A few years ago, we sailed on a Eastern Carib cruise from Miami. In talking with a lady at the dinner table, she said she cruised about every other month. Of course, we and others were interested as how she could do this.
She said she lived in Miami, and was familiar with comings and goings of the many cruise ships.
She said that she would call a cruise line local office, and ask about space on the cruise leaving in a couple of days. Usually there was unsold space available. So, she would book. On this particular cruise (NCL), her fare for the 7-day cruise was $150!
This is a common "urban tale" that I suspect has some truth to it for certain people. But these days one day is not enough. I am pretty sure the lines need at least 48 hours. Plus, I doubt you can just "call the cruise line."
I suspect she knew who to call - probably a travel agent, who would access the databases of various cruise lines and look for space - then she would call them up and make an offer.
A number of years ago it was common to go to the pier, on the day of the cruise, and get a great deal. You can't do this anymore.
However, there are many local, last minute (actually last days) specials that the cruise lines will run for locals. You can see many of these in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa papers. Some of these are $299 deals.
If someone takes advantage of this they can easily cruise four or five times a year without blowing the retirement fund.
I do have to add that I am seeing fewer and fewer of these deals.
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Several years ago, my group of 6 girlfriends took a last minute cruise out of Miami. We booked the trip the week before (5 days) for $99/each plus fees for outside cabins. What a deal! Of course, you must be flexible and be able to jump aboard. We figured after the first day, the rest was free.