Cruise Pricing Trends|
Last week, all of the cruise lines eliminated the fuel surcharges effective almost immediately. They are now offering onboard credits for people who paid fuel surcharges for cruises sailing in the near future. Charging customers for fuel surcharges could come back if the price of oil goes up again, but right now it does not appear likely that will happen anytime soon, although it could certainly happen when the economy turns around again.
The cruise lines still need to pay for fuel, however, and the fact is that the onoard credits they now have to give every passenger are now a significant amount of money they will have to pay out over the next year. To make up for it, expect the prices of cruises to go up in the very near future. The days of $329-week Caribbean cruises may be gone very soon.
Right now, it already appears that most 2009 cruises are back to $499 - $599 category - but that is without the $70 per person fuel surcharge. This is still a bargain. Even better, the balcony cabins are not selling at the premiums they formerly did. A cruise starting at $499 has balcony cabins available for $789 and even suites for $999.
One special bargain of note right now is the best pricing I have ever seen on Royal Caribbean's favorite mega-ships of the Voyager-class. These ships have the ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, in-line skating and Royal Promenades. They are smaller than the Freedom-class (which come with FloRiders and Water Parks) but they are still very fun ships and have been favorites of cruisers for a decade now.
For the first time we are seeing them selling for $499 (inside) and as low as $799 for a balcony stateroom. This is for dates in January and February, 2009. The same ships are priced much higher for the summer months right now, so I would not be shopper for summer cruises yet.
By the same token - these same ships are actually more expensive for December 2008 cruises, which only happens if the ships are filling. So, while things are a little slow, the cruise lines do NOT appear to be in dire straits by any means. Things are rollin' along in the cruise business.
So, as I look at pricing this morning, it appears the best deals are in January and February, which means ships are still selling out due to close-in price cuts (to the point where you now pay more to cruise in December 2008 than Feb, 2009.) - However summer prices have not dropped yet.
This means the key to cruise shopping right now is to look one to three months ahead and simply look for bargains. This is different from a year ago when the best prices were had by booking a year early. That concept is still only true for the very most popular ships: Celebrity Solstice or Oasis of the Seas.
Here is a tip on Oasis - the ship is already more than 30% sold out for 2010 (it debuts Dec 2009) - But that includes early bookings made before this economic tumble. Sales have slowed.
Right now the line still has many groups holding space on the ship so prices probably will not change drastically until March when the group holdings expire. At that point Royal Caribbean will take back any unsold cabins and re-price them for one on one (also called F.I.T.) pricing. If there is going to be an initial price drop on Oasis, it will be modest and likely happen in March. After that, I would not expect to see another drop unless the ship does not sell out its first 6 months by December (unlikely). Chances are, the ship will remain at March premium prices until autumn of 2010, and then it will become a lesser premium price.
Some may disagree - some people are saying it is "too big" and that it won't sell well. I think these people are crazy. It is going to be the most popular cruise ship ever. Those "too big" people are never right.
Naturally, the economy is key. If home prices don't improve, the stock market pays no dividends and credit doesn't loosen then cruise prices will stay low. But if there are enough people to fill ships world-wide and the demand is there, then prices will remain the same or even go higher.
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