Last Minute Bargains Are Back

| Monday, 26 Nov 2012

December is a cheap time to cruise

Looking out into 2013 I do not see a lot of bargain cruise prices, yet, but the early weeks of December are always notorious for slow cruise sales. Now I am seeing some deep discounts if you are ready to book within two weeks, but even if not, it is always interesting to see how low prices can go.

A lot of experienced cruisers know how fluid cruise pricing can be, that the price of any given cruise will change all the time based on what the market dictates. In fact, whenever I write articles like this I have to re-check the prices just before I go to print.

The science of "pricing power" is vastly important to cruise lines. For example, it is much harder but more desirable to raise cruise fares than it is to lower them. Most loyal customers have an idea of what they are willing to pay for a cruise, and the lines' goal is to keep that as high as possible while still managing to fill their ships. But keep in mind that the cruise fare is not the only one area where they make their money. They also make much of it from onboard revenue.

Cruise lines are quite reluctant to lower prices, even short term, because they do not want people who subsequently see higher prices to get the notion that it is the wrong time to buy. Still, you will see low cruise prices at times, and that is usually an indication that they really need to fill that particular ship.

Are you aware of any cruise bargains? Tell us here: Cruise Forum

So, the cruise lines always want to keep cruise fares as high as possible, but they also know how to find the point where people will buy the cruise they want. The outside factors that affect cruise prices include; high airfare, a slow economy, flu epidemics, distractions like the holidays, elections or political turmoil in popular cruise destinations.

Obviously, some of these factors are short term and unpredictable (political turmoil), some are seasonal and very predictable (the holidays) and some are long term and longer lasting (economic downturns). And naturally, at any given time there may be a confluence of any given factors.

One Predictable Factor - The Limbo Point

Seasonally speaking, holiday cruises themselves tend to be high-priced, but the weeks just before and after are the opposite. The most predictably low cruise prices every year are for cruises that sail in the first halves of both December and January - especially for Caribbean cruises which sail year round.

Because these two "lows" in cruise pricing are so predictable it is always interesting to "get a take on where we are" in the cruise industry pricing by checking prices during these periods. So, just to make it official, I'll give these holiday-related yearly low cruise pricing points a name - how about the "limbo point" in cruise pricing simply for its "how low can you go?" aspect? Let's take a look at some of the prices out there right now:

The Current "Limbo Point" Indicator

This year I am seeing a rather drastically low "Limbo mark;" as low as $259 for seven day Caribbean cruises.

Carnival Valor is sailing a seven day cruise From Miami to Cozumel, Ocho Rios (Jamaica) and Grand Cayman. If you can sail December 2nd you can get this cruise for just $259 per person (inside cabin). This is just $37 per night.

Want a newer and bigger ship, how about the Carnival Conquest sailing conveniently out of New Orleans (great for West Coasters) sailing December 2nd for just $279 per person (inside) or $674 for a balcony stateroom? The itinerary includes Key West, and Freeport and Nassau (Bahamas).

For better deals on balcony staterooms, Norwegian Cruise Line has the eclectic Norwegian Pearl sailing from Miami on December 2nd or December 9th for just $499 (Balcony) per person. Inside cabins are just $299. This cruise visits the Norwegian private island, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Even the newer and highly entertaining Norwegian Epic has balcony cabins as low as $699 per person for the December 1, 8 and 15 sailings. Inside cabins are just $429. In this case, the post holiday rule also applies, with the same low prices on tap for the January12, 19 and 26 cruises.

Norwegian Jewel, sailing out of New York City also has impressively low fares for December 2 and 9; $299 inside, $349 ocean view and $499 balcony.

If you happen to be reading this from Europe, you can take a nine-day cruise on Norwegian from Barcelona to Madeira and the Canary Islands starting at just $399 inside, $449 ocean view or $599 balcony stateroom; sailing on December 12.

Prefer Royal Caribbean? You can catch Navigator of the Seas sailing out of New Orleans on December 1st for just $329 per person or $669 balcony, but if you sail December 15 you pay just $649 balcony.

Royal Caribbean's newer, bigger and updated Freedom of the Seas sails an eight-day cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale to St. Kitts, St Maarten, San Juan and Labadee on December 8th for just $479 per person, inside cabin.

Premium Cruise Lines

Sometimes value is more important than price - for example, you may want a balcony cabin instead of an inside stateroom. But what is even better is when you find a balcony stateroom on a nicer ship for less than what you would pay for a balcony on a mainstream ship.

Celebrity Summit - one of the older Celebrity Cruises ships, but one boasting newer Solstice-class features like Aqua-class cabins and newer restaurants, has a December 8th cruise sailing for just $499 ocean view or $599 veranda stateroom from San Juan to St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas and San Juan.

Are you aware of any cruise bargains? Tell us here: Cruise Forum

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