Everyone wants the best deal and cruise cabin, right? Today’s large ocean cruise ships can easily have over 40 different cabin types and with a new cruise promotion and sale just about every week how does one week through this overload of information to secure your preferred cabin at the best overall pricing?
As a professional travel advisor having spent many days cruising along with booking thousands cabins around the world here are my 10 inside secrets and strategies to booking the best cruise ship cabins and pricing:
1) Know your cabin (stateroom) categories:
First of all, the one huge difference between a cruise vacation Vs a land vacation is that on a ship you have an opportunity to hand pick and secure a specific cabin type, location, view and cabin number as all passengers embark and disembark on the same itinerary schedule so all cabins are available to book for every sailing. For a land vacation, hotel guests arrive/depart on their own schedule on many overlapping dates all the time making it difficult to guarantee specific rooms in advance.
Although the larger cruise ships offer lots of different cabin categories, they all generally fall under the following guidelines, so this is a good starting point:
Inside cabins – Cabins with no windows, portholes or access to outside or water view. Some of the newer ocean ships now offer a “virtual” inside at a higher price that projects an outside view of the ocean on the wall so has an illusion of having a view but in reality, are still in an interior cabin. Inside cabins can be located on most decks which is nice.
Outside cabins – Cabins with a window or porthole offering an exterior view of the sea or river and no balcony.
Balcony or Veranda cabins - Any cabin accommodation with a private and exterior balcony. Hint: Newer river and ocean ships feature 70%-80% of overall cabins with balconies so these are by far the most popular cabin choice.
Suites - Usually feature a balcony, larger than a standard cabin, located on higher decks and offer more perks and amenities. Newer ships offer larger VIP suites within an exclusive section of the ship offering a private lounge, pool, dining and butler service...sort of like a “ship within a ship”.
Now that you know the main cabin categories here are the major differences that increase the costs of cabins are: occupancy, location (mid-ship and locations and higher decks are always more expensive), views (unobstructed and aft views are usually more expensive and preferred) cabin amenities and privileges (i.e. spa cabins have access to spa, concierge cabins may have access to concierge lounge, other cabins have access to private dining and so on and so forth).
My personal preference is always for a balcony or higher cabin close to stairs and elevators on higher deck closer to cafes and coffee so don't have to walk too far. If it it's not too much more I feel it is worth it to book a balcony that has access to a private lounge or restaurant as this is always a nice treat. I also like to study the map itinerary and be on the side of the ship that sails by the most shoreline as possible as find this more interesting than open ocean.
2) Book as far in advance as possible:
Note: Some guests think that booking right before sailing offers better pricing and while the cruise line may offer last minute pricing and promotions right before sailing to fill remaining cabins you can usually switch your existing reservation to these if they make sense but still have a great cabin and location that you hand-picked beforehand instead of being over/below a noisy nightclub or at the front of the ship away from elevators and stairs
3) Use a professional Travel Advisor:
4) Take advantage of promotions:
Hint: if you book an unrestricted fare, it is much easier to switch to a new promotion and package if the numbers work for you and makes sense
5) Book under a Group Block:
Groups usually receive better pricing, amenities and privileges along with extras the group may include like parties onboard, concierge service of onboard host, cabin amenities, exclusive onboard and on shore events and can be lots of fun with like-minded travelers. Definitely google and check to see if there are any fun groups that you can join over your preferred dates or destination as this may be worth your time. If you have your own group of 8 cabins or more you can form your own group so reach out to a good travel advisor to assist in setting this up for you as it is always more fun to sail with a fun group.
6) Book a Guaranteed Fare for better pricing by be wary:
Cons- For the cost savings received you give up the right to choose your own cabin so could end up in a lower deck, at the bow of the ship far from an elevator with an obstructed view and over a noisy night club....scary right?
Guaranteed cabins are suggested when traveling by yourself or do not have a need to be by others and you are open to any location onboard as the cruise line has total control of your cabin placement
Overall, I have had pretty good success in booking guaranteed cabins for clients especially when the lower prices allows them to afford a larger cabin or balcony, but you can’t be picky and get what you get and don’t get upset
7) Book an upgradeable cabin:
Many cruise lines are now offering offers to upgrade your cabin right before sailing via online bidding or a set charge. For a few dollars more you can upgrade your view, size, deck and location along with additional perks offered by the higher cabin category. This works better when traveling by yourself and not with family and friends where cabin placement and being close together may be more important
8) Book flexible, refundable and non-restricted cruise fares:
Cruise lines have adopted pricing practices from airlines and now offer many restricted and non-refundable fares that first glance may offer initial savings over the current fares but will limit your ability and options later to take advantage of future promotions that will stretch your budget (examples of restricted fares are; non-refundable fares, senior fares, military fares, guaranteed fares)
Often times as travel advisors we need to cancel a client’s reservation so can book a new reservation to take advantage of a better promotion and savings but if the original fare has a non-refundable fee this lessens this option and potential savings
9) Book a future cruise fare while onboard:
10) Ask for an upgrade after boarding:
• Board ship early and go immediately to cruise ship front desk before the line gets busy and ask what options are available for an upgrade as often can pay little or nothing just for asking nicely (you never get what you don’t ask for right?)
Hope this is helpful and not overwhelming....Relax...once onboard all cabins and passengers arrive and depart at the same ports at the same time so as long as you’re on a nice ship with good amenities and a great itinerary you’ll have a blast.
Bon Voyage and happy sailing!
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