Last-minute cruise bookings can save money for the flexible traveler. (Photo: Stuart Gregory/Photodisc/Getty Images )
Buying cruise tickets at a departure port can save you as much as 80 percent on some cruises, especially if you buy tickets close to the day the vessel sets sail, according to the Cruises Only travel agency. Cruise line operators do not want to leave port with empty cabins, as it costs just as much money to buy fuel and set sail with 300 people on board as it does to sail with 400 people. The incentive to the spontaneous traveler is a reduced price on the ticket, but your ease in finding deals depends on the cruise line.
Check several cruise lines for desirable destinations and travel times from the departure port. Pick at least two that work for you, so if one books up at the last minute, you have a fallback option.
Contact the cruise line directly to verify the closing time for all embarkations. U.S. State Department regulations require most cruise lines to submit a passenger manifest at least 72 hours before the boat leaves port. In most cases, it will be necessary to buy tickets at least three days in advance. Cash (for in-person purchases at the port office) or a credit card are the commonly accepted payment options, according to cruise line websites.
Arrive at the departure port with all luggage, funds and identification at least two hours before the vessel’s scheduled departure time. Cruise lines require completion of forms to meet corporate and government regulations. People who book cruise tickets weeks or months in advance will typically have submitted these forms much earlier.
- Be packed and ready for opportunities that may arise on short notice. A cruise's appeal is the chance for relaxation, the opposite of what you experience when stressed out from last-minute packing and hurrying to get a good deal.
- Timing and flexibility are critical when buying cruise tickets the day of departure. Build a travel window into your schedule, so if one cruise books up on the planned departure date, travel on another ship is possible the next day or a week later.