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
US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism
New initiative to make air travel easier
Berlin exhibition evokes final months of WWII
American Samoa man accused of ruckus on flight
FedEx truck crashes in Georgia, spills packages
Southwest bag workers picketing over flight delays
Go For the Food: Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit
WWII Museum tour 70 years after Battle of Bulge
Makeover of iconic Charleston park begins in 2015
Bus security guard kills passenger on Vegas Strip
Weird museums: Travel off the beaten path
Rich fun on a low budget: South Beach side streets
Colorado resort towns worry over pot perception
1 dead after crash involving Walt Disney World bus
Spain church criticized over Cordoba monument name
Sales of macadamias soar in Korea after nut rage
P.E.I. prepares to wind up big year
Grand Canyon contract offer fails to attract bids
UK airspace manager calls glitch unprecedented
Yellowstone opens for snowmobile traffic on Monday
Jet lands safely in Baltimore after bird strike
Northern New England snowmobilers hope for snow
Congress OKs national park expansion for Delaware
Repairs to Grand Canyon pipeline break completed
China to punish tourists in Thai air rage assault
Schumer calls for investigations of high airfares
There's more to Cuba than Varadero
Grand Canyon contract offer fails to attract bids
London hit by air traffic control computer failure
Airport volunteer helps travellers get to destination
SeaWorld CEO to step down as park attendance drops
3 die in St. Lucia cruise fire; passengers safe
Korean Air chairman, daughter sorry for nut rage
Thai flight returns after passenger scalds crew
Last call for sleeper trains linking Berlin, Paris
London airspace closed due to computer failure
Mayflower replica leaves Plymouth for repairs
Clouds fill Grand Canyon in rare weather event
Wild storm soaks California, thousands lose power