Buy Now for Best Cruise Deals|
I just read a long feature article in USA Today saying one should "buy now" for the best cruise deals. It contends that cruisers may have already missed the best deals for 2009 as the low in prices has already passed -- causing some of the best inventory to sell out early. Needless to say, comments below the article were mixed; some said "interesting" while others wrote "what a crock..."
Is it true? First of all, let's define the "best inventory." This should mean a certain cabin type, on a specific cruise ship on a popular or convenient sail date. The most desirable cabins are generally balcony staterooms on newer ships sailing longer cruises. The best cabins are mid-ships (not too far forward or aft) for the least amount of perceptible motion if you are sensitive about such movement.
I think we regular cruisers sometimes forget that cruise bookings are vastly complicated purchases, but we are reminded of the things we should have considered once we are onboard. On my last cruise my wife became quite seasick the first day. She is about 10 times more sensitive to motion that the average person, including myself, and so I have a tendency to forget how critical room placement can be for her.
We were in a wonderful balcony stateroom, but it was almost all the way in the back of the ship. On the sea days when the captain had the engines at full tilt and there were whitecaps breaking through the ocean surface she became very seasick. I was reminded that I was supposed to make sure we got a midship cabin. In all my excitement about just going on the cruise I forgot.
So this is my point; If all you are worried about is price then it is definitely not too late to grab a fantastic cruise bargain. There are still 7-day Caribbean cruises available for about $400 per person. However, if you want a better cabin in a great location and you want it during spring break or the Fourth of July then you had better book that cruise now.
Here is another aiding factor. One of the incentives many cruise lines are offering right now is reduced deposits, as low as $100 per person. You can make a deposit on a specific cabin today and if the price goes lower you will pay the lower amount when you make your final payment.
Now this is important - cruise line and agency policies vary on whether you get "price protection" after you make your final payment. "Price protection" means you get a refund if the price goes down after you make your final payment. The last time I checked, Carnival was offering price protection but Royal Caribbean was not. This may have changed so be sure to ask your travel agent. Also, be aware that some cruise lines demand final payment within a few days of the deposit while other cruise lines will let you sit on a deposit for months before you make your final payment.
Here is an interesting tip - sometimes booking a future cruise while you are onboard a current cruise gives you some of the best advantages. For example, putting a deposit down on a non-specific future Princess cruise onboard gives you a few years to apply that deposit to any future cruise, but typically Princess requires a final payment very soon after the deposit if you book a specific cruise date on land.
Here are some more tips. The Caribbean is selling right now because of the coldest winter in many years and fantastic prices. This won't last forever. Alaska is having a fire sale right now for the same reason. This won't last forever either. Alaska may be cheap now, but that could easily change. Alaska is the "poor man's choice" right now simply because sales are currently slow, but in the past I recall several seasons in Europe where the cruise lines found out they should have put more ships there by the time the true summer demand revealed itself.
So grab that Alaska bargain now and you should be a very happy camper this summer. I have also heard that Alaska Airlines, pretty much the sole airline in the Great White North, has very low rates right now due to reduced demand by the locals. Remember, air is the only way to reach many Alaska cities and Alaska Airlines has the franchise and needs to fill those seats. Lock in your airfare to Alaska (if you are going on one of the one-way routes) because they will go higher as summer approaches.
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