Great Cruise Offers Worth A Look, Quickly, As Industry Evolves


The holidays are over and winter is solidly here with all its icy, slushy, frozen mess for much of North America.  No surprise there; it’s that time of the year.

Some travelers will get away to a warm destination with a Caribbean sailing. Also not surprising, escaping cold weather in the winter is nothing new either.

Others look farther into the future, booking later in 2015 if not as far as 2017. Again, business as usual in January.

It’s called ‘wave season’, the first three months of the year as those on the business side of cruise vacations work overtime, matching the right traveler with the right cruise line, ship and itinerary. Actually, that’s what they do all the time.  But during wave season,  cruise lines normally offer their best values of the year with this year being no exception.  Let’s take a look at some of the outstanding cruise offers being promoted right now with a twist; deals might not get better than this.

Celebrity Cruises 123go!…Like Never Before
Celebrity Equinox - 26Fans of Celebrity Cruises are familiar with their popular 123go! promotion, offering cruise travelers Free Prepaid Gratuities, Free Beverages and Onboard Credit when booking targeted stateroom categories, destinations, ships and sailing dates. It’s one of the best deals out there and now it’s better, way better, for a limited time.

Limited Time $25 Per Person Deposit Offer:  Good only through January 11th on a ship that sails between April 2015 and April 2017.  Always check the fine print for exact details (and this offer has a lot of it) but this is a wonderful way to lock in a future travel dream without investing very much up front.

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A brilliant move, this promotion comes at a time when travel budgets might be at a yearly low, depleted by holiday travel.   Click here for all the details.

That $25 per person deposit offer coincides with Celebrity Cruises’ 25th Anniversary.  Another popular cruise line has an anniversary-focused promotion too, this one celebrating 50 years of sailing.

 

Princess Cruises 50th Anniversary Sale- Their Best Ever
sapphire-princess-0001As the line of the Love Boat continues a celebration that began with the debut of new Regal Princess not long ago, Princess Cruises has what they are calling their biggest sale ever.  Indeed, the offer is impressive.  Here too though, buyers need to read the fine print and focus on the meat of the deal, not the gravy.  A promised savings of up to $500 per person is a nice thought but hard for most buyers to get excited about.  Who really knows what a particular sailing was selling for previously?  But other elements of the offer add up really fast and make Princess Cruises 50th Anniversary Sale a solid value.

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Free specialty dining for two is a great idea that encourages Princess guests to try their alternative dining venues.  Up to $200 Onboard Credit is potentially nice as is 50% off 3rd and 4th guests, but not really all that exciting and unusual.  That the reduced deposit of $100 per person is refundable is good, often it is not.  Click here for all the details

A bonus value and what might end up being the most enduring part of this story; special anniversary celebrations, events, menus and cocktail on board that include a Love Boat 70’s Disco Party.  Cruise lines have a way of hanging on to popular promotions, weaving them through onboard programming on a regular basis.

Case in point: Carnival Cruise Line and their Funship 2.0 initiative.  After sailing a number of ships that had already received a stroke of the Funship 2.0 brush, I sailed on one that had not been converted yet. Huge difference and a wakeup call: this was not the Carnival of yesteryear.

Another case in point:  Royal Caribbean International‘s ongoing effort of rolling out some of the most popular features of their newest ships to older ships in the fleet, effectively giving extending their relevant life.

 

Messina - 120Seabourn Cruises Signature Savings Event is aptly tagged “Limited time. Limitless possibilities” and offers bonus value to luxury market cruise travelers.  But back this up a little bit and consider the already good value Seabourn offers, including:

  • Open Bars throughout the ship with fine wines poured at lunch and dinner
  • All dining venues are complementary
  • Spacious all-suite accommodations
  • Welcome champagne and a stocked in-suite bar
  • The Seabourn Difference, something we have covered here like a blanket and an enduring memory that made 2014’s Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise our top-rated cruise event of the year.

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Still, book now and take advantage of Seabourn 2015 Signature Savings Event values, including:

  • Extraordinary savings on select voyages
  • Complimentary Veranda Suite upgrade
  • Sail back to back and get up to 15% savings on select Combination Cruises
  • $1,000 per suite shipboard credit for penthouse and premium suites

Click Here For All The Details

 

Royal Caribbean Vow To Wow Sale
Royal_Caribbean_Surcharges_Some_More_03Royal Caribbean continues their popular Buy One Guest, Get Second Guest 50% Off Sale on all ships (except Quantum and Anthem of the Seas) and all sailings .  Add $100 onboard credit for Oceanview staterooms and $200 onboard credit for balconies and suites for bonus value, through January 31, 2015. We like the Buy One, Get One 50% off part because it is combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts and future booking NextCruise offers purchased while sailing.  The onboard credit offer is combinable with restricted rates (Seniors, Residents, Military, BOGO, Kids Sail Free) as well as NextCruise offers.

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Significant here is fine print wording that seems to soften the cruise line’s set-in-stone rule of ‘one deal per booking’.  Could stacking of offers be next?  We’ll be watching to see.

Neither offer is combinable with Royal Caribbean’s Weekly Sales Events or Shareholder Benefits…but the total value here might exceed the value gained by either of those special fares anyway.

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Your Best Cruise Value, Any Time Of The Year
Looking for the very best value?  You’ll need to begin with a travel professional in your pocket, one you have been building a long term business relationship with.  Those people who live and breathe what happens with the cruise industry, are on top of all promotions all the time and accessible when you need them are the key.  With a certified travel professional on your side, an individual’s best interests are preserved and promoted.  Without one, buyers are on their own and that can not end well, a lot more often than one might imagine.

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Why is this important?
Last year, during wave season, it was a buyers market as the worldwide economy continued to recover. Since then, economic conditions have continued to improve, to the point where cruise lines are not all jumping in with everything they can think of to steer us their way.  Now, would-be travelers are using the savings found at the gas pump, not to make ends meet, but to establish a travel fund and make plans. That makes offers featuring a reduced deposit popular, a notion supported by the Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises offers noted above.

In travel, value is king and few other vacation options offer as much of it as cruise vacations on any given day.  Adding in generous onboard credit and customizable options, bumps up that value a bit. Promoting standard elements of cruise vacation like discounted rates for third/fourth guests in a stateroom helps drive that value home.  Still, instead of making these offers to counteract effects of a troubled economy or the negative headline grabbing news stories of the past, cruise lines have moved forward.

In 2015, look for pricing and values to be driven by something we have not focused much on in recent years: good old fashioned competition among cruise lines.  Interestingly, the last time we were in this position as buyers, cruise lines were busy working to differentiate themselves from one another.  Not all that long ago, we could plan a week off from work/school to sail from Florida without booking a particular cruise line and ship until later.  Which ship or cruise line did not matter all that much as they were all about the same.  Not so now.

Now the lions share of that differentiation effort is complete,  pitting one cruise line’s best effort against all others.  In today’s rapidly changing cruise industry, if it seems more difficult to lock in on a time to buy, there is good reason.  Cruise lines are back to sailing full speed ahead, in a healthier economy that is dead set on getting value for every penny they spend.  They know what we want and are delivering it.

If any of the above look good, buy now. Odds are that the deal will not sweeten as the year goes on.