My Mom and Dad lived in Fort Myers, in fact they retired there in 1971, the same year I graduated from High School. I went away to college, they went to begin their next chapter, full of travel, fishing, relaxing and cruising. Mom and Dad cruised at least once a year since the 1960’s, so it was no surprise that once they retired they cruised often.
Fort Myers is only a two hour ride from the Port of Miami and a bit closer to the cruise port in Fort Lauderdale, so once they discovered the last minute cruising opportunity, they were careful to keep a bag packed at all times in case a last minute cruise opportunity arose. Last minute cruising became so routine that Dad had a 3 x 5 index card in the ready with what he had to pack, right down to the number and color of socks. He would proudly show me that index card that he refined over dozens of trips – for Dad the art of traveling light was a skill honed for every subsequent trip.
For My folks, retirement was a full time job, and they got better at it the older they became.
Last minute cruises are not as easy today – because federal law requires that the passenger manifests be turned in at least 24 hours in advance of departure. But if you can call cruising with just more than 24 hours, last minute – there are still great deals to be had. And heck, if you are retired this should be no problem right? (For your information, the cruise industry defines last minute as any booking less than 90 days before departure!).
How do you do it? Well in short, be prepared, be flexible, and keep your sense of adventure alive!
Here are some tips to saving money on a cruise – and booking a cruise last minute:
- Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. You may be able to book the cruise at last minute, but airfares may be at a premium for last minute booking, so if you can drive to the port you will fare better.
- Get all the details. The cruise line may not be able to guarantee you a certain cabin. The more flexible you are, the better.
- Keep your passport up to date and be ready to use at a moment’s notice
- Be open with your destination. The trip IS the destination on most cruise ships. Often there is no need to get off at any port!
- Try repositioning cruises. These are the trips at the end and the beginning of the season where the ship goes from Alaska, for example, to the Caribbean.
- Ask for the 55+ discount.
- Don’t cruise when everyone else is cruising. Look for off season specials
- Flexibility on cabin choice will save you tons of money.
- In general the smaller the ship, the better the deal – but also the fewer the amenities
- Avoid extras like the special drinks, the photos and the special restaurants, you may also want to plan your our shore excursions.
Here are three sites that can help you with last minute cruise deals:
Cruise Sheet You choose the port, they will send you an email when there are deals from that port.
Vacations to Go Advertises itself as the discount clearing house for cruises.
Cruise Deals Not as well presented as Cruise Sheet, service is excellent.