Cruise Buying Tactics: Commando Style

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Cruise vacations have always been a good value compared to travel by land. Try pricing the exact same vacation without the cruise ship.  Odds are staggeringly against land travel coming out ahead, just comparing the price of hotels, meals and transportation.  Forget the convenience, sailing experience and other parts of cruising that are harder to put a $ value on.  Cruises are a real deal.  Still, from time to time it’s a good idea to take another look at how we go about researching, planning and booking.  Here we take that fresh look, stripping away all the warm and fuzzy marketing ploys cruise lines get to draw us in and go for the kill.

Cruise CompeteUse a travel agent– it was good advice before, now it’s essential.  Your good travel agent will be on top of all this and have the best values, such that they are, available for you at a moment’s notice. This year, for example, there are a number of new ships entering service, potentially bringing a glut of available berths that need to be filled.  That might translate to lower prices on a cruise booked right now.

Research the right way– Surfing the Internet for pricing by potential cruise travelers was an activity that used to scare the death out of travel agents.  Surely they would be replaced by online internet cruise brokers with low overhead who would undercut them on pricing.  But that didn’t happen.  There were enough savvy travelers out there to keep travel agents in business long enough for consumers to figure it out: they can gain from using an agent and their contacts to get a better deal.  Now, surfing the Internet by potential clients is a wonderful thing as those potential clients come to the travel agent with knowledge of what is available, making the whole process more efficient.

Learn the ship–  Forget the price and date of a desirable sailing for a moment to consider the ship. Really look at deck plans, considering where public venues are in relationship to a stateroom category you might find attractive.  Forget the long list of features and activities on the cruise line website too. Study the deck plans to see where different venues are. Print a set of deck plans and cross off features you will probably never use.  Now take another look.  This new way of sizing up a ship may surprise you.

Skip the new ship– Traditionally, new ships bring the highest prices, especially before they are launched, and why not.  There was/is a percentage of cruise travelers to whom being on the new ship when it is first launched is really important.  But that percentage is shrinking.  A better thought pattern would be to go ahead and pay the deposit on that new cruise ship, forget the pricing for now then watch to see if it will go on sale later.  It probably will.  A good example can be found in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, strictly not discounted or included in any sale for the first six months of operation.  Still, a little more than half way through their first seasons, sale pricing started to apply.

Book far in advance– this has always been a good idea but is essential right now as last-minute “fill-up-the-ship” bargains dry up.  There are times when waiting until the last minute to book might have been a good idea.  But unless you want to sail in the next 30-60 days, forget it.  The cruise lines are holding fast or raising prices because the demand has increased which will soon translate into fewer last-minute great deals.  That Royal Caribbean’s Chairman has issued an edict that last minute discounts will not be offered in the future adds fuel to this fire.

Be patient- Book it and forget it is not a good idea as things change.  New promotions, discounts and programs that might apply later are not available now.  So keep looking and comparing values but be patient too.  Today, cruise lines pricing typically begins with no discounts available, adding them later if needed, to fill up the ship.  As much as we might like to believe that cruise lines offer discounts for Seniors, Military Members, Past Guests and/or Residents of certain states because they love us, the purpose is to fill up ships.

Make it a group cruise– Group cruises of yesteryear were almost always a better value.  Cruise lines loved them because they made filling up ships easier.  Then, about five or six years ago, cruise lines decided they did not need that group action quite so bad as the industry was beginning to mature and more travelers than ever were choosing a cruise vacation.  The good group deals dried up and so with it a focus on groups as a best value.  Then came the global recession, some bad luck at sea for a number of lines and that growth stalled a bit.  Back are groups now, almost as good as before and a very viable way to get bonus value on top of the very best deal available when booked as an individual reservation.

Cruise Buying Tactics – Commando Style

At the end of the day, it’s up to each traveler to insure they have the best value.  It’s an activity someone should do for every booking be they the savvy traveler who has the time or your travel agent who works on your behalf.  Take another look at your cruise buying tactics. It should not take long to see if a little attention will pay off with a lot of value.


CruiseCompete-LogoThis article is brought to by Cruise Compete. CruiseCompete.com allows you to easily compare multiple offers from Cruise Experts.

Flickr photo- ResoluteSupportMedia