You can sign up for the email and mailings via the Cunard site at http://www.cunard.com . If you go to that address you will usually be automatically redirected to the site best for your location (e.g. If in the UK it will redirect you to http://www.cunard.co.uk ).
The link to sign up for special offers is on most of the content pages. Sign up for both the emails and also the postal mailings.
You will then receive very regular updates on any sales, special deals and packages. Including when they will be on sale, so you can then work with your cruise agent to make sure you take advantage of it when they come on sale. There can be amazing and very deep deals.
You can also visit the site to check for deals. On the site is a section called “Cunard Offers”. This will list the latest deals and offers. It is worth checking and using this, along with the links to book as will ensure it applies the right discount codes if you decide to book online.
Cunard seem to offer 3 main types of deal fares:
- Cunard Late Offers. These are as you would expect, and are for cruises or crossings that are departing soon after the booking date. They tend to be departures within a 90 day period. This being that cut off date for people paying their final cruise balance. They do usually seem to be within 30 to 50 days.
- Cunard Getaway Fares. Cunard describes these as “Getaway Fares are restricted fares, which are not protected by our Price Promise and they do not allow you to choose a particular stateroom – this will be allocated by Cunard no later then 14 days prior to departure. Cancelation charges are 100% from time of booking. Any amendment to a Getaway booking will be treated as a cancellation.” You need to be careful if booking these as you cannot get any refund, so make sure your travel insurance policy includes cancellation insurance due to illness or other unforeseen events or you. The insurance premium is worth it as you could find yourself many hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket.
- Balcony and Level Upgrades Promotions. These seem to be being used more and more. So, for example, you book a Britannia stateroom with a window but get upgraded into a balcony. Basically people are shifted up one level of stateroom. They seem especially popular when new brochures and cruises are announced, and then when cruises some time off but they trying to encourage early booking.
Tip #2: The More Flexible You Are, The Lower the Fare.
The more flexible you are, the lower the fare is likely to be.
If you are set on going on a specific cruise on a specific date in a specific stateroom, you are most likely going to pay the highest fare as you will need to book it as early as you are comfortable doing. Some people will book these up to 12 months or more to ensure they get what they want. Prices may get higher if demand is high, but more likely will go down over time.
However, if you are completely flexible on where you go, when you go and what stateroom grade or stateroom you go in, you will get the best fare as you can book late when prices will be lowest as Cunard fill any empty staterooms.
For most people, you are likely to be more in between these 2 extremes and so here are some tips on still getting a better deal:
- Book a Guarantee Grade, versus a specific level or stateroom. Cunard usually offer a fare for each grade (Queens, Princess, Britannia) where you just book to be in that Grade. Britannia usually also gives more options on having balcony or not option. Close to departure you then are allocated a stateroom based on how the sailing is going. It is likely, for example, that they may upgrade people who paid for a set level and then allocate you their rooms. But you may do even better if people have not requested the auto-upgrade and you may find yourself in an even better stateroom. Your fare will be the lowest in the grade, and not change.
- Vantage Fares. These are offered on many cruises, but check if the one that you are booking has it. This guarantees that if prices are reduced, you will receive additional benefits to the same amount which may be On Board Credit, Transfers to and From the Ship, or Car Parking. So you can be confident that you are paying what other people are paying in headline fare for a cabin. This means you can book earlier and make more choices on stateroom you want.
- Loyalty. Frequent travellers on Cunard will get at least 5% off some fares offered on some selected cruises. You need to have been on Cunard on only one cruise to start to get this. The discount is on selected cruises, though we seem to have got it on every cruise we have been on.
- Accept the Auto-Upgrade Option. Even if you have a cabin you like, take this option especially if you have booked early. If there are upgrades going people with loyalty status or having paid higher fares will be most likely to get them. Also many people like to chose a set stateroom and so you may find you are top of the list to be upgraded. We were upgraded a few levels on a Crossing in Queens Grill from a Q6 to Q3 massive Penthouse for example.
Tip #3: Use a Cruise Agent with Good Cunard Relationship and Record
With the Internet, we have all become our own travel agents. Cunard have a pretty good booking system online that allows you to make choices around pre and post hotels, select stateroom and chose voyage and voyage with flight options. However, when it come to cruising and Cunard my experience has been that it is better to work with a Cruise Expert Agent.
I would usually look at the offers and what staterooms are available through the online system and what the price it offers. Then I speak to our Cruise Agent and she comes back with the best price. This is always lower, as I assume she may apply other discounts or shave their commission.
We also seem to have had more upgrades when booked via our agent than direct. This may be co-incidence of course.
Tip #4: Book On-Board
There is a Cruise Booking Office on board. You will always get extra deals or offers bundled in if you book on-board. This often is on board credits, but also can be good prices.
You do not have to cut your cruise agent out, as they will usually attribute the booking to the agent so they still get, I assume, commission and so you can help keep a strong relationship with your agent.
Tip #5: Think of the Total Cost of the Cruise
When hunting the best deal, do not just look at the headline price of the cruise or crossing. Look at the total package. Cruise lines are, like airlines, under competitive pressure to cut the headline fare to encourage bookings. However, they then will need to and be looking to recoup and improve margins in other ways.
Look at the total deal. The most common ways that the deal can be better can be achieved by:
- On Board Credit. This has become very popular way to improve the overall price. Cunard will offer OBC quite often when people book early, through their Vantage Fare approach or to incentivise bookings. Some Cruise Agents will also give OBC to encourage booking through them. These can be used to off set most charges you make on board from shopping, drinks, photographs, spa, gym classes and excursions. It cannot be used to off set gambling. It can make a big difference. For example on a recent 7 night Fjords Cruise we got $400 per person, and for a December Crossing $600 per person.
- Excursions, Parking and Transfers. On some trips excursions may be offered as an incentive. These seem to be more though for long cruises like World or parts of the World Cruises. But can make a big difference with excursions costing up to $120 per person, it can mount up. As can transfers to Southampton from or to London, or parking.
- Loyalty. Once you have 20 days/ 2 cruises on Cunard you get 2 hours internet, 4 hours after 70 days/ 7 cruises plus you start to get discounts on other things. So factor in being loyal as way of driving down total cost.
- Own Carnival Shares. If you own at last 100 shares you can get further on-board credit. You will need to be a very regular traveller to make that pay back though. 100 shares will cost you about £2600/ $4000. You get around £125/ $200 per cruise extra OBC.
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