Take A Last Minute Summer Cruise Escape

Take A Last Minute Summer Cruise Escape
Thinking of planning a last minute summer getaway? You’re not alone. Many people are dreaming of enjoying a few days at a tropical beach or perhaps somewhere even more exotic. The good news is there are plenty of cruises that will get you there – some at significantly reduced prices. In a number of cases, fares on last minute cruises can be discounted by as much as 70% or more.

Demand for travel is high and cruising continues to grow in popularity, so there aren't as many last minute deeply discounted cruise deals as there have been in years past. Booking at the last minute can still yield some excellent cruise vacation bargains, though. It’s important to carefully research your options, be flexible and know where to look. Here are five tips to help you uncover some great last minute summer cruise vacation deals:

1. Shop Around. Check the lowest available rate ranges before doing comparison shopping. Good places to start can be VacationsToGo.com, Cruises.com, Travelzoo.com, and a variety of other cruise-oriented online sites. Many sites may quote prices without port charges, taxes and fees, fuel surcharges and other costs, so completely price out any purchase before comparing prices. In addition, sign up for cruise line email newsletters and follow them on social media.

2. Talk With A Travel Agent. A good travel agent has access to deals and promotions that may not be available to the public and can save you time as well as money. Travel agents can also be excellent sources of information when comparing cruise lines and ships. Look for an agent with membership in American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and/or Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). In addition, if you are set on a specific cruise line, look for an agent that has preferred status with that line. You might receive a higher discount on your cruise. Another good option is CruiseCompete.com. This free service allows vacationers to anonymously request competitive cruise quotes. All customer account information stays private and anonymous, so none of the cruise agencies can contact you directly and there’s no obligation to purchase. It's up to you to contact agents if you are interested in their bid.

3. Be Flexible. Being willing to try something new or different can open up possibilities for a good deal, not to mention incredible vacation memories. Instead of being fixated on a specific cruise line, ship or itinerary; consider all of the available options. When possible, be open to a variety of stateroom choices as well. Just make sure the savings are worth any vacation trade-offs you’re making. After all, a great deal isn’t actually “great” if you won’t enjoy your vacation.

4. Check For Additional Discounts. Cruise lines regularly offer a wide variety of discounts, including military discounts, senior fares, group travel discounts, past passenger specials, state or regional resident discounts, air gateway discounts, package specials, all-inclusive rates, 2 for 1 specials, kids cruise free deals, cruise line stockholder discounts, and more. This is just one of the many reasons for working with a good travel agent. Make sure to let your agent know about past cruises as well as military and stockholder status, if any.

5. Drive Rather Than Fly. Airfare costs can consume a significant portion of your vacation budget, particularly when you’re planning a last minute getaway. Eliminating the need for airfares by driving to your embarkation port can make last minute cruise vacations possible for many North American residents. Cruise lines have positioned their ships in a variety of North American locations that are within driving distance of major cities, making last minute vacations easier and far less expensive. Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, estimates that approximately half of U.S. residents are within a day's drive of one of their home ports, many of which have ships sailing to the Caribbean, Mexico or the Bahamas.

Here are some popular cruise destinations that can easily be reached via numerous convenient North American cruise home ports including those listed:

* Alaska: Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seward and Whittier

* Bahamas: Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Miami, Charleston, Baltimore, New York City, Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans

* Bermuda: New York City, Boston, Bayonne, New York City and Baltimore

* Canada: Boston, New York, Montreal, Quebec City, Baltimore and Bayonne

* Caribbean: Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Port Canaveral, Mobile, Galveston and San Juan

* Cuba: Tampa and Miami

* Mexico: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, Galveston, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale

If you’re driving to your cruise, research parking options in advance. Parking can be found near all of the cruise terminals, but be careful, as the cost can be quite high. To save money, check out off-site parking options. If you’re coming from quite a distance and need to stay overnight at a hotel, look for cruise-oriented hotel packages that include free parking and complimentary shuttles to your cruise pier. Boards on sites such as Cruise Critic can be excellent resources for “been there – done that” homeport information and parking suggestions.

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