Booking Strategies To Get The Best Cruise Price

I asked Vince at CruiseShipCenters why should I book a cruise early, like a year in advance.  Here is his excellent reply which I gained his approval to share with you.

Why Should I Book A Cruise Early?

Hi Robert,

I was thinking about our conversation from yesterday, and wanted to share a few more thoughts. This email may get long, but I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful.

For 7-night cruises, final payment is usually due 75 days before the departure date; for longer cruises, final payment is usually due 90 days before the departure date. For the sake of this discussion, let’s consider a “last minute” booking to be any booking made after the final payment date.

With a few exceptions, deposits for cruise reservations are fully refundable prior to the final payment date. If you’ve paid a refundable deposit, you’re guaranteed to always be able to re-book and take advantage of a better deal if one becomes available prior to the final payment date. That is, you can simply cancel your reservation for a full refund and then re-book to get the better deal. The cruise lines know this and don’t make you go through the cancel-and-rebook process; instead, they let you re-book your original reservation to get the better deal.

Because there are cancellation penalties after the final payment date, things get a little trickier. After the final payment date, you can no longer cancel and get a full refund. This is when cruise lines will sometimes introduce “last minute” deals that are not available to customers with paid-in-full reservations. In these cases, you’re not able to re-book to take advantage of the better deal. However, the cruise lines will always allow you to upgrade to take advantage of the better deal. For example, let’s say you’re book into an oceanview stateroom and a last minute deal comes out such that balcony staterooms are priced only $100 higher than what you paid for the oceanview. In this case, the cruise lines will allow you to upgrade to the oceanview by paying only the $100 difference.

I’ve used the “last minute deal upgrade” strategy on my personal cruises. Last December, I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise and wanted a junior suite. I had guessed that there might be last-minute deals on this cruise because it was a time of low demand, but I wanted to book right away to be sure to get onboard. Therefore, I booked the lowest-price balcony stateroom and waited. Sure enough, a last minute deal became available and I was able to upgrade to the junior suite for less that I would have paid when I originally booked. (If a last minute deal had not become available, I would have been happy with my balcony stateroom).

It is true that it’s sometimes (often?) possible to get a lower price by waiting for a “last minute” deal after the final payment date. However, there are some caveats for waiting for these deals:

1. Popular cruises may sell out, which means not only are there no last minute deals, but you may not get onboard at all. Therefore, if you know you want to go on a particular cruise on a specific date, waiting for a last minute deal isn’t a good strategy.

2. The most desirable staterooms on a ship always sell first. Therefore, the only staterooms left at the last minute are the ones no one else wanted. If stateroom location is important to you, waiting for a last minute deal isn’t a good strategy. A good example of this is a family that needs multiple staterooms close to each other.

3. Airfare is always more expensive closer to the travel date. What you save in cruise fare, you might give back in airfare.

4. The cruise lines release their schedule 12-18 months in advance. They set their initial prices low and then raise them as the sailing date gets closer (similar to what the airlines do). They’ll raise the prices faster or more slowly depending on how well a particular cruise is selling. Then, after the final payment date, they may offer last minute deals to fill the remaining staterooms. However, because they’ve been raising prices all along, the “last minute deals” may actually be higher than the initial prices you would have paid 12-18 months in advance.

The bottom line is, waiting for a last minute deal can be a good strategy if: (a) you don’t care if you don’t get to go on the cruise at all because the ship sells out; (b) you don’t care about the location of your stateroom; and, (c) you’re not worried about airfare, either because you’re driving to the cruise port or using awards miles to pay for your flight.

A better strategy for most people is to book a cruise as early as possible to take advantage of the initial low fares before the cruise lines start raising prices. If a better deal becomes available before the final payment date, it’s a simple matter to re-book and get the better deal. After the final payment date, you can use the “last minute deal upgrade” strategy to improve your stateroom category.

I always enjoy talking with you. I hope you found this interesting.

Warm regards,

Vince Bonfanti
Franchise Owner

Expedia CruiseShipCenters
Alpharetta, GA

PS: at the meeting at CruiseShipCenters fellow cruises told me they book to get the cabin they want and can watch airfares to get a good price there too.

Age 55 Cruise Deals

We use Vacations to Go to book most of our cruises. On their website, they have a search option for discounts for passengers 55 and over for both ocean and river cruises.  This may not be their lowest price, but it’s a place to start.

Also many cruises lines give a military discounts, so if you are a veterans, always ask. Princess Cruises has the best military discount. It is like $250 up depending on the lenght of the cruise. Once you get the military discount with Princess, they automatically apply to future cruises. Celebrity Cruise advertises they have a military discount, but it’s usually a cabin upgrade if available.

Thanks to Vince for this excellent reply to my question of Why should I book a cruise early?

Robert Fowler, Boomer Places

bomer cruiser

Aging “With Purpose”

With Purpose begins with the author’s eight page Introduction letting the reader know about his long history and lifetime study of aging, beginning in his early twenties at a time when not much attention was paid to the older folks. With the demographic Age Wave finally here, the author’s insights are indeed interesting and exciting I found. Some of the interesting items in the book deal with:

I have been reading With Purpose (Going from Success to Significance in Work and Play) a book by Ken Dychtwald, PH.D.   This author specializes in the study of aging, maturity and retirement.   A few months ago I read his book The Power Years and thought is was one of the better shall we say, Baby Boomer books that I have read.   I kept that book for future reference.

With Purpose begins with the author’s eight page Introduction letting the reader know about his long history and lifetime study of aging, beginning in his early twenties at a time when not much attention was paid to the older folks. With the demographic Age Wave finally here, the author’s insights are indeed interesting and exciting I found.  Some of the interesting items in the book deal with:

1. Our concept of age is changing.  In a single generation, sixty-two went from “such a long life”, to “he died so young”.   As us Baby Boomers age, so does our perception of age.

2. The author is convinced that life’s prolonged second half will provide an opportunity for people to chart a new course. People are going back to school, starting a new business, finding new passions, falling in love again, re-building their health.

3. People want to stay engaged longer.  Mental stimulation and making a contribution are the reasons with money down the list.

4. The author projects that the age wave with make it increasing challenging for governments and pensions and that we are seeing a seismic shift from entitlement to financial self-reliance.  (Note: he got that right!)

OK, so much for the Introduction

5. The first chapter includes the author describing how the maturing Boomer can turn their lives from success to significance.  The author asks When is the last time you did something significant, did something for someone else for the greater good and didn’t expect something in return?  Speaking of purpose, only by giving back – is true fulfillment possible.

6. In one study of aging the author did, some elders biggest regret looking back on their life was “the great amounts of time they had spent going through life on autopilot, doing what was expected – as so many of us do almost without thought”.   The author  reminds us that some part of us ought to be constantly looking ahead – to when you’ll be looking back at the decisions you made along the way.  Good point.

7. So the concept of success needs an overhaul for the next phase of our lives.  Maybe it shouldn’t be about money and advancement; maybe it should be about personal growth, contribution to the greater good, warm relationships, genuine happiness, and finding purpose in everything you do.

Then there’s the story of Randy Pausch who dying of cancer gave his last lecture to a group of students with an inspiring message of hope, patience, and no regrets.  His message included included:  Loyalty is two way street, he said.  Never give up. Accept help and give it. Tell the truth.  Apologize when you screw up.  Focus on others, not yourself.  Don’t bail.  Don’t complain, work harder.   Shut up and listen.  Be good at something because it makes you more valuable.   Work hard.   Be patient and you’ll find the best in everybody.   Dream.   Be prepared.  Mr. Pausch’s hour long lecture was his last.  He found his purpose as this speech went viral on the Internet and has inspired many, including me. A lot of life lessons are shared, worth seeing.

Energy Drinks and Caffeine For Baby Boomers

Seniors have always had some magic tonic to boost energy levels.  I know of one senior lady a couple of decades ago who just loved her “jogging in a jug” she called it.

From the times of the traveling medicine shows until today there has been something to boost energy and spirits.

For many to get going and keep going it’s a few cups of coffee during the day. Cans of Coke or sipping iced tea to keeps others going.  Then there are native herbal remedies and Chinese tonics.

These days, there are options in how baby boomers get their caffeine.

Caffeine Bars and Shots

Go to any big grocery story and you will see lots of shelf space for Clif Bars. These are not  only for sports training.

The Clif Bar Caffeine contains between 50mg of caffeine, about the same as a cup of coffee.  Sometimes when I have an early start to the day, I just chew on one of the these.  I like the Cool Mint Chocolate and Peanut Toffee Buzz bars.  Just search “caffeine bars” and you will see many other brands and types of bars, shots and gels that have a small amount of caffeine.  It’s an option when you want to skip your morning coffee and is easier on your stomach.

Energy Drinks and Shots

The young first embraced the 5-Hour Energy Shots and are still the biggest users. According to a WSJ article from a few years ago “Bottlers of Buzz Wake Up to Find Seniors as Customers” the 5-Hour Energy Shots also became popular with plenty of seniors over age 60 who aren’t ready to slow down.  At the Costco, cases of energy shots are stacked beside Ensure nutrition shakes and across from tubes of wrinkle cream.

As the energy shots became popular with baby boomers they actually started advertising with AARP.  Reportedly the energy shots are a big seller at some golf courses. Any grocery or convenience store will have tons of them to choose from.

Now this trend has expanded to shelves full of all types of energy drinks and energy shots everywhere you go as they have soared in popularity with young adults and some use among boomers.

Some say they are fine in moderation.  Others warn intensely caffeinated beverages come with some serious health risks for middle age plus persons.  (The Surprising Risks of Energy Drinks for Boomers).  If you are sensitive to caffeine don’t use energy drinks.  Certainly don’t use energy drinks and alcohol.  For me it sounds like usage in moderation is the key and most of us at this age already know that.

There are some advantages of energy drinks to boomers as pointed out in this article.    As it points out, it is amazing how much more awake you can be on a well formulated energy drink compared to an old fashioned coffee drink, without the nerves, stomach upset, etc.  We can get our basic vitamin requirements in some energy tonics without swallowing a hand full of pills.  Finding the right energy drink can greatly increase our stamina and minimize soreness the next morning.

Boomers need to do their own research to see if either of these other options for caffeine suits them and those under the care of a doctor should ask if there is any reason they shouldn’t use energy drinks in moderation.