4 Tips for Planning a Last-Minute Cruise

I am a planner by nature. I usually plan out our vacations a year or more in advance. However, I also LOVE to cruise and I especially love to cruise on Disney Cruise Line. When the new ships launched, the prices on DCL began to sky-rocket and honestly, they had priced us out of being able to go again. I had always heard that last-minute deals could be had on cruises, but never really researched it until two weeks ago. Can a last-minute cruise deal be a real thing?

On a whim, I checked Disney Cruise Line for the week of spring break (March 15th-23), and I was surprised and excited to find they had dropped the price on a 3-night sailing on the Dream to what I would call reasonable for a balcony cabin.  I immediately called my husband and we booked! I have never planned a cruise with kids in a months time, being that I’m a planner, I went in to panic mode! This escalated even more when I discovered the kids passports expired in February! However, I did learn some helpful things about last-minute cruise planning that I want to share.

  •  Last minute cruise deals are possible!

If you are flexible with your dates, patient, and OK if you don’t get what you were hoping, then last-minute cruise deals are a very real possibility for you. Cruise lines want those cabins filled and if you begin looking at 80 days prior to sailing up until a few weeks prior to sailing, those last-minute deals can be had. This is especially true if you are traveling during non-peak times. These tend to be in the fall during hurricane season, the first two weeks of December, January/
February, and the slower time after Easter but prior to school letting out in the United States.

  • Be able to drive to the port!

It is often not possible to coordinate a last-minute cruise deal with a good airline ticket price. If you are OK with spending more on airfare, then go for it. However, I recommend being able to drive to the port you are leaving out of. This will give you the most flexibility as far as booking a last-minute cruise vacation.

  • Passport and travel documents current!

This is extremely important since it is often difficult and very expensive to get an expedited passport or get an official copy of a birth certificate. We normally keep our passports up to date and I thought that my children’s passports were good for 7 years, but unfortunately, they were only good for 5 years. In this case, since we are leaving and returning to a US port, I can use their birth certificates which I have. Once we get back though, I will be getting new passports for them as well as myself and my husband as they expire soon. Keep those passports up to date and valid or keep copies of certified birth certificates and marriage certificates should you need them to travel on a cruise line. Always keep up to date on the latest documentation required.

  • Be flexible in type and location of cabin

Often the mid-ship area is the first to fill leaving the front and back sections with the last available cabins. If you are comfortable with cruising in the very front or very back of the ship and also don’t care about the type of cabin you have (inside, balcony, etc), then last-minute cruise deals are for you. I typically like mid-ship because you feel the motion less, but on the bigger ships this isn’t a big of a deal as it is on the smaller ships. Our first cruise ever we had an extended balcony on the very back of the ship on the Carnival Miracle. We felt not only the side to side motion of the ship, but the up and down motion as well when the seas were rough. You also have more vibration in the back of the ship, especially when docking. Sometimes, the cruise line will offer a guarantee cabin category. This is often the cheapest option but you will be assigned a cabin out of the remaining inventory available in that category which might have an obstructed view or be in a less desirable location. However,  you could also be given some upgrade pixie dust in this category as well!

The keyword in last-minute cruising – Flexibility! If you are flexible in your dates, port of departure, location of your cabin, and itinerary, then last-minute cruising is for you. You can get some great bargains, especially on Disney Cruise Lines if you are able to go last-minute during non-peak times.

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