If you have the flexibility to take a last minute cruise, what's the best way to find and take advantage of any deals that might occur at the last minute? How can you find such a thing? How many days (hours?) before crusing do cruise lines reduce prices so as to not let cabins go empty? Are there third parties that bulk buy cabins and if they can't sell them, they have to dispose of them quickly?
I've been told by friends who have worked with cruise lines that you can always just try calling on the day, or the night before, and can often get an astonishing deal. (It doesn't always work, though.)
Please take a look at my answer at Strategy for cruise tickets: book now or last minute?. It seems that snagging a cabin on the day of the cruise is a thing of the past. (It seems that things have changed since the OP's "data point" and the accepted answer's second-hand account.)
The primary reasons, cited by the cruise lines themselves, are two-fold:
- Since 9/11, the US government has been discouraging last-minute travel. (The government wants to scrutinize the background of the travelers.)
- The revenue model of the cruise lines seems to have changed. They charge the least early on and steadily raise the prices (or take away amenities) as the sail date approaches. The day of travel is the highest, undiscounted price.
I talked to three cruise lines, Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean International. As of this date, they have similar revenue models. (But of course, revenue models and industry standards are subject to change. Please note the date of this answer and post comments if you find a different model or a cruise line with a different policy.)