As the Founder of CruisePlus Travel & Tours (in business since 1998), over the last 20 years plus, I’ve had thousands of people ask me what seems like a million questions about travel… and I LOVE it! But the question that keeps coming up time and time again is “What happens if I’ve booked a vacation but the price drops between payment and departure?”. That’s actually quite a complex question... but luckily, I have an answer for you!
What if the price drops before final payment?
The key is to figure out if there has actually even been a price drop in the first place. To be quite honest with you, while we at CruisePlus Travel & Tours certainly do check price often between the time you paid and the date you go into penalty (more about penalties in a minute), we don’t check every day and sometimes we could miss a new price or promotion. If you want to help us (and in turn help yourself), then check with us or directly with the cruise line, and as long as we are before penalty, we almost certainly can price adjust accordingly.
Penalty dates are a series of dates when some or all of your booking becomes nonrefundable. Say, for example, your booked 7-day cruise has its first penalty date which is 75 days before departure, if you called us 76 days or farther out and asked to change your booking, or even cancel, you would receive all your money back on your deposit. Saying that we do charge a $100 per booking cancellation service fee, however, if you book something else with CruisePlus within a year, we will credit that $100 towards the new travel – just one of the many perks of booking through CruisePlus (that’s a topic for another day). The penalty dates vary by supplier and often by the length of the trip. World voyages could have penalty dates 6 months before departure. Some suppliers will charge you a cancellation fee no matter what. The amounts or percentages of what you pay increase closer into departure. You want to make sure you know exactly when penalties would apply for your chosen travel so you know your risks. When you book with one of our expert Travel Consultants, all the penalties and payment schedules will be discussed with you so that you’re well aware of the process well ahead of time.
Price changes after final payment
I’m going to be pretty blunt about this – you just have to suck it up! Imagine a plane with 100 seats on it. 80 people paid $1000. 10 people got it for $950 and 10 lucky people got it for $500. The 90 people who paid more than $500 cannot go back to the airline and ask for the difference back. The airline would go broke if they did that – it’s all about yielding their capacity. Cruise lines and resorts operate in the same way. They simply cannot offer refunds, upgrades or added value to the 90% who paid the going rate because a few got a better deal. The cruise lines don’t give any travel agency much (if any) advance warning of a price drop. They do not say, “hold on – wait and book next Tuesday and your client will get a better deal and we’ll make less!” They want to maximize revenues. When booking with us, you’re going to get better value than say 70 - 80% of the people aboard…but if a ship has last-minute space to sell, and they drop their prices, there’s not much we can do after final payment. We would try and get you upgraded, but there’s no guarantee that the cruise line will agree to it.
What About Cancelling and Rebooking?
Bottom line is that often lower category staterooms are introduced at a lower price…so technically they may not offer the same stateroom type you bought (don’t get me wrong, it very well could be). For you to absorb the penalty fees in order to rebook at the new price likely would not be worth it – it would just be too expensive. You also might see promotions that promise a price match (or even better pricing) guarantee if the price lowers…. just make sure read the fine print to see if there’s a catch (there usually is). For example, if you are looking for only one stateroom for you and your travelling companion and you’re not as concerned about the stateroom location and if you’re OK if don’t get on at the price you’re happy with – then wait it out and see what happens… you might be pleasantly surprised. Deals do come up, just not on every sailing. If you’re planning a trip for a group of people, this has to be done fairly far in advance and you likely shouldn’t wait too long to decide and book, especially if it’s an itinerary you really want to do. Wait too long and you just might have to wait another year to try again. Also keep in mind, especially for farther away destinations, you might get a better last-minute deal on the cruise, but not fare so well on the air and you may have wished overall to have booked early. Sometimes you win on both air AND cruise, but actually, that’s kind of rare. The cruise lines often offer early booking incentives and/or non-refundable deposits to get you to book early. The cruise lines actually want to raise rates which, depending on demand, they do, and often several times before departure date. I know everyone wants to be the person who got the best price on the ship or in the resort – and you might be that person. But if you’re not, please don’t get mad at us or the cruise lines. It’s just the way it is and the pricing is always controlled by them – not us agencies.
Take my advice and book what you can afford as soon as you can, and after final payment, don’t price compare… you’ll only drive yourself mad with the “what if’s”. Just accept that you’ve paid for a fantastic dream vacation and start planning what you need to pack. It’s just like when I bought my last TV only to find the price had dropped by $250 three months later…$250!! Not much a guy can do about that is there? I just wish it came with a spare remote.