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You Can’t Book a Cruise on Departure Day Anymore – Here’s Why

If you have ever considered a last-minute cruise you may be wondering if it is possible to book a cruise on the day of departure.

In this article find out everything you need to know.

Arvia and Emma Cruises

Can You Book a Cruise on Departure Day?

As a general rule, it is not possible to book a cruise on departure day due to documentation requirements.

Guest lists must be submitted a minimum of 24-48 hours before the cruise sets sail to the appropriate local authorities. As a result, booking a cruise on departure day is not possible

In the past, it used to be possible for a passenger to arrive at a cruise port, suitcase in hand, and be booked onto any cruise that is setting sail within a few hours. Not anymore…

Security regulations have tightened a lot since this was allowed.

Airlines do not have to submit documents ahead of time in the same way as cruise lines do, so it is usually possible to book a flight without the same notice period.

It’s also important to remember that it suits the cruise lines better if their passengers book as far in advance as possible.

Even if they could accept bookings at the last minute, they wouldn’t want passengers to wait until the last minute hoping for a bargain. They’d prefer guests to book ahead of time.

Why Do People Want to Book a Cruise on Departure Day?

Many people believe that they’ll be able to book a cheap cruise if they do so on departure day. This used to be the case – and many people still believe that it is still so.

Generally speaking, booking a “last minute” cruise can be a good way to secure a discount – but the cruise can be booked a few weeks before it sails to get a good deal. The cruise line knows by then how many free cabins it will have.

To find out more about how the prices of cruises change as time goes on, check out this post:

Do Cruises Get Cheaper Closer To The Sailing Date?

Marella Discovery Cruise Ship and Emma Cruises!
Me with the Marella Discovery

Cruise Members Can be on Standby

In some situations, crew members can book a last-minute cruise if they, or their family members in some circumstances are on “standby.”

On a large percentage of cruises, there will be situations where a guest doesn’t arrive for their cruise.

In this situation, the cruise line may be able to give these cabins, for a price, to crew members or the families of crew members.

Because these guests are on standby, the cruise line can submit their information ahead of time.

They of course, have to be located close to the cruise port so that they can board if invited to do so.

Spectrum of the Seas and Emma Cruises in Asia

Why do Cruise Lines Have to Submit Guest Lists?

Guest lists are submitted to the local authorities so that they have a record of who left the cruise port and onboard which ship.

As guests arrive to embark on a cruise, they are given their cruise card. This card is scanned, and photos taken, to ensure that they know exactly who is on board.

To learn more about what the cruise card is used for, check out this post:

Cruise Keycards – Guide.

The guest list will be checked for anybody who may be wanted by the police and trying to flee the country.

What Happens When You Book a Last Minute Cruise?

When booking a last-minute cruise, you must pay the full balance immediately.

The majority of cruise lines require a full payment either 60 or 90 days before the cruise.

This means that if you book a cruise 2 years in advance you only have to pay the deposit until a few months before.

If you book within this period of time you have to pay the full balance straight away.

Booking between 60-90 days before a cruise is often the cheapest time to do so.

I took my friends on an incredibly cheap last-minute cruise on the MSC Preziosa. It was sailing from Southampton, and cost around £53/$68 a day – INCLUDING service charges/tips.

Find out how we got on here:

Around sixty days before the cruise lines know how many guests they have booked, and as a result, they try to sell off the remaining cabins.

Find out more about this in the article below.

When Are Cruise Prices At Their Cheapest? Hints and Tips To Help You Book At The Right Time

Before You Go

Normally when you book a cruise you have plenty of time to pack and organise things. Find out what you need to remember here:

Planning And Packing For Your Cruise, Things to Organise in Advance, Packing Essentials And More

Make sure you don’t forget to pack any essential documentation, like passports – or you won’t be cruising anywhere! Find out more about that in the article below:

Cruise Paperwork! Make Sure You Don’t Forget Essential Paperwork, or You Won’t Be Sailing Anywhere…

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.