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I'm interesting in a Caribbean cruise in June (it's now late March).

Prices seem to be higher for June (e.g., $249 lowest 3-night. Carnival) vs May ($199 lowest Carnival).

Does anyone know if the June prices tend to drop as you get closer to June? Is it better to book early or late?

(Then again, June might be higher because there's more travel demand. Or maybe May is lower because Carnival has had several incidents recently and they're trying to regain market share. Or maybe prices stay firm and the cruise line offers upgrades for those booking early.)

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I've checked with two cruise lines, Carnival and Disney, and they are saying that the day of last-minute cruises is no more. Their revenue models are to offer lower prices and more incentives (e.g., tips included, onboard spending credits) early on, but the prices increase as the supply of cabins decreases. (Supply and demand at work!)

The Carnival agent had been with them for seven years, and she said that she able to travel for free whenever there was space available. She hasn't been able to cruise, as there hasn't been space for some time. The deep discounts on the day of travel have not been available since 9/11. And the government has "encouraged" the cruise lines to register passengers early so they can scrutinize your travel information.

Carnival offers some incentives for booking about a month out, called "Pack and Go." But these are often not available for peak season, such as the Caribbean in the summer.

It's interesting that on the Carnival web site, they offer low-price guarantees in case they offer a lower fare after you book. Their revenue model is such that prices will rarely drop.

The Disney agent said that their ships travel with 100% occupancy. So booking on the days immediately preceding departure would incur the highest cost.

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It would also benefit you to join a cruise lines loyalty program. I am a member of Royal Caribbean and always have gotten better pricing than online.

I have also booked some cruises a few days before and gotten great deals, depending on how full the ship is. Just like hotels, the closest to the sail date, open rooms, equal rate drops.

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    Good point. I've also noticed that some travel agents will increase their rebate for repeat customers. For example, at BJs travel, they will give a $25 BJs card for the first cruise and two $25 BJs cards for the subsequent. – rajah9 May 8 '15 at 19:34
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I'd like to add to other answers, and to incorporate the changes for the five years.

The Carnival cruises I got the best prices - a few of them - I always booked 2-5 weeks before the cruise. I actually monitored the price for several months before buying, and at least for Carnival the cruise pricing seem to drop steadily at this period, increasing a bit for a few days and then dropping back. Last week it might keep increasing if the demand seriously picks up.

Booking early in advance only makes sense if you want a rare type of room (i.e. suite) or worried that the cruise will sell out.

And while there is a "Carnival low-price guarantee", in 2018 it only applies two days after your booking. It is also a low value program - first, it is not automatic (you need to fill up a claims form, and provide evidence which must be still valid at the moment they review it), and you only get the difference as non-refundable onboard credit, not worth it at all.

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