Q: Once when on a cruise, a passenger told me if you go to the cruise ship the day it is leaving port, you can get a really good price for tickets. The nearest cruise ship is about 100 miles away from where I live, so I don't want to travel that distance to find out that what I was told is not true. Can you clear this up for me?
–Patricia Burkey, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
A: At one time, you would have been able to get day-of-departure discounts or walk-up tickets, but after 9/11, cruise lines stopped offering these deals because of security concerns.
However, when the date of departure draws close, the cruise lines are highly motivated to book empty rooms. What that means is, depending on availability, you MIGHT be able to find a good deal listed on the cruise line's own Web site, or on other discount sites, such as CruiseOne.com, CruiseBrothers.com, CruCon.com, or even LastMinute.com.
One way to keep yourself posted on last-minute deals and offers is to subscribe to the e-mail newsletters and alerts that many of these companies issue. You can often customize the messages to alert you only when cruises that depart from your home port become available.
Generally, you need to make reservations at least two or three days before the departure date. However, this requirement can vary slightly with each cruise line, so you'll want to touch base with them. Keep in mind that booking at the last minute can severely limit your options in terms of cabin location and destination.