Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's a good time to book a cruise

January proved to be a very “interesting” month for us in our business as well as in our personal life. Although I will not go into the personal situations, I will only say they were challenging. Now, we are looking forward and working on some new ideas that we can offer to our current as well as future clients.

As far as the “cruise industry” goes, the economic situations today have actually been good for the consumer in several ways. Normally, all the cruise lines prefer to see their capacity filling up earlier rather than having to offer promotions or reduced pricing as the sailing gets closer and will normally offer booking incentives when people book early and raise prices as ships fill up.

However, since the consumer is unsure of what the future holds for themselves, the recent trend has been for bookings 1-4 months prior to sailing instead of 7-10 months as we have seen for the last several years. Because the cruise lines need to fill their ships, they have been forced to reduce pricing and possibly offer some incentives to generate the new bookings needed. Besides lower pricing, they are also requiring lower deposits (although full payment due remains approximately 75 days before sailing), on board credit, upgrades, and other incentives to stimulate business and fill the space available on many itineraries.

So what happened to those customers who did book months ago and who should get the best pricing? We can’t speak for other agencies (lower price means lower commissions so many agencies will not adjust prices once booked) but we will always get pricing adjusted for our clients if the pricing goes lower after you are booked. We have always promised to protect our clients and always will. Many of you who booked a while ago on 2009 cruise vacations have had your pricing lowered recently. Lower pricing is not happening on every ship or sailing date but it has happened quite a bit lately.

But, we don’t expect this to last for long! Because of the recent promotions, space has been getting sold and ships are filling up for the premium dates and the close in dates.

Not only does pricing go up as the ships fill but just as important, the choice of desirable accommodations becomes less. When you book “close in” you must take what is left. The further out you plan a cruise, the better off you are. By booking early, you get the most choices for the type of accommodation you prefer and we will protect your pricing if it does go down after you book (it doesn’t affect you if pricing goes up unless you are making a new booking). Plus, your deposit is fully refundable prior to the final payment due date at which time the cruise line cancellation penalties go into effect (we have no cancel penalty either if there is no cruise line penalty imposed). If something happens in the future and you have to cancel and change your vacation plans before that final payment due date, you have not lost anything but if all goes as planned, you have everything to gain. Now is the best time to plan your summer and fall vacations and hopefully a cruise is in those plans.

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