updated 12/8/2008 11:05:52 AM ET 2008-12-08T16:05:52

The deal
When it comes to travel, some things should never wait until the last minute (think booking holiday airfare) — however, booking a cruise vacation is an entirely different matter. Winter cruises to sunny ports can carry hefty price tags several months out, but savvy travelers who are flexible with their cruise line and itinerary can delay booking and watch rates come crashing down. We've found several such cruises, departing to the Caribbean, Europe, and more in the next two weeks to two months at rates as low as $79.

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Quick Bahamas cruises from $79 this January
The sunny Bahamas provide the perfect quick island escape for East Coast vacationers, and are cost efficient, to boot. Case in point: Check out these two incredible sailings from under $100 — a 2-night cruise from Miami to Nassau on Celebrity Century (departs January 8) is priced from just $79 for an interior cabin, or $99 in oceanview, while a 3-night cruise aboard Norwegian Sky to Nassau and the cruise line's privately owned island of Great Stirrup Cay starts from $99. That breaks down to as little as $33 per night!

Mediterranean 9-day cruise from $419 – up to 57 percent off this January
For cruisers who enjoy an itinerary chockfull of ports of call, this 9-day Mediterranean sailing may be just what the captain ordered. Starting from just $419 for interior cabins (oceanview upgrades go for just $30 more), the Norwegian Jade sets sail from Barcelona on January 16, and spends a full day at sea before calling upon legendary Casablanca. The itinerary follows up with a stop in the Moroccan city of Agadir, where passengers can spend the day lounging on golden sand beaches or camelback riding. Next up on the roster is a visit to Las Palmas, a modern port city in the Canary Islands, followed by a stop at Funchal in the Madeiras Islands (located just off the coast of Portugal). The final port of call before returning to Barcelona is Malaga, Spain, home to sights like a Picasso museum and Roman Theater. In addition to this great rate, get up to $100 in onboard spending when booking through Cruise.com.

Getting there: We’ve also scouted a great airfare deal to get you to the embarkation port in Barcelona for less. Check out thisfare sale on Iberia Airlines for round-trip fares to Barcelona starting from $400. Or, for more flight options visit our Europe Flight Deals page.

Weeklong Hawaii cruise on Norwegian from $839
You don’t have to leave the US to enjoy a tropical cruise — set sail on a weeklong cruise from Honolulu on Norwegian’s Pride of America, and lock in rates as low as $839. Spend each day on an island paradise, with the first port of call in Kahului, Maui. After passengers spend two days relaxing on Maui’s endless beaches, the ship continues on to Hilo, on the Big Island, where they can witness nature’s wonders in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Next up is Kailua, famous for its Kona coffee plantations, waterfalls, and black sand beaches. Before returning to Oahu, spend two days exploring romantic Kauai, the site of Waimea Canyon State Park. While the lowest priced cruise sets sail on December 13, other later embarkation dates are available at slightly higher rates.

Getting there: Save some cash for the luau and book a flight to Honolulu on the cheap, courtesy of these rock-bottom round-trip fares from $310, as offered by Northwest Airline.

Carnival Cozumel and Key West voyage from $179
This quick 4-night sailing on Carnival Imagination leaves from Miami, taking in a stop at charming Key West, where guests can get an up-close view of the coral reefs on a glass-bottom boat tour, or simply relax with a tropical drink in hand before heading to Cozumel, Mexico. Prices start at $179 — a whopping 79 percent off brochure rates — and are valid on four sailing dates in January. Oceanview cabins start from $219.

The dollars
All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Accommodations, meals, some beverages, entertainment, and port charges are covered in the cost. Government fees and taxes as well as off-boat expenditures are extra.

The catch
You better get moving,  the sailing dates are just around the corner.

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