Cruise insiders always seem to tout the idea of booking your next cruise while onboard. The conventional wisdom is that booking on the ship gives passengers access to discounts, onboard credits and other great deals. It sounds believable, but is it true?
My wife and I just returned from a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Equinox. The experience was exceptional in every way, so much so that we decided to book another cruise on the same ship for next May. We paid a visit to the Future Cruise office to get a sense of the situation.
Like many other cruise lines, Celebrity runs frequent sales. In their case, the rates are bundled with a choice of two, three or four different perks (Classic Beverage Package, unlimited high-speed internet, prepaid gratuities and onboard credit). We usually forego the added perks and book the lowest available rate, preferring to add extras on an a la carte basis.
As an incentive to book, the future cruise representative offered a “special rate” that included our choice of two perks. The rate in question was $1100 higher than the lowest available price for that cruise (a ten-day Caribbean sailing). Even when I added in the two highest-priced perks (internet and prepaid gratuities), the price was still $350 higher—not quite a deal.
After much negotiating, we settled on the lowest available published rate plus a $200 onboard credit, a reduced deposit ($200 rather than $900) and the option to rebook at a lower rate if the price dropped. We also had the flexibility to change to another cruise later on and could credit the booking to our travel agent (if we had one). Did we come out ahead? Maybe, but we loved the ship and were going to book anyway. Many other passengers were doing so, and there was nearly an hour’s wait to speak to a representative.
Here are the advantages of booking onboard, according to the cruise lines. As always, it pays to do your research and to do the math:
Azamara: Both Open and Confirmed Bookings offer a 50% reduced deposit; discounts range from 4-10% (Open) and 3-10% (Confirmed), depending on loyalty level; Confirmed bookings also get a $200 onboard credit.
Carnival: Up to $50 per person onboard credit, depending on stateroom category; 50% reduced deposit; two-category upgrade; pricing excludes the ability to choose other rates and discounts, such as a past passenger rate; if you find a lower rate later and rebook, the onboard credit disappears.
Crystal: 2.5% discount when booking onboard, combinable with 2.5% past guest discount; reduced $100 preliminary deposit (passengers pay the rest of the deposit when they return home); may be transferred to your travel agent.
Cunard: 5% onboard booking discount, combinable with advanced purchase fares and 10% past guest savings; reduced deposit of $300 per person; passengers must use the same travel agent that booked their current cruise.
Holland America: Up to $200 per person onboard credit, depending on stateroom category and length of sailing; reduced deposit of $100 per person; future cruise pricing can be combined with current promotions; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent; take up to four years to decide on a specific sailing.
Norwegian: Onboard credits up to $500, depending on amount and number of future deposits; not combinable with other promotions; ability to transfer to your travel agent; category upgrade in select categories when booking a specific sailing; up to four years’ flexibility to choose ship and itinerary.
Oceana: Offers are highly variable, but include onboard credits up to $1,000, discounts, reduced deposits and best price guarantee until the day of sailing; all benefits are combinable with the line’s best promotional offering.
Princess: Reduced, refundable deposit of $100 per person; onboard credit up to $150 per passenger, depending on length of cruise and stateroom class; book a specific cruise or an open reservation for up to two years; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent.
Royal Caribbean: $600 in savings which may be used as a discount or onboard credit; reduced deposits of $100 per person on select fares; onboard credit depending on length of sailing; option to choose your ship and sailing date later; ability to transfer booking to your travel agent; protection for price drops prior to final payment.
Regent: Onboard savings from $300 to $2,000, depending on suite category; reduced deposits from $500 per person; full refund within 30 days; travel agent of record automatically credited; shipboard credit of $200 applied to current voyage.
Seabourn: The formula is simple: a 5% discount and $500 initial deposit (the rest is due within 10 days of disembarkation). You can also make an open booking, receive the 5% discount and receive up to four years to reserve a sailing.
Silversea: Guests also receive a 5% discount for either an open or confirmed sailing. A floating deposit of $1,000 must be applied to a cruise within six months; if not, it is refundable.
[Featured Image: Shutterstock]
Source: frugal travel guy