I’ve done a few posts in the last year on cruise pricing. These have largely been prompted by the range of fares that have been available during that time – Vantage vs Getaway, and now Select or Early Saver (using P&O’s terms). In general I’ve expressed some dissatisfaction, based on comments that we overheard on our last cruise or two. However it might be that I might have been overstating the issue a bit.
As anyone who’s read the ‘Cruises in 2014‘ page will know, we finally decided on a cruise on Azura from Southampton to the Baltic for this year, and we booked it in mid-summer last year. The price was £2,120 each for a mid-ships C deck balcony cabin on a Vatage fare basis, which was probably the only fare type available at that time. For our Vantage fare benefit we took the free parking, and there was an additional £100 each of OBC because it was early days in the booking season for the 2014 brochure. I’ve just booked the free parking on-line with CPS, and I was interested to see that if I’d had to pay it would have cost £155 for the two weeks’ parking. So adding it all up, the total value of the benefits from the Vantage fare + early booking comes to £355. Subtract that from our basic price and the net price for our cruise comes down to £1942.50 each.
But would we have saved money by waiting? – well, not in this case. I checked a few days ago and the Select fare price (Select fare is this year’s Vantage fare) for an equivalent cabin grade was £2400 each (I’m rounding up to the nearest hundred pounds). Allowing for benefits of £150 per person OBC (which is the current offer) and the same car parking benefit, the net cost had we waited until now would have been £2112.50 each, £170 each more than we are actually paying. And of course at this late stage there’s no guarantee that even with a Select fare we would get the dining arrangements we want, or the C deck balcony cabin that we most definitely want.
But wait, I hear you stay – what about a cheaper fare type? Well, yes, it’s true that they are available. But I see that at the moment the price of an equivalent grade cabin is £1800 per person on an Early Saver fare. Add to that the price of the car parking (not free with this fare type) and it rises to £1877.50 per person. That’s within spitting distance of our actual £1942.50 net each, and of course with an Early Saver we would have no idea at all about dining arrangements or cabin choice, and we would have to pay for shuttle buses in ports.
Of course it is possible that there may yet be late offers, especially after the payment deadline has passed, but that was always the case before the current complicated system of fares was introduced. It’s also possible that the fare may have dipped at some point between the time we booked and now. But had that happened we should have been informed by P&O (the ‘Price Promise’), and we weren’t; and in any case, turning to the question of when to book, it’s easier to see in hindsight when a price was at it’s lowest but not so easy at the time. Even if the price had dipped a little, it has obviously increased subsequently, and anyone who waited too long would have missed the low point. (If there was ever was a low point.).
So perhaps the issue is really as much to do with the cruise you’ve chosen. This cruise looks as if its proving popular, whereas I gather (from anecdotal comments) that Ventura’s fly-cruise program is not going so well. Which means that you really do need a crystal ball so you can get an understanding as to which cruises will be most popular….