Caribbean cruise deals tempt you with images of dreamy beaches and turquoise waters. And luckily, Caribbean cruises are offered year round by every mainstream cruise line, so your deal-scoring chances are high. That puts a great, affordable, hassle-free vacation well within reach even for the most budget-conscious cruiser. Read on for our expert breakdown of Caribbean cruise deals including when to sail, when to book a Caribbean cruise, which departure port to choose, and how to decipher the prices so you know you’ve snagged a genuine deal. Let’s jump in.
Caribbean cruise deals are offered by every cruise line that sails in the region, from Carnival and Royal Caribbean to Disney and even Regent Seven Seas. To start, though, you need to know what constitutes a deal on a cruise in the Caribbean.
In the Caribbean, cruise inside cabins can be found as low as $40-$50 per person per night, but anything below $60 per night is a deal worth investigating. We also found oceanview cabins as low as $59 per person per night, but shop for any fare below $90 per night to be assured you have a deal.
Balcony cabins for Caribbean cruises can offer some of the best nightly price deals, considering that you get your own private outdoor space. They also make up an abundance of the overall Caribbean cabin inventory and prices can vary widely. The lowest fare we found was $80 per person per night, but any balcony cabin below $130 per night on mainstream lines is a good bargain. Deals on suites are typically $300 to $400 per night, but you might find suite fares as low as $135 per night on September sailings from Miami.
Besides low base fares, Caribbean cruise deals often include extra perks and even sometimes free children's or companion fares. To find the best deals, try weighing the value of the deal against your actual needs. Do you need to be on the ship with the biggest water slides? Will you drink enough to gain any real value from a free drinks package? Be sure to read our expert tips section to break down these questions and help you snag the best Caribbean cruise deals.
The best time to shop for Caribbean cruise deals is during wave season, which starts in January and ends in March. This is when the biggest deals show up online and in your inbox. Second to wave season are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The third best time to shop for Caribbean cruise deals is at the last minute. Your choice of cabins will be limited, and you may even have to ditch your brand loyalty and try another cruise line, but last-minute deals in the Caribbean are often astonishing. Deals begin at 90 days before sailing and continue until the ship nears capacity.
The cheapest times to sail the Caribbean are August to October, followed by April and the first half of May. There are mid-summer deals out there, but you’ll need to shop for them during wave season or use a last-minute strategy to snag them. You'll also need to keep in mind that the Caribbean is affected by the Atlantic hurricane season from June through November, which can cause itinerary changes and even cruise cancellations.
So where should you sail from for the best Caribbean cruise deal? Are there ports that make the whole cruise a better deal? And what about all those drinks and Wi-Fi packages? There are so many options to consider, but here are the basics:
Add-on packages can be deal busters if you don’t take an honest look at how many beverages you will really drink or how much internet you truly need during your cruise. The standard advice is to buy these packages in advance at a discounted rate, but you might be able to save even more by waiting until you actually need Wi-Fi onboard the ship or seeing how much you're craving those poolside drinks. Then consider buying only a few days’ worth of Internet, rather than the full week package. Ask the wine steward about bottled wine packages if that’s your beverage of choice. The point is to consider all your options before you commit.
Private island stops can also be deal boosters, particularly on Royal Caribbean. Their meal and drink packages carry over to their private islands, Labadee and Perfect Day at CocoCay. Check carefully if you're sailing with other lines, though, as that's not always the case.
Ports with easy access to free or low-cost activities (beaches, walking tours, nearby museums or shopping) are also deal boosters. The list includes Key West, Nassau, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts, St. Thomas, San Juan, St. George, Grenada, St. Maarten, Bonaire and Curacao.
First off, let's start with the basics for finding a Caribbean cruise deal:
Put your name on several email deals lists so you never miss an opportunity, including the Cruise Critic deals list. Pick the cruise lines you are most likely to cruise with and watch your inbox.
The newer the ship, the more you can expect to pay. If your goal is to find the best deal, look for older, smaller ships. These are generally refurbished frequently, making them just as appealing.
Check out Cruise Critic's Caribbean cruise deals, which are ranked with an easy-to-understand score from 0 to 100. The closer to 100, the better the deal.
Avoid cruising during Christmas and New Year’s, when prices can soar. If you must cruise during the winter break, look for five-night sailings that don’t include the actual holidays themselves. And shop early: There aren’t usually many last-minute holiday cruise deals.
Ships loaded with outdoor activities are a great entertainment deal, but only if you will use them.
Look at itinerary lengths outside the norm. The highest demand is for three, seven, and 10-night cruises, so all other lengths might offer a potentially good deal. However, do the math to break nightly costs before you commit.
Don’t forget to apply every possible discount when you book. You may get reduced fares for your age, your occupation, military service, or your state of residence. Look for those checkboxes before you finalize your bill (note that they are sometimes hard to find).
The same is true of cruise line loyalty programs. Be sure to enter your member number if you have one. It could mean a lower cruise fare or upgrade within your stateroom category.
Join social media groups devoted to your favorite cruise lines or spend time on the Cruise Critic message boards for money-saving tips from fellow cruisers.
There are also some insider tips and tricks that can help you save money on your Caribbean cruise vacation:
When you see cruise fares posted with language like "starting from," those are inside cabin prices. Don’t rule those out. Consider how much time you’ll spend in your cabin on a Caribbean cruise. If your primary goal is to be island hopping and soaking up sunshine next to the pool, why not consider an inside cabin deal if it fits your budget?
The flip side of going as cheap as possible is using a Caribbean cruise deal to splurge on a dream cruise. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go on Viking Ocean or Windstar or Regent Seven Seas. While the overall cost is higher than mainstream lines like NCL and Carnival, premium or luxury lines may offer a far better value in the Caribbean than cruising with them elsewhere in the world. Not only can you skip the expensive long-haul flights, but the cruise fares are cheaper. On Viking, in some cases, you can take a 10-night Caribbean cruise for roughly the same price as seven nights in the Mediterranean. And on both Windstar and Silversea you’ll save hundreds per night per person. These lines typically sail the Caribbean between October and April.
It may sound counterintuitive, but consider planning for a last-minute cruise. Miami works well for doing this. Once you know your vacation dates, book airfare to and from Miami far enough in advance to save money on your ticket. Then sit back and wait for the 90-day cruise deals to launch. Be prepared to use all the tactics we’ve shared, then book the best Caribbean cruise deal you can that fits between your flight dates.
Editor's Note: All prices quoted were accurate at time of publication.