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Why Carnival's cruise prices keep rising


The demand for cruising is at an all-time high, with companies such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian reporting record-breaking bookings. 

"We are hitting records on top of previous records, which clearly tells us the strength and demand we have been building is continuing into next year and beyond," said Josh Weinstein, Carnival Corporation's President and Chief Executive Officer during the company's 2024 second-quarter earnings call. 

"...In the last three months," he continued, "not only did we take more bookings for post-2024 sailings than we did for in-year sailings, we set yet another record for the most future bookings ever taken during the second quarter." 

Read more: Carnival Cruises Tips & Tricks


Weinstein added that the company has received over $8 billion in customer deposits for cruises departing in 2025, shattering last year's record by $1.1 billion and indicating that the cruise industry's growth trajectory remains robust. They're also seeing global momentum, with strength in their North American and European brands. 

Carnival Corporation is capitalizing on the momentum, having recently ordered its first new builds in five years. The two new Excel Class ships are scheduled to be delivered in 2027 and 2028, consistent with the company's measured capacity growth strategy. 

Factors contributing to the demand include enticing onboard amenities and the overall popularity of cruise vacations. According to the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) 2023 State of the Industry Report, 88% of Millennials and 86% of Gen-X travelers who have cruised before say they plan to hit the high seas again, indicating that the demand won't decrease anytime soon. 


With increased demand, however, comes higher ticket prices. As cruise fares are demand-based, prices typically rise when cabin availability decreases. 

Read more: Carnival Cruise Line Guide

Even though cruise fares are increasing, cruising still remains a great choice for budget travelers


According to Carnival's website, the cheapest fare for a 7-night cruise to the Caribbean in July 2025 is onboard Carnival Magic's July 13 sailing. For just $3,316, a family of four could secure an interior cabin on a weeklong voyage to San Juan, Amber Cove, and Grand Turk. 

The price includes more than just accommodations. In addition to unlimited meals in the complimentary restaurants, you can enjoy original production shows in the ship's theater, trivia, youth programming, mini-golf, water slides, access to the pools and fitness center, and more. 

While there are some incidentals that many cruisers add to enhance their time onboard (i.e., shore excursions, drink packages, Wi-Fi, and specialty dining), there are ways to keep your extra spending to a minimum.

Read more: 9 reasons why cruises are a better value for your next vacation

guy's burger celebration

Instead of, for example, booking excursions through Carnival, look at offerings from third parties. Even better, plan your own days ashore. Take a taxi from the cruise pier to a nearby beach and give yourself a budget for food and drinks. 

Moreover, skip the specialty dining. Carnival's ships have a plethora of complimentary options, ranging from juicy burgers from Guy's Burger Joint to fresh tacos from BlueIguana Cantina and nightly three-course meals in the Main Dining Room. 

Typically, the newer the ship, the more options you will have. Carnival Celebration, for example, also has Big Chicken, which dishes up crispy chicken sandwiches and hand-cut fries; ChiBang, the Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant where guests can eat one free meal; Street Eats, the open-air tribute to delicious street food; and Cucina del Capitano, Carnival's family-style Italian restaurant that's free on the first visit. 

bistro onboard celebration

Of course, the newer the ship, the higher the fare, which is something to remember when shopping for cruise vacations. It's easy to stretch budgets further by sailing on older vessels. In July 2025, a weeklong cruise on Carnival Jubilee, the newest Excel Class ship in the fleet, starts at $1,189 per person, while sailings on Mardi Gras begin at $1,199. 

Read more: 11 foods you must eat on a Carnival cruise

Prices may seem even higher moving forward than they were a few months ago 


Effective July 1, California's new consumer protection law changed how cruise lines advertise their fares in the United States. Now, all advertised fares must include port fees and applicable taxes. 

The change enhances transparency, providing prospective cruisers with a clear price upfront, rather than leaving them surprised by additional fees later in the booking process. 

Now, if you go to Carnival's website and see a 3-night Bahamas cruise advertised for $329, you can easily calculate how much the fare will cost, including taxes and fees. The fares themselves, however, are not any higher as a result of the law. They simply include all required taxes and fees upfront. 

Renewed importance of booking your cruise in advance


With the record demand Carnival is seeing, inventory is selling out further in advance, leaving guests with fewer cabin choices, higher prices, and fewer last-minute deals. 

Not only does booking early help ensure you get the best rate, but you also have more time to save up for the cruise. 

When you make your reservation, you only have to place a deposit, rather than pay the entire fare upfront. The final payment date varies based on the duration of your sailing. For cruises 5 nights or less, it's 76 days before sailing. It increases to 91 days prior to sailing for cruises 6 nights or longer. 

Read more: 15 things I wish I knew before setting foot on a Carnival ship


If you book a 7-night cruise departing in September 2025, your fare won't have to be paid until June 2025, so by thinking about future vacations, you don't have to worry about financing your trip at the last minute. 

Plus, you'll have more rooms to choose from, as there will be more availability for sailings further away. You will not have to account for pricey last-minute airfare, either. Sometimes, securing flights a few weeks before sailing can negate the savings of a cheap last-minute cruise. 

"This is not pent-up demand, it is the compounding effect of building increased consideration in our cruise brands over time and improvement in our yield management techniques to translate that demand into higher ticket prices. And it is further evidence of the strength of our consumer," Weinstein remarked. 

Read more: How Far in Advance Can You Book a Cruise?

The increase in demand is being seen throughout the cruise industry

RC nightlife

During Royal Caribbean Group's 2023 fourth-quarter earnings call in February, Jason Liberty, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, said "...while our capacity is up 8.5% year over year, we have less inventory available to book in 2024 than we did a year ago for 2023 and half as many staterooms left in [the first quarter]."

Liberty also revealed that Royal Caribbean Group had a record-breaking wave season, with rates and volume booking significantly ahead of time compared to 2023. 

During the company's 2024 first-quarter earnings call a few months later, Royal Caribbean Group stated they were seeing "very strong" demand. 


"Demand for our leading brands and the incredible experiences they deliver continues to be very robust, resulting in outperformance in the first quarter, a further increase of full-year earnings guidance, and 60% expected earnings growth year over year," Liberty said. 

The result? Higher cruise fares in 2024 than at the beginning of 2023. If you're looking to sail on Royal Caribbean's newest Icon Class, be prepared to shell out at least $1,640 per person.

Read more: 15 trends in cruising you should know about

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