Best time to cruise is now as prices plunge to all-time lows

By Tom Everett, Editor

Stop press! Cruisers never had it so good! Deals on cruises at the moment are the best they’ve been in years, insiders say.

Louis Ramirez, senior editor at deal aggregator DealNews, asserts that cruise costs are at “all-time lows” and reveals that the least expensive cruise DealNews listed in 2013 was 43% less expensive than the least expensive cruise it listed in 2009 (and less expensive than any cruise listed from 2010 to 2012).

During the past few months, bargain cellar deals have included Carnival cruises for $35 per individual per night (this deal is still on-going), Royal Caribbean cruises for $39 per head per night, and a sequence of price falls that have shaved $1,000 or even more off the costs of some cruises, announces Rich Tucker, the business development executive of cruise deal aggregator site Thanksgiving cruises are on sale: 9 nights for $399 and 7 nights for $349. Those are “some of the lowest rates we’ve ever seen” asserts Ryan Rose, the director of cruise content for online deal site Travelzoo.

The rates on the Royal Caribbean Oasis ships are at their lowest ever, claims Stewart Chiron, General Manager of cruise deal site Costs are so low on some cruises, in reality that many are now “less costly than lodging at a Motel 6,” Tucker observes, at least when you allow for the fact that cruises include meals and entertainment.

The prevailing deals are the result of an ideal confluence of factors. One is that cruise costs nearly always drop at this time of the year, as the cruise lines move their ships from places such as Alaska and Europe to the Caribbean, asserts Rose. This increases the competition of ships in areas like the Caribbean at a point in time when demand is lower because it’s post-peak-summer travel season which drives down costs, explains Rose. And, over the last one or two years, the cruise lines have added tons of new, huge vessels to their fleets, implying that “supply in the Caribbean this off-season is at its highest level ever,” claims Tucker – simple case of supply and demand.

In the past 2 years in Northern America, the supply of ships has increased 7%, according to info from the Cruise Lines Global organisation, whose members include plenty of the major cruise lines.

Ultimately, the biggest factor forcing this plunge in pricing, is that the cruise industry has suffered a succession of PR nightmares lately, asserts Tom Stieghorst, the senior cruise editor for travel industry publication Travel Weekly. The Concordia incident and the series of mishaps involving Carnival ships have combined to drive down prices. Seasoned cruisers however, know that these incidents are basically and counter-intuitively really good news for them as new cruisers cancel bookings. In truth, cruising remains the safest mode of transport for leisure as the amount of fatalities involving cruise ships are still the lowest in any category. In fact, the last major mishap is the Titanic which took place more than a century ago!

Travelers should be aware, however, of add on costs such as taxes and other fees. In our view, the best deals can actually be found in the high end fleets such as the 5 and 6 star cruise lines such as Cunard, Holland America, Princess and Celebrity (typically offering 5 star cruises) and the 6 star cruise lines like Crystal, Seabourne, Silverseas and the all-inclusive Regent Seven Seas. Theses cruise lines too are not immune from the severe price cuts forced on the industry in times like these.

Also with rates in deep-discount territory, now could be the time for curious purchasers to get their feet wet on a cruise, gurus say. To get a cruise at a bargain-basement price, check out sites like Travelaureate. Do watch out for special deals such as senior rates, army families, past cruisers and even deals for people who live in certain states.

Most of all, window shop for bonuses like onboard ship credits, free cocktails and cabin upgrades. Last minute travelers and those with flexible sailing dates could be the likeliest to score deals as low as $40 a night! (see: THE END

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