Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last Minute Cruises to the Carribbean Save You Money This Summer

I'm fortunate enough to work from home and be able to take vacations without giving anyone notice, so I love booking last minute cruises. If you're retired, self-employed, or just able to get away on short notice, you can save quite a bit booking last minute. Cruise ships don't like to sail with empty cabins, so they will slash rates in the weeks leading up to the departure date to ensure as many money-spending passengers are on board as possible. And the Caribbean is a fantastic destination (and a great place to find deals, especially in the summer).

Taking Advantage of Cheap Last Minute Cruises to the Caribbean This Summer

Summer is a great time to take a vacation, especially if you have kids you want to take along, and the Caribbean islands are lovely to sail around. Rates are often great for a couple of reasons:
  • Fewer people choose to vacation in the Caribbean during the summer -- We're often looking to beat the heat in the summer, and choose cooler vacation spots such as Alaska or Northern Europe, but the Caribbean is a lot like Hawaii in that it may actually be cooler and more pleasant (i.e. "perfect year around") in the summer than say Texas, Georgia, the Midwest, etc. Tropical climates rarely get above the 80s, making the temperature perfect even in July and August.
  • People are concerned about hurricanes -- Folks know summer as the beginning of hurricane season, but it doesn't really kick into full gear until September or so, so there's little reason to worry about cruising the Caribbean in the summer. Even if there is a hurricane, a ship has a lot easier time steering clear of the weather than a hotel on land! And if you're booking your vacation last minute, you will probably already have an idea of what the weather is going to be like, as tropical storms can be predicted quite a ways in advance.
  • People have the kids and don't think cruises are good family vacations -- In the summer, you have kids out of school, and a lot of folks assume cruises are just for romantic getaways for mom and dad or retired couples, but in truth, you can find kids of all ages on cruise ships. All the big mainstream ships have great kids' spaces which can include skating rinks, teen computer rooms, pools with slides, and other amenities for children, so you can indeed take the kids on a Caribbean cruise, and you can count on them having a good time.
All of these misconceptions about cruising the Caribbean in the summer serve to our advantage, because we're presented with great rates as cruise lines seek to attract folks. Add the deals you get when booking last minute on top of that and you can get a fantastically affordable vacation (and, for the record, "last minute" can mean a few weeks in advance--the prices start to drop as far out as a couple months, so you don't literally have to be packed and ready to go at a moment's notice).

How to Find Last Minute Cruises

I just keep an eye on sites such as Travelocity, where bookings (prices and what cabins are left open) are up-to-the-minute for all the major cruise lines. Prices can change from day to day, so it pays to check back frequently.

Also, if you have a favorite cruise line, signing up for their newsletter can also keep you appraised of last minute deals.