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A 'Fare' Price - Cruise Pricing & Promotions Explained - CruiseHabit Podcast Episode 15

Cruise Pricing and Promotions ExplainedCruise pricing can require a lit bit of explanation, but sales and promotions can be even more confusing.  Some promotions aren't combinable, sales can take percentages off rates that aren't easily found, and different packages offer different levels of value depending on what you're looking for.  Whether you're hunting for the best deal, or just trying to understand how much a cruise will cost you, we'll try and make it a bit easier to understand.


Link Related to This Episode

How Much Does it Cost to Dock a Cruise Ship?

Should I use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line?

What Is Onboard Credit (OBC) & How Can You Use It?

Cruise Line Beverage Packages: Should you get a drink package?

What happens if I book a cruise and then the price goes down?

First Glimpse of Virgin Voyages Prices


View Episode Transcript (Machine Transcription - May Contain Errors)

There are many different types of cruises and different reasons we enjoy cruising but there's one thing that connects most of us pricing we all have to pay off with so many different promotions and types of fares it can be confusing and that's why we're talking about cruise fares and promotions on today's episode of the cruise have a podcast. You are about to set sail on the cruise have a point cast and it will be a voyage through the will of ship's pullets and beyond welcome a vote on today's episode I want to discuss the different types of promotions and fares that we commonly see advertised or that we might find out about when we're talking to our travel agents it's important that we cover the basics 1st and most of us are familiar but but maybe you're looking into your 1st cruise maybe even taking a cruise for a while so I want to make sure that we're all kind of we start off on a on a an even plane of understanding here so when you look at cruise pricing there are some constants pretty much regardless of the cruise line the type of cruise line or where in the world you live where that Cruise is leaving from the price that you see adverts advertised is usually per person double occupancy that means if you see $1000.00 just to keep it easy that's the price per person for the 1st $2.00 people so if 2 people are in the rooms can be $2000.00 if there's a 3rd person that room it could be the same could be another $1000.00 it could be less It could be no different that all depends if there's only going to be one person then that that gets into single occupancy rates and that's something that we should probably cover at some point over on the cruise have a website or here on another pod cast episode but generally per person double occupancy there are some exceptions we'll talk about that. In addition to that those numbers that you see they do not include the advertised prices do not include taxes and fees and there are there are reasons for these things part of it is because Cruise Lines like any other business they want to be able to advertise the lowest possible price for for what somebody knows they're getting out of that price so they don't include For that reason there are other reasons as well. That gets into what these tax and fees are for there are some of them are government and government fees and some of them are fees for the charge by the port the port of embarkation the ports of call etc and they may have different rates depending on you know are we charging for you know a 6 year old you know that's getting off the ship the same as we're charging for an adult or any number of factors. So that's another reason it's just not as easy for them to disclose that total amount these amounts you know I'd love to tell you give you a round number on percentage tax and fees you know it really it can vary so much pending on where in the world but just know that if you're looking at a 7 night cruise for 2 people somewhere will say in the Caribbean there's a good chance that you're going to be looking at an extra I will say $120.00 to $250.00 in tax and fees but it really does vary if you want to know more about the way that the port fees work and how that's calculated some of us find this interesting you might not but we do have an article called How much does it cost to dock a cruise ship over on Cruise have a dot com We'll put a link to that in the show notes so now that we've covered those basics you know with the taxes the fees and the double occupancy rates let's talk about how Cruise Lines talk about these numbers how to talk not just about the fares but about the sales. A common complaint that I that I hear and that I read in frankly I think it's from a consumer standpoint it's a reasonable one but I also understand why it happens is people you know these these sales are fake right you know I see all these different sales every cruise line website I go to I see a different type of promotion list and it doesn't make sense because maybe I look at a price for a cruise today and it's going to cost me and my family $2300.00 to cruise and then the next day I see 20 percent off and it cost $2200.00 Well how did how did that you know the numbers don't add up and really I generally don't think they're trying to deceive anyone it's just it's complicated in personally frankly this is because of. Habits and just kind of a legacy system of booking cruises in the way that these prices were advertised and that's because a lot of the time the discounts that you see when you see you know 20 percent off 1st and 2nd guessed things like that those are based on brochure rates well years ago that made sense. Because whether you went to a travel agent or you read you requested a brochure by mail you were looking at one in your state room. You saw a you looked at a brochure that had all the different cruises that line had available over the next couple years and it had prices for them for different categories so if there was a sale and it was 20 percent off you took 20 percent off what you saw in the cabin in the brochure that's just not common anymore. Very few cruise lines comparatively even have brochures of course they have marketing tools but most things are done off the web over the phone things like that so that's one reason that it can be a little bit confusing the other factor is this just because you see a new sale today and the price for you is not lower that doesn't mean that there's not actually a sale and that doesn't mean that somebody else might not find a much better today deal today than they did yesterday a kind of classic example. 4 This is where you see a sale that says 50 percent off 3rd 4th passengers and you going great that's a sale but now the rate that I just looked at today is actually going to cost me more than the rate that I looked at yesterday because of this promotion Well maybe there was previously a 20 percent off sale for 1st and 2nd gas in a room. And that was more beneficial to you but this 50 percent off 3rd 4th passenger deal might it could be a fantastic bargain for someone that is a family of 4 or maybe just a group of 4 friends all looking to cruise in the same stateroom so there is you know I would I would say that it's safe to say there is no sale that is universally great for everyone universally the best for everyone it depends are so many different ways to slice and dice these things and it's one of the reasons one of the many reasons that I say it's important to work with a really good travel agent because it can be confusing while Web sites for cruise lines are better than ever in explaining these things you see these different fares and they give the marketing names but it's not always clear why one fare is better than the other and having someone that really understands how these things work a good travel agent who's who's frankly independent of the cruise line because there can be people at the cruise lines that can help explain this to you for sure but they're obviously going to slant towards that cruise line so having good travel agent can really help that's something we talk about a lot here on the cruise have a podcast and over on the website so if you're wondering why should I use a travel agent and listen you don't have to block of people have great luck booking on their own but if you want to read more about the benefits of that I'm not recommending it's not because I'm saying oh you have to use X.Y.Z. travel agent you know I have my favorite travel agent but it's all about finding the right situation for you so we'll put a link in the show notes there as well. Regardless of what sale or promotion your looking at the important thing is to look at the net price and that's because there can be a lot of things included in these prices a lot of different perks and incentives figure out the value of those perks and incentives not just their objective value on paper you know how much that beverage package would cost you paid cash but what was that worth to you right if you don't drink then there's no value in that too you will get into some of those included things next. So now let's look at some actual types of rates or are different types of promotions the 1st one 1st thing I want to talk about isn't actually a rate but it can be and that's refundable versus nonrefundable fares this is something the idea the premise has been around for a while but lately we're seeing more and more cruise lines do more with this a couple years ago more often than not you looked at a cruise and if it was let's say a year out you put a deposit down that might be a fixed amount might be a percentage depends on the cruise line and then you had until you know maybe 3 months before the sailing to pay for the rest and if you change your mind before that date and I'm talking about for people booking within the United States different policies and laws consumer protection laws for different countries if you decided no I'm good before that final payment date you simply got your deposit back E.Z. what cruise lines of started doing is they want to lock people in as every business does right so some lines have started offering for some or all sailings depending on the line these nonrefundable deposits the benefit that they offer you say well why why would I choose a nonrefundable deposit over from a bone they'll often offer you a better rate so maybe this cruise will cost you $1500.00 but if you choose the nonrefundable deposit rate maybe it only costs you $1300.00 so maybe you can save $200.00 if you acknowledge that the money you're giving them today even if you decide not to go on this cruise they're going to keep. This is not usually it can often be a great deal if you know you're going to go on this cruise and in fact even if you just know you're going to go on a cruise on that line in a certain period of time because well the policies vary from cruise line to cruise line quite frequently they will allow you to within a certain window change what Cruise you're going to be on so if you hand over you know a $500.00 deposit in the new go No I've made a mistake I put this deposit down on a September 1 sailing and you know family reunion is on September 3rd I can't I just can't. Frequent within a certain window of time or whatever the case may be they'll say OK you can move that move this deposit to any sailing you know of the same or greater value as the 1st sailing as long as it's within a year of that original sale date or or something like that so when you see these nonrefundable deposits I would say look into it because it may not tell you in as much as you think but of course nothing is as flexible as just being able to cleanly get your money back and walk away this is by the way different then nonrefundable fares nonrefundable fares are things that you usually see with when a sailing is within final payment date so in other words a sailing that you know maybe it's a month or 2 out maybe even a week out and you just decide you know what that's a good deal I want to go on this cruise Well that's a nonrefundable fare because you're long past final payment date if you tell them you're going and you give them the money you're just not getting that money back save for anything with you know travel insurance and that's a whole nother can of worms. So what we're talking about with those refundable version on frontal fares that's just talking about deposits that's just talking about the deposit amount and frankly some people don't love the cruise lines are doing this I think it's a good option to have and I'm glad that more and more lines are doing it one trick that I actually learned from I think it was I don't remember if this is Matt overall blog or somebody on the site but they pointed out that in some cases you may have a refundable deposit rate and then if you see a a better promotion or maybe you know you did that a year out and it's 5 months from assailing and you go look at this I see a much better nonrefundable deposit rate and you you're still confident are going on that you can often change that over so. There are different ways of kind of locking these things down regardless of whether you're shopping for a refundable deposit or nonrefundable deposit cruise you still need to look at what is in crude included in the fare itself to start out with these will talk about Cruise only rates and there's a lot of different names some of them that are industry terms some that you will see like sail away rates for example. With with N.C.L. these are fares that only include the the basics and what the basics are can vary by the cruise line of course common things that we're talking about here is you know boarding the ship being on the cruise the food in the main dining room and Buffet and maybe some other snack kind of unused basic beverages in terms of you know water ice tea drip coffee. Entertainment such as stage shows musical performances of course your state room so all hotel services and transportation going to and from the different ports of call what's not usually included again I keep giving the caveat depends on the cruise line but usually I'll call it beverages specialty coffees specialty dining Internet you know on board internet wife I go to appease or service charges however whatever you want to call those these one of the reasons that cruise lines like to advertise these rates is because they make for good lead rates and what I mean by that is they can lead with the lowest fare any business likes to advertise their lowest possible fare so if you strip out everything else then you can show hey you go on this cruise really 399 Well you will likely want to purchase some other things and even if you don't you still need to take into account the taxes and other stuff that we mentioned earlier. There are of course exceptions to when Cruise Lines want to lead with the lowest rate and I don't know what maybe I should say that there are exceptions to that maybe just how they go about it Cruise Lines want to want to advertise the lowest rate they can for what someone knows they are getting but it's important to note that what is included with those cruise only fares can depend on the cruise line as you go upmarket generally speaking you see more and more included Whether that's why fine or patooties or even well you know as you go into luxury lines some of these include all of your excursions all of your drinks everything is included you know unless you're buying a watch in the gift shop virgin voyages for example we because we just talked about them on episode I believe it was Episode 14 of the podcast We've got lots of Virgin voyages coverage will put that in the show it's their brand new line looking to go a bit upmarket into the premium area maybe even a little bit higher and they they include service charges there are no service charge on Virgin voyages and all their fares include wife so that's one example but there are plenty of others even within cruise lines it let's say contemporary lines carnival Norwegian Royal Caribbean there are still more inclusive rates and this is something that we see with increasing popularity. These are rates where a cruise line says yeah we want to lead with the lowest pricing that we can however if people see everything that's included if we make that apparent and. Somebody then compares our price to another one that doesn't include all these things so more inclusive rates could include any number of things from drink packages Internet on board credit specialty dining gratuities shore excursion credits I'm sure there are other things here as well on board credit by the way could be used really to pay for almost any of those things on board credit is fantastic if you're not familiar with onboard credit basically it's it's money that you can spend on the ship Think of it as getting a gift card for that cruise line for the purposes of that particular cruise you're on we have an entire article just about what on board credit is the different types of onboard credit how you can get it so you're more inclusive rates can include some combination of those things and we're seeing more and more cruise lines offer these as an option they could also I should mention include occasionally things like air or pre and post cruise hotel stays we see air included and hotel stays as well but air we see included. More in either European cruises or Alaskan cruise where they they know that someone is all the more likely to need to factor in here that you can always look at purchasing air through 3 cruise line regardless of which what type of rate you choose and there can be a lot of great reasons to do that in fact very frequently the more inclusive rates that we see. Are online are as part of promotions so like N.C.L. has what they call free at sea and everyone has some different name for these things free it sees where you can pick some combination or maybe all of drinks specially dining shore excursion credits why fi and a free 3rd or 4th person in your stateroom these can be great deals and sell tens do this on a lot of sailings Holland. Celebrity is doing it on more and more but with N.C.L. you don't really see it as much as part of a specific promotion with a lot of other cruise lines you see it more as part of specific promotions that might be around a holiday or that are on sailings that are just moving more slowly or that they just have space on that they they need to fill in this a good way to incentivize people to book that sailing but also it guarantees the cruise on some revenue right maybe they didn't know if you were going to book short skirt and through them they didn't know if you were going to get a drink package to them but if your fare includes all of that stuff then you're paying for it upfront and in doing so the benefit to you is that pretty universally you get these things if you're going to purchase these things anyway you're going to pay that the net cost you're going to pay is a lot less to go with a fare that has these things built in a horrendous. Other cruise lines that have these just throwing out a couple names you can look for Go best would also go better with your purse would go best on celebrity that's where drink package why 5 on board credit gratuities Explorer 4 on America's not doing that one right now but they do it every so often that drink packages specialty dining credit and I think maybe a lower deposit or something like that a life choice on Oceana I love those rates because they end up including shore excursions beverage package on board credit it it kind of depends on the exact sailing but they can they can be really beneficial all in is now what M.S.C. calls their variant of this though they actually M.S.C. has a couple different versions wife and I all call it basic drinks they have something they call drinks on us and you know the drink packages included and it can be a great deal but just so you know what they generally include is their most basic of During package so it's like draft beer and house wine that can be a great value if you really can do that anyway but it's not a full beverage package which go up the bar and order whatever you want however you can generally upgrade from there there are other cruise lines with different names and I'm sure that we'll see some of the same cruise lines in fact even Holland America was I saw the other day they had. I don't know if it was it wasn't set sail that's and they had that another name for a similar concept we're seeing more and more of this again it is a situation where everyone can can win if you're already planning on purchasing these other things you know during package shore excursions why 5 whatever the case maybe look at what is included how much not only cost but But what the value is to you and see if it actually makes sense because maybe while some of these might look really interesting if you weren't going to get one for you weren't going to get a drink that you weren't going to do all these things maybe the best rate still is just the cruise only rate beverage packages one of the I don't want to say it's actually pretty easy want to consider but it's easy for people to miss consider I don't even know if that's a word but we're going with it we've got an article over on the site we'll put that in. You know it's all about how to do the math to figure out if a beverage package makes sense for you also tie that in fact we a lot of that has to with how much the drinks that you like cost on the given cruise line you're going on and we we also just a week or $2.00 ago put out an article we're compared some popular drink prices across cruise lines because what is a $6.00 drink on one could be a $12.00 drink on another I don't actually know check the chart you get the idea. Another type of rate that we see another type of promotion all say are and I want to bundle these all together because frequently they're somewhat interchangeable state resident rates teacher rates military 1st responder there's probably something else nurses and they can be good deals but there's a pretty big cabin by the way want to see state resident It can vary by state frequently I see a lot of Florida resident rate I live in Florida a lot of cruise leave out of Florida but I've seen him for all different states states that have cruise ports and landlock States even just depends on how Cruise Lines you know what I can't even guess how some of that works maybe maybe we'll have somebody on the can tell us something but that these these type of rates can be great however they're generally. Not combinable with other promotions in other words if you see a rate. To make up some more numbers $2000.00 for a cruise for 2 people that includes beverages. You know some sort of average package you say Well that sounds great oh look it says here that they have a teacher rate. You're probably not going to find that that. $2000.00 cruise is now $800.00 because you're a teacher where you're probably going to find is that there is a really great low advertised rate for the cruise only because these state state resident teacher military for ship on rates usually are for cruise only and that can be great if you were looking at a cruise only rate and this into you know the sailing that has these fits in your schedule I also see these most frequently though not exclusively applied to sailings that are within final payment date so ceilings that are a couple weeks or a few months out because that's when Cruise Lines really know hey we need to we need to fill the ship up if we have any space left so do keep that in mind this again with any of these rates look at the net cost what are you going to end up wanting to purchase in terms of those add ons and see if it makes sense for you now I mention with these resident rates and with some of the other things as well that this can come down to a timing thing right because Cruise Lines know that one people shop for cruises at different times they add that consumers expect sales to come up certain times you know Memorial Day sale I couldn't tell you one good reason that things go on sale a Memorial Day but somebody did it at one point and now everyone just expects their sales on different things cruises televisions who knows what on Memorial Day So. That is indeed one of the times holidays that you can see different promotions happen you can also see when a cruise is inside a final payment date because at that point they know who deposited but didn't end up booking so cruise lines have more knowledge as to how full or not a sailing is and how they might need to incentivize people to book however when it comes to when it comes to last minute you can't bet on that because it may be full and prices may go up in there be maybe no sale or promotion it may get a lot more expensive and with holidays don't think that that means for even a fleeting moment that a holiday sailing is likely to be discounted. Holidays that are popular for cruisers are not generally discounted So an example New Years New Years can be an extremely expensive time to cruise compared to the same cruises same itineraries on the same ship same lines you know 2 weeks later 3 weeks earlier whatever the case may be the only major U.S. holiday that I see some consistently low rates on is Thanksgiving and even that just depends on where in the world you are I'm talking about Caribbean as far as that goes not that anyone's sailing Alaska and mid November but if you get the idea there are other times that you can expect different rates different promotions to come out that's when a new ship is announced and those sailings are released new itineraries a change of you know big change where they say oh we're going to start going to a certain port a certain country at a certain time and just when the new year or 2 of rates come out right they only cruise lines only release things in batches it's not as if you can book a cruise for 18 months out from today and next week there will be one more they generally do it in batches sometimes all at once sometimes for certain regions but that's another time you can see these and it is always most it is always the best bet to book as far out as possible so when these new itineraries do drop because it's a new ship or new part of the world that they're going to be going to whatever the case may be Usually that is when you can get the best rates that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye out after you book we've written on the site before about what happens when what are your options when a rate drops after you've already booked you know and if you're in North America generally you have some better options but there are there's a lot of variability in a lot to consider how to go back to what I've said I think 5 times so far in this 5 gas look at the net rate because. Let's say you booked a cruise really far out because you heard from Billie and cruise habit that that is how you get the best rate and you paid $2500.00 for this cruise and it includes 3 $100.00 on board credit and drink package for 2 and then a new rate comes out and it's $800.00 and you go wow that's a $700.00 difference I'm I'm calling it my travel agent the cruise line you know I'm tweeting Billy to complain and I'm the I'm switching that today $200.00 Well if that $800.00 rate doesn't include that onboard credit drink package that may not be as good of rate for you it all depends on what you are looking for no matter how you slice it some key takeaways are use a good travel agent that can help you understand the different types of rates that are available book as early as you possibly can and you your travel agent your friend who likes pricing out cruises keep an eye on those rates and those promotions to see when the when and if they change and just make sure you do the math make sure you understand that there is no universally best rate or best for motion do what is best for you for the type of cruise you plan on taking if you are not a big drinker then it doesn't matter how great of a deal it is to include the drink package for somebody else it doesn't make sense for you so stick with the lower rate. And now for something completely different no I'm not talking about a monkey Python theme cruise though I could be convinced to go on that I actually want to hear from each and every one of you because I want to better understand how you like to cruise and how maybe you'd like to cruise in the future so what I want you to do is this you can email the show podcast at cruise habit dot com and I want you to tell me if you have cruised primarily or exclusively on one line or even just one type of line what I mean by that is you know just contemporary lines and C.L. carnival roll Caribbean or just premium lines Princess Holland America celebrity whatever the case may be but you are curious about a different type of cruising maybe it's a specialty line like Q nard or Disney or maybe it's maybe you've stuck with one line even if it's a one line in a in a single type you know maybe you've only sailed Caribbean but there's been that one line maybe it's a premium line maybe it's a luxury liner maybe it's another contemporary line maybe it's maybe it's carnal maybe maybe it's M.S.C. if there's something like that you have in mind that you've always been in this one kind of area and you want to branch out I want to know I want to hear from you. What that change is that you're looking for you're thinking about cruising wanted to line what type of line and what is making you curious about that other line there are a number of reasons that I have no I have no big secret hidden agenda with this by the way I just want to really better understand. Other other cruisers and importantly you guys those of you who are willing to do it in and read and everything so I appreciate it send me your insights send me your thoughts podcast at cruise habit dot com And if you have questions about anything else. Anything cruising related How's that then I'd also like to hear from you podcasting Cruise habit dot com Who knows we might even read your question on the air or it could turn into an entire episode Lastly I want to thank a couple people big thanks to James hush Nathan D. 59 and slay he 511 no idea if I'm saying that last one right or not we're going to give it a shot we are glad you like the podcast it takes time to to leave reviews and those 3 those 3 listeners took that time to leave reviews on i Tunes or were Apple podcasts I sincerely appreciate it if you take the time to leave review I will take time to thank you if you like the show then and Golly I hope you do if not please email me your feedback but if you like this show please leave us a review no matter how you listen to the podcast whether it's on on Spotify or stitch or whatever the case may be disfavor lever of you over on Apple podcast or i Tunes It all goes into the same place that would mean that would mean the world I appreciate that and the other thing that I always tell everyone on periscope I appreciate if you like the podcast or if you like my broadcasts over on periscope and we do that either from ships or from from the port it means the world to me when you share content also from the website and share content with someone else that will enjoy it I do this for fun I do this because I like talking ship with all of you so please share with someone else that will appreciate and on that note. I will be sharing even more coming up we've got a cruise coming up April 7th 7th I hope I don't realize that I'm saying the wrong date after core this will be on the whole America's new Statendam It's a brand new ship she just started sailing about but in 06 weeks ago something like that sister ship to calming down and yet has some has some distinct differences really excited about the musical entertainment that something called America's been focusing on a lot will be live blogging and doing as much live video as we can as well from that wind up with some more stuff on Youtube as well so be sure you follow along there be lots over our crews have a dot com about that upcoming April 7th new start and sailing with that I think each and every one of you for tuning in and look forward to more fun episodes fun content over on the site and hope we get started up with you again real soon. Hi this is David Crane from, a friend of Cruz have a dot com Follow crews have it on Twitter Instagram and Facebook subscribe to the crews have a podcast on i Tunes Google Play or wherever you enjoy podcast search crews have it in the periscope up to join the broadcast from shipping more they'd love to talk ship with you real soon.