(7 p.m. EDT) -- NCL has joined the ranks of cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival by implementing a new best price guarantee program to protect consumers against price drops after they book their cruises. But, is NCL's scheme a boon for travelers or simply a nice offer that most people likely can't use? Here are the details of the new "Best Price. Guaranteed." program:
How it works: If the price of your cruise fare -- on the same sailing date, same cruise ship and same cabin category -- drops 48 hours after you put down your deposit, Norwegian Cruise Line will offer you your choice of either 110 percent of the difference in onboard credit or repricing your cruise at the lower rate. So if you book a cruise for $499, and then see it advertised for $449, you'll either get $55 in onboard credit (that must be used on the ship or forfeited) or can adjust your cruise fare down to the $449 rate.
Things to know: The same offer stands, even if you pay in full at the same time you book your cruise (rather than just putting down a deposit); in this case, you'd choose between the onboard credit and a refund to your credit card or whichever form of payment you used to pay for the cruise. The guarantee applies to cruises booked through any seller, such as NCL's own booking department, an Internet travel seller or a travel agency.
Caveat 1: The lower rate must be a publicly advertised rate -- not a promotional rate, such as a group rate, travel agency special offer, TV or radio exclusive rate or charter cruise fare. It also must still be available to book after you submit your claim form.
Caveat 2: If the price drops more than 48 hours after you put down a deposit but before final payment -- depending on the NCL cruise, final payment is due 60 to 90 days prior to sailing -- you can cancel and rebook your cruise under prevailing terms and conditions. You will not be able to simply adjust the price or cabin category on the existing booking. Once your cruise is paid in full, you will receive no benefit should the price drop before departure (unless you pay in full when you initially book your cruise -- see above).
Caveat 3: This offer is currently only available to North Americans.
To read additional Terms & Conditions or to find the claim form for a refund, visit NCL's Web site.
Have you ever had success getting a refund through a best price guarantee? We'd love to hear your story. Email Erica@cruisecritic.com.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
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NCL Offers Best Price Guarantee
May 3, 2010