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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Looking for a lower rate after you booked your cruise? New cruise policy says you may not get one!

If you already booked and placed a deposit for your cruise, a new policy could affect your plans to hold out for the posting of a lower rate and requesting a price change. As it has always been, cruise lines have the sole discretion to lower the price or not at the time you request a price-reduction. On occasion, more often than not, in the past, they have done so. Perhaps no more.

Royal Caribbean recently changed the price guarantee for its three brands, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara, giving guests just 48 hours to find a lower price after they book. Royal Caribbean will no longer offer price reductions up until 72 hours before departure.
Under the new rules, guests who find a lower price will receive 110% of the difference as onboard credit. (The lower rate must be publicly advertised by a Royal Caribbean brand cruise line.)

The new policy is similar to those of Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines, ( Carnival owns Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, Cunard and other brands ) which also give guests 48 hours to find a lower fare and offer 110% of the difference in onboard credit if they do find a lower price.

What does this mean for passengers? Cruise lines often adjust prices based on consumer demand and cabin availability. So, if you book a cruise month's in advance you will most likely see prices change as you get closer to the sailing date. However, with this policy, past 48hours after you book, you will not get a rate adjustment to the prevailing rate at the time the cruise line lowers the price. The price you paid is the price you paid. Period. The new lower price is for new bookings only, put in place to sell the unused space.

However, you do have some options. If you have not paid in full for the cruise and you have not entered into a penalty phase for cancellation, you could just cancel your cruise and rebook under the lower rate. The upside.. you save money. The downside... you may not get to keep your cabin assignment and the choice of cabin category and availability may be limited. Some cruise line's rules may prohibited this tactic. If you are a past passenger and have cruised with the line a number of times, you could contact the cruise line and make an issue of the lower price. In the interest of good business, they may lower your rate. If your Travel Agent does a significant amount of business with the cruise line, they may have the necessary clout to affect the price-reduction for you. All of these options, come with a certain degree of risk and may or may not work for you.

You could also wait until the last minute, usually within 60 days of sailing to book your cruise at a reduced rate. Many of these last minute deals include shipboard credits or other incentives to book. Your choice of accommodations may be very limited. The cabins available may be inside, or next to the laundry, stairs, elevators ( lifts ) or below or above the disco. Or, a great balcony or mini-suite cabin becomes available in the last minute when someone cancelled their cruise.

With this new policy, you will likely find just like with airline seats, that the people next to you on the ship either paid more or less than you did for the exact same accommodations.

In the end its up to you. To get a good price, book early for the best choice of accommodations, perhaps take advantage of early-booking savings and other amenities, or wait to the last minute, get a better price and take you chances on getting just the accommodation you want.

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