Wow!! The last week was unprecedented in the travel industry with the daily policy changes and ultimately a full suspension of cruise operations for 30 days caused by COVID-19. Sorry that so many of you were affected by these changes disrupting many travel and vacation plans. Each cruise line’s policies seem to be changing daily as they figure this out but they have all be pretty flexible in offering generous Future Cruise Credits (FCC) for those that wish to reschedule their canceled cruises or are within their allowed time period for rescheduling booked cruises this year.
Here are 7 tips to help you rebook and secure your best cruise vacation possible using FCC while the cruise lines remain flexible.
1) All cabins are not created equal. Know your cabin (stateroom) categories:
On the newer cruise ships at least 75% of the cabins are balconies or Verandahs and each ship can have up to 40 plus cabin categories. The least expensive cabins in each category are in the least desirable locations or may be slightly smaller with fewer amenities. If booking a balcony or outside cabin (window only) always ask if it has an obstructed view and is below or above a nightclub or other noisy area of the ship that can negatively affect your cruise enjoyment. Study the deck plan and cabin categories and descriptions when booking your cruise for best results.
My personal preference is always for a balcony or higher category cabin close to stairs and elevators on higher deck so enjoy fresh air and great view along with extra space of the balcony don't have to walk to far to get to the cafe or coffee. Depending on the price, mini-suites or concierge level cabins that offer more space or access to a concierge lounge and private restaurant are very nice and when you spread the additional costs over 7 nights can provide good value for the extra luxury.
Also study the itinerary map if you like to see the shoreline to help determine the best side of the ship for your cabin view...either Port (left side facing forward) or Starboard (right side facing forward).
2) Book as far out as possible and be flexible on dates, itineraries and cabins:
--Holiday cruises are always more popular and more expensive so book early for better availability and pricing before the ships fills up while cruises in early December before Christmas tend to be great deals
--Largest suites and special family cabins are limited, always in high demand by frequent cruisers and sell out very quickly
--Connecting cabins and inside cabins also are limited and sell quickly
--Large groups and families that wish to be close together should book farther out for better cabin availability and placement (it is always more fun when your friends and family are adjacent to each other)
Myth: Some guests think that booking right before sailing always offers better pricing. Sometimes this is true depending on the time of the year and sailing but if so cabin options are often limited as every ship sails at near capacity. We always suggest booking farther out to hand pick and secure the cabin you want at a flexible rate and then can switch your promotions to take advantage of better deals when they become available. Just like hotel rooms the least desirable cabins are always the last to be sold and could be below a noisy nightclub or at the front of the ship with an obstructed view away with a long walk down the hallway to the elevator and stairs.
3) Use a professional Travel Advisor:
--Cruise lines rely on Travel Advisors to book the majority of their inventory, so the pricing is the same or sometimes better then if booking directly with a cruise line.
--Travel Advisors have inside knowledge, personal experience and exclusive resources to guide you to the best ships, cabins, views, itineraries, seasons to sail, beverage, & dining packages and time of the year to sail, etc.
--Travel Advisors are your personal advocate from start to finish and save you time along with monitoring your reservations to take advantage of new promotions, upgrades and perks to stretch your cruise budget.
--Save time and hassle avoiding lengthy hold times on the phone with the cruise lines and no wait times with your travel advisor
--Travel Advisors can also assist and advise you with discounted pre/post accommodations, ground transfers, shore excursions, onboard and shoreside dining, entertainment, packing and assist you with completing boarding documents along with any assistance or questions
4) Book into existing Group Space
--Larger travel agencies often hold group space on many sailings that offer discounted pricing and additional amenities such as onboard credit, free shore excursions, specialty dining, prepaid gratuities, etc., including lower pricing for 3rd and 4th guests. Since overall pricing has increased due to guests moving their existing reservations, the previously negotiated group cabins should offer a discount.
5) Monitor your reservation to take advantage of promotions:
--Cruise lines offer new pricing and promotions monthly that can really stretch your vacation budget so always book with the best promotion available in an unrestricted fare, so you’re not penalized a fee when switching to the new promotion
--Even if you book without a promotion, don't worry there will be another one soon that you can take advantage of and shift your reservation into the new promotion.
--Besides price reductions popular promotions include onboard credit, specialty dining meals, beverage packages, cabin amenities, Wi-Fi packages, shore excursions, spa services, free or reduced airfare, pre-paid gratuities and reduced fares for 3rd and 4th guests
--American Express Platinum card holders and above also receive exclusive additional amenities and onboard credit over and above other promotions so be sure to ask your travel advisor about this as these can really add up
6) Book a Guaranteed Fare for better pricing but be wary:
Guaranteed fares are discounted fares offered by the cruise line for the main cabin categories, but actual cabin numbers are assigned by the cruise line within 2 weeks prior to sailing...they have Pros and Cons
Pros – Guaranteed fares can offer a substantial discount for the cabin category you select and may allow you to afford a balcony cabin that you could not afford otherwise
Cons- For the cost savings received you give up the right to choose your own cabin so could end up in a lower deck, at the bow of the ship far from an elevator and your friends and with an obstructed view and over a noisy night club....scary right?
7) Book flexible, refundable and non-restricted cruise fares:
Cruise lines have adopted pricing practices from airlines and now offer many restricted and non-refundable fares that first glance may offer initial savings over the current fares but will limit your ability and options later to take advantage of future promotions that will stretch your budget (examples of restricted fares are; non-refundable fares, senior fares, military fares, guaranteed fares)
Often times as travel advisors we need to cancel a client’s reservation so can book a new reservation to take advantage of a better promotion and savings but if the original fare has a non-refundable fee this lessens this option and potential savings
We hope this is helpful you can rebook your a fantastic cruise vacation while the cruse lines are being so flexible. Keep Calm and Cruise on.
For a listing of all the cruise lines and their policies visit our dedicated webpage on Coronavirus travel supplier updates:
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