Beginners Guide to Cruise Prices

It is not uncommon for me to get a call from a client inquiring about a rate they saw online. They see a cruise for Bermuda advertised at $799 this fall and ask me to price out a cabin for them for next spring. When what I quote them is $1299 per person, they want to know why the big difference.

The reality is, there are lots of things that can affect the price of a cruise. I hope to help you understand a little bit better why the prices can differ so much. If you want to optimize the value of your cruise, this can be helpful information to know. A good travel advisor can also help guide you through this process to get you the best value.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

Single/Double/Triple/Quad Occupancy

Cruise prices are often quoted by cruise lines on a per person basis based on two people sharing a cabin.

Singles are often required to pay a single supplement when they want to occupy a cabin that has beds for two or more people. Cruise lines have recently begun adding a handful of single cabins on some of their larger ship to meet the growing demand for singles traveling alone. These rooms tend to be very small with a bed and bathroom in the room and share a common sitting area with other singles.

Oftentimes, especially with families, a third or fourth person will be added to share a cabin. The cost to the cruise line to add these individuals is very small…especially if they are young children. Therefore, the third/fourth person rate is often very low. The third and fourth passengers often occupy beds that fold out from a couch or “upper” beds that retract into the wall or ceiling during the daytime.

Cruises are often advertised on a per diem (daily) rate per person. In general, the price of a cruise will depend on the cabin size/type, current discounts being offered, length of cruise in days, travel season, and the ship.

1. Cabin Size and Location

Anthem of the Seas – Cabin

The layout, size, and any special features of a cabin can influence the price. For example, a room with a balcony is generally more expensive than one without. The location of the cabin is also a factor in the pricing.

  • The higher the deck that the cabin is located on, the more expensive the cabin becomes. Public areas and activities like the pool or surf simulators tend to be on higher decks. So the cabins closer to these activities can be more expensive. The lower decks can be closer to the engine room and may be a little noisier which makes them less expensive.
  • The cost of the cabin can also be influenced by how close it is to the bow or stern of the ship. A cabin that is located mid-ship is usually closer to areas such as elevators and stairs and often offers a smoother trip, so these cabins tend to cost a little more.
  • Inside cabins are generally less expensive than oceanview cabins of the same size and amenities. If you don’t mind not having a view of the ocean or a balcony, an inside cabin can save you some money.

2. Available Discounts and Promotions

A good travel advisor will rarely book a client for the rated listed in the cruise line’s brochure. Discounts come and go and come in many different forms with different perks. As a travel advisor, I try to match up my client with the discount or promo that provides them with the best value for what they want to get out of their vacation.

  • One of the most common discounts comes when the cruise lines first open up their itineraries for the season…usually 6 to 12+ months in advance depending on the destination. The price generally rises toward the brochure rate after the first several months that bookings are open…or sometimes the discount just ends on a certain date.
  • If a cruise line has a lot of availability close to the date of departure, you may see some steep discounts. The downside of this is that you need to be able to travel on short notice and be flexible on which ship and/or itinerary you’re traveling.
  • Travel advisors sometimes are able to book a group discount. Each cruise line sets their own number of minimum passengers in order to qualify for this group rate. Usually, at a minimum, you would need 5 to 8 cabins (or 10 to 16 passengers) to qualify. Sometimes this discount comes in the the form of a free berth (bed) to the group leader for the cruise only portion of the trip.
  • Agencies can sometimes obtain group rates from the cruise lines that the agencies are then able to offer to the general public for selected dates and cabins. My host agency has a spreadsheet of cruises that qualify for groups rates that they have acquired. I check it against any new inquiries I have to see if I can get them a better-than-advertised rate.

3. Cruise Length

The number of days of a cruise may affect the price of a cruise. A 9-day Mediterranean cruise will often be less expensive than 12-day Mediterranean cruise.

4. Travel Season

Travel seasons are a little different than seasons of the year. The shoulder season and off-seas are known as the value seasons. During value season (such as summer and early fall in the Caribbean when the likelihood of hurricanes is greater), prices can be found at a discount of 20 percent or more than the prices during regular season.

5. Cruise Line and Ship

There are different types of cruise lines: Contemporary, resort-style cruise lines; luxury brands; premium brands; specialty brands; and value or traditional brands. If you want a luxury brand cruise, you will be paying a luxury price. If you’re happy with a cruise line with standard features and not a lot of bells and whistles, you expect to pay less for your cruise.

Within the cruise lines themselves, often smaller ships with less amenities tend to be less expensive than the ships that are larger and offer lots of amenities. If you enjoy a smaller ship and wouldn’t be utilizing a zip line, then a smaller ship is the perfect fit for you.

A Few Extra Things to Note

Image result for anthem of the seas

Port Charges. What are port charges? Port charges are the fees that the cruise lines assess to cover fees that are charged by the governments or port facilities that will be utilized during the cruise. Cruise lines also sometimes include port charges for things such as baggage handling or for security getting on and off the ship. Port charges will vary depending on the number of stops on a cruise and where those stops are located.

Be aware that often on discount websites you see what appears to be a better price. Those sites do not include many of the fees and charges that the cruise line will be assessing. You are not comparing apples-to-apples on a quote that a travel advisor will give you. If you see a difference in pricing, let your travel advisor know. If there is a difference after an apples-to-apples comparison, often the travel advisor may be able to get you a price match (and you have the peace of mind of knowing someone is watching out for you).

If you have any more questions on pricing, please feel free to leave a comment below. If you are interested in getting a cruise priced out, use the Contact form at the top of the page. We usually reply within one business day.

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