Photo: Courtesy of Cunard Line
Here’s how the story usually goes:When an industry is hit by a natural or man-made disaster, it’s only a matter of time before its bottom line takes a beating and consumers get hit with jacked up prices for whatever products and services it peddled.
However, in the wake of last week’s tragic Costa Concordia shipwreck, the cruise business is still in pretty decent shape.
And, much to the chagrin of wander lusters hoping Costa’s PR nightmare would trigger massive discounts, rare rates have remained stable.
According to Mark Murphy, a travel industry expert and creator of TravelTribe.com, even though 80% of Americans say they’ve never set sail on a cruise, the 20% who have are so often repeat customers that they’ve been keeping the industry, literally, afloat.
“For the ones who have taken a cruise, (the Costa Concordia wreck) is a non-event for them,” Murphy says. “16 million people cruised last year … There’s still enough demand out there to keep (the industry) from taking a hit.”
Unfortunately, the prime time to nab budget fares on luxury cruises has come and gone. There’s generally a sweet spot just after New Year’s Eve when cruise liners and resorts are emptying out their Christmas crowds and eager to rope in post-holiday vacationers by hiking up their rates by as much as 50%.
The next off-peak month will be sometime in May, right before the June rush of families celebrating the start of summer vacation, Murphy says.
If you’re lucky enough to live close to a port, keep your eye on last-minute deals marketed directly to your area. Cruise ships rarely set sail without every cabin occupied, so they’ll often sell discounted rates to locals who are able to hop on board for some last-minute R&R.
And don’t turn up your nose at travel agents just yet. Even though they’ve got stiff competition from a host of websites geared toward one-stop travel booking, agents still handle 70% of all cruise reservations, Murphy says. (See why it’s so hard to get a refund on cruises.)
They’re also a great resource for travel insurance options. If they don’t recommend insurance when book your trip, you have someone place the blame on if something goes wrong. (See 7 tips for selecting travel insurance.)
Before you book your next adventure, see the exorbitant hidden fees on an all-inclusive cruise >