Deal watch: Another major cruise line cut fares for fall sailings below $30 a day

Last-minute deals for fall and early winter cruises keep rolling in, as more cruise lines drop fares on short notice to fill unsold cabins.

MSC Cruises is the latest major cruise brand to post jaw-dropping deals for upcoming voyages on its website. On Friday, it was offering entry rates on at least one of its ships for less than $24 a day.

Specifically, the world’s third-largest cruise brand was offering a five-night Mediterranean voyage from Marseille, France, in December on Friday from just $119 — or $23.80 a day. Sailing is scheduled to begin on December 22, which means it is a Christmas cruise. These are usually the most expensive cruises of the year, not the cheapest.

The $23.80 per day rate is lower than what TPG was seeing from any major brand as recently as last week, when we highlighted a slew of Carnival Cruise Line trips on sale for as little as $26 per day. Carnival has offered unusually low fares for soon-to-leave fall trips in recent weeks, as has rival Royal Caribbean. The latter line was selling fall cruises this week for less than $100.

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Carnival, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises are the three largest cruise lines in the world, accounting for around half of all cruises taken worldwide.

The low fares offered by MSC Cruises from Friday were widespread. In addition to the $23.80 per day offer above, MSC Cruises was also selling five four-night sailings to the Bahamas in October and November on its website from $119 – or $29.75 per day.

Several other four-night Caribbean and Bahamas cruises on MSC Cruises ships were available from $129, or $32.25 per day.

Deeply discounted cruises include:

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  • A three-night MSC Preziosa sailing from Le Havre, France, to Hamburg, Germany, from $109 – around $36 a day. The departure date is November 4.
  • Four-night MSC Meraviglia cruises to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida, from $119 – around $30 a day. Departures available at this starting price include October 30, November 13, November 27 and December 11.
  • A four-night MSC Divina sailing to the Bahamas from Miami starts at $119, or around $30 a day. The departure date is November 28.
  • A five-night MSC Magnifica sailing to the Mediterranean from Marseille from $119 – around $24 a day. Departure date is December 22.

All super low fares above are only available for the lowest category cabins on each of the ships, which are all windowless “inside” cabins. But MSC Cruises also offers particularly low rates on ocean view balcony cabins on ships.

Related: Some cruise fares have dropped to as low as $26 a day as lines struggle to fill ships

Ocean view cabins (i.e. cabins with a window) on the four-night departure from MSC Divina on November 28 were listed on the MSC Cruises website on Friday for $179, or just $60 more than a windowless cabin. Staterooms with balconies on the sail were listed at $239. That works out to just $59.75 per day for a balcony stateroom.

All fares are base per person fares that include accommodation, meals and entertainment, but exclude port taxes and fees, which range from $75 to $125. Cruise lines usually advertise their fares without taxes and port charges included, but add these costs to the final bills at checkout.

Related: 6 Ways to Get a Deal on a Cruise

As is usually the case with cruise ship prices, per person rates are “based on double occupancy”, meaning they are only available to passengers when booking at least two people in a cabin. Customers who want to have a cabin to themselves will pay more.

Passengers who book most of the lowest fares available will also pay extra for things like Wi-Fi, alcoholic beverages and tipping fees during cruises. A more expensive fare category at MSC Cruises includes some of these extras. Also, flights to the cruise, if required, are not included in the rates. This can be a deal killer for Americans eyeing some of the low-cost European offerings, in particular.

Related: 11 Extra Charges On Cruise Ships That Will Drive You Crazy — And What To Do About Them

Yet even with most of the above extras factored in, the cost of cruises for the fall is particularly low compared to the rapidly rising cost of staying in a hotel or resort on land. This year, cruise prices have fallen far behind land accommodation prices, with some Wall Street analysts who cover the travel industry saying the differential is now between 30% and 50%.

Low fall cruise fares at MSC Cruises and other lines come as cruise lines struggle more than land resorts to return to normal occupancy levels in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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