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Cruises could be this summer’s cheapest travel option with itineraries going for as low as $29 a day

Princess Cruises

  • Taking a cruise could be your cheapest vacation option amid a summer of expensive and chaotic travel.
  • There are currently 45 cruises sailing for $50 a day or less through 2022. 
  • Cruise Sheet has seen a 17% drop in average cruise fares compared to the same time in 2019.

Vacationing this summer has already shaped up to be “hellish” and expensive. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights, gas prices have soared to record highs, and some hotel rates have climbed past pre-pandemic levels.

But amid these skyrocketing prices, chaotic travel stories, and inflation, there’s one glimmer of hope for budget travelers still looking for a relaxing getaway this year: cruises, many of which are sailing for under $100 a day. 

A flurry of last-minute vacations at such discounted rates probably sounds too good to be true. And during most other circumstances, it is. Travelers often book their cruise trips at least a year in advance. But this time last year, the cruise industry and eager cruise goers were still battling continually changing restrictions and sailing protocols amid COVID-19.

In the last few months as travel and vaccine restrictions have eased, many cruise lines have begun increasing guest capacity and bringing their fleets back into operation for 2022 sailings. And because these companies haven’t had the “normal amount of time” to sell cabins, cruise lines are now discounting their itineraries to entice travelers, Tynan Smith, the founder of cheap cruise aggregator Cruise Sheet, told Insider.

Cruise Sheet has seen a 17% drop in average cruise fares from June 1 to July 13 compared to the same time in 2019. “These aren’t the absolute lowest prices I’ve seen, but there are [now] more low prices than I’ve ever seen,” Smith said, noting that he’s come across a cruise for as cheap as $29 a day in the past month. 

According to Smith, Carnival Cruise Line has traditionally offered more affordable itineraries: One of its cheapest cruises in 2022 currently starts at $49 a day. But now, there are unusually inexpensive daily rates — under $80 a day — on cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Holland America Line as well.

“During times of rising inflation, cruising is even more attractive to our guests,” a Holland America spokesperson told Insider in an email statement. “With the cost and recent challenges with air travel, we are seeing strong interest in cruises that are a short flight or drive from guests’ homes.”

Through 2022, there are 45 cruises sailing for $50 a day or less, Smith told Insider, with another 2,000 going for under $100 a day. In comparison, hotel rooms in the US hit an average daily rate of about $153 between late June and July, according to data from hospitality analytics company STR, Hope King reported for Axios.

A vacation for under $100 may seem suspiciously cheap, but customers still be get the typical cruise ship amenities that’ll blow most motels and hotels out of the water like large swimming pools, lounges with views of the ocean, buffets, and theaters.

Travelers have been scrambling to book these deals. Last-minute bookings with cruise and travel agency World Travel Holdings are up 55% compared to the same time in 2019, David Crooks, the company’s senior vice president of product and operations, told Insider. And every month for the last three months, Cruise Sheet has seen a record number of bookings, primarily 2022 itineraries, Smith said.

“I tell anyone that’s interested in going on a vacation right now that it’s a great time to go on a cruise, price-wise and because ships aren’t full,” Crooks said, adding that its customer survey scores are higher than he’s seen before. “People are not only getting a great value, they’re getting a really good experience.”

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