When the folks at Hotwire sent us a release saying they’d created their first Cruise Savings Indicator, we got excited. Who doesn’t want to know the best way to save while they’re planning their next vacation? We imagined some sort of interactive tool that would tell you the best time to book or whether cruise fares were on the rise or dropping steadily. So imagine our disappointment to discover that the Cruise Savings Indicator is just a gimmick in which the company’s analysts crunch a bunch of numbers and announce the Top 5 cruise-destination price drops year over year. There’s no interactive tool, no analysis of specific travel plans … just general info about year-over-year pricing. Still, we had to wonder: Could these calculations help you save money on your next cruise?
First, the results. Based on the company’s analysis of data, Hotwire determined that the Top 5 destinations for deals were:
Australia/New Zealand. Hotwire found that the average daily rates in 2012 for balcony cabins on Royal Caribbean were down 25 percent from last year.
Hawaii. Prices for inside and outside cabins on Celebrity have fallen 25-30 percent for 2012 departures.
Caribbean. Hotwire highlights Norwegian Cruise Line, where average daily rates are down 25 percent.
Pacific Coast. Celebrity Cruises is named again, with double digit savings on most cabins, and a 20 percent drop in average daily rates for 2012.
Repositioning Cruises. Acknowledging that repositioning cruises are a type of sailing rather than a destination (there’s no mention of which regions were looked at), Hotwire nonetheless notes double-digit savings on all cabin types on Princess Cruises, with average daily rates down more than 35 percent.
(The fine print: To get these figures, Hotwire analysts compared the average prices of cruises booked from November 30 – December 4, 2010, for 2011 travel to the average prices of cruises booked on the same dates this year for 2012 travel. They found that price drops tended to be prevalent in destinations with increased capacity next year compared with 2011.)
While all of this information is interesting, we’re not entirely sure what to do with it. It’s fine to say that Caribbean cruises on Norwegian have dropped in price. But NCL has eight ships in the Caribbean sailing 24 different itineraries next year, and the Savings Indicator does not indicate which sail date-itinerary-cabin class combo to book for the best value or greatest savings.
While it could be useful to know that in general Hawaii and Australia cruise fares are on the decline, not a year goes by when there aren’t deals on repositioning and Caribbean cruises. More importantly, the vague averages won’t help you determine when to book for the best price on a 2012 cruise or to know which specific ships, cabins and sail dates offer the best deals over last year.
Hotwire promises to run its Price Drop Indicator throughout Wave Season (the period between January and March when many cruise lines and travel agencies run promotions to get people to book their cruise vacations for the coming year, spurred on by cold weather and the end of the winter holiday travel season), so perhaps a comparison of how the top destinations for deals change over the weeks will be more useful to cruise buyers. Oddly, while Hotwire’s got Price Drop Indicators on its site for hotel, air and car, it’s not yet loaded its cruise version there. Instead you’ll find it in the company’s online pressroom.
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