You think airline fares are confusing? Cruise fares rise and fall like waves during a tropical storm and can seem equally contrary. On a single day it’s possible to get as many as a half-dozen different price quotes directly from many cruise lines because fares fluctuate. You and your shipmates paid for the same cruise, but may not have paid the same fare.
One thing never changes—do not ever, under any circumstances, pay brochure rate. You can do better, often as much as half off those inflated fares. These factors can enter the mix when pricing cruises:
- The date of your cruise: Fares are seasonal, with the lowest from about the second week of September until the week before Thanksgiving and the highest in summer and during holiday periods.
- When you book: Early booking discounts are nearly always offered; last-minute discounts might be available.
- Popularity of the ship: Some ships are stars and fill quickly, while others are wallflowers and just don’t book up as fast.
- Itinerary: Certain itineraries hold higher appeal, especially those considered unique or exotic.
- Age: Fare discounts may be available for senior citizens, and children sometimes sail free with their parents.
- Where you live: Regional discounts may be available, particularly if a cruise line is trying to introduce a ship into a port near where you live.
- Group pricing: Even if you’re not a member of a group, travel agents may have access to lower group fares.
- Who is your travel agent: Top performing agencies can pass along lower fares to their clients.
- You’re a repeat passenger: Discount and other goodies are often available to loyal passengers.
- The accommodations you choose: Advertisements for low fares inevitably include the word “from…” and the figure that follows is going to get you on board in the lowest category; if you want a better cabin, you’ll pay more for the space and location you prefer.
When you feel the fare is right, seal the deal. It could be gone in an hour.