The Truth About Cruise Pricing

Everything You Need To Know About Cruise Pricing

Anyone who travels much and has, on occasion, requested information from the internet or given their email address to a travel company knows about those ads in their inbox. Dozens of them claim things like:

  • Second person half price if you book with us! (actually if you book with anyone)
  • Our exclusive cruise savings! (that’s usually a big lie)
  • Plan your cruise with us get free wifi or a drink package! (it’s part of the cruise companies current promo)

The First Truth – Those above statements are all a lie or at least a serious misrepresentation. With a few rare exceptions, the price is the price (see the third truth below). The cost of cruising has a lot of price variability but at any given moment your cost is the same regardless of what travel agent you use or even if you book directly with the cruise line. The same goes for those free or discounted add-ons.

Much like pricing with the airlines, cruise prices fluctuate constantly based on how far away the departure date is and how quickly the cruise is booking up. When a cruise is first announced the pricing trends to the higher price with last minute bookings usually getting the best fares. The thing is those prices, at any given moment, are the official prices for everyone – independent agents, private individuals and large travel corporations.

The Second Truth – You get the best service if you use a travel agent along with the best price too. The cruise lines make higher profits if you book directly with them because they don’t have to pay commission, but there are no savings passed on to you. Travel agents are local and usually small businesses and getting to know an agent usually means you will get personalized service. They are much more interested in helping you as an individual. A recent travel industry poll discovered that well over 80% of travel agency bookings are with returning customers.

The Third Truth – There are specific situations, where an agent can save you money over the cruise line booking price. Everyone on a specific sailing is part of the cruise ships “group” and there isn’t any discount for just being booked on that cruise. A travel agent however gets a discounted price for booking a group (usually ten or more passengers) and they often share part of the discount by offering additional free perks or add-ons. Also if you deal with an agent affiliated with a large travel organization, they can often the advantages of a group booking for your cruise by combining all their agents bookings for that specific cruise into one group. Often we’ve gotten onboard credits, free tours or reduced pricing because we were added to an agencies group.

The Forth Truth – The cruise price can often be reduced after you book. Most cruise companies (not all) allow you to take advantage of a lowered price after you have booked and paid your deposit. Usually that window opens right after you book and closes when you pay the final amount, mostly at 90 days before the cruise. After 90 days you are subject to the cruise refund policy or your cruise insurance. This is another reason why you should use a travel agent. Many agents have automated systems that keep track of your reservation and will notify you of a price reduction without you doing anything. If your agent doesn’t have that capability, you should get in the habit of checking that cruises current price every few weeks and let your agent know of a decrease. Travel agents have contacts inside the cruise companies office that they routinely use for those price adjustments.

The Fifth Truth– You will usually get a better deal by booking while onboard a cruise. This is one of those rare times where the cruise line offers real exclusive deals. Usually they take the form of freebies like free gratuities, free drink packages or internet that you cannot get anywhere else. You also don’t have to worry about cutting your favorite travel agent out of their commission either because the cruise company will protect the agents account and commission. Just be sure and remind the onboard future cruise agent that you have a travel agent and their agency information.

While there are actually no exclusive discounts for any given travel company, there are a number of opportunities to save when booking a cruise. Over the years we have often saved between $500 and $1,000 by keeping track of the cruises changing price. We also never miss an opportunity to book a new cruise while on board.

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