Alaska and Caribbean cruise ship capacity is leading to prices slashed by up to 21% as major lines wrestle with over capacity – particularly among older ships.

While Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas are commanding high prices, the line’s other ships and Carnival, and Norwegian vessels are cutting summer prices to boost bookings, creating a tidal wave of discounts at the height of the season.

Royal Caribbean prices for an eight-day Caribbean cruise with a visit to Perfect Day private island fluctuate between $1877 and $2405. RCI is offering $600 off sailings in Alaska with up to 60% off second guest with kids sailing for $59.

More ships moved to the two top sailing areas because of geopolitical tension in the Red Sea and because lines could earn more money. The lines have been working hard to drive traffic to some of the world’s biggest ships and to their private islands.

Demand is up on pre-pandemic levels – but capacity is huge. Now they are having to discount heavily. Royal Caribbean’s seven-day June trips to the Caribbean and Bermuda are down 21% from last year, while Norwegian and Carnival have also had prices slashed by 12% and 11%, respectively.

As a result, measurement company AAA data shows cruises departing from the US are cheaper than last year. The 8% year-over-year increase in vessels heading to the Caribbean signals a potential market plateau.

Prices slashed in the Caribbean and Alaska

Princes slashed
Icon of the Seas

Nothing is changing any time soon with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas meaning most cruise operators are avoiding Red Sea routes, impacting supply and demand in other regions.

Cruise Passenger has been reporting for weeks that Australia is losing much of its fleet thanks to sailing issues like the Red Sea and higher prices elsewhere.

In Alaska, vessel numbers are up 9.3% year-over-year, leading to significantly cheaper prices than last year.

Royal Caribbean has had prices slashed for Caribbean itineraries for the third and fourth quarters, said Todd Elliott, CEO of Orlando, Florida-based Cruise Vacation Outlet, a travel agency.

“It seems more strategic on sailings that need a little more help,” said Elliott in a report by Reuters. He said cruises sailing around Africa instead of through the Red Sea are also being discounted.

Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corp, and Norwegian declined requests for comment.

Cruise operators have prices slashed on older vessels with newer ships coming onto the market, said an AAA spokesperson.

Some 202 vessels are sailing the Caribbean in 2024, an 8% increase year-over-year, according to Christian Savelli, cruise analytics director at Oxford Economics. “There is an over-representation of new vessels in the region,” said Savelli. “Rates seem to have reached a plateau.”

Cruise fares are similarly falling this summer in Alaska due to increased capacity.

Interior cabins aboard Carnival’s Alaskan summer cruises are selling for about 20% less in July and August than they were in the same period in 2023, said Cruise Critic, while Royal Caribbean’s Alaska trips are 6% and 12% cheaper in the same period for those months, respectively.

The number of vessels in the region are up 9.3% year-over-year according to Savelli.

Cruise line-owned private islands are a major draw card in the Caribbean and have been around in some form or another since 1977 when Norwegian Cruise Line treated guests to a trip to Great Stirrup Cay after purchasing a part of the island from the Bahamian government.

A private island gives cruise lines the opportunity to leave their brand’s mark across the globe, ensuring that their values and identity can be felt both at sea and onshore.

Take Royal Caribbean, for instance. Known for family-friendly fun on their ships, their private island CocoCay is no different, featuring hot air balloon rides, an incredible water park and adventure at every turn.