With Spring Break highlighted on many student calendars and potential summer vacations on the horizon, some may find their relaxation destination via cruise ship. But, according to a recent New York Times article, it may be more difficult this year to find that desired cruise trip bargain. In 2009 customers benefited from numerous deals, discounts, free upgrades, and onboard credits. However, don’t expect this same treatment in 2010 from the majority of cruise lines.
Industry experts claim that some “steals” are still floating around out there, but it will require advanced planning, research, and flexibility from the traveler(s). Certain upgrades and freebies will also be absent this year. For example, in 2010 Disney Cruise Line will not offer its Kids Sail Free package and Norwegian Cruise Line will no longer offer its universal $250 onboard credit as it had done last year. As an alternative, NCL plans to offer up to $300 of onboard credit only for those suites reserved nine months prior to departure. And, the reservations must be made by April 1.
With rates increasing this year, being flexible with vacation dates can work to one’s favor. A recent search for a cruise to the Bahamas on Kayak.com resulted in four nights on Carnival’s Fascination departing on February 11 for $359. However, if you leave two weeks later the price drops to $269. SureCruise.com has a new site feature called “Dates Flexible?” which allows customers to see how much they could be saving if they postponed their trip. A weeklong Caribbean cruise in July starts at $1,049 on Royal Caribbean, but the site also mentions that there were other dates available in September beginning at $539. The September pricing is appealing, but I would be fairly hesitant to travel onboard a ship during what is considered to be the most active hurricane month.
However, in comparison to last year, some rates are noticeably rising regardless of departure date. In 2009 Holland America Line listed 12-day Europe and Panama Canal trips for $999, while this year those same cruises start at $1,199. Experts recommend booking cruise vacations months in advance to avoid sellouts and to score any possible “early-bird” discounts. It appears that you can unearth some cruise bargains especially if you can afford to have a flexible travel schedule. If not, then locating that optimal deal/vacation package may prove to be somewhat challenging this year.