Many people are confused about how cruises are priced and why there is so much difference between vendors for the same ship and same sailing. They are also shocked when they have seen a cruise artificially advertised at a very low price and suddenly find that it cost more than advertised. The important thing to remember is that price contains several components. The first three are what people are often confused by. Contained in the price is 1. cruise fare 2. Port charges 3. Taxes 4. Transfers (included with some cruise lines, a separate charge with others) 5. Airfare (if you asked for it) 6. Airport taxes and fees 7. Trip Insurance (optional.)
The first question you should ask when pricing a cruise is "Does this price include all port charges and taxes?" Sometimes there is a legitimate difference in price between vendors because a vendor may be holding Group Space on a ship which was booked far in advance. In that case, that may be the vendor to go with if price, service and availability is better than others. Price is also affected by the type of stateroom you choose and when you are going.
While these descriptions are not ship or cruise line specific, some general information may be helpful to you in deciding which type of stateroom is right for you and how that will affect the price you pay. Each cruise line categorizes staterooms differently and as a result, it is not possible to give you a category that fits all cruise lines. Size, age, design of the ship and individual cruise line preferences lead to wide variation in stateroom categorization. Cruise line brochures help you understand specifics of individual ships.
In a nutshell, pricing for cruises starts on the inside of a ship at the lowest passenger deck. The important thing to know about these cabins is that the very lowest inside cabins may very well be bunk beds, or an upper and lower berth. That's not bad if you're two single travelers on a budget, but probably not very good if you are celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary. You may have gotten a cheap cruise but not exactly what you expected. Be sure to ask when you receive the quote what the berth configuration is.
The next level up is an inside cabin with two lower berths that can be put together as a queen sized bed. These are generally very popular for budget conscious travelers and work fine. The cabins are essentially the same as an outside cabin minus a window. If you aren't going to be in your cabin very much this may be perfect for you.
As you go up each deck level, the price of the stateroom normally increases whether it is inside or outside. If you are comparing prices, make sure you compare apples to apples. Be sure to ask the stateroom type and category that is being quoted.
As indicated before, inside cabins and outside cabins are essentially the same on most ships. Outside cabins start with porthole windows and may be priced only slightly higher than inside cabins.
The next type of cabin would be one that has a large picture window. Outside ocean view cabins are very pleasant and people often spend much more time in a stateroom than you might think. Ocean view cabins are particularly nice when you are going in and out of ports or on an Alaskan cruise. Occasionally, you will be treated to the sight of dolphins or whales jumping alongside the ship or an incredible sunrise or sunset.
The next step up is an outside ocean view stateroom with a private verandah or balcony. These are obviously more expensive but if you like the privacy of breakfast on your own private balcony it may be well worth the additional cost. These staterooms are outstanding for Alaska cruises as an alternative to highly crowded public areas where people are straining to get a view. For northbound cruises, the starboard side is great and southbound port side is best for optimal viewing.
Mini suites, Family suites, Penthouse and Owners Suites are the more expensive accommodations on cruise ships. The amenities increase with each category you move up, as does the cost. More and more ships are being built with more balconies, as there is an increasing demand for them
Staterooms can be booked with a specific cabin assignment or on what is called a guarantee basis. A specific cabin assignment is appropriate if you have a particular need or preference. An example would be that if you were highly prone to motion discomfort you would want to be as close to the middle of the ship and as low down on the ship is possible where there is the least motion. If you are flexible, a good way to book is on a guarantee which simply means that you book the lowest category inside or outside cabin and by giving the cruise line flexibility in meeting other passenger request in cabin assignments, they will automatically upgrade you to the best available cabin (generally inside to inside, outside to outside) at time of sailing. Quite often, you will get much more than you actually paid for and save a little money in the process.
In addition to the general factors described above that affects price, there are an endless variety of special promotions going at any given time that could save you money. State and regional residency promotions, senior specials and run of ship promotions are all things to check. AARP members can save $50 per stateroom on 3, 4, 5 day cruises, $100 per stateroom off select 7 day cruises and up to $200 off other select cruises on Carnival. All that's required is a photocopy of your AARP Membership Card along with the initial deposit.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
Obviously, adding travel insurance increases the cost of your trip. The cost of insurance is based your age and cost of the trip on a per person basis and is generally quite reasonable. You are making a sizable investment in your vacation, and insurance is a wise way to protect that investment particularly given recent events related to terrorism and the dramatic impact it has had on our travel and transportation system. We strongly recommend adding Travel Protection Insurance for a number of reasons and we recommend Travel Guard over cruise line insurance even though cruise line insurance is sometimes less expensive. While cruise line insurance is better than no insurance in most cases, Trip Interruption and Cancellation policies sold by the cruise lines are no good if the company folds. Just ask the 2,800 Premiere Cruise Line passengers who were stuck after 5 Premiere ships were seized by creditors in foreign ports a some time ago. Renaissance, American Hawaii, US Lines and a number of other smaller cruise lines have all suddenly gone out of business recently leaving thousands of passengers who were uninsured in a difficult situation. Financial failure and bankruptcy are excluded in cruise line policies. Those who had Travel Guard were protected and were paid in full. Those Premiere customers who had no insurance were required to file for refunds through the Federal Maritime Commission. The payouts could take several months or longer and there is no guarantee passengers will get their money back. Another down side of cruise line insurance is that most of them do not refund your money, they issue a future cruise credit. That may not be advantageous to you depending on the circumstances of the cancellation. If you lost your job and had to cancel, you probably need the money more than a future cruise.
In addition to protection against cruise line bankruptcy, Travel Guard offers superior trip cancellation, interruption, medical and medical evacuation provisions. The medical portion includes all pre existing conditions if purchased within 7 days of deposit on your cruise or land vacation package. Today, many HMO's and insurance providers create serious obstacles to coverage outside the United States and medical evacuation may not be covered at all. An evacuation could costs upwards of $20,000 or more and without insurance, you will be stuck with it. Most important, medical facilities in foreign nations may not be willing to provide treatment based on coverage by a private HMO policy. Travel Guard has excellent medical provisions that are well known throughout the world and a strong track record of paying promptly.
a final note …
One thing to keep in mind with respect to price is that you are going on VACATION. Often cut-rate fares can mean cut rate fun. If cheap is the only thing that matters, you may get exactly what you pay for. You may not be real happy with it. We focus on cruise VALUE, quality and service. Sometimes that means you pay a little more but in the end, we are confident you will have a true dream vacation instead of a vacation nightmare. Since we sell dream vacations and not used cars, we try to give you the best price the first time. We don't haggle prices. Also, because of the widespread abuse and misuse of written quotes by the Internet Boiler Room Travel Sites, we no longer provide initial written quotes. We will call you with pricing and upon deposit, will follow up with written confirmation.