Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 02/16/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Ping... ping... ping. That's the sound of my email, chirping as usual at this time of year with variations of the same, familiar question: "Should I book a cruise now or wait until it's closer to when I want to go?"
The question always rides the crest of Wave Season, as cruise agents and cruise lines both like to call this promotional period that runs from January to March. This is when most cruisers are booking for 2013 and beyond.
Anecdotal industry evidence indicates a stronger booking pattern than one year ago. Stronger bookings mean prices are holding. Now, that's not a blanket application, and there will be pockets with specials, but fewer of them than last year.
Cruise lines are taking more of an anything-but-price-reduction approach, instead adding perks such as upgrades, onboard credits, discounted shore excursions and -- for a few departures on some river cruise lines -- two-for-one offerings.
In terms of guaranteeing fares, Carnival has an interesting approach. There is nothing worse than sitting on the pool deck and finding out the guy on the lounger next to you paid $300 less for the same type of balcony cabin. Carnival's Early Saver Fare guarantees the lowest fare (in each category) by the cruise line, and that could help convince you to book early.
Here's how the Early Saver program works:
When you book a three- to five-day cruise three months in advance, or a six-day (or longer) cruise five months in advance, you are guaranteed the lowest rate with a cabin assignment. There is one asterisk: The onus is on you (or your cruise agent) to find a lower Carnival-advertised rate. If you do, Carnival will honour the lower rate, but you have to initiate the process by applying for it.
If you decide to wait, even if you're using an agent, spend some time looking on the cruise lines' websites for special offerings that still give you enough time to plan your trip.
It took me about 30 seconds to find a special at Royalcaribbean.com. It's an inside cabin for a 14-night transatlantic cruise that leaves San Juan, Puerto Rico, on April 21 for Southampton (London). The price is $459, less than $33 a day. No, you don't get a sleeping bag on the deck -- the price includes your cabin, meals and entertainment. Between San Juan and Southampton, you will stop in St. Lucia, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and the Azores.
It was available at the time of writing and is based on per-person, double occupancy and does not include fees and taxes. By the time you read this, it might be gone, but others will take its place.
Looking back at this column, I feel like a politician who hasn't fully answered your question. Maybe it's because there is no "yes" or "no" answer to the question.
So far, cruise travel agents are better off than they were last January when booking for 2012, and most analysts are calling for a modest gain this year. However, one hiccup in the economy is what we call a game-changer.
-- Postmedia News
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 D4
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
New Hampshire lake is Lower 48's only ice runway
15 years on, museum where slaves landed taking form
Disney ride reopens after nearby fire; no damage reported
Details about proposed national monuments in California
Number crunching Canadian travel trends
If this is a dream, don't wake me up
Man with heart issues revived near Newark Liberty bag claim
Toronto-bound jet with smoke in cabin lands in Pennsylvania
Las Vegas Strip's version of bazaar shopping opens
As tastes change, big food makers try hipster guises
Southwest nearly done inspecting planes that were grounded
CNN's Weir escapes studio for the road
NY exhibits mark centennial of Frank Sinatra's birth
Nova Scotia tourism announces service cuts
Amsterdam warns tourists white heroin being sold as cocaine
Lights, camera, blossom! Disney films inspire floral fantasy
Ala. tourism campaign to focus on state's barbecue culture
Foreign tourists posing nude at temples infuriate Cambodians
Fire in Stratton ski lodge causes more than $200k in damage
Graceland brings Elvis back to his Las Vegas home
New name for Namibian town is a tongue-twister
Coca-Cola bottle as art? Atlanta's High Museum takes a look
Apostle Islands ice caves set to open Saturday
Thai Airways plane hits turbulence, 11 on board injured
Colonial Williamsburg to remain closed due to snow
SeaWorld posts wider 4Q loss as theme park attendance falls
Bata museum looks at history of men in heels
Flights cancelled after Mexican volcano spews ash
Cape May-Lewes Ferry cancels trips because of ice
Taj Mahal endures, but its birthplace slowly crumbles
Hungarian village for rent, comes with deputy mayor's post
Southwest grounding 128 planes over missed inspections
Uber partners with Starwood, giving hotel points for rides
European cruise giant Viking plans Mississippi River tours
Hackers snap up Burning Man passes, leaving many ticketless
In Ireland, pilgrims and tourists on St. Patrick's mountain
Free book, music downloads at Pearson airport
For Americans, Puerto Rico is an easy beach getaway
Plane slips off taxiway at North Texas airport