How to grab the best cruise deal

//How to grab the best cruise deal

NCW2012small.jpgCruise fares have never been so low. The economic situation, the Costa Concordia effect and even the Olympics have all driven prices down this summer.
With their all-inclusive meals, a variety of entertainment on tap, holidays at sea have been good value for years. Now they are unbeatable. But how do you ensure you get the best deal? Book early, or wait for a last-minute bargain?
It all depends, and the market is changing fast.
Graham Dullop, director of Cruise Club International, told Travel Weekly recently:: “Previously, people would queue up to register for the following year’s brochure when it was launched. There aren’t the same queues now.”
Rhe cruise lines would dearly love to have passengers putting down their 15 per cent deposits months in advance rather than leaving it late. Cunard and P&O were the first to make a move this summer, introducing a price promise which guarantees that if the Vantage Fare is reduced before sailing, the saving is passed on.
It’s not paid back as cash in hand, but in the form of a benefit such as a cabin upgrade, or a credit to the ship-board account, which can be used to pay for drinks, excursions or extras such as spa treatments.
Not every fare reduction qualifies early bookers for the benefits, however. There’s another category, now called Getaway Fares; if the line introduces these – which require payment in full and are subject to a 100 per cent cancellation charge – there’s no refund payable on the Vantage Fare.
The idea is similar to the policy which over-50s travel operator Saga has employed for some time – with fewer restrictions.
It was quickly followed by others, including Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic. Fred Olsen Cruise Line, which has also toyed with short-term and limited-number deals on all-inclusive drinks packages, introduced a limited scheme with more exclusions than UK Border Control.
I have seen suggestions – as yet unconfirmed by P&O – that before long passengers booking the cheaper fares will not qualify for frequent cruiser loyalty points, will not be able to select a specific cabin, and will have no choice on their dinner table allocation.
It will become more difficult to secure a good deal without committing early, which is only likely to make it more difficult to attract holidaymakers who have never set foot on a cruise ship before.
For the converted, however, the one sure way to get the best deal is to book the next cruise while still on board ship.
This usually requires a lower-than-usual deposit, guarantees a choice of cabin, and brings extra benefits. The latest offer from Fred Olsen, for example, promises on-board credit of up to £300 in return for a £100 down-payment.
Is there a cheaper way to buy holiday money? If confirmation is needed that this sort of deal is a real bargain, it comes with Carnival’s announcement that it is dropping its own similar scheme later this month.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:43+00:00 17 September 2012|Cruise Deals|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Liz 23 September 2012 at 6:10 am - Reply

    I agree that booking early seems to be the best bet on cruises. Even if a cruise line doesn’t offer credit if the price drops, I’ve found just calling and asking is often enough to get an upgrade or onboard credit. The cruise lines are good about keeping customers happy!

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