A cruise can be an excellent option for a holiday, especially if you want a reasonably good idea of what you are going to pay up front. However, when you start looking at what a cruise will cost it can be significantly different at times. The reality is that cruises prices fluctuate based on numerous publically known and unknown factors. Sometimes knowing about some of these factors can help you to make better decisions when booking a cruise.
When you look at a brochure from the travel agent for cruises, the price is almost never accurate. Often the price quoted in the brochure for a cruise is more than you are likely to pay. The reason for this is that the brochures must be printed months if not over a year in advance.
Mostly, the price you will see in the brochure is something of an inflated price. There are times that you may end up paying the price in the brochure or potentially even more. But when setting a brochure price, there are many things that could impact the ability to offer that price. I may be guessing a little here, but it would be better to put out a high price up front and be able to discount it later. There would be a lot few disappointed customers that end up paying more than expected.
The number of bookings and subsequent remaining availability can have some impact on the price. If a cruise is popular expect to pay more for a cabin. If a cruise gets close to being fully booked and there is limited availability the remaining cabins will be more expensive. There is no benefit to discount the remaining cabins unless it is very close to the sailing date.
On the other side of this point if a cruise is not selling well there is a chance you will see it discounted. At the core, this is likely based on the nature of supply and demand. However, at times I think you will see the potential for some artificial variances in the supply and demand. In part, this is due to the segmentation of the global cruise market. One cabin may be available in one market for a certain price, which means it cannot be available in another market at the same time.
Online & International Agents
As I just mentioned the cruise industry is a rather segmented industry. Prices and availability can vary to a large degree from country to country. Leading to what I pay for a cruise in Australia is quite different to what someone else will pay for the same cruise in the same cabin from America. With the difference rarely ever being just a matter of currency exchange.
I decided to look for an example of this and found the following cruise with a significant difference in price. The cruise is a 14 night Eastbound Transatlantic departing Tampa onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. If I book this cruise from Australia in an Outside View Stateroom, I will pay AUD $2,742.00. However, booking the same cruise from the United States would cost USD $1,536.00.
Both prices were on the May 6th, 2018 sailing for two people in one cabin and booking through the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line website. A simple conversion on the USD price would give a cost of AUD $1,941, a difference of AUD $801 from what the website shows. Even though that is a big difference, that is the reality of cruise pricing. In general I just find that it is much easier to stick to looking at deals in the currency I am paying in, to avoid disappointment.
A Little Research
Depending on where you want to cruise there are a couple of ways that you can know if you are getting a good price. One place is a website called Cruise Sheet; they have a graph and details about the price range of a specific cruise. While it does not help predict what the price is going to do, it can help to see if the price is high or low compared to where it started.
If you are looking at a cruise that is often repeated than it is time to do some research. For example, if you were booking a cruise to the South Pacific Islands or Carribean the same cruises occur quite frequently. What you can do is look at the same cruise at different times or on different ships. You might find that one particular cruise seems much more expensive, but you can save money just by booking a different date or different ship. Often this can lead to some significant savings, but will need you to be a little more flexible on your dates.
Getting A Better Price
Sometimes all is not lost if you book at one price and find a lower price later on. But it will all depend on how you booked and what the restrictions are on your booking. It is worth asking the question when booking what the policy is and what the conditions are.
While often the price will be pretty much set once you have booked there may be opportunities to change this. However, that will almost certainly depend on the both your booking agent and the cruise line. It will likely depend on what the cancellation policy is for your cruise and if there are any fees associated with making a change.
Price Protection Policy
Some travel agents may offer an option to pay an additional fee to secure the ability to get the best price if the price changes. The value of such a policy will rely heavily on the total cost of the cruise you are booking. A short low price cruise may not have much potential to drop in price, so you are just throwing away money. On the other hand, a more extended cruise that costs a bit of money could have a potential for a decent price drop.
Before taking on any policy like this make sure you read the details and find out about any exclusions. Personally, I have never taken one of these policies and cannot say if they are worth the cost. That is a decision you need to make for yourself, if it is something that is available.
Onboard Cruise Deposits
If this is not your first cruise and you have booked an onboard future cruise deposit you may have some additional benefits. Often these deposits allow for changes up until the final payment date. But that is not to say that every price drop is worth pursuing and you need to look at what is included in each price.
Onboard Credit & Other Inclusions
If you have booked a cruise which included onboard credit you need to check if changing the booking for a price drop will impact this. Your original reservation may have included onboard credit or other inclusions. But when the price was changed these same inclusions may not be available.
Consider if you were to book a cruise for $2,000 which included $200 of onboard credit. Later you see the same cruise advertised for $1,900 with no onboard credit. Your initial reaction might be that you can get $100 back with the reduced cruise fare. However, you may not realise that you are also losing $200 of onboard credit. At the end of the day you will be $100 worse off.
Book & Cruise
At the end of the day though sometimes you just have to make a decision and book your cruise. Decide what price you are happy with paying and book it. I have missed a few cruises in my time by waiting too long and by the time I decide they are booked out. But often a little research will give you a good idea of a reasonable price, and at some point, you just have to decide.