I wanted to stay at a nice place downtown but all the nicer hotels were $199-399 for the night.  My only choice was to go to Priceline and bid for a hotel room.

Priceline will not let you start at $1 a night and keep bidding $2, then $3, $4 etc until a hotel accepts your price.  Once you bid and are rejected, you can not bid for another 24 hours, unless you add another zone to stay in.  This is where you will learn to use free rebid zones.  I wanted to stay downtown so I was close to the port in the morning and I also wanted to stay at a 4 star hotel.  I started my bidding low, $45 for the night and I was rejected.  I then checked out all the zones and found that there were 6 others zones that did not have a 4 star hotel in their area.  These are what we call free rebid zones.  You can add them to your search and Priceline will let you bid again right away.  Since there are no 4 star hotels or above in those areas, you will not be given a hotel there.  I added $3 to the price and kept bidding.  Finally $63 was accepted, at the Hyatt Regency.  The hotel wanted $199 for the night if I booked through them. I saved $136 by using a simple Priceline strategy.

The free bid strategy will only work if you are looking for a higher star hotel.  Priceline will at times give you an upgraded hotel but never a downgraded one.  I once bid on a 3 star and won a 3 1/2 star.  If you bid on a 3, you will not get a 2 1/2 or lower.

There are some important things to remember when using the “Name Your Price” on .  First off, you can not choose which hotel you want to stay at. Also, if your price is accepted, your credit card is charged and you can not cancel.  You will not know the name of the hotel until your credit card is charged.  I have found that the star rating system they use for hotels is pretty fair.  If you bid for a  2 1/2 or 3 star hotel, you will not get a Days Inn or Red Roof Inn. Those will likely be 1 star hotels.

Not every hotel uses the “Name Your Price” feature.  The list of hotels that Priceline has for this is constantly changing.  Sometimes you also can not pick the type of room that you would like if you use this method.  However, you can call or email the hotel after you are booked and ask for a certain type of room (King Bed, 2 Queens etc).  Most times you can get the room you want but it is not a guarantee.

San Juan, Puerto Rico is known for not releasing hotels until last minute.  Other areas such as St. Thomas/S.t John can be very hard to win at a decent price.  You can usually get a killer deal in Orlando, Florida or Las Vegas, Nevada since there are an abundance of hotel rooms there.

A great website to learn which hotels are on and exactly what price people are getting them for, visit It is a message board will people will post what hotels they are bidding on in each city.  It is a good guide before bidding to get an idea of what hotels are going for.

Why stress over your plane landing in time for your cruise when you can leave a day early, get a killer deal on a hotel, and relax by the pool for a day!

If you need a car rental, why not also try ?  You can easily save $20 a day through them, sometimes much more!

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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 TipsTips to Booking a Cheap Pre-Cruise Hotel on Priceline


  1. Please help me with steps to bid/rebid San Juan puerto rico hotel. My top two(2) are marriott stellaris and Caribe Hilton because I have a teen and they look the best to keep his occupied and we can also hop on bus to downtown san juan. I’m a city girl so cultural events is a must. I’m w/i two weeks of leaving May ’13. Thank you.

    • With bidding on Priceline, you can’t pick the hotel you are going to get. You are want to stay at the Marriott Stellaris or Caribe Hilton, you should probably book directly with the hotel.

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