Last Minute Cruises - Tips and Tricks

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last minute cruises

Booking a last minute cruise requires balancing spontaneity with preparation. Scenes from 1950s screwball comedies notwithstanding, you won't be running up to the cruise ship's gangplank just as it's about to be pulled up and getting aboard, no matter how urgent your reason. But with a little research, you might be embarking Saturday on a cruise, even though you just thought about it on Monday, and you could save money as well.

Here are a few tips on how to find last minute cruises:

Last Minute Cruises: When to Try
You should start looking no later than a week before your desired date because cruise companies now must finalize and submit passenger lists 96 hours before the ship sails, under federal law. During peak travel seasons, such as holidays and school breaks, you'll find last minute cruises difficult to book.

Last Minute Cruises: Be Prepared
Nearly every cruise that departs U.S. soil will require you to have a passport, and some countries may require that you have a visa to disembark from the ship. Even if a particular cruise itinerary does not require you to show a passport, you will need a current government-issued identification card that proves your citizenship. Check with the cruise line for requirements.

Last Minute Cruises: How to find them
Turn on your computer and hit the Internet. You can check directly with a cruise line's site and see if any spots are available for the sailing you desire, or go to an online travel service such as Cruise Travel & Deals on AOL Travel. Just enter the relevant data and the service will connect you with available cabins on ships that meet your criteria.

Last Minute Cruises: Be Flexible
If you live in an area, such as Florida or California, that has multiple cruise ports within a day's driving, you'll have a lot more options for finding last minute cruises than someone who lives in a landlocked state. If you are in the latter category, you'll want to start hunting as soon as possible and be sure to check airfares; the cost might put you over your travel budget.

Last Minute Cruises: Get Help
If you use the services of a travel agent regularly, you can always call to ask what they have available for a certain date. He or she may know of deals that haven't been widely advertised to the general public, or have some inside information on which cruises still have openings because they haven't been selling particularly well.

Photo by Port of San Diego on Flickr
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