In the middle of their January sale – slogan “What you see is what you get” – Royal Caribbean is advertising 11-night cruises to Spain, Portugal and the Canary islands for a bargain price £749.
Pretty good deal, isn’t it? Sail from Southampton, visit six ports of call and enjoy four sea days taking advantage of all the facilities on board the Independence of the Seas. That means an ice rink, surf simulator, theatre, disco, countless bars, shopping on the Royal Promenade, and a selection of restaurants including a Johnny Rockets burger bar and the Chops Grille steakhouse. All for just £68 a night.
Must be the best deal you can get. As the not-so-small print says: “At Royal Caribbean International, we prefer straight talking. After all, life’s complicated enough without having to pull out a calculator to work out the cost of your holiday . . . For that kind of value, why not?”
I’ll tell you why not. Turn to Page 50 of today’s Daily Mirror where you’ll find another ad – headed “The Official Royal Caribbean Sale” – offering an 11-night cruise on Independence of the Seas, sailing from Southampton to the Canaries.
The fare is just £695. Don’t bother pulling out a calculator – that’s just over £63 per night, for departures on March 14, September 28 and October 9.
This time the advertiser is Reader Offers Ltd, one of the UK’s biggest travel agents specialising in cruises. Quite how they can sell the same voyages for less than the actual operator is a mystery to me – even if that deal is available only until January 13.
But further investigation baffled me even more. I discovered the same cruise being offered on the Royal Caribbean website for £699, including a five per cent discount for booking online (see above). Put your calculators away – it’s impossible to get to £699 by taking five per cent off £749.
Straight talking? I’m not so sure – the permutations are making my head spin. And bear in mind that so far we have simply been comparing the base price for two people sharing an inside cabin. Goodness knows where we’ll get to if we start analysing the cost for a family of three in a balcony suite or four occupying inter-connecting cabins.
Can Royal Caribbean settle on a fare which will be charged across the board, by themselves and their agents, or do the prices change on a daily basis depending on demand and competitor activity?
Having said all that, there is another fact to face up to despite the quibbling over a few quid here and there.
And that is simply that a cruise holiday, especially one like this with everything that is included, and without the need to put the family through an airport ordeal, must be one of the best deals you can get.
- UPDATE: Further research uncovered an even cheaper deal for the March 14 departure of this no-fly cruise to the Canaries. It is available online from several agents for the same £699 fare which Royal Caribbean are promoting. But Iglu Cruise are selling it for £645 – £59 a night. Can anyone beat that?