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Sailaway Sale of Savings of the Century

Written by: Kuki

Can you believe  your luck? You’re getting ready to book your cruise and you find it just happens to be time for the “Sailaway Sale of Savings Lowest Prices of the Year or Ever Sale of the Century” with the lowest prices ever seen, plus reduced deposits, shipboard credits, discount coupon books, free upgrades, and a toaster oven with every booking, for one day only. And if you book in the next 7 minutes you get free air fare as well as pre-paid gratuities.

You make the calculations and find that it seems if you book right away they’ll end up paying you $17.97 for you to cruise with them. Sounds good! So you book it, and of course, to save a few dollars you don’t bother purchasing the travel insurance. What could go wrong, right?

Even to the most ardent industry watchers it can be quite a challenge sorting through all the promotions; everything always seems to be “on sale”, so how are we to know when there’s truly a great promotion for us to jump on?

I detest the promotions that advertise 50% , 60% or 70% off brochure rates. The last person who paid brochure rates was the guy who’d been found living in a cave with wolves for 38 years, and the first thing he did when found and once he learned to speak was book a cruise.

OK, I understand cruise brochures are printed so far in advance that the cruise lines don’t have any idea of what the price is really going to be. They are printed more to supply glossy pictures which will attract customers, and supply itinerary information (which often change as well). But, couldn’t they at least offer a glimpse or something closer to what the real purchase price may be?

Pricing is entirely dependant on “supply and demand”, and in no industry is this more true than with cruises. During this last recession prices have yo-yoed so dramatically you’d have to check pricing almost daily to watch for the bottom of the barrel price so you could jump to book, or get a refund or onboard credit as compensation.

This year the cruise industry executives are all telling us bookings are strong, price points are looking good (to an executive that means higher), and they are optimistic higher prices will hold and bring in more profits. And yet, the “sale” promotions run rampant; which to the layman should indicate somewhat the opposite.

So, what advice can I give to the potential cruise purchaser?

If your available vacation time is calendar specific, book as early as possible. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do a great deal of shopping, but if you’re dates are not flexible there is a good chance there will be high demand for the dates you need. It’s the cruise version of “Murphy’s Law”.

Even if you’re flexible in dates you can sail, but you do know where you’d like to sail to, booking early can be a very good strategy. Except in rare cases where the price quote you see is dependant on you booking and paying for your cruise well in advance, most cruise lines will allow you to cancel and rebook if a lower price is offered before your final payment is due ( historically 60-90 days prior to the cruise date).

Several cruise lines will guarantee you the lowest price right up until your sailing date. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has an “Early Booking Rate” that offers that guarantee, and if the rate drops any time before your sailing date, and you notice it, and notify them, you get a credit for the difference. That’s a good deal. The only caveat is there is penalty due if you have to cancel the cruise, or even change your sailing date.

Price alone should not always be your sole determining factor. It’s equally as important to feel you got value for your money. Value is a indefinable term, as it means something different to each of us and is affected by our individual, and sometimes changing circumstances.

The most IMPORTANT advice I can give in sorting through all the “sales” is to do so with the aid of a well informed, experienced Cruise Travel Agent. Gone are the days that you can find the best deal simply by clicking on your mouse and surfing for prices. I believe it’s crucial for everyone to take responsibility and use the surfing as a tool to make themselves well informed before they book any cruise.

But today, to find out what the real “lowest price available” is from any travel agent is, you have to have to have direct contact; either via email, phone call, or face to face.

One of the most noticeable growing trends seems to be people booking directly with the cruise lines. In my opinion that is the very last thing you should do!! It’s as bad as acting as your own lawyer in court, if not worse. When you are booking directly with a cruise line you are “hiring” someone who already works for the cruise line. If you can’t see the conflict of interest in that then you should be running for public office!

 

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

 

 

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Comments

Comment from Mike M
Time February 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Kuki:

I agree that if you have fixed vacation time then booking early is the best thing to do. I also believe that, unless you MUST have the cabin that is fifteen feet from the elevator; has morning sunlight; a view of the stern, port and starboard side of the ship and close to the Swedish Bikini Team in cabin 8905, you can take advantage of booking your cruise later.

I am not a real advocate of “last minute booking” but booking around final payment time can save you quite a bit. I watch for cruise itineraries that interest me and if they hit my price points I will book as late as 40 – 60 days before sailing. The price points I have are: $100 for a balcony, $125 for a mini-suite and $150 – $175 for a full suite.

For me booking a year or more out is hard. Heck: I rarely know what I’m going to be doing next week let alone next year. Also: There have been a few times where I have booked a cruise a year or more out only to cancel it because something “better” came along. I hate to cancel a cruise but I will not pass up an itinerary and value that I want more than the cruise I have booked.

I REALLY agree that booking with a cruise line is like buying a car from the manufacturer and paying full sticker price. It’s nice to buy it direct but you’re getting screwed on price and the service that you will get from a dealer. Heck, you won’t even get a “Chevy” hat. :)

A good travel agent will get you the best price and will provide added service and “amenities” that the cruise line will not. The amenities may be onboard credit, rebating part of their commission to lower the cost of the fare or just a bottle of wine. Even with the added amenities they will also go to bat for you with the cruise line. A cruise line agent will only go so far and it’s up to you to “Talk to the Supervisor” when you can’t get satisfaction. The operative word in “Good Travel Agent” is “good”. There are a lot of bad agents out there but there are far more good ones. I started with a bad one and learned what to look for in a good one. Nothing irritates you more than having an agent who tells you something that you later find out is pure BS and all they were doing is protecting their commission. I now have one and recommend her to anyone who wants to know.

One last thing: There are people who pay brochure price or service charges to travel agents. Either the agent tells them their “service” is so good that they can charge a service charge or they will take advantage of someone and charge them brochure. These are the folks that require people to pay them and not the cruise line so the customer never knows the true cost of the cruise.

I will put an addendum to my previous statement. There are high end vacation planners who rightfully charge additional for their service but if I used one I would need to have a lot more money than I now have and I would expect a perfect or near perfect vacation.

Take care,
Mike

Comment from peggy smith
Time February 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

on the 21st of feb. i will embark on my 53rd cruise—(i admit, i am addicted)—and i am writing to let you know that i disagree with a lot of what you said———first of all, i have a guy at a cruise line with whom i deal with directly and i have to say that i have been more than pleased with the deals he has gotten for me and my husband—-i am very reluctant to reveal any names here because i do not want to mess up a good thing—-i do think, however, that he is the exception to the rule—to us, he is worth his weight in gold—–next up is your early booking versus last minute—-if you are retired, as we are, and live in fla., as we do, you cannot beat last minute deals–we have cruised for as little as 185 pp dollars for a week—–you just have to keep surfing the web, sign up for a zillion cruise agencies emails, and anything else pertaining to cruising—you have to keep up—–and one thing i will share with everyone is—-book an inside cabin—go with the cheapest rate there is (if you are not claustrophobic)—you get the same food, same entertainment, same everything that the people renting balconies and suites—–believe me, we have tried them all on practically all of the cruise lines and so far, we just simply do not think it is worth it—-and i have been on enough cruises to know what i am talking about–we look at the prices on the luxury cruise lines (which we have tried) and believe me, we have regretted paying that money—we could cruise on crystal if we wanted too, but we look at the prices and say, my god, we can go on 3 or 4 cruises for that, and enjoy it just as much, if not more, because of the price that we paid, and, knowing that we can go on 3 to 5 cruises a year.
happy cruising everyone—just remember to do your homework and keep up with things
peggy

Comment from kuki
Time February 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Peggy,
While I agree with some of what you say, I’ll still disagree about booking directly with the cruise line. You may be very pleased with your PVP at the cruise line, but there’s NO WAY he’s booking you for less cost than the cruise line sells it for.
They set the price, but their employees are not allowed to discount their cruises for less! Whereas a travel agent is allowed to discount the prices with many of the cruise lines.

Also, it’s not only about price. When things go wrong I want my TA going to bat for me. An employee of the cruise line just isn’t going to represent my interests over those of the one who signs their checks.

Comment from Parrot Mom
Time February 13, 2010 at 5:55 am

Am in a tizzy.. just checked Celebrity/Soltice for a date and discovered that they have a lovely discount for “military”. Now, should I wait and book it this weekend… or wait until I go to a travel show in one week and talk to the cruise line directly ..I agree with Peggy… if you have a great travel agent..go with it..I DON’T get any special bargains and I’ll be darned if I’ll spend days searching for a savings of $100.00 when my t/a hems and haws and the saying is that this cruise line doesn’t want to discount…

Comment from Trip
Time February 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I am always curious why anyone would want to book via the cruiselines ,with order takers, rather than a ta. You are not getting the best deal, and, you are certainly not getting someone who will be your advocate, when a problem may arise…They are giving you a quote, plain and simple, not service.

A ta, will do research for you, get you discounts when applicable, and jump into the sea of sale pricing, and give you the best bottom line…They earn their commision.

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