Cruise too expensive? Here’s one way to cut your cost

We’ve all had the experience of making a purchase, then within days seeing the same item offered at a lower price. It’s frustrating, but it is even more irritating with large purchases – like a cruise vacation. But digital cruise advisor has a suggestion that could result in significant savings.

Research by Cruisewatch has shown that prices on cruises can drop significantly as the departure date nears. A new analysis by the firm shows there is still the potential to save a significant amount of money … by cancelling your existing reservation and rebooking at the lower rate.

"Most cruisers tend to book their trips four to six months in advance," Markus Stumpe, CEO of Cruisewatch, explained, "but it could be very beneficial for them to cancel and then rebook their cruise at fares reduced up to 71 percent." This is particularly true if the chosen cruise offers less-strict fee structures.

Generally, cruise lines break down into three cancellation categories: soft, moderate, and strict. Lines like Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Star Clippers, offer "softer" fees, and may charge only a 25 percent cancellation fee on average at least 30 days before departure.

Moderate lines, including Viking Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruise Line, Hurtigruten Cruise Lines, Cunard, Crystal Cruises, SeaDream, Princess Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line, offer a little more wiggle room, though they also charge about 90 percent for cancellations occurring within 30 days of departure. However, cancellation fees average only 15 percent 90 days or more before departure.

Strict lines, on the other hand, like Oceania Cruises, Ponant, Azamara Club Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn tend to offer little or no refunds unless you cancel at least 120 days in advance. Within the last 60 days you normally have to pay a 100 percent fee.

To illustrate the potential savings, consider this possible real-world situation: Someone books his/her dream cruise on Celebrity Eclipse 150 days before departure and pays a total of $5,000. Forty days before departure, this person sees an offer on the same ship with a savings of 40 percent. At this time the cancellation fee on Celebrity is 20 percent, so the person opts to rebook and saves $1,000.

Average cancellation fees last 120 days before departure by 

What You Should Know About Cancellation Fees

Cancellation fee structures for most cruise lines are often very strict and difficult to understand, and multiple factors influence each policy. The length of the cruise, how far in advance you're able to cancel, destination, cabin type, or cruise category can all contribute to the final cancellation fee. Booking special deals may mean higher cancellation fees. In many cases, deposits paid are also non-refundable. Sometimes you will need to submit a formal, written document to cancel the cruise.

If the cancellation fees are prohibitive, there may be alternatives for recouping the difference in prices. Some cruise lines offer onboard credit as reimbursement for price differences, or offer significant upgrades where available.

The best way to determine whether it's worth it to cancel and rebook your cruise is to take a closer look at your cruise line's cancellation policy. However, if you're still in the planning stages, you are likely still comparing prices, policies, and packages. This time-consuming process is a must for those seeking the best deals, but using innovative new online tools can help save time in the short term, and money long-term.

Cruisewatch offers a handy comparison tool here.

My take

Certainly, it’s irksome to pay more than you have to, but there are other factors to consider. Usually, the most preferential cabins in any class go first. If you’ve booked one of those and cancel so you can rebook, you may have to settle for a room that is less desirable than your first choice.

You should also consider the value of any promotional goodies or amenities that came with your first booking. Before my wife and I took our Alaska cruise in 2016, I looked into cancelling and rebooking, but quickly realized that we’d give up the “complimentary” beverage package that was included with our original reservation. Adding in the cost of the package to the new, lower price would have resulted in roughly the same fare.

So, if you’re inclined, look at all the options, do the math, and make the decision that is best for your circumstances.

Finally, please read my previous article, "Counting the cost of a cruise,” as it could also prove helpful in your planning.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

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