Last Updated on September 15, 2023

How do cruise prices change over time?

Ever wondered how cruise lines change their cruise holiday prices over time and their strategy? Curious as to how cruise ship pricing is managed and how prices compare when the cruise first goes on sale, in the one to two years until the cruise, and just before the cruise? You might find this case study of interest!

2023 Update: Whilst this little experiment is now a few years old, it does still give you an insight into how cruise lines change cruise prices strategically. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful.

You can also find the 2023 to 2025 Price test here.

Latest cruise price changes in the pricing experiment

Case Study: cruise X521 from Southampton, leaving on the 20th of October 2015.

  • Booking via Iglu Cruises the cruise broker, rather than P&O directly, seems to mean the chance to get more freebies. Iglu often, for example, include free car parking (using their own reserved parking area to entice you) in addition to any freebies which P&O is offering.
  • With 5 months to go until the cruise, expect further price changes.
P&Os Arcadia ship

Trying to understand when the best time to book a cruise is, depends on many factors.

You might, for example, prefer to book early so that you can plan everything around the trip, including traveling with friends and family.

You might, on the other hand, be at the opposite extreme and prefer to book at the last minute, in the hope of getting a cut-price cruise.

What makes booking a cruise even more complicated and confusing though, is that most of the cruise companies seem to change the cruise prices every few months, all the way up until the cruise departs.

So, a little experiment. I am going to follow the pricing for one cruise and let you know how it goes by pasting the information below so you can also compare.

The cruise I am following is cruise X521 from Southampton, leaving on the 20th of October 2015. What I want to do is to follow the cheapest price for the trip. This post will be a slow burner in that I will add the latest price change every month, as we follow the price of one cruise so bear with me as this post develops!

Prices on 5th September 2014

  • Inside cabin: The cheapest price is £1,159 (same from Iglu Cruises and P&O directly)

Price from P&O Direct

Inside canin with P&O direct

Price from Iglu Cruises

Iglu cruising pricing strategy

Prices on 5th October 2014

Price from P&O Direct

Price from Iglu Cruises

  • Conclusion: No change in prices yet. Best price remains at £1,159. Nothing to get excited about yet, but watch this space in the coming months leading up to October 2015!

Prices on 5th November 2014

Price from P&O Direct

Price from Iglu Cruises

  • Conclusion: And finally the purpose of this post is beginning to make sense because we now have our first price change! The minimum price has jumped from £1159 to £1199. The price game has started and it will be interesting to see what happens next!

5th December 2014

  • Prices remain the same as November 5th so nothing exciting to report in the lead-up to Christmas. Hopefully, some big price changes in 2015 as otherwise this price test experiment will go badly wrong! I expect some big fluctuations for this fare in the coming months though.

Prices on 5th January 2015

Price from P&O Direct

  • P&O seem to have changed their site design and little but here goes. Here is the new lowest price:

Price from Iglu Cruises

  • Iglu has included a clear offer with the following included: Complimentary parking (they own their own parking area),  or free onboard credit.
  • Conclusion: The first big price change with both the agency Iglu Cruises and the cruise line itself, both lowering the cheapest cabin to £999, the lowest price to date.

Prices on 11th February 2015

BIG CHANGES! The big discounts have arrived and the offers are now on the table!

Price from P&O Direct

Price from Iglu Cruises

With Christmas over and with 8 months until the cruise departs, the big discounts we have been waiting for are nowhere. I knew it would happen and it was just a matter of when. On offer is:

  • A drop from £1159 now down to £899 (for the cheapest cabin)
  • The offer of free car parking or some onboard spending (this is not a new addition but combined with the new price this is the best deal on the cruise so far).

Prices on 5th March 2015

  • After a nice drop in the cruise costs in the last couple of months, the price jumps again back up to £979 per person (with free car parking or free spending on the boat). So for two people traveling, the total is £160 more for the most basic cabin.

Price from Iglu Cruises

Price Direct from P&O

10th April 2015

Price from Iglu Cruises

P&O Cruises price booked direct

  • Conclusion: Prices have remained the same as last month but expect some changes in the coming months. The waters seem choppy these days with price fluctuations now becoming more often as the cruise gets closer and closer.

9th May 2015

Price from Iglu Cruises

Price direct from P&O Cruises

Conclusion: Prices are falling and it looks like booking 5 months before departure is the best time so far, to book this cruise! By far the best price to date, down to £799 per person and with free car parking (worth around £80). £400 cheaper than available for in some previous months. As two people traveling together this is quite a significant difference.

12th June 2015

  • Prices for 12th June are the same as on 9th May on the Iglu Cruises and P&O sites, with identical offers. Iglu again this month is throwing in the offer of free car parking of free onboard spend

15th July 2015

  • Quite a STUNNING COST SAVING this month with a huge drop in the cost of an inside cabin against previous months. P&O have now introduced an ‘Early Saver’ fare and that combined with a sale, means that the cost has dropped to a stunning £699. On

Following the booking process through all the way to the choice of cabin, the price would have indeed been £699 per person.

P&O Direct

Iglu Cruises

16th July 2015

  • Prices jump back upwards after a few months of price drops. Prices are back up to £949.

P&O Price

Iglu August price

17th September 2015

  • Quite a big price rise as the cruise gets closer. The old idea of getting cheap late deals seems to be happening less with many cruises I am observing. As always. Iglu is offering the exact same prices as P&O direct, but Iglu is throwing in some extras which this month is free car parking or free spend onboard.
Free parking from Iglu with cruise
Free parking from Iglu with cruise

15th October 2015

  • Last-minute prices seem largely to be a thing of the past from cruise lines now. The problem of those booking late and traveling for half the price irritated too many regular cruise travelers and the cruise lines seem to have responded. The best time to book now from a few cruises I have analyzed is always somewhere in the middle of the availability of the cruise.
Paul Symonds