Having a vacation ahead of you is a great feeling. You've chosen your cruise and you're happy with what you're getting for your money, but what happens when the price of your cruise drops after you've already booked? Let's look into what your options are so you can make sure you're getting the best deal possible...
Cruise lines today seem to adjust pricing constantly with new promotions, incentives, bonuses, etc. This doesn't always make it easy to determine when a new offer has come along that is better than what you already have. For this reason, if you're like me, you find yourself repricing cruises you've already booked.
Cruise lines work hard to fill every ship to capacity, and these days it seems they frequently do a fine job of that. This means however they have to feel out the maximum price they can get for different staterooms, without setting the price so high that the ships sails with emypy rooms. To over-simplify things, cruise ship cabins are perishable commodities, and getting something for that space is often better than getting nothing. (Any Cabaret fans reading? So what.) If after you've booked you notice the price goes down, there are a few things you might be able to do. I'll start with this disclaimer, that every cruise line is different, policies, change, and they vary greatly from country to country, so while this advice focuses on the North American market, you'll want to speak with your travel professional to be sure of how your trip is impacted.
If The Price Of Your Cruise Drops Before Final Payment Is Required
If you have a deposit down (thus locking in your price) but haven't made final payment yet, this is generally a simple fix. Because you're within your cancelation period you could cancel your booking and rebook under the new promotion. Cruise lines don't want to deal with this hassle, so they'll make it easy to work through updating the price, generally keeping in place other parts of your booking, maintaining the same reservation number, etc. There is no special negotiation tactic needed for this - just reach out and tell your travel professional that you noticed there is a better rate and you'd like to take advantage of it.
If You've Made Final Payment, The Final Payment Date Has Passed, And The Price Drops
Once the final payment date of your cruise has passed (and you've made said payment) price drops can be a bit more tricky, but you still have a few options
1) Math - You were told there would be no math? Me too, I don't write this blog because of my calculus prowess. If your cruise line has different cancelation penalties depending on how long after final payment date you've canceled, it's time to look at what that would cost you. Let's say you paid $1000 for a cruise, and the cruise line will charge 25% if you cancel between 90 and 75 days prior to your sail date, returning $750 back to you. That's a lot of money, but if a price comes out in that window which would allow you to book your desired accommodations for $650, then cancelling and re-booking, even with the penalty, could save you $100. This scenario isn't the most common, as it requires a significant price drop top make it worth the penalties - and some lines simply keep all of the money if you cancel, even a day after final payment - but it's something to keep in mind.
2) Take a "free" upgrade - If you paid $1000 for an inside stateroom, and the price drops to $800 for that same stateroom, you've seen above that it isn't terrifically likely that you're gong to see that $200 again. You have paid $1000 though, so what can that get you now? If because of the price drop, an ocean view stateroom, for example, is now only $950, lines will generally move you into an ocean view without charging you any more - as you've already paid their asking price. You do have to ask them though - as some people may have their hearts set on a particular stateroom location, and depending on your preference you might want to stick with the inside.
3) Ask nicely and hope - I know you see the word hope there, but don't hold on to too much of it - just know that being nice to people and asking for what you want can sometimes yield positive results. In the past, I've personally had good luck with Disney Cruise Line refunding me back significant amounts of money because of price drops. Maybe you can negotiate some onboard credit instead of cash. This is certainly the exception more than it is the rule, so don't expect a simple refund or any compensation at all like this, but as always, be nice, say please and thank you, and see what happens.
Things To Keep In Mind
- Price drops happen - but don't bet on them, as most of the time prices for cruises go up as the ships fill up. It's nearly always best to book early. I take some last minute cruises, but only because they're good deals, and I live in South Florida, so for Caribbean sailings, I don't have to worry about last minute airfare. My wife and I also don't have much trouble getting time off at the last minute. If there is a cruise we know we want to take on a specific date, rest assured we're booking as soon as that decision is made - not waiting and hoping for a price drop.
- When prices do drop, don't expect the cruise line to call you up and let you know. You need to be vigilant. There are sites that can help track price changes for you, but they don't generally track exact categories, could have out of date information, and they may not account for certain types of rates (such as discounts for residents of a given state). If you don't want to take on this task yourself, use a good travel agent. We'll have posts coming up soon on how to select a good agent, but price drop scenarios are actually one good measure of the kind of service an agent can provide to you. Ask a prospective travel agent if they'll keep track of prices for you. Is that an included service or something they charge a fee for? What success have they had in getting adjustments when prices have dropped? A good travel agent can provide a lot of value in many ways.
- Just because the price drops doesn't mean the new rate is a better rate. What else are you getting for that rate? I've run ino this scenario plenty of times: I have a cruise booked at $1000, then I see that the rate dropped to $950. I excitedly call my travel agent about the $50 I'm looking to put back in my pocket, and he reminds me that my $1000 rate included $100 of onboard credit, so I can get the $50 cheaper rate, but I'll lose the onboard credit because the new sale or promotion doesn't include any onboard credit. This happens frequently with special rate for Florida residents - the rate looks much lower, but doesn't include a beverage package, onboard credit, or other features that hold more value to me than a small price decrease.
Wrapping It Up
There are certain things you'll hear me harp on if you watch my broadcasts, and one common statement is this: book early, reprice often. Booking early will usually get you the best deal. Once you've decided the cost of a particular cruise is worth it to you, don't obsess over the price if it changes. Yes we all want to get some money back, but as I mentioned, prices usually go up, not down - and if you thought the initial price you paid was worth it for the cruise you booked, a new price for people booking last minute doesn't change that reality. Enjoy your cruise.
Have a tip about watching for price drops? Have you ever had a big 'win' with a price change? Let us know in the comments below!