A popular cruise line has a new deal for $50-a-day sailings but there's a catch — travelers have to be very flexible

  • Holland America Line's new standby program offers spontaneous travelers $50-a-day cruises.

  • Travelers won't know if they'll have a cabin until about a week before the embarkation date.

  • Cruise fares will be more expensive in 2024 as more people flock to vacations at sea.

You could go on your next Caribbean cruise for only $50 a day. But there's a catch: You won't be guaranteed a stateroom until about a week before embarking.

The cheapest-per-day itineraries are generally transoceanic cruises. But these sailings, which are often 10 to 20 nights long with stretches of sea days and no land in sight, aren't for the weak.

Holland America Line has a solution for budget-minded travelers who prefer more conventional and less intense itineraries. Over the last two months, the cruise line has expanded its new standby program to include several 2023 and 2024 Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico itineraries leaving out of ports like Vancouver, San Diego, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The cruises on Holland America's list range from four to 22 days, all for only $49 a day (not including additional taxes and fees). It's a rare sight across the industry: Only 11 itineraries will sail for $50 a day or less in 2024, Tynan Smith, founder of cruise aggregator site Cruise Sheet, told Business Insider in October.

But like all great deals, there are some caveats. Similar to Frontier Airlines' $500 "all-you-can-fly" GoWild pass, flexibility is required.

Travelers who want to join an itinerary's standby list must pay the $49-a-day fare in advance. If a traveler is selected to sail, Holland America will alert them about a week before the embarkation date. If they are selected but can no longer go, their payment will not be refunded — they will only get their money back if they don't get off the standby list.

Once selected, travelers cannot pick their cabin. If they're lucky, they could end up with a balcony stateroom. If not, get ready for a windowless interior cabin.

While there are some outstanding restrictions, the program does offer one perk that could benefit families. The $49-a-day fare applies to the first two guests in a stateroom. If a group of three or four people joins the standby list together, the third and fourth guests will sail for free on select itineraries so long as they all share one cabin.

The Holland America Line cruise ship Amsterdam.
Holland America Line launched its Standby Program to fill cabins left empty by last-minute cancellations.David Friedman/Getty Images

This program wasn't created to fill empty cruise ships. The industry is currently battling the opposite problem: oversold cruise ships, ironically caused in part by last-minute bookings.

Instead, Holland America launched this standby program to mitigate the blow of "last-minute cancellations," which is a "unique challenge for our industry because a week before a cruise is too late to resell to most travelers," Dan Rough, the company's vice president of revenue management, told Business Insider in a statement.

According to Rough, this program is a "win-win" for Holland America and travelers living near the embarkation port. If a pre-booked guest has to cancel their vacation a week before sailing, standby travelers can fill this otherwise empty cabin, decreasing lost revenue.

Holland America's approach is a drastic shift from competitor Princess Cruises, which recently announced a move away from last-minute discounted cruises, Travel Weekly reported.

Looking ahead, a 2024 vacation at sea won't be cheap. Operators like Carnival Corp have already announced plans to increase cruise fares next year. One of the most hyped 2024 launches, Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, is expected to start at $260 per night per person.

Read the original article on Business Insider