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How do you know your are getting a good deal?

How do you know your are getting a good deal?
February 4th, 2013 12:22 am     A+ | a-
Buying a cruise can be a challenge.  Shoppers will find all sorts of offers out there for various cruises and not really know which offers are good deals.  Cruise lines have in the past raised prices and advertise the "biggest sale of the year".  Shoppers, not realizing that the prices are actually higher, will be drawn in and buy just because it is called a sale.  It is not just any sale, but it is "the biggest sale".
In today's market the Cruise line and Travel Agencies will also offer onboard credit and other perks to try to get shoppers to buy.   Shoppers love to get perks, and often jump on a $50 onboard credit deal without realizing that they may be paying $100 more for the cruise.
The one thing that is certain with cruise prices is that they are always changing, and no one can predict what will happen with the prices for a particular cruise.  Sometimes waiting and booking 45 days before the sale date pays off.  If a sailing still has vacancy 45 days out, then the Cruise lines will sometimes offer deep cuts in the prices to try to fill the ship.
Cruise lines are always weary about offering a sale on a cruise and having passengers already booked on that cruise call and try to get the sale price.   So to protect themselves they have policies that keep passengers from rebooking cruises for a lower price.  The first policy is known as the penalty period.  Generally, once you reach the 60 to 90 day mark prior to the cruise, a penalty will be charged if you cancel or try to rebook. 
The second way cruise lines protect themselves is with "non refundable fares".  Sometimes you might find a good price on the cruise, but part of the terms is that if you try to cancel or rebook you will lose your deposit.  These fares are becoming more common in today's market and customers may not even be aware of the terms.  If you book one of these "non refundable fares" you need to feel good about the price.
So, how do you feel good about the price and how do you really know you are getting a good deal?
I often sail during peak times and like to sail in balconies, therefore I have a target price based on that criteria.  This is based on what I have seen for prices over the years and what I think is reasonable in today's market.  Because cruises come in all sorts of durations, I convert my price to a per day price for one person. 
It works like this.  If I find a cruise that comes to $150 a day per passenger, I feel that is a reasonable price.  Anything lower than that is a good deal, anything higher than that is not so good.  So, if I am quoted $2100 for a 7 day cruise, I find that to be a reasonable price to pay since it comes out to be $150 a day per passenger.  However if I am quoted $2100 for a 5 day cruise then I find that price to be steep at $210 per day per passenger.
Using this formula I have been able to, so far, find plenty of cruise options.   I also keep a close eye on the price.  Even after I book.  If the price goes down and I am outside the penalty period I will seek to rebook at the lower price.
Keep in mind that there are other things that need to factor into your calculations.  The cost of air fare and the cost of parking.  If air is involved I will add another $50 a day per passenger to my target price and include the cost of air as I am shopping for a cruise deal.
Everyone should to come up with their own target price, and use that when shopping for a cruise.  It will make it easier to determine if you are really getting a good deal or not.
Steve Millay, ACC
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