Understanding Cruise Line Advertising - What is a Real Deal?

By: Ilizabeth Sutera

70% off, 50% off, shipboard credit, onboard credit, $200 Coupon Booklets - what does it all mean? If you are shopping for a cruise, you will find that there are "deals" everywhere, but what do they really mean.

First of all, cruise lines never charge their "rack rates". That is the rate that is in the brochure. Assume you will always receive at least 25% off the rack rate, if you get 75% off, you can be pretty sure it is a good deal. Like any company, cruise lines will always advertise their lowest rate. Unless the advertisement specifies the number of nights you are on the cruise, deals such as $199, $299 are for the cruise lines' shorter 3-5 day cruises.

You will also find that the cruise lines often advertise "Shipboard Credit". This is important.
Cruising is a great deal considering all of your food and onboard activities are included for a very decent price. $75-$200 per day is usually a good deal, the price goes up depending on the cruise line and the type of cabin chosen. Most people board the ship thinking they got a great deal, $699 for 7 days, how can you beat that? However, they leave the ship with a bill for $100's of dollars and wonder how they spent all that money.

People spend their money while on the ship. Some do not realize that alcoholic drinks and soda (for most cruise lines) are not included in the price. Money is spent on gambling, drinks, ship excursions and the ship's stores. Onboard credits give you an automatic credit to your account when you board the ship. This way the first, for example, $75 spent is on the cruise line! So if you plan to spend money on these types of things - view the Shipboard Credit as money in your pocket. Don't be impressed if you see "Free Coupon Booklet" in the offer - everyone ends up getting these coupon booklets.

Upgrades are important to people who want an ocean view. If you are one of those people that feel they will never be in the room, the upgrade means nothing to you. However, if you are looking to take some time to relax on your balcony while gazing over the turquoise ocean, a free upgrade offer will be quite a money saver.

How to save money while cruising? Look into the shore excursions before going on the cruise. If you like group activities and want to do very specific activities on an island or in a city, shore excursions are perfect! However, if you are an independent, explorer type - do some investigation, you can probably find your way around the island or to the main sightseeing locations for much less than the cruise line will offer you.

How to find the deal - look closely at what is being offered, the cruise lines are very competitive and offer a lot of added value with the low prices. Here are some examples of some excellent cruise deals that are available right now:

an online cruise agency, is offering 70% off and $100 shipboard credits on Princess Cruise Line - this is a very limited time offer and one that should be taken advantage of. They also offer shipboard credits and many great itineraries leaving California to Baja Mexico and the Caribbean. This deal ends January 20.

is offering deep discounts, a free IPOD and on some cruises, free upgrades and shipboard credits. This is great if you want an IPOD. Look closely at the fine print - you will only receive the IPOD if you cruise for 7 days and if you book an ocean view or balcony stateroom. These are mostly Caribbean cruises, but there are a few Europe Cruise deals there. You will notice Europe cruises are very inexpensive in May - that is because there is a chance the weather will be cool and maybe rainy.

If you do not care about sun bathing and you are looking for a deal to see a few European cities at once, go in May or October - that is when it is cheapest! For example, is offering very deep discounts to the Mediterranean and the Italian Riviera in May & June.

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