Why You Should Book a Cruise on a Cruise

Posted by Andrea M. Rotondo on January 22, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM EST | Post a Comment

There’s tons of advice out there about how to get the best deal on a cruise vacation. Should you book with a travel agent? Do you get a cheaper fare by calling the cruise line directly? What about packages from airlines or limited-time offers from “flash sales” sites like Jetsetter and LuxuryLink? What’s the best way to book that ensures a cabin upgrade?

What you don’t often hear is that one of the savviest ways to get the best deal on your next cruise is to book it while you’re on a cruise. Nearly every cruise ship out there has onboard future cruise consultants to help you select and book your next voyage.

It’s smart business on the part of the cruise lines. If you’re having a terrific vacation, you’re more likely to commit to your next cruise—and they’ll make it as tempting as possible for you to do so in the form of reduced deposits, discounted cruise fares, onboard credit, cabin upgrades, discount certificates for your friends and family, and more. And booking a cruise onboard doesn’t preclude you from working with your regular travel agent, receiving the traditional repeat cruiser discount, or taking up offers the cruise line may unveil after you’ve left the ship.

Here’s how it works: when you’re on a cruise ship, make an appointment with the resident onboard future cruise consultant. This member of the crew will have posted “office hours” but will also be available for private consultations in certain situations (i.e., those seeking to book world cruises or several long segments). He or she will help you select a specific itinerary, or you can also often just book a “placeholder.” That means you book a seven-night voyage but haven’t yet selected the embarkation date or itinerary. You’ll have a certain amount of time—often several years—to determine the exact cruise you want to sail.

The consultant will let you know pricing as well as any perks that may be available to you. The paperwork also allows you to include the contact information for your travel agent, who will get credit for the voyage. This means you’ll also be eligible for any perks offered directly from your agent (like pre-paid gratuities or onboard credit, etc.). Keeping your travel agent in the loop is important so he or she can effectively manage your vacation plans and make sure that you get the best cabin and other perks along the way.

Each cruise line offers different incentives for onboard bookings. Here’s a sample.

Incentives Offered by Each Cruise Line

Celebrity Cruises

Onboard Credit: Up to $200 per stateroom.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either.

Deposit: $100 per person.

Other Perks/Notes: Select your exact sailing and receive cabin upgrades. Book “Open Passages” and determine your sail date later and you’ll also get two certificates for family or friends to sail with you and they’ll receive the same perks.

Cunard

Onboard Credit: Up to $400 per stateroom.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either (you have four years to determine the exact cruise you wish to sail).

Deposit: $300.

Other Perks/Notes: Not valid for Grand World Voyages.

Disney Cruise Line

Onboard Credit: Up to $200 per stateroom.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You do have to lock in on a specific ship and embarkation date but you can change your mind and make changes before the cancellation period is up.

Deposit: 10% of the cruise total.

Other Perks: 10% discount off cruise fare. The only downside is that Disney does not offer the discount or onboard credit for suite bookings or sailings that are less than three nights.

Holland America Line

Onboard Credit: Up to $200 per person.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either (you have four years to determine the exact cruise you wish to sail).

Deposit: $100 per person (for cruises up to 10 nights).

Other Perks/Notes: This program is not applicable for the Grand World Voyage, Grand Voyages, or any cruise longer than 26 days.

MSC Cruises

Onboard Credit: $200 per stateroom.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either (you have four years to determine the exact cruise you wish to sail).

Deposit: The deposit for specific sailings is $100 per person while it’s only $100 per stateroom if you wish to select your cruise later.

Other Perks/Notes: This is valid on the cruise line’s newest ship, MSC Divina.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Onboard Credit: $100 per cabin to spend on your current cruise (all the other lines offer onboard credit for the future voyage).

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either (you have four years to determine the exact cruise you wish to sail).

Deposit: $250 (more for The Haven, Garden Villas, and specialty suites).

Princess Cruises

Onboard Credit: Up to $150 per person.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either (you have four years to determine the exact cruise you wish to sail).

Deposit: $100 per person.

Royal Caribbean

Onboard Credit: Up to $200 per stateroom.

Book Cruise Now or Later: You may do either.

Deposit: $100 per person.

Other Perks: Royal Caribbean will also give you two NextCruise certificates to share with your friends or family so they can sail with you.

Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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