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Cruise Feature
Am I Getting the Best Price?

by Sharon Jackson

I am often asked "How do I know if I'm getting the lowest price? What happens if I book early and then the price drops later?" I thought I'd take a few minutes to rattle on about this subject to see if I can explain how "price guarantees" work and clear up any misconceptions.

Most major cruise lines will honor an early booking by promising that IF they later reduce the price of that cruise as a "nationally advertised rate or special," they will reduce the early booker's price as well. My agency constantly receives faxes coming through with cruise specials, and when we see an applicable one we always contact the cruise line and get the adjustment for our clients - if we can. Sometimes the cruise line has "fine print" which does make it non-applicable. But, for the most part, it is to the cruise line's benefit to encourage early booking, and they make the adjustment whenever they can. In any case, before we call or mail in final payment, we always check at that time for anything we might have missed seeing or hearing about along the way.

Sometimes, past customers of a particular line will also get coupons in the mail direct from the cruise line. We always tell our customers to watch for these as, if they are booked and later get a coupon, some may apply to the actual cruise they are booked on. During the past years, we have had many prices reduced for customers previously booked on such lines as Celebrity Cruises & Carnival Cruise Lines - some of them done "automatically" by the cruise line without our ever having to call them and "ask". In addition, Princess Cruises has sent to us faxes upgrading cabins a few weeks prior to sailing, again without any notification to us they were doing it. We had to really look at the faxes for these bookings to see why the heck they were sending them! Voila - a cabin upgrade! We even had a call from a Princess agent just last week apologizing for the fact that they tried to upgrade some passengers booked on the Sun Princess but, as this was a triple cabin, we already had them booked in the highest category that would accomodate a family of three!

Many times a cruise line will put out a "regional" special which applies to only NEW bookings. Or, certain agencies will arrange "one day sales" with a particular cruise line with upgrades, shipboard credits, etc., which again only apply to new bookings. These "rules" are set by the cruise line in most cases, not by the individual agencies.

In one case a few years back, a particular cruise line advertised some super fares for a few sailings on a guaranteed inside or outside basis, with cabin assigned at time of sailing. They gave previously booked passengers the choice of cancelling their booking and re-booking on this new promotion. Some of our customers who were not all that particular about cabin category and location, actually did cancel their "early" booking, gave up their assigned cabin, and re-booked at the new special. Some did not, preferring to keep the cabin and location they already had.


So, how CAN you be sure you are getting the best price? Deal with a cruise agent whom you trust and who will give you good follow-up service by handling your vacation from beginning to end. And that includes keeping up on all the current "specials" and periodically checking with your cruise line to see if you qualify for a price reduction or a cabin upgrade. You, too, can help by notifying your agent any time you receive directly from the cruise line any notice of a special promotion or "coupon" offer.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that there are so many specials that "early booking" is not a good idea. On the contrary. Out of the thousands of cruises that we have booked over the past decade, I can think of only a handful where the earliest booked price could actually be reduced closer to sailing. In the great majority of cases, you are always better off in both price and cabin selection to BOOK EARLY, sit back and relax and let your GREAT agent do the worrying for you. The last thing the agent wants is for you to board the ship and find out the guy in the identical cabin next to you paid less than YOU did. Leaving your cruise arrangements and pricing to chance is not going to accomplish what the agent wants - YOU back as a repeat customer!

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