The no-money-down way to set sail soon

A seven-day cruise exploring the Caribbean is calling your name, but without knowing your schedule a year in advance, you don't want to lose your deposit in case you end up not being able to go. Is it possible to book a cruise without a deposit?

The details on deposits

You need to place a deposit when booking a cruise to hold your cabin. The deposit amount varies based upon the length of the cruise and the cruise line. As an example, Carnival charges a $100 deposit per person for a two- to three-day cruise for a double, triple, quad or quint, which must be submitted 60 days prior to sailing. A single occupancy deposit is double that amount. Longer cruises require a greater amount ($150 to $400) due 75 or 90 days in advance. Royal Caribbean charges a $200 deposit per stateroom for cruises up to five nights, $500 for seven to nine nights and $900 for 10 nights or longer.

Cruise lines have different policies regarding deposit refunds. Some will not refund the deposit if the ticket is canceled without trip insurance. Others will refund the deposit at 75 or 90 days prior to departure. For example:

  • Carnival will not refund deposits for the Early Saver, Early Saver Last Call and Super Saver fares but will refund deposits for Funtastic Savings and Fun Select fares. 
  • Royal Caribbean will refund the deposit for cruises five nights or longer no less than 90 days prior to departure and 75 days prior to departure for cruises one to four nights. 
  • Norwegian will refund the deposit for cruises up to six nights 75 days prior to departure, and 90 days for cruises that last more than seven nights. Princess will refund the deposit 75 days prior to departure for cruises up to 30 days.

Cruises with no deposit

One way to avoid paying a deposit is to book last minute. Carnival and Norwegian, for example, will not charge a deposit 90 days or less before the cruise. Room options might be limited, and it is often necessary to call the cruise line to secure a room instead of booking online. This option is great for people who are unsure of the exact dates they can travel until shortly before the vacation.

Another way to book without a deposit is to join the Loyalty Club. Members enjoy benefits such as no deposits on up to two cruises, and it's free to sign up. The website will defer the deposit, up to $1,500 for eligible cruises of three nights or more when booked 110 days prior to sailing. Only two reservations at a time are eligible for no deposit.