Update: 3-Day Cruise Sale + 7% Fare Hike = Reasons to Book Now?

March 29, 2010

Update, 5 p.m. EDT: The three-day sale has ended. However, Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that it will now extend its call center hours by one hour -- until 1 a.m. EDT on April 1, the day of the price hikes -- to allow travelers more time to book at current pricing.

(March 22) -- Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced that it would raise fares by up to 7 percent on April 1. But first, it's going to offer travelers the chance to save with an onboard credit and reduced deposit promotion. This three-day sale, taking place March 24 through 26, supports our theory that cruise lines like NCL and Carnival are announcing fare hikes in order to extend the booking curve and encourage people to book their cruise vacations farther in advance.

Here are the details:

If you book an NCL cruise on any of the line's ships between March 24 and 26, you'll receive up to $250 per person in onboard credit and pay only half the standard deposit. The credit can be used for any onboard purchases such as spa treatments, shore excursions and dining fees for specialty restaurants. However, the key words here are "up to" -- credit varies by cabin category and you won't get the full $250, for example, unless you book a six-night or longer cruise in the enormous (and expensive) Garden Villas. Travelers who book inside cabins, meanwhile, will only get $25 on a six-night or longer cruise and $15 on sailings up to five nights.

Our take? With somewhat disappointing incentives, the real reasons to book early remain locking in lower rates before the fare hike and getting your choice of cabins and itineraries before they sell out. However, if you've planned to book a NCL cruise soon, you might as well do it during the sale and take advantage of these extra perks.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor