Saturday, July 21, 2012

Secrets of Cruise Ship Pricing

Secrets of Cruise Ship Cabin Pricing

You read the cruise ship ads, decide on a ship and you want that $299 price you see advertised for a cabin.  Then you find out that $299 cruise ship price is non-existent – or worse, for a cabin under the theater.  How does cruise ship pricing work?

Every cruise line has a few basic cabin categories  – interior (no windows), oceanview (a window to see out of your room), verandah or balcony rooms (with a sliding glass door and small balcony you can sit on), mini-suites or suites (balcony cabins that are larger  may even  have several bedrooms, depending on the ship).

But within each category, you can have up to seven different prices for the same cabin.  Why? Because cabin pricing is based on the location of your cabin on the ship.  You can have price differences of several hundred dollars on the same exact cabin based on where it is located.

When you see a price advertised as “starting at $XXX” that price is for the lowest priced interior cabin on the ship, unless specified differently.  The lowest priced cabins are located in the worst areas of the ship – either the lowest passenger deck, or all the way in the front and all the way in the back of the ship.  More desirable cabin locations, such as mid-ship, where you will feel the least amount of movement, and cabins located on higher decks increase in price depending on the location. High decks are desirable, but you may  feel more movement the higher you are as well.

Location is extremely important when you are booking a cruise.  Having been in a cabin over a nightclub on one cruise and not sleeping through the night for an entire week, our goal when booking your cabin is to look carefully at what is above and below your cabin to ensure you will have a cabin that is amenable to sleeping at night.

Cabins in the very front and back of the ship are not necessarily bad locations.  You will feel a bit more ship movement when sailing in the very front and rear of the ship.  But if you never suffer from seasickness, the location may not bother you.  If you do get seasick, or you think you might, booking a mid-ship cabin on a lower deck will result in less movement and a smoother ride. Expect to pay more for those cabins than the lead in price.  But the larger the cruise ship, in most cases the less movement you will feel.  We have sailed on the three largest cruise ships in the world – the Oasis and Allure of the Seas and the Norwegian Epic and we can tell you in some cases we never knew the ship was moving.

Some cruise lines sell “guarantee” cabins for slightly lower prices. You may also see these offered  if the ship has sold out most of their cabins and they offer a guarantee rather than an assigned cabin.   When booking a guaranteed cabin, you do not get to choose your cabin location – the cruise line does.  You are guaranteed that the lowest cabin category you will receive is the one you book (interior, oceanview, balcony, etc). You might also find the “upgrade fairy” has landed and you are assigned to a higher category than you booked (which is very rare).  But you could also end up under the buffet or over the casino, or at the very bottom or front of the ship.  You do not get the choice of a cabin.  Our experience with clients booking guarantees is 50/50 – 50% were happy with their cabin locations and 50% weren’t.  Not every cruise line or ship offers this type of cabin, but you must make a decision that you can live with while you are on the cruise as to whether you would be happy with any location, because once assigned, that is your cabin for the cruise, you don’t get to give it back and ask for another.

In addition, taxes and port fees are not included in the lead in price you see, they are extra. Port fees are the fee that each port charges the cruise line for each passenger who is on the ship.  Every port has these fees and the cruise lines pass that per person fee on to each passenger. Make sure you are quoted a price that includes everything.

Most cabins can only accommodate up to four people in a cabin.  The usual pricing you see if based on double occupancy (two people in a cabin) and  the first two people pay the lead in rate and the third and fourth are at a lower rate with kids in two cabins. (Pricing is never based on age – it is based on the number of people in the cabin ).  People traveling in a cabin by themselves also pay a higher rate.  If you need a cabin for more than four, unless you can book a family cabin or suite that can accommodate five or six, you will need to book two cabins.  On most cruise lines, children under the age of 18 need an adult over 21 in a cabin with them.  Travel agents know how to book to ensure the age requirements are met. When traveling with kids in another cabin, the cabin usually must be next to or adjoining the parents cabin, or across the hallway from the parents. If you are traveling with kids, we advise booking your cruise six months or more in advance to ensure you can get cabins situated as they need to be.

In most cases, you will get the best pricing by booking two cabins, rather than a larger suite (many suites do not hold more than four people). Our experience is that booking an interior cabin for the kids next to or across the hall from parents is less expensive than booking a one or two bedroom suite if the ship has them.

Babies must pay full price too!  Infants under six months of age are not permitted to sail as are women who are pregnant and will be in their 24th week anytime during the cruise. (Some cruise lines cut off at 20 weeks). Babies over six months can.  It doesn’t matter if you are bringing your infant a pack n play to sleep in, they are charged as a full passenger because they have a “berth” which counts towards the maximum number of people permitted to sail.

Book your cruise through an experienced cruise travel agent to ensure you have no surprises after booking and that you know the full cost of your cruise. Promal Vacations is a CLIA member, we have an accredited cruise counselor on site and are cruise specialists.  Call us at 516-608-0568 to book your cruise.

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