Skip to content

Some cruise fares have dropped as low as $26 a day as lines struggle to fill ships for fall

Oct. 04, 2022
7 min read
Cruise ship Carnival Magic at sea
Some cruise fares have dropped as low as $26 a day as lines struggle to fill ships for fall
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Looking for a last-minute fall vacation that won't break the bank? Consider a cruise.

With bookings for fall sailings weaker than expected, some cruise lines are offering wildly low rates to fill ships in the coming months. At one major cruise brand, Carnival Cruise Line, base fares for some four-night fall sailings have dropped as low as $26 per day.

One three-night sailing at Carnival is selling for just $99 — not per day but for the entire voyage.

"If you’re looking to book a fall vacation, you’re unlikely to find a better value than at sea," longtime industry watcher Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of online cruise site Cruise Critic, told TPG on Monday. "We’re seeing some truly incredible deals right now from the Pacific to Atlantic."

For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.

As Gray Faust noted, there are a wide range of fall cruises to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Pacific Coast currently available for under $50 a night, a low rate for a cruise. It's something that is all the more remarkable considering such fares include not just accommodations on a ship but meals and onboard entertainment, too, she said.

The lowest base rates for some fall sailings are so low that cruisers will pay more in taxes and fees to various government entities when booking one of the trips than they do in base fare to their cruise line — an upsidedown situation that is relatively rare in cruising.

The $99 fare for the Carnival cruise mentioned above, a three-night sailing from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas scheduled for Oct. 17, for instance, is well below the $131.27 in taxes and fees that each passenger must pay to book the sailing.

Related: The ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Many of the lowest fares available for the fall are on ships operated by Carnival and Holland America, two lines that are being particularly aggressive in discounting to fill ships. MSC Cruises also is offering low fares on a number of fall sailings.

Some cruise brands, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, are keeping base fares higher but throwing in lots of freebies such as free unlimited drinks, specialty dining, excursions and Wi-Fi.

Whether you’re road-tripping or globetrotting, the suite life is always better. Download the free TPG App to upgrade your travel!

Norwegian Cruise Line has tried to hold the line on pricing. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Norwegian on Monday was selling three-night sailings to the Bahamas in November and December that included all of the above freebies starting at $279 per person — about $93 per day.

Cruise deals from $26 per day

Among particularly low fares for fall sailings that cruise lines were touting on their websites as of late Monday:

  • A four-night Carnival voyage out of Miami on Nov. 28 starting at $104 per person — about $26 per day. The Bahamas trip will take place on the 2,980-passenger Carnival Conquest.
  • A four-night Carnival voyage out of Port Canaveral, Florida, on Nov. 28 starting at $104 per person — about $26 per day. The Bahamas trip will take place on the 2,974-passenger Carnival Liberty.
  • A five-night Holland America voyage out of Vancouver, British Columbia, on Oct. 24 starting at $179 per person — about $36 per day. The Pacific Coast trip will take place on the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam.
  • A six-night MSC Cruises voyage out of Barcelona on Nov. 6 starting at $299 per person — about $50 per day. The Mediterranean trip will take place on the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellissima.
  • A seven-night Holland America voyage out of Florida's Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 27 starting at $299 per person — about $43 per day. The Caribbean sailing will take place on the 2,106-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam.

As is typical for cruise fares advertised online, the rates don't include government taxes and fees, which often run around $100 to $200 per person, per cruise. They also don't include the cost of flights to reach the ships, which can be high. That said, there are plenty of low-cost sailings available this fall out of "drive-in ports" near major U.S. population centers that many passengers can reach without a flight.

Passengers who book many of the lowest fares available also will pay extra for things like alcoholic drinks, Wi-Fi and service charges while on the cruises.

Related: 11 extra charges on cruise ships that will drive you nuts — and what to do about them

The current state of cruise pricing

Still, even with such extra charges, the cost of such cruises is notably low when compared to the rapidly rising cost of staying in a resort or hotel on land. Cruise pricing this year has fallen far behind pricing for lodging on land, with some Wall Street analysts who cover the travel industry saying the differential is now in the 30% to 50% range.

Cruise pricing for some itineraries, notably, has not kept up with the inflation rate since 2019, the last normal year for the industry, whereas hotel pricing is well above where it was a few years ago. The cumulative inflation rate in the United States since 2019 is nearly 16%, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

The low rates for fall cruises come as cruise companies struggle more than land resorts to return to normal occupancy levels in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation, on Friday announced that occupancy levels at its nine brands averaged just 84% during the peak summer travel months of June, July and August — below the 87% that Wall Street analysts had been expecting and well below normal levels.

Carnival Corporation, which also owns Princess Cruises, Holland America and Costa Cruises, usually reports ship occupancies during the summer months over 100% — something possible when more than two people stay in a cabin.

Passenger ticket revenue for the summer months at Carnival Corporation also came in well below Wall Street expectations.

The company on Friday also said its cumulative advanced book position for the fourth quarter was "below the historical range" — a change from earlier in the year when the company was saying bookings for the fourth quarter were within historical ranges.

Carnival Corporation stock plunged more than 23% on Friday to its lowest level in nearly 30 years.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by DANNY LEHMAN/CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023