Now might be the best time in a long time — and for a long time — to book a cruise out of Florida.
Fares available for three- to four-night cruises to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral, PortMiami and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades remain enticingly low as cruise lines work their way back to full operational status.
Ready for a three-night Bahamas trip from PortMiami aboard the Carnival Conquest on June 10? If you book by Thursday, you can get an interior cabin for $129 per person, an ocean view cabin for $175 or a balcony cabin for $345, according to travel booking website Orbitz.
How about a four-nighter to Nassau and Princess Cays on Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral in Brevard County on May 23? Interiors start at $174 per person and balconies are $354, Carnival’s website shows.
Prices aren’t lower because demand has slacked off following last year’s resumption of cruising after a 15-month US shutdown. Rather, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lifting of occupancy restrictions last month has infused the industry with a big boost in supply, said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of the consumer-oriented website Cruise Critic.
“We are seeing a sudden rush of cruise deals, and while we’re still seeing a high demand for cruises, these are likely due to the fact that cruise lines are moving towards sailing at full capacity, opening up a great number of cabins that need to be filled rather quickly,” McDaniel said in an email.
When cruising restarted last summer, high demand and limited capacity kept rates high, she said. “Last year we saw very few deals,” she said.
As an example, McDaniel provided price comparisons for a seven-night Caribbean sailing aboard an unnamed “mainstream” cruise line. Compared to last summer, the same trip costs 13% less in June, 24% less in July and 23% less in August.
Cruises mentioned here are subject to sell out at any time and prices can change at any time.
Discounted prices don’t include taxes and port fees, which typically start at $127 per person for a three-night cruise and increase depending on the length of the cruise. Advertised prices generally include access to dining and room service, plus non-alcoholic juices and coffee, Broadway-type shows, fitness centers and other amenities.
What’s typically not included are meals in specialty restaurants and kiosks, excursions, and spa treatments.
Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise line behind Carnival, is still discounting fares by 30%, according to its website, though they are running higher than Carnival Cruise Line.
While a four-night Bahamas cruise from PortMiami leaving June 13 aboard Freedom of the Seas starts at $268 per person for an interior stateroom, travelers on Tuesday could secure a balcony stateroom for $499 per person.
Carnival-owned Princess Cruises, which typically runs longer voyages, is offering a seven-day Western Caribbean package leaving Port Everglades aboard Caribbean Princess on July 9 starting at $819 per person for an interior cabin. But the price includes Wi-Fi, drinks, and crew gratuities.
MSC Cruises is offering a three-night Bahamas cruise out of Port Canaveral starting at $129 per person for an interior cabin. Book by May 13 and get $200 per person off of a balcony stateroom. That’s right — a balcony stateroom for $199 per person, including Wi-Fi and alcoholic drinks.
Celebrity Cruises is offering seven-night Caribbean cruises from Port Everglades all summer starting at $399 and $499 a person for an interior cabin and $749 and $820 per person for a balcony, depending on sail dates. Bookings come with Wi-Fi , alcoholic beverages, and includes gratuities.
One cruise line that’s not offering much if any discount — Disney Cruise Line. A three-night Bahamas Cruise aboard Disney Dream departing Port Canaveral on May 27 will set you back $1,108 per person for an inside stateroom and $1,228 per person for a balcony stateroom. Those prices increase through the summer.
And Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’s outspoken president and CEO Frank Del Rio has publicly criticized competing cruise lines’ discounting to fill their ships and said Norwegian would not follow that path.
But Orbitz shows numerous three- and four-night cruises from Miami to the Bahamas this summer starting at $219 per person for an interior cabin and $349 per person for a cabin with a balcony. Those prices, available for a three-night Bahamas sailing from Miami aboard Norwegian Sky on July 8, are advertised as a 75% discount.
Meanwhile, pent-up travel demand and the lifting of all mask-wearing requirements onboard and at departure terminals should keep demand high through the summer and into next year, barring a recession or economic slowdown, analysts say.
“Given these factors, I would expect the cruise lines to see increased sales,” said Jennifer Walker, owner of Jennifer Walker Travel in Washington, Illinois. “As the ships fill up, guests can expect to see rapidly increasing cruise fares. Supply and demand are always in play with travel-related components, so it’s short-sighted of anyone to expect cruise fares to remain low.”
Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Coral Springs-based Cruise Planners, said demand is increasing for the second half of 2022 and into 2023. She advises cruisers to make plans to take advantage of current low fares “as soon as possible.”
Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at email@example.com†