When it comes to cruising, identifying a truly great deal can be a challenge. Fares don’t typically vary by more than a few dollars between the cruise lines, or from travel agency to travel agency. Savvy shoppers know that the things to really look out for are added amenities and package deals that offer savings based on group discounts that have been secured by travel agencies for such things as airfare, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, tours, etc.
We’ve recently noticed an uptick in just this type of package offer, but one in particular took us by surprise.
Online travel agency iCruise.com is currently offering a special on the new Celebrity Reflection‘s maiden transatlantic crossing — a 13-night sailing. The deal includes one-way airfare to Barcelona, a two-night hotel stay in Barcelona, a two-night hotel stay in Madrid, high-speed rail between the two cities and a Madrid sightseeing tour. The tab: from $2,329 per person, double occupancy.
We priced out each of these components independently and found that by booking the package deal you’d save roughly $221 — a terrific incentive considering that sailings aboard brand-new ships are usually sold at a premium. Sure, transatlantic rates are typically less expensive than roundtrip peak-season sailings, but we’re not just talking low rates here: We’re seeing significant added value. We’re used to seeing these types of incentives for cruises on older or less popular ships, but Celebrity Reflection hasn’t even hit the high seas yet, making this exactly the type of bargain we’d jump on.
Just to make sure this wasn’t something exclusive to this particular agency, we checked the rates from three additional cruise sellers — Cruise.com, American Discount Cruises and Travel (ADCT) and Expedia — and discovered that while iCruise.com is offering the only package deal, Cruise.com and ADCT are selling this cruise from $874 per person and $879 per person, respectively. It’s a good price, but wait: Both are also offering amenities including prepaid gratuities and onboard credit, which could save you hundreds of dollars once onboard.
The lone holdout is Expedia, which is selling the cruise with rates starting at $1,038 per person for an inside cabin, without any extras — not exactly a steal. However, you’d still be looking at rates well under $100 per night for a cruise on a brand-new ship.
Our advice: if you can’t book this particular sailing (and book it soon, as deals this good are likely to sell out quickly), keep your eyes peeled for similar offers. It may be too soon to tell, but we smell a trend. In fact, we recently spotted a deal for a 12-night Western Mediterranean cruise aboard the upcoming Carnival Breeze from just $649 per person — about $54 per night, per person — with most cabin categories qualifying passengers for onboard credit.
Oh, and be sure to do your homework — comparison shopping will confirm whether the offer that lured you in is an honest-to-goodness bargain or not.
For more tips on cruise bargain hunting check out our Cruise Planning section.
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