Now You Can Take a Cruise for $49 a Day — but You Might Not Want To

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A woman on a cruise looking at the ocean.
Zigres /

Go on a cruise for less than the price of a weekend trip onshore?

It’s now possible with one cruise line, although it will require some last-minute scrambling.

Holland America Line is using a new method for booking rooms called “standby booking.” Travelers can book a room at a steeply discounted cost — $49 per day per person, excluding fees, taxes and port expenses — in exchange for joining a standby list.

By comparison, the average cost of a U.S. hotel room is about $160 per night.

The catch is that travelers on a standby list won’t know whether they’ll be accepted for a cruise until days before it sets sail. Holland America explains:

“7-2 days prior to embarkation our standby list will be reviewed. If we have space to confirm standby bookings, we will let you know to pack your bags! If we are unable to clear standby bookings, we will notify you no less than 2 days prior to departure.”

Standby bookers get refunded if they don’t get a room on a cruise due to a lack of vacancies. But travelers booking through this program don’t get refunded if they back out.

Another downside: Travelers who book this way don’t get to be picky and can expect an inside cabin — although The New York Times reports there have been instances where an ocean-view cabin was assigned.

As Holland America explains it:

Guests are charged for an interior stateroom category … however, you may be assigned any stateroom category up to a verandah stateroom, based on availability. Guests are not able to pre-select a stateroom category at time of sign up.”

Going the path of standby booking means more than just taking the leftovers, it means taking a gamble and being ready to jump into action. If you don’t live near the port of departure, you’ll have to find a way to get there on short notice.

Still, standby booking can be a great opportunity for those who have the flexibility to do it and either live near a port or can manage a last-minute flight.

If you are undeterred by the downsides, visit Holland America’s Standy List Program webpage to learn more.

Other ways to save on cruises

No other cruise lines offer standby booking at this time, according to NYT. Cruise lines like Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian do, however, offer last-minute deals on their websites.

Travelers can also save money on cruises by taking advantage of “wave season,” which typically runs from January through March. It’s like the cruise industry’s Black Friday, when cruise lines entice travelers to book early for special deals.

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