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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cruising’s Biggest Secret


You can find plenty of advice on the web on how to get the best price for your cruise. And some of it is on my own blog.

But what I recently uncovered is cruising’s biggest secret. The key to saving bucks—big bucks— is to hold off final payment and keep a watchful eye on the pricing. Here’s my story: 

December 2013: Booked a nine-day trip on Celebrity’s Constellation for December 2014. Put down a deposit (reduced deposit during promotion) and delayed full payment.

September 2014: Brought up same trip in travelocity.com; found there were still a lot of empty cabins. Did as if we were booking a new cruise, selecting the same room type and category. A senior discount (55 and over) is suddenly available where there previously was none.

Celebrity—like other cruise lines—will match the new lower price if it’s not in the penalty period. We call our travel agent, who calls Celebrity.
 
Result? A savings of $500!
 
Now this won’t always work. The Constellation is an older ship, the itinerary is longer than usual (nine days) and the trip sits right smack in the middle of the Christmas season, coming back just shy of the holiday, which is not too desirable for many people.
 
Another caveat: the cruise lines may not allow you to use more than one promotion. So if you booked with promotion, you may have to choose between the new discount or the old one.
 
But here are my suggestions on how to get a really great deal:
 
Book early to get the initial best price and best cabin (middle of the deck always goes first). You can always get your deposit back if you cancel before the penalty phase.
 
Put off final payment until just before the penalty period begins (this varies by cruise line and can sometimes be different over a holiday, so check its website).
 
As you near the penalty period, check out the pricing. Go to a website like travelocity.com or the cruise line’s site. Simulate booking a new cruise, pick a room with the same category and deck location as your current booking and check out the pricing.

If the prices have gone down, call your travel agent to have her/him match the price.

Consider checking other room categories as well. The prices might go down in some categories and not others. And you might even be able to upgrade for the same price or even less than your original booking.
 
Important note: you must do all this before the penalty period begins. If you try it during the penalty period, your travel agent will have to cancel your trip and rebook it, which means you may lose the cabin you selected. You’ll also have to pay a penalty, but you may still come out ahead.
 
So, with a bit of luck and a little extra work on your part, you may see some steep savings. And in the process, dig up the deposit for your next trip!
 
Musing’s Top Tip: Herein lies one of the values of a travel agent: someone who knows how to make these cost savings happen for you. But you must be proactive; most travel agents won’t be watching the ups and downs of your cruise pricing once you’ve laid down the deposit.