When planning a cruise vacation, we take a lot of time picking the ship, itinerary and sailing date that is a good fit for family, friends and those we travel with. Once that is decided, we move on to finding the best price and often look to sale pricing for the best deal. Stopping right there, that’s a pretty good strategy that often leads to a good value and wonderful travel experience. But as cruise pricing becomes more complicated and ‘sales’ more restrictive, reading the fine print can often be the best first place to start.
Whether using a travel agent or going it on our own, getting the best value at the time we buy is a big concern for many cruise travelers, and rightfully so. Getting it wrong can cost us $hundreds if not $thousands that could be used elsewhere; for shore excursions, onboard expenses or making other travel dreams come true.
Flashy headlines promising ultra low fares don’t fool us anymore; we know there are taxes and other fees to pay. A promise for a boatload of onboard credit is exciting, unless the price of the cruise was raised as much or more than the credit we’ll get from booking during any given promotion.
So how do we know we have the best possible value at the time of booking?
Before calling that travel agent or making a click-to-buy purchase, read the fine print first, before any other text in the online ad, mail offer or magazine promotion. That’s where we’ll find the meat of it all. Without the hoopla, beautiful photos of marvelous places we will visit or video of ships, staterooms, onboard activities and more, we’ll get right to the point in very logical, unbiased terms.
Sure, it can be a boring read that we think just not worth the time. But it is. In the fine print we may find that the fabulous offer that drew our attention has restrictions that might come back to bite us later. The fine print can eliminate moving what is currently a fabulous deal to another offer down the line which might be better. Restrictions on combinability may keep us from getting an even better value later too.
Not all that long ago, cruise lines were eager to grant new, better deals to bookings already in place. After all, we could always just cancel and re-book if the cruise line balked at granting us the better deal. Now, an increasing number of cruise lines do not allow canceling and rebooking and there is little consumers can do to get around it. After all, we are required to give them our full legal name and date of birth to book in the first place.
Does this mean we should pass up a good deal that has restrictions that might come back to haunt us later? Not at all. But knowing the real deal often takes a look at the fine print which will have the details, restrictions, and other important information we just have to take the time to read and know.