This Article is Part 1, in a 6 part information series : “Cruise Mini Camp”
First, it helps to understand the overall approach of the cruise line industry when it comes to inventory pricing, which is nothing more than cruise line jargon, for what we are going to charge per bed (normally referred to as 1st and 2nd persons). All prices are always shown in “pp”, which stands for price per person. So as you can see Cruise Ship Staterooms are sold and priced in similar ways to how motels/hotels charge based on double occupancy. Generally speaking 3, 4, & 5’s which are children or family members, or friends traveling within the same stateroom with two full fare paying adult guests. Such extra travelers normally sail at very reduced rates (generally $200 to $400pp or more depending on the itinerary).While 3rd and 4th (children/family members) are seldom a problem to accommodate, 5 or more can get tricky as it will depend on the availability of sleeping berths available in their particular rooms on a given ship. Most rooms are only designed/allowed to carry between 1 to 4 guests, where others can carry up to 5. Normally, most ships have family rooms or suites that generally handle up to 7 or 8, some as many as 12 to 14. It just depends on how new the ship is, or how recently it has been renovated.
If you wish to cruise by yourself, there are a couple of cruise lines (one in particular is the) NCL Epic that offer single type staterooms. They are normally quite small, (100 to 130 sq. feet) with not much room other than a bed and a bathroom. But then you can always pay double the price for say 175-250 square feet (typical double stateroom size) if you’d rather.
Additionally, there is one particular cruise line that offers a roommate match guarantee; which says they will match you with a non-smoking roommate, (of the same-sex) so you only have to pay the per person rate. Even if they are unable to match you up with the mate, they guarantee to let you sail solo for the lower rate per person. There are also companies which specialize in matching single cruisers up for the cruise. A Cruise Holidays’ sister company is one of the largest of these such service providers called “single cruises.com”, so we too have that type of service which we also can offer to our customers as well.
Cruise Lines are complex (when it comes to their pricing matrix). The general “Rule of thumb” is that the best pricing occurs closest to sailing date (known as last-minute deals), but there are some important exceptions to this rule. Premium, Luxury, and Conventional Cruise Lines (almost all of the north American operating cruise providers) will typically offer their booked clients, their “best available published price”. This means they will adjust any prior bookings to account for drops in pricing that might occur after booking. Adjusting is usually done in the form of on board cruise dollars added to their accounts upon embarkation rather than outright discounts or refunds. Generally the cut-off or last day for honoring this is 75 days from sailing, (typically when final deposit is required). You should note that so-called “Last minute deals” are typically just that, and not considered part of their “best available published price”. With these “Last minute deals” there is No guarantee you will be able to get the category of stateroom you desire, since the waitlist is not cleared until their entire Loyalty Program Customers are upgraded to better accommodations at or within the 75 day point. So last-minute deal seekers are going to get the left over’s. Last minute cruising is normally best left to the hearty at heart, and for those who don’t mind cruising in an inside stateroom, lower deck, with either extreme forward or aft positioning (basically the roughest riding parts of the ship as well as the furthest distance from food and entertainment venues). As a cruise planning professional I keep an eye out for any rate drops that may occur prior to the 75 day date, and bring those to the cruise line’s attention as they rarely offer the adjustments voluntarily. The very best way to guarantee you get the stateroom category, deck level, and positioning you desire is to book as far out as possible. Booking far in advance of your sail date can also be financially beneficial as cruise lines generally require smaller up front deposits further out from sailings to actually hold your exact stateroom number you desire. This also allows you maximum time to save up funds for your vacation, as well as making the best plans for your cruise adventure. We are presently seeing cruise lines announcing their deployments dates much earlier than recent years. At the time of this writing (June, 2010) some cruise lines have already announced their 2012 deployments (or are about to do so) by the end of July 2010. These release dates are so far out there in time, that you can’t even get airlines bookings more than 330 days out. Other inventory pricing controls involve the time of year (such as holidays, or school being out). Some holidays are actually cheaper than typical fares, because the cruise lines have trouble filling those up. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, (and especially the week before these holidays).
Other holidays will actually carry a premium (or higher) pricing such as Easter to the Mediterranean (especially Holy Land voyages) and New Years, as everybody wants go to these destinations, or be on the ship at these times. While somewhat confusing Holidays can be your cheapest, or the most expensive (compared to normal fare pricing).
Pricing on Family popular type cruise voyages will always be at their highest during times that children are out of school. That’s because mom and dad, generally can’t leave them alone, and the cruise lines know that. That’s also why so much of what the cruising industry is built around today has to do with youth aged guests. It is also advisable for you to be aware of the general times that schools and colleges are on break since many college bound students are now taking cruises for their spring break vacations. Not only will you pay higher prices during this time, but your ship will be filled with a larger number of college aged guests. The same applies to younger school aged children also. Prices go sky-high once schools/colleges are on recess for the summer months. (Basically from mid May thru mid August). Your air fares/flights will normally be higher and fuller too, making getting to the embarkation ports and back home if you choose to cruise during these peak seasonal periods sometimes trying.
While it is very difficult to put all scenarios, and situations into a matrix mix to be able to give you the best advice as to when to travel, we have attempted here in these few pages to provide you with as much information as possible to help you in your cruise vacation planning. Especially given the differences in seasonal specifics which vary depending on destinations as well as length of cruise can also greatly impact your fare pricing. Here is one simple tidbit of information people are not generally aware of when getting the most value for your cruising dollar. Ocean crossings and repositioning cruises (this is where cruise lines are moving their ships into positions great distances to begin new cruising itineraries/seasons) are typically sold at bargain prices. Meaning you get way more cruising for far less fare (money) charged. Other discounted values; as we mentioned earlier there is something called customer loyalty programs. Most cruise lines call these “clubs” by their own different names, but they generally have a commonality of offering discounted fares (in certain room categories) to prior cruise customers who have sailed on their particular cruise line before. So if you have sailed on a particular cruise line before, be sure to let your cruise planner know that information. There are also discounts for Military/Veterans (and sometimes Police and Fire Personnel), so if you are one of these folks, speak up. It never hurts to ask.
One final word about cruise fare pricing. All cruise planners, travel agents, and yes even on-line service providers have access to the same pricing. As you might imagine, it makes no sense for the cruise lines to offer one price to one agent and yet another price to another, making for an unfair advantage or competition. You are absolutely correct in that thought process, as this is precisely the truth. Everyone has the same pricing, period. Where things can vary, depends on the particular agent/agency you work with, and their ability to package(bundle) various services and amenities as well as through volume negotiation getting the cruise lines extras to be thrown in. This allows you the very best value for your cruise dollar. This is but one advantage of working with cruise planning agency. Many with hundreds and thousands of locations worldwide, it is very likely the destination and maybe even the very ship and time of year you are interested in will have a booked group of theirs sailing it. Why is that important to you? That means chances are good that you could be included with the group, saving you even more (in group discounted fares) while getting you more in amenties (hence, more value). The group will never know you are sailing with them, and neither would you unless we told you. Group sailings are normally one of the first areas I look at when booking my clients. Why? Because, they typically represent the best value for my clients. They realize and appreciate what I am able to bring to them in the way of value for their cruise dollar. I don’t see it as a “Pricing” issue, I see it as a “Best Value” issue.
Most importantly, work with someone you can trust. (If you personally know them, even better). The more you personally know the person, the more honest and up front they will be with you in all facets of your vacation needs. Working with someone you don’t know can be tough. The more you know about the person helping you with your vacation planning (and vice versa) the more help and service they are going to be able to provide you. Education is also key. You are going to require a bit of education in your cruise planning needs, so be sure to work with someone who doesn’t mind sharing their knowledge with you. Also your cruise planner’s job is to adequately set the level of expectations. This is extremely important, so that you don’t encounter any unforeseen surprises. This is why your cruise planner’s knowledge about various cruise lines, and cruise ship fleets is so important. Matching your needs and desires with the best possible fit. Work with a professional, and please work with someone who routinely cruises themselves. The last thing you need is to be sold by someone who has never, or has seldom been on a cruise ship, how possibly can you expect success with that kind of service provider?
There you have it. Cruise Pricing Basics 101 The first part in a six part series. Please check out our next module: Good Things to Know Before You Go Cruise Hope you have a great cruise experience. You deserve it!!
For more information on Cruise line pricing and how it works, contact Mike via email firstname.lastname@example.org . You can tweet (or follow) Mike at http://www.twitter.com/cruisewithmike . To “Join” our Travel Club go to http://meetup.com/Sun-Cities-Travelers-Group/ Mikes web site can be found at www.mberryhill.cruiseholidays.com . Follow this blog (or subscribe to it) at http://www.cruisewithmike.com (or merely click on the subscribe button above to have daily delivery to your email). View all of Mikes uploaded Flickr Photo Galleries at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cruisewithmike/ . Mike also is editor of his own twice daily e-newspapaer called “The Compass Headings” you can see (or subscribe to) it free! at http://paper.li/CruisewithMike
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