Information You Need To Find The Best Cruise Discounts...
The cost of your cruise vacation can be significantly reduced by considering many of the following and armed with this information you are better equipped to ask great questions, get exactly what you want and obtain the highest cruise discounts!
The Season you choose to travel will affect the cost of your cruise. The cabin you choose will cost more “in season” than it will “off-season”.
Keep in mind that there are year round cruises in the Caribbean but hurricane season is generally from June to November so you could miss some ports of call or be diverted to others should the weather turn unfavorable. Cruise discounts during this period should be to your advantage.
Best Cruise Discounts Due to Season...The “best” cruise discounts, due to season, will be during the fall, because September through just prior to Christmas sailings are essentially a “slow” period for the cruise lines. Keep in mind that this does not include Thanksgiving week, which will be priced at a premium.
Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Spring Break, and national holidays where kids are out of school, teachers have breaks, or summer holidays at drive to ports are prime times for the cruise lines. Even booking a year out may not result in much in the way of a cruise discount at holiday time, but at least you will get on board!!
Times of “International Crisis” may depress demand for cruising and travel in general. If you have the courage to keep traveling, as many have, without incident, you will discover that cruise lines may be offering a remarkable cruise discounts to keep their ships full.
ABC Agency Price
AC - Oceanview mini-suite with private balcony
BB - Oceanview stateroom with private balcony
DD - Ocean view stateroom
FF - Obstructed view stateroom
II - Inside stateroom
JJ - Inside stateroom
You may see some “added value” by a particular agency with group space on a sailing. This “added value” may take the form of additional amenities such as:
REPEAT PASSENGER SAVINGS PROGRAMS
The majority of cruise lines jealously guard and covet the loyalty of their past passengers. Each cruise line offers incentives (cruise disconts) for their past passengers (often referred to as Alumni) to remain with the cruise line and continue cruising on their ships. Some examples are:
Past passenger or Alumni cruise discounts can mean significant savings if you have sailed with that cruise line before. Always ask if there are past passenger fares available on the sailing you are interested in (assuming you are a past passenger).
If you are not a past passenger, consider traveling with friends that have sailed on that cruise line before. Most cruise lines will “share the wealth” by allowing a past passenger to book friends and family who have not cruised the line before, a past passenger fare as well. This may be limited to one or two extra cabins at a maximum but well worth investigating. On some sailings past passengers may receive cruise discounts of more than $1,000 per person!
Of special note here is Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival Corporation owns not only Carnival Cruise Lines but Holland America, Seabourn Cruises, Cunard Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, Costa Cruises and most recently Princess Cruises. They offer the VIP or Vacation Interchange Privileges™ program.
If you sail on any of their World’s Leading Cruise Lines™ you will be entitled to the same past-guest savings currently being extended by any of their cruise lines to their past guests. This means, for example, if you have sailed on a Carnival ship, you are eligible for past passenger savings on Windstar Cruises or perhaps a Holland America cruise if you choose.
From time to time, cruise lines will offer regional specials based upon geographic areas. You may find an offer, which is restricted as follow:
If you can prove residence in an area where the special is being offered, you may end up with significant savings. At times when a cruise line is faced with a yield challenge on their ships they may look for an area or area where they have not yet sold much space and then discount the space in that area to gain the extra business. They usually will not open the special to everyone because in certain areas they may have done well and frankly don’t want the hassle of clients looking for price changes!
The point here is that often, regional specials or cruise deals, may save you more than past passenger programs and agency group booking discounts. Ask your booking agent for the “best available fares” for the category you are looking for. Be flexible – if there is a regional promotion the week prior or subsequent to the week you want to go – change your plan and pocket the savings.
Yes - it does pay to get older when it comes to cruise discounts! Most cruise lines offer additional discounts (starting about 5% and going much higher) for passengers age 55 and over. Ask your booking agent if the particular sailing you are on has a Senior’s Promotion. Compare this price to any groups, regional specials and/or past passenger specials to come up with your lowest rate.
If you are willing to gamble a bit, you can possibly be upgraded to a higher category by booking into what is called a “category guarantee”.
The difference is that with a “normal” reservation you will receive an “assigned” stateroom and you will know the exact number a location of the stateroom.
Under a “category guarantee” you leave it to the cruise line to assign you a cabin just prior to sailing (anywhere from one week to three days prior to sailing). The advantage is you will receive at a minimum, the category you are paying for but you stand a good chance of being upgraded to a better category for no extra charge.
Sometimes and depending on the ship’s yield, this upgrade may be several categories. The only downside is if you want to avoid the bow or aft (very front or very back) you may be assigned there so it might not be worth the gamble to you.
There are several types of “category guarantees” to be aware of.
SPECIFIC CATEGORY GUARANTEE
Ship cabins are laid out on decks and are given category numbers or letters. You can select a specific category to guarantee and will receive the lowest rate for that category – you will get at least the category you guarantee but leave the cruise line the option to upgrade you without charge. For example, on Holland America, a category H stateroom is the minimum view cabin. If you select category H, you will receive at least an ocean view cabin, but may receive upgrades to more expensive categories without any upgrade charge. You won’t know your cabin up front but if this doesn’t cause you anxiety, it may be worth it to try for the upgrade.
Talk to your booking agent about how full a particular sailing is and look carefully at the deck plans. Some categories have very few cabins and if you can book a guarantee you will likely get an upgrade without having to pay more money!
A note about upgrades: An upgrade is basically moving you from a lower category to a higher category without charging you for the upgrade. Essentially with this cruise deal, you are getting a higher priced (not necessarily different layout) cabin than you paid for.
Some cruise lines (notably Princess Cruises) ask your booking agent at the time of booking whether you would be willing to receive an upgrade if one becomes available. Not a stupid question! If you are adamant that you want a specific cabin on a ship, ensure you tell your booking agent “no upgrades”. You generally have the right to approve the upgrade before they move you. Under many “past passenger” programs, an upgrade may be extended to thank you for your loyalty. This is not automatic but upgrades are generally extended to past passengers before “first time” passengers.
THIRD & FOURTH PASSENGERS IN A CABIN
If you don’t mind sharing your cabin with a third or fourth person, you can achieve significant cruise discounts for these passengers.
This is ideally suited for families, say, Mom and Dad, junior and his sister. Remember that the space available is generally the same as a double occupancy cabin and so may be constrained - but it is often better than paying the same double occupancy rate for another cabin.
You will receive one rate per person for the first two passengers in the cabin and then a discounted rate for the third and/or fourth passenger in the cabin. The discount will be on the cruise fare only. Port charges, taxes and air fare will not normally be discounted. In addition, if the third and fourth guests are children there may be a “kid’s rate” available. Generally, children under two will be free but you may have to pay port charges and taxes.
BOOKING ON BOARD
Once you are on board you may want to consider booking your next cruise with an on board cruise line representatives.
Cruise lines recognize the best time to sell you another cruise is while you are enjoying a present cruise. Often they will make available attractive offerings, cruise discounts or incentives for you, such as reduced deposit requirements, additional amenities or shipboard credits. The deposit is fully refundable and you will have locked in the incentives.
Some cruise lines will allow you to leave the ship and destination open and you can discuss alternatives with your booking agent once you return home.
The cruise line will advise the booking agent of your reservation and your agent will oversee the entire booking until the time of sailing. Your agent will also confirm to you whether the offer is indeed the best or whether there are other options you may wish to consider.
BACK TO BACK CRUISES
Many cruise lines offer alternating cruise between the Eastern and Western Caribbean, and you can stay on the ship extending your 7 or 10 day vacation to 14 or 20 days, visiting many different ports. Often there will be an incentive or cruise discount to do the back to back. It may not be much (anywhere from $100 to 10%) but it is a way to extend your vacation for less.
Cruise lines move their ships from and to different markets at specific times of the year or when a new ship enters the market and needs to be positioned to its home port. For example, April will see a large number of ships move from the Caribbean to the Alaska market. October will see the reverse. Often these sailings are long, and you may get significant discounts for taking advantage of the repositioning.
New launches may feature a unique itinerary as the ship positions from its port of construction to its port of operation and cruise discounts may apply to this type of sailing. A good booking agent will be aware of these type of opportunities.
Cruise operators release their sailing schedules one year or more from time of departure. Popular cruises, especially those during holidays, school vacations and the summer, sell out quickly -- and the cruise fares rarely go on sale. The farther out you book your cruise, the better the price you will get. This is generally fact - not fiction.
The closer it gets to sailing date the higher the price may be. Buyers are often deceived by "last-minute deals" where the "last-minute" deal price is still higher than the rate you would have paid if you booked a year and a half ago. It does not pay to put off booking in the hope you might get a lower rate down the road.
More often than not, the closer to the sailing date, the higher the price can go and there are fewer choices of cabins. The best time to book is when you know you want to go. It doesn't matter if the price goes up or down after you book, if you are confident and excited about going then you know you got the best rate at the time.
Also, some cruise lines will protect the pricing if they lower it, however they don't come to you. You need to watch the pricing after you book or have your agent do it for you. Besides the price and cabin availability, the cost of waiting may be missing the cruise altogether.