What are Late Cruises?

Lainie Petersen

Late cruises can be a budget vacation option. As the day of a cruise departure nears, cruise lines want to fill all available cabins. The cruise lines often deeply discount the normal cruise fare so as to put travelers in these rooms and sell them as late cruises. They do this because travelers spend money on drinks, in the casino, and on cruise excursions. The cabins have already been built and paid for by the cruise lines, and the cost of labor on cruise ships is cheap. As long as there are travelers in those cabins, the cruise line is likely to make money even if those travelers paid a pittance through last-minute booking.

Waiting until the last-minute to book a cruise could result in a deeply lowered price.
Waiting until the last-minute to book a cruise could result in a deeply lowered price.

For those looking for a cheap vacation, late cruises offer an alternative to short-distance trips and staying in cheap hotels or cabins. Thrifty travelers who don't drink, gamble, or do a lot of shopping may find that last-minute cruises save them a bundle, as cruise lines typically include meals, entertainment, and many on-board activities in their fares. When compared to other types of discount travel, lake cruises offer the advantage of being all-inclusive yet allowing travelers to visit and tour different destinations all in one trip. As the cruise ship itself provides transportation to different locations, travelers don't even have to rent a car or worry about getting around.

One concern with late cruises is finding airfare to the cruise port last minute.
One concern with late cruises is finding airfare to the cruise port last minute.

Late cruises come with some disadvantages, including a lack of choice in cruise line, type of cabin, and destinations. When booking a late cruise, travelers have to purchase what is available, not the trip they want. Another serious concern for those who do not live near a cruise port is transportation to the ship itself. If a late cruise is booked very close to its departure date, travelers may have difficulty finding affordable airfare to the port of departure. This can undermine any savings realized through last-minute booking.

Last-minute cruise deals often work best for travelers who live near a seaport and who have flexibility in their travel plans. Savvy travelers look online and in local newspapers for late cruise deals. Some travel agencies even specialize in selling late cruises, particularly if that travel agency is located near a popular cruise ship port. Travelers who have sailed on a cruise line in the past may find it easier to find and book late cruise deals by calling the customer service number of that cruise line or getting on the cruise line's online mailing list.

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Discussion Comments


I would love to take a cheap cruise, but I live so far away from the ocean that it just isn't financially feasible. Even though I would save money on the cruise itself, I would spend more than I saved by just driving to the departure point.

It would take me at least fifteen hours to get to any of the major warm water cruise seaports. I would pay a fortune in gas, and I would have to stay somewhere in a hotel, because I don't think I could drive for that long without stopping to rest.

I am terrified of flying, so that isn't an option. Unless I move closer to the ocean, I probably never will set foot on a cruise ship, no matter how low the rates.


My mother received a letter in the mail telling her that she had won a free cruise. She had to depart in two weeks, and all she would have to pay was a $59 fuel charge.

She decided to do it, even though it was last minute. She couldn't pass up a free cruise, because she had always wanted to go on one.

She told me later that the thing she spent the most money on was tipping the workers. You are expected to tip everyone from the person who makes your bed in the cabin to waitresses.

Luckily, she had taken plenty of cash with her. She was able to do this because of the money she had saved by taking a free late cruise.


@Oceana – It is true that cruise lines charge outrageous amounts for anything that isn't included in your package. If you want to have any alcoholic drinks, you will be paying about double what you would pay in a bar.

However, if you just want to go on a cruise to be out on the open sea and enjoy the surroundings, a late cruise could be a great deal. I love the ocean, and all I cared about was being able to stand on deck and stare at the waves below.

I got my cruise through a travel agency about a mile from the seaport, and I paid about half what a regular beach vacation would cost. I enjoyed every moment adrift on the water, so I got more than my money's worth.


My sister booked a late cruise online once, but she said that she will never do that again. She booked the spot before she had a chance to look at airfare prices, and she ended up paying more for airline tickets than she would have spent on a nice cabin.

She said that her sleeping space was tiny, and it had no view of the ocean. All of the activities included in the fare were disappointing, and though she wished to be able to do some of the other things, she could not afford to pay for them separately.

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