Starting this week, P&O Cruises and sister line Cunard (both part of the Carnival Corporation family of cruise lines) are introducing a solution to just this problem. Their new offer, called the Future Cruise Downpayment (FCD) scheme, will allow passengers to snap up the benefits of booking another cruise on the spot without having to make important decisions about dates and destination.
Here's how it works: All you have to do is pay £200 on your credit or debit card to the future cruise sails desk onboard -- and you then have a year to offset the deposit against a firm booking. The spending credit, or whatever the deal of the moment is, will apply to that firm booking.
Examples of current onboard booking offers are £75 per person onboard credit on a P&O cruise of 15 to 21 days and $100 per person on a Cunard cruise, lowest grades, six to nine nights, right up to $400 per person on a 10-night or longer cruise in Grill class.
There's not much of a catch -- you just have to use your FCD within a year of committing or you lose it. For those who like to book through a travel agent, the good news is that your preferred agent can take over the booking and the FCD once you've decided where you want to go.
The small print, too, is fairly simple. These offers are for U.K. passengers only -- a similar scheme for the U.S. is being considered. The offer only applies to P&O and Cunard at the moment, although Princess Cruises in the U.K. may join the scheme. What's more, those travelling on Ocean Village in its final season this summer can put down an FCD against a future P&O or Cunard cruise.
Princess Cruises does, in fact, already have a similar offering aimed at U.S. customers. A deposit of up to $100 against any future Princess cruise earns you onboard spending credit of up to $150 and is valid for four years, not one, so it seems a better deal, in a way. But as far as we know, the FCD offer is the first formal scheme of its kind on such a large scale for U.K. passengers that requires no actual decision other than choosing a cruise line.
We'll keep you posted if and when more lines in the Carnival group are added.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor