I have endeavored to write a post known as “The Weekly Cruise Deal” for some time now. While I’m still committed to posting about deals from all the cruise lines when I see them, I’m certain you’ve noticed that I’m posting a good bit less than weekly. That’s not from a lack of desire, it’s from a lack of what I consider to be good cruise deals. What happened?
There are a few forces at work here, and they aren’t all that different than those in the airline industry. The economy is expanding, unemployment is slowly going down, and people are feeling confident enough to take a vacation leading to increased demand for cruises. Combine that with a bit of pricing discipline that can’t be better described than in this quote from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain during the company’s last earnings call.
“As a result in March we adopted a new policy that we would not do any last minute discounts on bookings in North America. Depending on the type of cruise, that last minute may be 10, 20 or 30 days out, but from that point on we will hold our price at the prior level.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally find deals with Royal Caribbean or other cruise lines, but things have tightened up noticeably. For example, I typically take a late summer short cruise in the 4-night Bahamas market. For 5 years running, I’ve been able to pick it up for under $200 per person after the final payment window. I purchased it this year at $350 per person well before the final payment window, and the price has only gone up. In speaking with my travel agent, demand for this cruise appears to be high, but there are definitely still staterooms for sale. A double whammy of high demand and a policy of no last minute discounts that the cruise line appears to be sticking to have converged. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)
For sure, there are still discounts out there, and I always recommend checking the “90 day ticker” at vacationstogo.com. Cruise lines are also focusing on “perks” like beverage packages to entice customers to book more so than pricing, and that can serve as a good incentive for some. In the absence of a large increase in capacity and/or a deteriorating economic environment, I expect the number of shockingly good cruise deals to be noticeably lacking in the near to medium term.
-MJ, July 1, 2015