Since the cruise industry came back from the covid pandemic, prices have generally been below historical norms. That's perhaps not true on Royal Caribbean's (RCL) - Get Free Report Wonder of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Line's (CCL) - Get Free Report flagships Mardi Gras and its brand-new sister ship Carnival Celebration, but aside from holidays that has been the broad trend.
In fact, on older ships, cruises have been very cheap with many coming in below $50 a night on both mainstream cruise lines. MSC, a cruise line trying to take share in the United States (largely from Royal Caribbean and Carnival) has been even cheaper than that on many cruises.
Now, it is worth noting that low fares don't tell the entire story as to what people are spending on cruises. Royal Caribbean has shared that passengers are spending above 2019 levels on onboard extras including drink packages, internet, specialty dining, and excursions.
That makes sense given the lower cost to get onboard since people know they're getting a good value so they have no problem spending more on extras. Unfortunately for passengers, but not the cruise line, or its shareholders, the days of ultra-low fares may be coming to an end.
Wave Hello to Higher Royal Caribbean Cruise Prices
The cruise industry is currently in "wave season," the period between January and March when cruises are often sold at the best deals. This year's wave season has been busy, but with how low prices have been, the values may not be what they were last year, but there are good reasons to book your cruise now.
Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President Sales Vicki Freed, told travel agents Jan. 18 that demand for new bookings has been strong and prices are rising, Matt Hochberg of the Royal Caribbean Blog first reported.
"In the past, when the cruise industry has had a strong wave like we're experiencing now... pricing goes up and we don't see all that dilution in current pricing and we're not seeing that now," she said."If anything, we're seeing pricing going up."
Royal Caribbean Group President Michael Bayley backed up Freed's statements with some strong words of his own.
"We have been having record booking day after record booking day," Bayley said."Last week was the biggest booking week in the history of our business. It was absolutely unbelievable and it just seems to be getting better and better."
How You Can Still Book a Cheap(er) Royal Caribbean Cruise
With cruises, the best time to book a cruise is usually now. In a broad way, prices generally get more expensive on an individual cruise date when you get closer to when the ship sails. There are exceptions, of course, but if you want a specific itinerary on specific dates, then booking now (or as soon as possible) is almost always the right choice.
Even with rising prices, however, there are still some tricks to getting a better deal on a Royal Caribbean cruise. First, you should avoid holidays and school vacations if you possibly can. Any period where families can cruise without the kids missing school will generally cost more (and usually a lot more) than cruises during school periods.
In addition, older ships will almost always cost less than newer ones. Even an Oasis-class ship (the largest ones in the fleet) with a few years on it will usually cost less than booking Wonder of the Seas, the newest member of that class. If you opt for a smaller class like Freedom or Voyager Class -- still very impressive ships -- the cost will be even lower.
Opt for a Brilliance or Radiance-Class ship (the smallest ones with the fewest frills) and you can still have fun, but will save money. It's important to match your needs with the ship you book. Taking young kids on a port-intensive cruise on a smaller ship might not be the right choice, for example, but it's possible to make some sacrifices and still have a trip that meets your needs and your budget.