December 13, 2001
Imagine this: a balcony cabin on Sea Princess for $50 a day (per person, double occupancy) or half-off the already low-low $599-per-week outside cabin on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas or Holland America’s Amsterdam. How do you snag such a deal? We’ll offer a hint: pack a few extra t-shirts, cancel the newspapers for an extra week, and tell the office you may opt to stretch your one-week trip into two. Cruise fares these days are at their lowest levels in years -- even high season holiday periods are on sale -- but the absolute-cheapest-price is only available with a caveat: You must wait until you’re already on your cruise to book the next one -- and that next one has to be on the same ship and during the following week. Cruise lines do offer these proverbial last minute “back to backs” but most staffers, whether headquarters reservations agents or onboard sales consultants may be quite coy about the details – and, if you inquire in advance of boarding your ship, may well insist that you pay the regular going price if you want to stretch your trip. Once onboard you’ll have to take the initiative; on a recent cruise on Rhapsody, we were alerted by passenger word-of-mouth (later confirmed by purser staffers). There was no public announcement, no blurb in the daily newsletter. In fact, most of the cruise line’s headquarters’ staffers we contacted downplayed the promotion entirely. Except for Princess Cruises’ Denise Seomin, who readily admitted that the line, based on availability, of course, offers incentives that encourage schedule-flexible passengers to stay on board after the first week. They’re most likely to be offered on 7-day voyages -- and beware that vacancies may be rare during high season periods like the Christmas/New Year¹s holiday and Spring Break. Says Seomin, “This promotion is based on a per diem. An inside cabin is offered at $20 per day; an outside cabin at $35 per day; a balcony cabin at $50 per day; and a mini-suite at $80 per day (all per person). These rates do not include port charges, government fees and taxes, etc.” How does it work? First, regardless of cruise line, you’re going to have to ask. Try the purser’s desk or check with the onboard “sales consultant” if there is such a program. Be prepared to accept a “run of the ship” cabin -- which means you might have to move. But not always. Holland America’s Erik Elvejord says if another passenger has reserved your cabin for the second week they may be offered an upgrade, if available, so you can stay put.