Are you curious as to how many people will be onboard your cruise ship?
Maybe you are hoping to score a last-minute upgrade or just want to relax on the lido deck with fewer people around.
It is pretty common for cruise ships to sail at full capacity, even if you are sailing during the shoulder season. In fact, you should not be surprised if your ship is actually sailing over capacity, as some cabins are able to accommodate more than two guests.
Of course, however, some sailings do not get completely booked. And even if they are, unfortunately, last-minute cancellations do happen.
Every cruise line, whether it's Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Disney, aims to sell out every cabin they can, as they do not make any money if the cabin is completely empty.
Since the cruise comeback following the pandemic, the demand has been greater than ever. Carnival Corporation & PLC, for instance, reported that their Q3 revenues hit an all-time high of $6.9 billion!
If you're wondering whether your sailing is full or not before you get onboard, here are some ways that you can check! Once you get on the ship, you can go to Guest Services and ask for an actual number. They are usually very forthcoming with this information!
Go online and create a mock booking
Before your cruise departs, you can head online and recreate your booking. This will tell you whether certain cabin categories are sold out, as well as a rough estimate of how many rooms are available within each.
Let's take this sailing onboard Carnival Freedom which departs on November 11, 2023. At the time of writing, the website indicates that all interior and ocean view rooms for this particular sailing are sold out. While this doesn't reveal how many people will be onboard, there are only two categories of rooms with availability!
Of course, you can also check a third-party website, too, such as Expedia, Cruises.com, or CrusiesOnly.
It is important to keep in mind that those who booked a guarantee rate might not have their actual cabin assigned to them yet, meaning the number of available cabins might be lower than what is being shown!
If you are cruising during a popular holiday, such as during the American spring break months or Christmas, you can bet that your ship will be pretty booked! This is because parents do not have to worry about children missing school, and they may not have to take as much time off of work. These sailings tend to be much more expensive, too.
It is important to note that this method, nor any other method, will provide you with an actual number of how many guests are booked onboard your specific sailing. It is just to give you a rough estimate of how many cabins are left.
Ask your travel agent
If you made your cruise booking through a travel agent, simply reach out to them and ask them about the availability. This can be a more accurate source of information, as they sometimes have access to rooms that are not published on a cruise line's website.
Referring back to the Carnival Freedom example, there may be an interior room that's available through a travel agency. The website, however, says that the category is completely sold out.
In addition to information about your sailing, there are numerous other advantages to booking with a travel agent. They can help you make pre-cruise travel arrangements, give shore excursion suggestions, and make reservations for onboard add-ons, like spa treatments, specialty restaurants, and more.
Make sure that you check after the final payment due date to get a more accurate answer
If you cancel your cruise before the final payment date, you will have fewer penalties than if you were to book after.
While the actual policies vary based on which cruise line you have booked, you are often after to cancel and only lose your initial deposit, rather than a fraction of the cruise fare, before the final payment date.
If someone fails to pay their cruise in full or decides to cancel, the specific room that they had reserved with the deposit will become available again.
There may be last-minute cancellations leading up to the sailing as well. Unfortunately, life does happen, and circumstances may arise that prevent someone from going on their cruise vacation. In the event this happens, their room will become available for booking again, even if it's only one week from the sailing date.
You should do a mock booking before the final payment date to see if your rate has decreased
Even if you are not interested in seeing how full the ship is, it is beneficial to occasionally check your rate, as some cruise lines have price guarantees, meaning that if the fare drops, they'll honor the lower price and adjust accordingly. This, however, can only be done before final payment.
Not all cruise lines and rates are eligible, though. If you, for instance, book a Pack & Go rate with Carnival, you will not be able to get your rate repriced. Those who booked an Early Saver fare, however, will get the lower price honored.
While you may not get an actual refund, you may get a generous amount of onboard credit to spend, which can help save you money on cruise add-ons!
Should you care if your ship is sailing at full capacity?
Truthfully, there is not much that you can do! While things may seem a little bit more crowded than if you were on a sailing with fewer people, cruise lines strive to book as many people on each sailing as possible.
That being said, one of the best reasons to care is if you're hoping to score a deal. If the ship and itinerary you are eyeing is pretty booked, you are less likely to see a significant price drop. Today, there are fewer last-minute cruise deals than before the pandemic, as ships are getting booked further and further in advance.